It was not his search for God, but God’s search for him, says an Indian Catholic priest, who was formerly a Buddhist.
He was born on July 25, 1979, as a Buddhist.
“Before encountering God’s love in Jesus, my understanding of God and the world was very pessimistic. More than reverence and love, I had a great fear of God,” says Father Sameer Nagrare, a priest in the Archdiocese of Nagpur, Maharashtra, south India.
“I believed that everything bad that happened in life was a curse or punishment from God,” he added.
So, he has to appease God. He had to pray and offer sacrifices.
“When I was in class 4, my parents got separated. This incident brought sadness, brokenness, and hopelessness to my life,” said the 43-year-old Nagrare.
All this affected his studies and his relationship with others. Continuous failure in studies and family problems brought frustration and loneliness.
His life was just passing by without any hope for the future. Everything seemed dark. At this juncture of life, in 2000, he had a life-changing encounter at a retreat.
A Christian friend asked Nagrare if he could join the group for a retreat. He joined them on the condition that they would take him to Kanyakumari, a coastal town on the southern tip of India.
The event was at the Divine Retreat Centre (DRC), Muringoor, near Chalakudy in the southern state of Kerala.
Established in 1987, DRC is part of the renewal movement of the Vincentian Congregation of India. The Vincentian priests conduct retreats in parishes in Kerala since the 1950s and in other parts of India.
“During that retreat, I experienced God’s love. God was not cruel as I had imagined, but rather full of love and mercy,” he recalled.
“When they spoke of sin, my misconception that sin only meant killing another person was cleared. I came to know of the Ten Commandments, the Word of God, and the Church’s teaching on sin in today’s context,” Nagrare said.
After becoming aware of his sinfulness, he mentioned his sins to a Catholic priest, who, after listening to him, assured him that he would pray for him.
“After this event, I experienced a lot of peace. On the third day, they spoke about Jesus, his life, and teachings,” he said.
After listening about Jesus, Nagrare thought if there is a God, he should be like Jesus, for whom nothing is impossible. A man of words and deeds, though all-powerful Jesus became humble and suffered for others, and taught a lesson of forgiveness to the world.
Nagrare was convinced that Jesus is the unique saviour of the world. The priest-counselor asked him to continue praying.
The priest told Nagrare that God would reveal His plan in God’s time.
“I prayed to the Holy Spirit to fill me with His gifts and charisms,” Nagrare said.
After the retreat, he was in a dilemma about how he was to convey his faith experiences at home and to his friends and relatives.
“But I felt comforted by Jesus that he would take care of me and give me the right words to speak to my parents and friends. I continued my relationship with Jesus and experienced his love and mercy during personal prayer,” he said.
Nagrare’s faith in Jesus gave him enormous strength to undergo the suffering and crushing pain when he lost his mother and two brothers.
Besides, when his elder brother and father were diagnosed with cancer, Jesus never left him alone. He felt Jesus’ presence with him all these years.
“I had a lot of fears in life but Jesus gave me the courage to face and overcome all my shortcomings and weaknesses,” said Nagrare.
After a year, he experienced a strong urge to be a priest. He had a conflict within himself. He also wanted to get married.
“It took me around four years to reach my decision for the priesthood. I was baptized on June 4, 2006,” he said.
The decision to join the seminary was a difficult one, as he had to face a lot of opposition from his family and friends.
“Despite all the difficulties, God carried me in His arms and I finally joined the Archdiocese of Nagpur, a city in the central Indian state of Maharashtra,” he said.
He did his seminary education in Mumbai, the capital city of Maharashtra and the financial center of India.
Nagrare was ordained a priest on April 22, 2014. At present, he serves at St. Joseph's Church, Gondia, Archdiocese of Nagpur. – With inputs from Kairos Global
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