Call to Priesthood of Fr. Norman, A Missionary Priest in Italy

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“I can hear the angels ringing the bells straight from heaven.” During mass, an innocent child was wondering where the sound was coming from. It is sometimes celebratory, slow, sad and full of warning. A bell giving you such signals and emotions of some sort can only come from the Almighty. That was the thought of Father Norman de Silva when her mother’s bringing her to church every Sunday. He’s now the Chaplain of Filipino Catholic Community in Imperia and Filipino Parish Priest at Parrocchia San Bartolomeo Apostolo in Imperia, Italy.

Fr. Norman ministering first communion in his parish

I contacted Father Norman when we came up with inspirational stories to feature in our blog. I asked him to share his life as a missionary priest in Italy. He entered the seminary sometime in June 2000. They ordained him last June 9, 2012 at the Shrine of St. Joseph the Patriach, San Jose, Batangas. I remembered the invitation he sent me and he even personally came to my house to invite me. Unfortunately, I missed that important event in his life. I was a terrible friend and I don’t have any excuse. He even offered to baptize my kids. I’m just so grateful that he agreed to do this, hoping to give our readers inspiration about faith or to make their relationship with God even stronger by reading his story!

Nasa sinapupunan ka pa lang, tinawag na kita. During my thanksgiving, I quoted this verse from book of the prophet, Jeremiah. My usual response when I am asked about my calling? For me it all started with my mother. Having a religious mother, I became closer to God and the church. Growing up, I wanted to be an altar boy but I had difficulties with daily commute and the church’s too far from home. Sadly, it never happened. Now, I just realized God’s bigger plan, He wants me to be the one officiating the Holy Mass.

Fr. Norman with her mother

Like any other human being, I also had my struggles discerning the call to priesthood. I had temptations to pursue other things. But indeed it’s true. “You have not chosen Me, but I have chosen you” (John 15:16). Every part of my life has unfolded just right. Let me tell you what made me give myself entirely to God with undivided heart and heed His call to follow Him.

I entered the seminary and being young, I wanted to join a singing contest. I thought that the life of a priest will hinder me from this dream. The joy of being a champion, did you have this feeling too? But funny enough during my first year there was a singing competition. The Lord gave it to me! Modesty aside, I won, champion agad!

It’s also even normal I think for me to want to start a family of my own. Sometimes, when I saw a family going to church, I would feel it. But God granted me a nephew that I can call my own son. He grew up with me and treats me like a father.

Then, I thought about our poultry business. If I don’t manage it, who will? But the Lord took care of it. Another family member took the courage to start the poultry business. So part of me was saying, maybe God’s clearing the way so I can fulfill the calling.

They gave me my first assignment at Our Lady of Mercy Academy OLMA Taysan Batangas as School Treasurer. Then I became Assistant Parish Priest at St. Anthony of Padua in Antipolo, Rizal. After almost 2 years in the priesthood, I received a call from my superior asking me if my willingness to go on a mission was still in my heart.

Do you still want to go”? I can clearly remember that call, Feast of St. Joseph the Worker last May 1, 2014 around 8pm. I answered, “Father, andito pa po hindi naman nawawala ang kagustuhan kong magmisyon, all for the glory of God!” They processed the papers and documents and with another priest we left for Italy last February 4, 2015. The next day, the snow fell in Milan, a very memorable day for me, because my journey as missionary priest in Italy started.

I studied the language, attended series of seminars about Italy, cultures, traditions, customs and many others. September 2, 2016 I became Parish Priest at Parrocchia San Bartolomeo Apostolo in Imperia up to this day. My mission experience was not easy.

I admit, I had struggles during the first months but I knew, Hindi ako pababayaan ni Lord, God will sustain me. Manghina man ako, masaktan, malungkot, masaya, madapa, parehong Diyos pa din ang aking kasama at masasandalan. At first, it seemed like everyone’s watching my every move. I even felt unwelcomed. But all is well in the end.

Once a year they grant me some time to visit the Philippines. And when time comes, let’s say 15 or 20 years or more and I decide to come back home, they will respect that. But now, I adjusted already to Italy’s climate, language and culture and I intend to continue my mission here in Italy. It feels like home already. Dito ako tinawag at dito na ako magpapakabunga pa ika nga.

BE NOT AFRAID, I recalled the lyrics of this song, “You shall cross the barren dessert, but you shall not die of thirst. You shall speak foreign words and they will understand you”. Literally it happened to me because of the grace of God. It was unimaginable at first but when God planned it, magnificent! The best!

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