By Angelyn Dee
Special to The B.C. Catholic
Close calls with death have occurred all too frequently in the life of Father Christopher Antony, HGN.
In 2003 he survived a three-day coma that lasted from Good Friday until Easter Sunday. He has twice been held at gunpoint by terrorists, survived a bomb blast and even the deadly tsunami of 2004 that wiped out everything and almost everyone on India’s Andaman Island that he called home.
Each brush with death has only strengthened the conviction within Father Chris that, in his own words, “God has a plan for me. I am called as a priest, but there is something special He wants me to do in my priesthood. I am still trying to discover what it is.”
Born in India as the eldest of three sons, Christopher could not consider the priesthood. Eldest sons were expected to help support their families and parents, and it was unlikely a seminary would accept him.
During his childhood, his grandfather would take all the grandchildren to 5:30 Mass each morning and would always tell Christopher’s mother, “Make Victor a priest.” Even when his family moved to their island home in 1982, Grandfather’s last words as they boarded a bus were, “Make Victor a priest.”
At age 11, Christopher was sent to a Catholic boarding school along with Victor. There, various priests recognized a priestly vocation in him, but Christopher’s response was always to point to his brother: “Not me, but him.” As he always ranked first in his studies, Christopher’s father wanted him to be a doctor. His brother, Victor, was to be the priest.
However, God’s plan prevailed and Christopher did eventually enter the seminary. For the first three years his father discouraged him and pleaded with him to leave and even kept him home for two years. But Christopher was determined and eventually his devout father came to realize that it was him, and not his brother, who had a priestly vocation.
Ordained in 2003, Father Chris is a member of the Heralds of Good News. Founded in 1984 with the specific aim of promoting vocations and sending out saintly and hardworking missionaries to places where there is a shortage of priests, Father is one of four HGN priests who arrived in Vancouver in July last year.
Assigned to St. John the Apostle Church in Vancouver, where his humble and quiet presence is felt, Father Chris assists Msgr. Mark Hagemoen with the daily life of the parish. His special love is Holy Mass. “Everything I prayed for during the intentions of the Mass, I have received, even little things. I realize the importance and the effects of Holy Mass. I try to follow the words of Mother Teresa, ‘Say every Mass as if it were your last’.”
Described by Msgr. Hagemoen as “a gentle pastor of souls … a humble priest who desires to serve Christ and his Church”, Father Chris hopes to dedicate himself to parish ministry for the next several years, after which his superior would like him to study for his doctorate degree in Mass Media Communications.
It is Father’s dream to one day evangelize through the media in his native India, where he earned the Gold Medal Award for his Masters degree in Communications and founded the Heralds Animation and Social Communication Center. For now, Father Chris is in Vancouver, where God’s plan for him continues to unfold.
Although the Year for Priests has ended, The B.C. Catholic received a number of contributions profiling priests. Because the stories are compelling in themselves, while also illustrating the importance of priestly vocations, we will continue running articles inspired by the Year for Priests.