Deacon Eric Mah Photo by Sheila Dabu Nonato

Lawyer not giving up his life, he's dedicating it to the Lord

  • November 12, 2010

TORONTO - In his journey toward the priesthood, Deacon Eric Mah, a lawyer by training, has had to explain to some of his colleagues why becoming a priest is a “rational” decision in a world where making more money and climbing the corporate ladder are prized pursuits.

“You know in your heart that you’re deeply in love with Christ. But to non-Catholics, they see that you’re giving up your life,” the 33-year-old former insurance lawyer told The Catholic Register at a coffee shop near St. Michael’s Cathedral Nov. 5 where he picked up his vestments for his ordination to the diaconate scheduled for the next day.

Mah was ordained a deacon at Blessed Trinity Catholic Church, the parish of his internship year. His parents and brother’s family flew in from Vancouver to witness the ceremony.

Mah’s ordination to the priesthood, along with eight other members of the class of 2010-2011 at St. Augustine’s, is scheduled for May 14 at St. Michael’s Cathedral.

At 27, after working for two years as a lawyer, Mah entered St. Augustine’s Seminary. During his summers off, he continued to work at the law firm. That’s when he sometimes felt challenged to defend his decision.

Often, he would hear negative comments indirectly, including from some friends or acquaintances, comments such as “You’re pretty good at this, so why can’t you be a lawyer, married and serve the Lord as well?” Or it’s “a total waste of time he’s doing this.”

“There’s a misconception that you choose (the priesthood) because all the doors are closed,” Mah explained.

“For years, it was a bit of a struggle being around this type of atmosphere.”

Mah is in his sixth year at the seminary. His family supports his decision, although they had some questions in the beginning.

On discernment, Mah says “people try to see if they want to do God’s will” instead of trying to figure out what that will is.

“More often than not, it’s easy to figure out God’s will. It’s what you do with that information,” he said. “I came to grips with that: What does God want me to do?”

Mah first started thinking about the priesthood in high school. He says he’d been avoiding the question and finally “needed to face that. It was the same answer to that question.”

When Mah finally decided to discern about becoming a priest, he spoke with a spiritual director who suggested that he give himself a deadline to decide. After two weeks, Mah made his decision.

“It just seemed right when I thought about it,” he said.

To some, the idea of the priesthood can be “scarier than other things,” he said. But for Mah, he found that “in the quiet of my heart, it was that.”

Although the call to a life of celibacy, obedience to one’s bishop and a lifelong commitment of serving God and His flock is counter-cultural, especially to young men just starting out a professional career, Mah says it’s a decision he’s called to live.

Like other seminarians, Mah had dated and thought about marriage, but the call to become a priest was stronger.

During conversations with Blessed Trinity parish pastor Msgr. Ambrose Sheehy, the “fundamental conversation” has been “I am in love with Christ and I will do anything for Him,” Mah explained.

Mah said he learned of a different image of Christ from Sheehy whom he considers his mentor, including “how lonely Jesus is and how unloved He is.”

“In that sense, all He wants from us is to be with Him in love. We sometimes over-complicate the matter,” he said.

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