Father Lim Ooi Chai, better known as Father OC Lim is the eldest son of Datuk Lim Foo Yong and grew up in the midst of great material wealth. He completed his secondary education at St. Xavier's Institution in Penang and finished his Sixth Form at St. John's Institution in Kuala Lumpur. He spent a year at Universiti Malaya doing his BA but opted out as he was more interested in law. He then went to London to pursue his dream to become a lawyer. Four years later, he returned to Kuala Lumpur and went into partnership with Chung and Huang Advocates & Solicitors. For fourteen years he worked as a lawyer enjoying a five figure monthly income at the height of his career. But instead of getting married and remaining in the legal profession, he gave up his luxurious life and became a Jesuit Priest.
Why did he give up his luxurious life to serve God and to serve us? According to him, "I enjoyed my life, but there came a time when I began to question whether there could be more to life than what I was experiencing. It has been a gradual realisation that the priesthood is my true vocation. The La Salle Brothers at St. Xaviers were instrumental in planting the seed of faith in me. And the spirit of God spoke to me through the Scriptures, prayers, people and events. One day at mass, it occurred to me that 'this is it!' ...what I was looking for, and I shed tears of joy."
At 42, Father OC Lim joined the Society of Jesus. Known as the Jesuits, and designated by the initials SJ after the name, they are the largest male religious order in the Catholic Church, with 18815 members - 13305 priests, 2295 scholastic students, 1758 brothers and 827 novices - as of January 2008. Pope Paul III accepted them as a new religious order in 1540. The Society is characterized by its ministries in the fields of missionary work, human rights, social justice and higher education. When he was asked why he has chosen the Jesuits, he said, "A Jesuit priest is mobile, flexible and always available. He can be a man for all seasons. There're no permanent ties to people, places or posts. He is ready to get up and go when told. So he is able to dedicate himself totally to God's work, which is what I want to do."
He spent the next seven years studying the scriptures, two years as a novitiate at St. Francis Xavier, then five years in Manila studying philosophy and theology. At 49, Father OC Lim was ordained a Jesuit Priest on 1 May 1992 at St. Francis Xavier's Church, Petaling Jaya. "My seven years of intellecual and spiritual formation didn't end with my ordination. It is an ongoing process and will only stop when I die," he said. When asked how he felt after his ordination, Father OC Lim said, "It is one of the peaks of personal salvation history - one of the privileged moments of my life. It is still a mystery to me why I was chosen! There are so many better Catholics than I am, why me? But, I accept it with humility and in complete trust in the Lord. My feelings are just inexpressible. I am just overwhelmed by the call to my vocation to be a Jesuit.
My aspiration is to labour in the Lord's vineyard ... to be a channel of reconciliation between God and persons and between person and person ... to bring the peace of Christ to persons whom I will have the privilege to encounter in my pastoral ministry. My calling to be a Jesuit priest has given me a new impetus to my belief that faith would be meaningless without the promotion of justice. I see one aspect of my vocation as a continuation of my work in the legal profession in my 'past life', but charged with a faith dimension, defending the 'poor', the 'exploited' and the 'innocent' and promoting their rights while not forgetting that the well-to-do also have their rights.
My inspiration has been and always will be the ever-abiding presence of God in every moment of my life and also the confidence that our Blessed Mother will always be guardingly watching over me with her maternal care. Each time I overcome a 'difficulty' in my life, I reach a new ecstatical height of experiencing God's saving and loving power.
I know how to be poor and I know how to be rich too. I have been through my initiation and now I am ready for anything anywhere, full stomach or empty stomach, poverty or plenty, I can do all things in Him who strengthens me."
Father OC Lim has taken the vows of poverty, chastity and obedience. According to him, "Poverty means no attachment to material things. For example, if the church were to stop me from using my car, I would revert to public transport. Practising chastity is a matter of channelling sexual energy into work and prayer. Obeying superiors is not difficult because instructions are given only after consultation and prayer."
To sum up his feelings, Father OC Lim said, "I live a simple life now but I'm happy. My inner joy is something beyond words. I regret that I didn't join the priesthood earlier. But there is a time for everything if one has faith. Those days, I learned the application of law. These days, it is the application of the holy scriptures to everyday life. For the most part, I spend time in prayer and reading the scriptures. Old and wintry as I am now, I have just entered the spring of my life! And I shall remain young and energetic in the service of the Lord by your prayers and supplications."
Throughout the years, Father OC Lim has given me a lot of inspiration. Sometimes I do ask myself whether I did the right thing in choosing the teaching profession instead of the legal profession. Then I will look at Father OC Lim's photo on my bookshelf and say, "I have no regrets with my life."
What makes me write about him tonight? Why is the story of his life indelibly printed on my memory? It is only once in a long, long time that we can encounter someone like Father OC Lim. Who on earth would give up his successful career for the priesthood? Who will exchange his imported car with a second-hand car owned by the church? Who will give up his five-figure monthly income in exchange for a monthly allowance of RM50? How many men would willingly give up marriage to become a priest? How can I forget Father OC Lim's sacrifices?
Father OC Lim will always remain a source of inspiration not only for our priests and seminarians but for all Catholics throughout the world. I pray that he will always enjoy good health and live a long, long life. We all need him very much. How many people can live a holy life like him? He has given himself completely to God and to men, serving God and serving us with undivided attention. I will honour and respect this great hero all the days of my life.
To those priests who are still unable to relinquish materialism and are busy pestering the Pope to allow them to get married even after the Pope said a big 'NO' to them, why not try to emulate Father OC Lim?