Editor’s note: This is part II of a two-part interview with Brother Bill Gural, SS.CC.
Q6: Now you grew up in a non-Catholic family. Are your siblings and relatives supportive in your journey, or do you find some misunderstanding?
A. My dad was baptized by a Ukrainian Catholic priest though he was raised Ukrainian Orthodox. Though we were raised Protestant, some Catholicism was there simply because my dad received Baptism in and through the Catholic Church.
My family was mostly not so supportive of my becoming a Catholic and choosing religious life. It was hard to wrap their minds around my conversion and vocation. However, as they saw me maturing and becoming more content and at peace, they accepted my journey more. They love me. Maybe they can see God’s grace working inside out. Perhaps they are experiencing some blessings too. Still change, conversion, is not easy, and we can resist the movement of the Holy Spirit. Once you put your hands to the plow, don’t look back.
Q7. Who in religious life influenced you, helped you put your hand to the plow?
A. A religious Sister giving me Spiritual direction once told me just that. My SS.CC. formators, Father Stan, Father Pat, Father Rich, Father Johnathan, Father Marisi and Father Stephen, have both challenged and nurtured me. The vow of obedience has helped me face myself and to continue to make the decision to pick up my cross and follow Him. My formators a few times repeated this message of persevering, and following God’s will. I had a diocesan priest, Father Warren, as a Spiritual director; he encouraged me to “stay in the God zone.” I knew Passionists who also inspired me to persist in pursuing religious life by their example of joyful, loving lives. As one of our SS.CC. priests from Chile, Esteban Gumucio said, “Fix your eyes on Jesus.” The Holy Spirit draws me deeper into the life of Jesus. His humble, merciful heart coaxes me onward.
Q8. You grew into Catholicism without a child’s appreciation of Mary, Mother of God. Have you found her in your journey?
A. Yes. Early after I entered the Church, when I was going to daily Mass, I found people praying the Rosary and joined them. The people at the Bible study I attended also had a strong devotion to Mary, so I was being introduced to Mary through them, in the Eucharist, and in devotional readings. I also got to know the La Salettes and went to the Attleboro shrine. I am trying to have a childlike trust in Mary. I am finding that praying to Mary, especially in the Rosary, and having a relationship with her helps me in my relationship with God, the Father, the Son, and Holy Spirit. I am grateful that Mary is prominent in our religious order and that we carry her name.
Q9. It is quite difficult today to try and create an invitation (by way of an ad) that seeks vocations. How do we talk about religious life as a possibility today in a world of “nones,” a world where there is no interest showing on the gauge?
A. Perhaps, we can preach always, and when necessary, use words. We need to be profoundly and radically rooted in Christ through prayer and sacrificial love, and then reveal a joyful, dynamic, love-filled life that attracts others to a deeper relationship in Christ. Once they have this deeper, trusting relationship with Jesus, He can draw them and speak with them as He wants — for some this will be the amazing adventure of religious life and/or priesthood. Surely Jesus wants us to be full of joy, love and vitality. Our culture so often issues empty promises, tempting us to be shallow, and self-serving. However, Jesus calls us to a deeper, lasting life. “I came that they may have life and have it more abundantly.”
Q10. OK, so there is a need for us to reveal in ourselves what we show on vocation literature. Renewal in Religious Life is a notable topic today. As you saw it in Fiji, as you see it now, should we start with community life, or mission, or — where?
A. Again, I would say start with prayer. All vocations come from God. With apostolic orders, we do live prayer in action. We could attract people through mission, preaching the love of Christ found in the Sacred Hearts of Jesus and Mary. Prayer is expressed in community life, in fraternal love or in the family spirit. You can’t give what you don’t have. Our love has to stem from the love of God, and it seems we have to spend time with God — as Mary did at the feet of Jesus. Our order was founded in Adoration. We need to adore Christ in the Eucharist, spend time listening to Him, and being filled by His love. If we are not discerning Christ’s will each day, and are not being replenished by Him, how can we effectively contradict the distractions and illusions of the world? Mother Teresa had her Sisters begin each day with an hour of Adoration and then Mass because she knew that they need Christ’s love to do this challenging outreach to the poorest of the poor.
In Fiji, Church and society is a bit more like the Western world in the 1950s, meaning religion is an important part of people’s daily life and becoming a religious or priest is very honorable and high status. A very welcoming and accepting religious house and living out our charism of expressing the love of God further helps attract vocations. We need humility, courage, and trust to allow God’s love to shine through us.
Q11. Are you reading anything interesting at present?
A. I am reading the newspapers. It is troubling to hear what is happening: evacuations in Afghanistan, earthquake and suffering in Haiti, the ongoing debate about vaccines and masks in the face of another round of the COVID pandemic.
I have been reading “Blessings of the Daily: A Monastic Book of Days” by Brother Victor-Antoine d’Avila-Latourrette. I am enjoying these reflections on Benedictine life, including prayer, gardening, Liturgy, and hospitality.
I have been reading the Roman Missal, including the General Instructions, preparing for my priestly ordination, God willing
Thank you for your time, Brother Bill, and blessings in ministry, as you move towards priesthood.