Welcome Fr Gerard Lai
G’day wonderful folk of Our Lady of the Rosary Catholic Parish! My name is Fr Gerard and it is with great joy and excitement that I join your community.
Growing up, I never wanted to be a priest. I wanted to be something exciting like a policeman, a scientist or a teacher. I was a very curious and quiet boy and in school I often knew the answer to the question but I was too shy to put my hand up and speak.
Then through high school, I remember seeing the Vocational Education and Training (VET) Co-ordinator over various lunchtimes trying to figure out what I wanted to do. I looked through magazines and booklets and did lots of personality interest tests and ended up considering science. I knew I wanted to make a positive contribution in the world and I loved science experiments, so researching renewable energies or developing techniques for bio-fortification was something which interested me.
During Year 12 we had a retreat; it was run by these young people who had a real joy about them. I remember going home and journaling all about it because it was just so fun and enriching. These young people were teaching us about the faith in really cool and fun ways using skits, dramas, leadership activities, games and small group discussions. Their activities explored the faith and helped me learn more about myself in a creative and interactive way. Slowly, towards the end of the year, I thought about taking a gap year and doing what these young people were doing, because they had a visible faith and they were doing something about it. I, on the other hand, had a faith but I wasn’t really doing anything about it. I ended up serving two years with NET Ministries. I lived with other faith-filled young people running retreats and RE classes for various schools and parishes around Australia. These few years formed a great foundation for my life and for my faith.
After NET, during my science degree studies I was invited to Canali House—a house of prayer and discernment for young men thinking about Catholic Priesthood. When I was there I lived with a priest, and a bunch of other young men thinking about the same thing, and it was just great, being able to follow the priest around to the various ministry events and ask a million-and-one questions at dinner. Towards the end of my time there, I was in prayer and I thought, I can’t discern God’s call forever, what do you want to do with your life Gerard? And being the thinker that I was, I thought, well, I might be a good dad as well as a good priest, but all throughout this time at Canali House I was still open to the possibility of priesthood and the “what if” question never really went away. So I thought, what have I got to lose, I can continue to discern God’s call in the Seminary so let’s try that out. So it was this small step of faith (like the mustard seed in today’s gospel) and a few other God moments I had, which helped me feel at peace about joining the seminary, and here I am today.
I was born in Australia and I have an older sister, younger sister and some pet chickens. My cultural heritage is Malaysian-Chinese and others would describe my personality as vibrant and creative. I grew up in a Catholic family and worshipped at St Paul’s Woodridge and St Edward’s Daisy Hill. I am particularly passionate in helping others find meaning and purpose in their lives. In my spare time, you’ll find me outdoors hiking, fishing, and running (as I hope to run my first marathon in August!)
I am looking forward to meeting you all during my three year appointment here.