Ten 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 ten years of my pastoral ministry spanning twenty 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 our Church till a year ago was 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.
The feast of St John Vianney cannot be an exclusive celebration for the priest, 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) and in these days with the entire online Church that joins me for daily and Sunday mass.
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 as shepherd is called to do.