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Retirement and Pastoral Ministry in the U.S.

Retirement and Pastoral Ministry in the U.S.

Pastoral Ministry in the U.S.

I retired from the college on March 31st,1996.

I stayed at my room in the campus for a week and then thought of leaving for the States for a few months as I found that I had nothing really serious to do in Changnacherry . As I could not see myself doing anything there I thought of working in a parish in the US as it would give me an opportunity for more reading and speaking.

I was given the job of the Director of Higher Education but that job was a non-starter as it gave me no real opportunity to work in the field of Higher Education.

After spending a few weeks in Changanacherry and Ernakulam, I left for the Sates in 1996.I had no intention of remaining in the US for a longer period but God gave me a long life to live here for more than a decade.

I spent a couple of months in New York and then left for Florida and there stayed at St.Coleman’s church,Pompano beach, for a couple of months. Fr.Jose Kottayil was gracious enough to arrange my stay there. I enjoyed working there during the summer months. I also did enjoy preaching the homilies and I found that there was a great appreciation of my sermons. One of the priests once mentioned that I preach with great conviction.He used he expression: “There is fire in the belly.”

He was referring to the passion with which I preached.

After being there for a few months , I went to Dallas for a short visit and spent a few days with Achankunju and Laiju.

Fr.Maroor durting that time talked with the Pastor of the Visitation parish which led my stay there for more than a year. I became a North Miami resident thus.While there, I happened to meet the President of St.Thomas University and he invited me to teach at St.Thomas University. I joined the Dept. of English as an adjunct Professor and taught there for two semesters.

During that time, I got a call from the Archdiocese of Washington D.C and they invited me to work in the Archdiocese.That was another big change in my life. Although initially, I was reluctant to leave Miami, I was blessed by God to make the right decision to join the Archdiocese.

I met the Director of the Priests’ Personnel during one of my visits to D.C. and that sealed my decision to work there. I would also be able to meet so many of my former friends if I would begin my ministry there.

My stay at the Visitation church , North Miami was thus very short.It was a small parish and the rectory was also a small house .But I enjoyed my stay there even though the Pastor was not a very cordial person.

After the mass in the morning, two old ladies from the parish would wait for me to take me for the breakfast. The Pastor would also join us. It was our daily routine.

On Sundays, Mr.George Vadaparampil would take me to his house and would prepare a nice lunch for me. Later Fr.Matthew Pathalany would also join me for lunch at the house of Mr.George.

I have to mention very specially my friendship with Neil Monteiro.Neil once came to the church for the Sunday mass and wanted me to bless his new car.That started our long friendship. On holidays , he would invite me to his apartment and would prepare very lovely dinners. He would also invite his friends on such evenings.I cannot forget the love and friendship of the those dear friends from Goa.

On July 4th , Neil ,Francis and myself went on a long ride to Jacksonville. We stayed at the rectory of Fr.Victor Narivelly. On the way back , we visited the city of St. Augustine and Cape Canarval. It was an enjoyable trip.

On free days, I would invite Francis and we would go for long rides.

In August 1997, I went to India and while I was in India, Neil and Francis drove my car to Washington D.C. and dropped my things at St .Patrick’s church, Washington D.C.

St.Patrick’s Church,Washington D.C.

Although I was a bit reluctant to accept my assignment at St.Patrick’s, later , it turned out to be one of the best rectories and places of stay. I was told by Msgr.English, that the Pastor at St.Patrick’s was Msgr.Peter Vaghi. Msgr.Vaghi was a young attorney when I was an associate pastor at St.Matthew’s Cathedral.He used to lector at my masses.

But then he gave up his job as an attorney and joined the seminary. By the time, I came to St.Patrick’s he was working as a very successful Pastor there.

Msgr.Farina who passed away recently and Fr. Paul Liston were the other priests. They were some of the great priests whom I loved and admired.I enjoyed the warmth of their love and hospitality. There were so many times when we went out for dinner. Msgr.Farina was the Director of the Pope Paul Institute of Arts.

I did work under him for a couple of months when I came to stay at St.Patrick’s while teaching a summer course at the Catholic University.

I cannot also forget Msgr.Maurice Fox who became the Pastor while I was staying there earlier. We used to call him Marty while we were all staying at St.Matthew’s. We had such fun and laughter while we were at St.Matthew’s.

Even though I thought at the time I joined St.Patrick’s that it would be a quiet parish, in fact , it turned out otherwise.

One of the attractive things at St.Patrick’s was the series of lectures that was held at noon .By the graceof God, I gave a lot of lectures on different topics, including a few on Catholic authors. It gave me the perfect occasion to do what I always wanted: to do some serious reading, writing and speaking.

Even before I left Miami for Washington, Msgr.Vaghi had asked me to give a synopsis of the lectures I would give after my arrival at St.Patrick’s.

My first series of lectures was on Catholic novelists like Graham Greene,Flannery O’Connor and Walker Percy. I also gave a talk on the poetry of Gerard Manley Hopkins.

Later I gave a series of talks on the Classics of Spirituality where I spoke on the works of St.Augustine,St.Teresa of Avila, St.John of the Cross, St. Therese of Lisieux,St.Ignatius of Loyola etc. I did also speak on the works of Thomas Merton,Henri Nouwen and Fr.De Mello.

I had to prepare heavily for those classes but I found the work of teaching very exhilarating. This was something I always wanted to do and St.Patrick's gave me the right opportunity.I have also to admit the encouragement, support and the prompting that Msgr. Vaghi gave me in this matter. As I spent my whole life time teaching English Literature, I never got much time to read books of great spiritual masters. This series of lectures helped me to read up on great spiritual writers.

The classes were attended by a great number of people.These were people who would come out from their offices for their lunch breaks. Some of the talks were given publicity by the Washington Post.

St. Patrick’s also offered me chances of meeting some of the great people of Washington. The Shrivers,Senator Moynihan,F.B.I.Director Louis Frieh etc were some of them.

St.Patrick’s also held masses for the John Carrol society as Msgr.Peter Vaghi was their chaplain. Hence those masses brought some of the politicians and lawyers to the church.

In a way my stay in Washington was a time of great internal joy and peace. I really enjoyed the beauty of priestly ministry while I was there at St. Patrick’s.

Cardinal Hickey and Cardinal McCarik were very good to me and acknowledged my ministry there with great satisfaction.

While I was at St. Patrick’s, I also did say masses for the Catholic Malayalee community of Washington D.C. Being part of both the communities was very exciting.

The Syro-Malabar community of Washington D.C. was formed at my initiative in 1979 while I was working at St.Matthew's Cathedral. Later, under the initiative of several of its future Presidents, bye-laws were established and priests who came to D.C. for studies ministered to the community as chaplains.When I left in 1981 , I handed the charge over to Fr.Antony.After my return to Washington in 1996, I helped the then Chaplain Fr.John Ayankana in his ministry for the people.When he left for India, I took upon myself the task of ministering to the community.It was while I was working for the community that Mr. Shabu Palliparampil who did an excellent work as the Director of the choir passed away. Mr. Benoy Thomas who was then the President of the Organization did a marvelous job in making various arrangements to make the funeral service well-attended.The members of the community were very generous in their financial support for the family.

I am deeply thankful to Benoy for organizing a very grand reception for me to mark my 60th birthday. Mr.Scaria Thomas who came later as the President also did organize another reception to bid me farewell when I decided to accept the post of the Vicar General and move to Chicago.

After I left Washington D.C., Fr.Matthew Punchayil took over the ministry and he is very successfully organizing different programs for the community.

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