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Bishop Michael visits the Families of our Indian Priests

19 February, 2024
Bishop Michael with Fr Shiju's parents who were celebrating 75 years of marriage.

It is Monday morning and I have a few spare minutes to rest and catch up. There has been a lot happening these past few days. The flight from Brisbane was smooth and after a bit of a wait in Singapore, I transferred to the Cochin flight. The flight arrived at 12.30am. Immigration turned out to be a long wait because a large group from Malaysia, on a Hindu pilgrimage, took two hours to be processed. I was relieved when the Visa worked and I received the welcome presence of Father Alex, his brother Gordon and nephew Nithan. They had waited over two and half hours.

At 4am, the Bishop’s house was a welcome site after an hour drive in from the airport. The traffic was light but it was good recognising the familiar landmarks and new building and metro being put into place since my last visit here in June 2019. The Bishop’s house is in the old part of Cochin and it is a very beautiful area near the water and the harbour. The Arabian Sea is not far.

It was a slow start to the morning and then being welcomed by our friend, Bishop Joseph. It was back in 2016 that Father Don and I visited Cochin and met with Bishop Joseph, who had generously offered Fathers Alex and Jomon to come and work in our Diocese. They have been joined since by Fathers Gasper and Raju.

The evening meal was at a very beautiful part of Cochin by the water at Kallenchery, and we enjoyed the seafood of their local area. Bishop Joseph and the priests provided a very warm welcome to Cochin as we dined looking out across the wide waterways.

During the afternoon we visited some of the apostolic outreaches of the diocese, Fatima Hospital and the Colleges of Aquinas, Siena and Avila which provide tertiary education to over 3,000 young people as they prepare to enter professional life, serving the community and the church in the education, health sciences and management areas. Fatima Hospital provides the heath support for so many people, including much needed dialysis. Close by these complexes is the construction of new Catechetical School for the preparation of the lay ministries within the local parishes, schools and colleges. Finally, it was a visit to the new priest retirement home for over 25 retired priests. The building needed more finance for its completion. A nice position looking out over the water, near Fatima Hospital and a Ayurvedic health care complex in the future, and the beautiful back waters filled with fish and the eye-catching Chinese nets. It was a full day and satisfying to see how the local church responds to the needs of its community by providing health and education for its people.

Father Alex set a demanding pace on Saturday  visiting the families of Fathers Gasper and Raju. It was a lovely welcome to Father Gasper’s family. His nephew Dani found us at the church and guided us to the family home. It was a warm welcome to his family home and again catching up with his mother and family. I had visited the home of Father Gasper in 2019, and so with this reacquainting I felt very much at home. Uncle Gasper, your nieces and nephews miss you. After a big meal of tasty food, it was off to the home of Father Raju.

Father Raju was ensuring the directions were clear so we got to his home. As the family gathered around the table and asked the questions of their brother and uncle, the night went so quickly. Many of the neighbours came and joined in the evening. Father Raju they all miss you and send their love and regards.

As Bishop, one comes to realise the sacrifices families make when their son travels to a new land to minister in the Church. On behalf of our Diocese, I thanked their families for the gift of their sons ministering here in our Diocese.

On Sunday, another busy day with the visit to the family of Father Jomon. It was great to be welcomed at the door by the youngest nephew, Joseph. In June 2019, I had baptised him and now he has grown and is at school. The lunch at Father Jomon’s place was with all the family, including Father Jomon’s sisters, and brother. His sister, a religious, has just been elected to the leadership team of her order. It was nice catching up with his family and hearing how his niece is preparing for marriage, his nephew about to begin University in the health care area and sister and brother-in-law getting ready to celebrate 25 years of marriage. Father Jomon’s mum, so proud of her family and her son in Australia, prepared a wonderful meal.

In the afternoon, it was the English mass at Santa Cruz Cathedral and a welcome by Administrator Father Johnson, a close friend to our Father Alex. The day also included a baptism for an Australia couple at St Sebastian who were home on holiday, and a visit to Father Alex’s friends in the FMM Sisters.