‘Ars’ NOT ‘ours’ – Memorial St John Marie Vianney

‘Ars’ NOT ‘ours’ – Memorial St John Marie Vianney

Eight years ago I was appointed to St Jude Church, Malad East as priest-in-charge of a parish with a congregation that now stands at 799 souls. These have been the best eight years of my pastoral ministry spanning eighteen years; years of truly living the faith among a faith filled people.  Faith is not something that we in the Catholic Church are called to ‘sell’, it is something that we are called to live. You can’t just preach it from the pulpit, for conversion does not take place with mere words as much as it does when the heart encounters a life lived in faith.

Bloom where you are planted is easier said than done especially when your Church is all of 1200 square feet in size, no rest room, a desk for an office, where three pews serve as a class room for catechesis and were neighbours of other faiths take umbrage that you run a Church on the ground floor of a residential building (I quite understand their annoyance).

St Jude’s parish is no walk in the park; geographically it encompasses a large area though the Catholic faithful are few. Poverty is a way of life for most people and job opportunities are hard to come by. A devout congregation such as this has to often make a hard choice between attending a Sunday mass or earning bread for the family. There are challenges galore but here live a people of faith who don’t ask God to reduce the conflict they face, as much as they ask him to increase their courage. In this parish, I have been blessed to minister.

Vianney Sunday cannot be about the priest only for without those entrusted to his care what priesthood would he have? And so I share the joy of this feast day with my people of St Jude’s family (we don’t call ourselves a parish for we live the bonds of a family). I share it with a faith filled people who accept the priest they get with his strengths and failings and don’t get to pick and choose the priest they want. I share it with a family that welcomes us priests into their hearts and homes often sacrificing much more than the ‘sacrifices’ that the priest is called to make. I share it with friends who slip their arm around you, comforting you when in pain and shielding you from attack when in fact that is what the priest is called to do.

Vianney Sunday is not about the kind words and gestures as much as it is a reminder to the clergy what we willingly enrolled for. It is a day when we are called to recall the life of our patron St John Vianney who in that tiny and obscure village of Ars in France, dedicated his life to God and His people.

Yet there were moments of doubt even for a saint like him. On first seeing the tiny village of Ars where he would remain for the rest of his life we note a certain disappointment in his words: “how small this is” for Ars had a total population of just 230 souls. Yet his prayer was “Lord, grant me the conversion of my parish; I am willing to suffer whatever you wish, for my entire life.” God answered that prayer and gave the radical conversion of that parish and hundreds of thousands eventually journeyed to that tiny place on earth. John Vianney shunned earthly honours calling them ‘toys’. To all who came to see ‘him’ he would point to the Altar and Tabernacle saying: “He is here, He is here, the One who loves us so much He is here!”

Last Sunday I said to my congregation, I am not here to entertain you and be your organiser of events, I am here to struggle with you as we make our way to heaven.  I have often questioned my heart when people speak of a vibrant parish as one that has a lot of activity but no active faith. St John Vianney saw the dangers of the demands of lay people and the desire of the clergy to please them. He said, and I quote, “a priest goes to heaven or a priest goes to hell with a thousand people behind him”

To my people of St Jude Church who constantly make me a better man and a better priest, I offer my prayer of thanksgiving   on the feast of our patron John Marie Vianney in the words of St Paul. ” I thank my God in all my remembrance of you, always in every prayer of mine for you all, making my prayer with joy, thankful for your partnership in the Gospel from the first day until now.  And I am sure that he who began a good work in you will bring it to completion at the day of Jesus Christ.” – Philippians 1:3-6

Fr Warner D’Souza

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16 thoughts on “‘Ars’ NOT ‘ours’ – Memorial St John Marie Vianney”

  • “I am here to struggle with you as we make our way to heaven”!
    What greater comfort does a person need, to know that the priests of the archdiocese and all over the world struggle with the people as they jointly make their way to heaven?
    Thank you dear Fr Warner for your companionship and collaboration on this eternal journey… Happy feast and much love…

  • Feeling damn proud to belong to St Jude’s Church ! There’s plenty of love here ,you’ve done a good job here Padre, God bless you always and a happy feast to you. At St Jude’s you will hear people say ‘ You are all OURS’

  • Thank u Father for your undying persistence, verve & vibrant shepherding as you lead your flock. U truly are a brilliant beacon for all those who are struggling. Stay blessed. Stay energized. May you always have that type of Faith that makes U stand out from other religious. Happy Feast!

      • It bought me tears of happiness I am returning home from work n probably would have a wonderful sleep after reading this I said a prayer this morning for all the priest n brothers who have touched my life every single time I needed somebody whether it was the time when I was born critical in the ICU or whether it was time for me to choice my goals n my future god send many angles in the form of priest

  • Dear Father,

    I have always felt You as an Guardian Angel for our Church. Right from a 2 year old kid to 90 year old granny all love You. You have that tremendous power to change people. I myself have experienced this. These 8 years of St. Jude’s is an GOLDEN ERA. You have taken this parish to such a level that out of 120 odd parishes in Mumbai, even though we are one of the smallest, but still most of them know us by the works which we have done through your guidance, whether it may be Feeding 2500+ people during lent as Lenten lunches or feeding the kids n celebrating children day under Oberoi mall Flyover or the debt free wedding or caring for the needy or the Tour of the Cross ….the list goes on…
    We Love You🤗🤗😘😘… You are our “Jesus in disguise”…

  • Wishing you a very happy and blessed feast .
    I pray that you be blessed alway to carry on the work that you do and the vast amount of love that you share among all who have had the opportunity to be part of your life.
    God bless you always..

  • God choose you for through you he could bring his loved ones closer to him.Happy feast to you dear.May God the Mighty one shower his grace n blessing upon you always.

  • Dear Fr. Warner The pseudonym you chose for your blog suits your style of working with your people persistently passionately and differently.God’s blessings on you for good health and your missionary zeal.Happy Feast


  • Happy Feast Fr. Warner, your posts are truly inspiring! This one connects to living out your vocation today as a Modern day version of St. John Marie Vianney! Also your community at St. Jude’s too needs to be appreciated as they have responded so well! God Bless!

  • Ur blog brought a year in the eye. St. Vianney to me is one of the most beautiful saint n for the first time I have really read the perfect way to celebrate Vianney Sunday. The joy of the priest lies in the love n struggle of the flock. U are indeed a beautiful Christ like shepherd. For knowing the sacrifices of others are more than ours n for preferring to be a struggling priest rather than a comfortable priest. On this most beautiful day, I wish you many more beautiful moments with ur little humble ‘Ars’ in Malad. You may be small in area but are large in the kingdom for sure. Happy Feast once again to another living St. Marie Vianney.

  • Beautifully written dear father… It is beautiful and inspiring because you live this in your life and the people acknowledge the fruits your bearing…. Fruits of love, service, compassion and empathy…. With a dash of intelligence and humor…. Thank you father…. Jerry fernandes

  • Very well expressed Fr. Families of St. Jude’s are truly blessed to have you. We haven’t met yet. Wonder how and when, I had your number saved in my contact list. I had a Vianney Message to be sent all the Priests who have been a part of my life ever since i came into this world. Am glad the Lord has connected me to you… Praying for more vocations, praying for all the Priest. May the Lord bless you with all the happiness and strength to continue serving His vineyard. Thank you for sending me the links of your posts. God bless you Much. Hoping to meet you some day. Warm regards


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