Newly ordained Fr Michel Dass with Archbishop Julian Leow and some members of the clergy from Peninsular Malaysia.

By Lavinia Louis

Jan 13 2022

KUALA LUMPUR – Born and raised in Tampin, Negeri Sembilan, newly ordained Fr Michel Dass first heard the call to priesthood as a young 17-year-old altar server.

“I was serving at a Mass presided over by Fr Paulino Miranda at my parish, St John Marie Vianney, Tampin. During consecration, I felt in my heart that I wanted to be a priest. I was deeply drawn to the vocation.

“I spoke to Fr Paulino after Mass and he told me to continue my studies first, and to spend time discerning before deciding to join the seminary,” said Fr Michel.

In 2013, Fr Michel met the then vocation director of College General, Fr Christopher Wilvaraj, and voiced his intention to apply for the seminary.

“After my chat with Fr Paulino, I took his advice to improve my English, as well as to find a part-time job, before submitting my application to join the seminary. I got in on the first try, which made me feel very lucky and happy. I felt it was a sign of a true calling,” said the jovial padre.

February 14, 2014, is a date Fr Michel remembers with great fondness – it’s the date he left his family to join the seminary.

“My parents have always been very encouraging since I was little. It was always casual talk (about joining the priesthood) but when I finally decided and told them the good news, they shed tears of joy. They were so proud and happy that they told everyone, celebrated Mass for me at our home, followed by a grand dinner with the whole family before I left for the seminary,” he shared.

Fr Michel said the first few years were the toughest – being away from family, away from the celebrations and birthdays, and as the weeks went by, he missed them more and more.

“It was daunting to realise that I would be living on God’s providence after this. I wouldn’t be working for a salary like everyone else and I used to worry about who would provide for my family.

However, I am thankful for my close friends in the seminary, Deacon Morti and Bro Johanaz Ling whom I confided in and, eventually, the whole process became a lot easier,” he said.

As Fr Michel completed his formation, many memories were created over the years. One that stood out was finding out that he was musically inclined.

“It was a subject I always failed. But during my formation in Kuching, my classmate guided me, and I then picked up quickly. Soon it became my favourite subject, and I was made choir master,” said the amused trilingual priest.

Fr Michel looks up to the late Fr Phillips Muthu as the person responsible for making him feel drawn to the priesthood and for walking the talk about serving the community.

“He was my parish priest in 1992. I saw how he was close to the community, and always there to celebrate Masses for them and was always there for people when they most needed a listening ear and comfort — that’s what I hope to be one day, a priest who is always there for the people when they need him the most and who is always close to them,” he said.

Fr Michel also aims to work closely with young people as he believes that they are the future of the Church, though they seem neglected.

“You know young people have a burning desire in them and if you love them and nurture them the right way, they can do wonders. I want to sit with them, listen to them, hear their cries and their struggles.

“Sometimes they stray away from who Jesus is and it is up to priests to bridge that gap and bring them closer to God,” he said, with a message “Dear young people, the Church needs you! Arise!”

The night before his ordination, Fr Michel had mixed feelings — excitement, nervousness and fatigue. Doubts started clouding his mind, he followed through the feeling and spoke to Fr Bonaventure. The next day, as he walked into church, he felt that he had never been more ready to embrace his vocation.

“Everyone says being a priest is easy but really, that is not so. It’s not easy because you’re dealing with people who are struggling, you have to make decisions fast, for the parish and the parishioners. I didn’t know if I would be ready for all this but I am so glad I had that talk with Fr Bona, and here I am, a newly ordained priest. I look forward to building a stronger community wherever my posting may be,” he said.

Fr Michel chose the theme I Choose You (John 15:26) as he felt he was not worthy to be a servant of Christ but was chosen by Christ to be a priest.

“Jesus called me, he appointed me even if I am not worthy. Not about me choosing God but God already chose me despite my weakness and shortcomings. He loves me,” said Fr Michel. – Herald Malaysia