Mumbai (AsiaNews) - On May 2011 Hezuk Shroff, a young Parsi Indian whose name means "Light of the Universe", will be ordained a priest. On his journey towards Catholicism he has also attended the Protestant community. He became a deacon on 14 May, Hezuk who has lived in Canada since the age of four, tells AsiaNews about the journey that led to his decision to offer his life to Christ. The only son of a sailor in the Indian Merchant Navy Hezuk was born in Calcutta in 1971. In 1975 with his mother and younger sister Pearl he moved to Canada following his father, who had found work with the Canadian Coast Guard.
"My parents were Parsi (Zoroastrians) - he says - and I grew up following the teachings of this religion. My name Hezuk was given by my paternal grandmother, meaning "Light of the Universe" and I find it very beautiful because Jesus said "you will be the Light of the World."
The young man heard of Christianity from his mother vaguely, who as a child had attended a Catholic school in Nanital (Uttarakhand). His personal path to Christianity, however, began with undergraduate studies in biochemistry at McGrill University in Montreal, when a roommate introduced him to the local Protestant communities of the Pentecostal Church.
During his years in the Protestant community, the young man began to read books about the Catholic religion and in 1994, out of curiosity, he accompanied by one of his college friends to a Catholic church for mass. "The liturgy of the Mass fascinated me - he says-I knew within myself that this was a sacred moment." "I think – he continues - I fell in love with the beauty and truth of Catholic faith and it helped me greatly to hear about the Grace of God, the Holy Eucharist and devotion of the faithful to the Virgin Mary and the saints." "The Mass – he adds - is the heart of my conversion and my priestly vocation. In the Holy Sacrifice, we have it all. God gives himself to us as spiritual food for our pilgrimage from earth to Heaven.
In September 1994 Hezuk decide to begin the catechumenate. In April 1995, he received baptism in the Basilica of St. Patrick Montreal during the Easter Vigil.
"At that time - he says - I came to realize that the Magisterium and authority in the Church are at the service of Truth and Love, and that they are a great blessing. Some people reject the Catholic Church because they feel that the Magisterium "binds" them (what they can believe, do, etc.). But I felt the opposite; Truth makes one freer to love. We are so blessed to have the Holy Father and the teaching authority of the Church, because they teach us how to truly grow in the life of Grace. " Hezuk says that during his very first experience of a Catholic Mass he understood that this was the "place where God was calling him."
After the baptism, the young man felt even more strongly the call of God to the priesthood. So, a few months later, he went to France, where he spent three years in a community of Benedictine monks. In this period of meditation and prayer Hezuk understood that the life of a monk was not for him, and entered the Community of St. John, where he spent six years first in the United States and then France, where he studied theology and philosophy. Before graduation, the community leaders decided to send Hezuk to Cebu, the Philippines, for a period of mission. "It 's here in the Philippines - he says - after working in youth ministry, that I finally understood that God was calling me to serve as a diocesan priest."
In fact, during his mission in Cebu, Hezuk noted that the young people of his community were poorly integrated into parish life. "The young people – he says - told me that their pastor had no time for them, because he was too busy running the parish. Inside of me I thought 'how sad, after all, the first mission of a priest should be the care of the souls entrusted to him. So I began to understand that God had given me the heart of a 'shepherd' to continue his work. " "Every day – he continues – I understood more and more that God wants me to serve as pastor, to restore the sense of prayer and contemplation in the parishes." "The parish - he says - is one of the few points of contact with their Catholic faith."
Looking at the vibrancy of the young people in St. John’s and especially how they change due to common prayer and worship, Hezuk feels compelled to bring this approach to parish life. "The social aspect of faith is important - he says - but it should never be placed before prayer."
After his experience in Cebu, the young man decided to return to Canada in September 2006 and entered the St. Augustine seminary in Toronto. Here he studied to become a priest at the service of the Archdiocese of Ottawa, a journey that will end some time next May with ordination. Hezuk said that it was difficult for his family to accept his choice, however, his parents and his sister who lives in the United States will attend his ordination.
"My mother - he says - was very happy with my conversion and even when I said that I would become a priest. It was difficult for my father, because being the only son he knew that I would not continue the family name. "
"Over time – he continues –he has accepted my choice, but it’s still very difficult for him to understand my conversion and my call to the priesthood. His religion is a part of his culture and roots and he thinks that by changing my religion, I also rejected my cultural and ethnic roots. I said that conversion to Christianity does not imply the rejection of anything, but that was a good thing. I have not rejected his religious beliefs and my roots, but I just felt that Christ was calling me to be one of his. "
Hezuk emphasizes that religion is a very personal choice, which must take place between the individual and God "Love of family and tradition are very important - he adds - but love of God must always come first. Christ calls me to follow him completely, even if this means a division between me and my father. When you fall in love with Christ, He takes full possession of your heart. And I've never been as happy as now. "