Trevor Tibbertsma is a third-year seminarian at Corpus Christi College in Carlton. The 23-year-old came to Melbourne from the Gold Coast in 2007 to take part in the Youth Mission Team (YMT) for a year. Little did he know that this was the beginning of a deeper journey of faith, and an answer to a call from God. Kairos Catholic Journal's Fiona Basile caught up with Trevor while he was taking some time off from studies doing something else that he loves—skating.
Did you always want to be a priest?
I never grew up wanting to be a priest; some people seem to have had that but I wasn't that type of person. Also, the priests I came across on the Gold Coast in my early years never really inspired me, so I didn't give it much thought. But when I moved to Melbourne, I started meeting young and really inspirational priests who loved bringing God to others, and despite the sacrifice they made, they loved it and were happy. I started thinking, "Oh wow, priests can be happy, and enjoy what they do". That was the start.
How did Youth Mission Team impact you?
I found out about the Youth Mission Team in Year 10 through a Christian summer school I attended. I nearly did YMT straight after high school in 2006, but I chickened out and ended up doing it the following year. During that time, I tried to be open to where God was leading me in my life. I was told he had a great plan for us and I was learning about the idea of vocation, so I wanted to be open to whatever and wherever God wanted to lead me. I did YMT a second time, following World Youth Day in Sydney 2008. I could see that I'd grown so much through the first experience of YMT, and my faith was steadily growing deeper the more I read and found out, so I went back to do another year of service and to discern the priesthood more seriously. I felt at that time that I wanted to do something with the Church for the rest of my life.
When did you finally decide to enter the seminary?
At the end of my time at YMT—the second time round—I felt in prayer that if I give this [the priesthood] a go, I'm not locked in, I haven't signed my life away, although I think my mum thought I had. I felt through prayer and careful thought that God was inviting me to give the seminary a go. There was something in me that felt that this was the best response I could make. At this stage I feel confident that I'm on the right track and I need to just keep staying open. I really feel this is an amazing opportunity to be a living witness to the world that there is a greater love—the love of God.
Who inspires you?
Originally it was one of my sisters, Anita, who inspired me because she was so committed to her faith. She just loved God and wanted everyone to know him. She was the one who dragged me along in Year 10 to the Christian summer camp; she's always inspired me. I also have a friend I served with on YMT in 2007 who really inspired me. His influence when I was doing YMT was huge on me. I was the young 18-year-old doing youth work and he was the wise 23-year-old. His love for the faith rubbed off on me in a big way. God was using him to get through to me. He influenced me to want to pick up books and read and learn more. I wanted to know why he loved this faith so much, why did he love the Mass so much?
Currently, Pope Benedict really inspires me, as do any faithful priests.
What do you do in your spare time?
When I get the chance, I like to get out and skate. I started when I was 11 years old. I like getting out there, rolling around and doing some tricks. Sometimes it's a bit painful, but it's a lot of fun. I haven't broken any bones yet. I guess it's probably not the 'done' thing in general by seminarians, but I didn't feel like I had to let go of this hobby when I started at the seminary because it's good exercise and it's an outlet. I get to meet lots of people along the way and it's a good opportunity to evangelise. I don't hide the fact that I'm in the seminary studying to be a priest. Skaters often ask, "So, you don't believe in sex before marriage?" The questions and conversations are always a lot of fun!
It's hard to choose. St John Vianney is amazing and inspirational. I read his biography just before entering the seminary. St Therese of Lisieux—she was so young and simple and writes so beautifully in Story of a Soul. I really admire her way of expressing her love for God.
Photo by Fiona Basile/Kairos Catholic Journal copyright 2012