By Father Charles P. Keeney
At the beginning of February I began working in the diocesan Chancery building as the new director of the Propagation of the Faith (Missions Office) for our diocese.
After acclimating myself to the office, the paperwork and the staff, I wondered when I would come face to face with actual missionaries. It did not take too long!
On Feb. 11, I had my first appointment with a foreign missionary who was asking for our help.
A priest from India, Father John Kennedy, visited the office along with his friend Father Kumar Xavariapitchai. Father Kennedy explained his life as a priest of the Diocese of Thanjavur.
There is a large map of India in the Propagation’s office and Father Kennedy pointed out his diocese in the southeast of India.
He explained that he was a parish priest and the most important part of his work is to educate his parishioners on many levels.
Father Kennedy talked about his ministry as a parish priest and how different his parish is from our experience here in Brooklyn and Queens.
He said that Catholics are a minority in his state, making up only eight percent of the population. His parish has about 1,000 registered families, a large parish church and two rather large mission stations where the central activities take place.
The parish has 15 chapels, which he visits and celebrates the Eucharist about once a month. Some more remote places in his jurisdiction are waiting for future chapels to be built. In the meantime, 10 families have opened their homes for Father Kennedy to celebrate the Eucharist.
Three teachers, paid by the state, teach at the parish school that has 70 students in total from first to the eighth grade. Teaching materials and lessons are in a native language called Tamil. Enrollment is low because Indian families are not having as many children as generations before them and parents choose to send their children to schools where everything is taught in English. The parish school attracts the poorer families.
The associate director here in the diocesan Propagation of the Faith Office, Deacon Lou Panico, was able to give Father Kennedy some religious articles and stipends for Masses he could celebrate in his parish. Father Kennedy was very appreciative of our help.
The donors to the Office of the Propagation of the Faith should know that their donations on Mission Sunday, their support of the visiting missionaries who visit each parish once a year and the Mass cards they get from the Propagation Office, really make a true difference to the missions and the needy they serve.
Please continue to pray for them and support them in the collections and with Mass stipends.
Father Keeney is the diocesan director for the Propagation of the Faith.