Deacon Peter Anthoney
“My first five years in the seminary, I thought I was cheating myself, and I always questioned myself, as I really did want to get married and have a family like most people.”
For 38 year old Peter Anthony, priesthood was never an option as he was growing up, and even upon entering the workforce. He was aiming towards having a beautiful wife and lots of kids. The affirmation for his chosen vocation came through a priest who celebrated Mass at the seminary one day, when the priest said, “If your ambition and your main desire in life is to stand up here on this pulpit to preach and celebrate Mass, and that is why you are here, then this is not your call, but if you have the desire to get married and have a family, to earn a living and live a successful life, and yet you are here, then yes, you are called, this is your vocation.” The priest’s sermon that day made a difference to Peter. “That preaching affirmed my decision,” he said.
Peter grew up in a very close knit family of five boys and two girls. Being the youngest son in the family, he received a lot of love, care and concern from his family. “My dad was my inspiration,” he says, “he adhered to certain principles in life. He made it a point that we pray together as a family every day, and he insisted we pray three times a day. I believe I inherited my dad’s good qualities, especially his patience and determination.” Losing his dad in 2002 was a painful time, and thinking back, he was glad that he did manage to speak of joining the priesthood with his dad, although on a casual note.
“I was a very happy-go-lucky guy,” he said. “I was very blessed with many things in life. I had a lovely family. I studied accounts and went on to have a respectable title at Maxis, where I worked for many years and built a strong career. I was earning relatively well and could afford the luxuries of life, I had many girlfriends too.”
Through it all, Peter was always an active church worker, being a youth leader for many years at the Church of Our Lady of Lourdes. Then he went on to lead the Klang District Youth Council. He was also actively involved with the charismatic group and the Legion of Mary. “I used to go on hospital visits on my own since the age of 20. It was something I was passionate about, visiting the sick, just talking to them and praying with them. I have a passion to serve people, I enjoy serving people, especially those in need of a favour. I find joy in just being there for someone in need.”
Why the priesthood?
“When I was 21, I had this feeling stirring within, and I approached a priest casually to enquire about the priesthood. He told me that I was still young and sent me off to do what’s necessary. After that, I completely brushed off the idea of priesthood.”
“Many years later, one fine morning, as I was on my long drive to work, and having this random conversation with God as I always do, I thanked God for blessing me so abundantly, and I asked God, ‘What can I offer you in return for all these blessings?’ That was when I heard an inner voice saying; ‘Can you leave everything and come with me?’ I told God it was difficult to do that as I was earning well and life was good. And at that moment, the scripture reading about Jesus calling Peter came to me, when Jesus told Peter and his brother, ‘Come follow me and I will make you fishers of men.’”
“Upon discerning, I started my journey with Fr Gerard Theraviam, then parish priest of Our Lady of Lourdes, Klang. I was ready to let go of everything I had to take up God’s call. The only challenge came when I applied for the seminary, and I had to get my mother’s signature on the application form. My mom said no. Since young, I never went against my parents’ will, and their blessings mean the world to me. Without my parents’ blessings, I know I will not do anything. I would have given up at that point.”
“The next day, I found myself back in church. As I was praying about it, I told God, ‘I want to come as you have called, but without my mom’s blessings, I cannot do it.’ Again, an inner voice told me: ‘go home and speak to your mom again.’ I went home and over tea, I told her, ‘You know, ma, when I was young, you gave me Jesus, you gave me God, you taught me how to pray, and if today I want to answer God’s call, it’s not me, it’s you and dad who instilled God in me, and made me respond to God’s call.’ And I saw tears rolling down from her eyes. And she told me to bring her the forms. That was my first encounter where I felt that God was truly calling me, and it wasn’t something I imagined. It broke my mom’s heart to let me go, and yet she did it, and it also made me realize that what I had to let go to join the priesthood was nothing compared to this
“I will never forget the day my mom sent me to the seminary, came with me right up to my room. Before leaving, she gave me her blessings, and told me to listen to the teachers and be good. Her honest blessings affirmed my vocation.”
Peter joined the seminary in 2005. It was his first time away from home, away from his family, away from his youth ministry. It was difficult for him to cope at first, but he managed to get through with the help of his fellow brothers. His main anxiety was the studying part of it, but today, looking back, he says, “It was a joyful, happy journey – there were ups and downs, but I treasure lots of good memories. I have left my smaller family and joined the bigger family. I had to let go of my personal desires, in order to take over God’s will, and I am glad I chose this course of direction.” -- By Jacelyn Johnson