Hello, I am Fr Andrew Chen. This is a little about my life story.
I am from a Catholic family. Its Catholic practice could go back to great grandmother’s generation. That was my father’s grandmother. My mother’s grandparents were Catholic as well, but my mother’s mother was not a Catholic before she married my grandfather. Hence, my family has a quite long Catholic tradition since the first missionaries came to my hometown about one hundred years ago.
Both my parents are devout Catholics. My father is a doctor and my mother is a nurse. Because there were not many Catholic doctors, my father had quite a lot of chances to have contact with the clergy in my hometown and to give them treatments when they were sick. If the priests became sick they usually asked my father. I remember my father told me that often he was asked to see sick priests late at night. Therefore, my father got to know the clergy very well and they trusted my father. Because of this close association with the clergy, my father was arrested twice. The first time was in 1993 and he was sentenced in jail for eight months. He was sentenced to serve jail with our bishop, and other priests and religious. The second time was for a shorter period. My father still has contact with the bishop and the priests that he went to jail with. Sometimes the priests asked my father to send some information to them about the Church in my hometown to Rome or some overseas organizations.
This is the kind of family I was brought up by, I got to know the Church quite well. I have five brothers and two sisters. In 1988, two of my brothers travelled overseas, one came to Australia and the other went to Japan – then later to the USA.
I finished my high school in 1997 and was able to enter a university in my province to study animal science. My father came to Australia to visit my brother in 1996 and he applied to stay here as a religious refugee. He was granted permission. He also applied for my mother, my brothers and sisters and me to come here. I, together with my mother, my two brothers, my sister and my sister-in-law, came to Australia in 1998 after I just finished one year study in the university.
When I was young, I remember I saw some priests came to our house to say mass. That was very exciting. But I did not think about becoming a priest myself. After I finished my primary school, I joined a catechism class to learn lessons for my first confession and first communion. At the end of the class, the sister asked what did you want to be in the future? I said, I wanted to be a priest! I am not sure whether I was serious or not.
Later on, I kept busy studying and did not think about this question. I just followed the family tradition of saying morning and evening prayers together.
After I arrived in Melbourne. I studied English and had quite a lot of time to think. I was not happy with my life at that time. I had lots of time but I did not have much to do with it, this is just like St. Eugene during his exile. I felt a kind of yearning from inside.
Hence, I decided to join the seminary to have a look at whether or not it would be a good place for me to stay. I find myself peaceful in this place.
I was ordained to the priesthood on the 15th of August 2008. I am now at my first posting as an assistant priest at our Oblate Parish of Tea Tree Gully, which is an outer suburb of Adelaide.
May God bless you in your discernment process, Fr Andrew