Benny’s Journey into Priesthood
St John’s Seminary Zambia
This is an edited version of Benny Mwenya’s story of how he discerned a calling to become a priest. Benny is currently an ordinand at St John’s Seminary, Kitwe in northern Zambia.
My name is Benny Joseph Mwenya aged 31 years. I am from the Anglican Diocese of Northern Zambia and my sending Parish is St. Joseph’s Anglican Church, Kamuchanga, Mufulira. I was born into a family of six, three boys and three girls. I’m the third born and I’m single.
I am currently a Seminarian in third year at The Anglican Seminary of St. John. I am also a member of the Community of St. Anselm as an alumnus.
In my vocation journey, I believe that God began to fashion my heart to work for him long before I was aware of it. My five siblings and I have had a unique childhood because my parents supported many children in our home. I now believe that welcoming many children into our family prepared my heart to live in the community.
On the other hand, as a child my spiritual life was something which was not significant, and it was not making sense for me because, at times, my parents used to force me to go to church. Therefore, no matter how much I tried to understand, I could not fully understand, I only understood the basic concepts of the spiritual dimension of Christianity. During Sunday school classes when the teacher told us the stories about Jesus Christ, for me I was just a Christian by family, I had no personal conviction.
Before becoming fully convicted and set as a pilgrim, I was struck with a heavy cloud. I lost something so dear to me. My beloved father passed away at the end of the year I completed high school. This trial was very difficult for me and my family. Not knowing what else to do I spent lots of time speaking to the Lord in prayer. Putting my trust in him strengthened my faith. As He held me close, our relationship grew. I felt a strong call to go back to Church.
My journey has brought me through rough patches of life and times of life-learning lessons.
My spiritual journey has not been perfect, and I am still learning from it. This journey has taken me through good times in my life and some really rough times in my life. The bad times never stopped me from continuing with my faith in God.
Later on, the church recommended me that I should train as an evangelist. As I was executing my duties as an evangelist, I was asked if I was feeling it upon my heart to train as a priest. I refused because at that time I was thinking that I was very young and I was told to rethink about it but little did I know that God’s will is not man’s will and I saw that when God is preparing you, he finds means and ways. After a month, an advertisement came from the Church of England for young people aged 25-30 who were interested to apply to live a community life for one year in the United Kingdom.
The community of St. Anselm is a quasi-monastic community that draws young Christians together from all over the world for one year of prayer, study, and service to the underprivileged. It has been formally recognized as a religious community by the Church of England. The Archbishop of Canterbury founded the community of St. Anselm. It was designed more to focus on prayer, and it was also called, “one year in God’s time”. Our diocese chose me to apply, and I did.
I described that year as a turning point, a discernment year when God was calling me. Despite that, that year was not an easy year for me. In short it was both challenging, but also one of the happiest years of my life. I learnt a lot in the community.
The Community of St Anselm is where I learnt that love is the heart of Christianity. My first challenge was about living with people I did not know, and who had different backgrounds in terms of culture and different beliefs religiously. My second challenge was praying five times a day. In all these challenges I knew God was shaping me.
That year enabled me to discern God’s calling more clearly. Through a program of retreats, teaching and spiritual direction, I discerned through prayer a strong calling to ordained ministry in the church. However, when I returned to Zambia, I was still not sure how it was going to happen for me to start training as a priest. But as we know God’s plan is not man’s, and weeks after my arrival, the diocesan office called for interviews and I attended. I was then informed that I was picked to start training as a priest.
This is how my journey of vocation has been lined up by God and this is how I have found myself at St. John’s seminary. In these entire events I have seen God preparing me for the mission of my life and which is an ongoing process that takes a lifetime.