Fr. Prof. James Mariakumar
When I look back into my past life I realize, it was the work of the Lord. I was born in the midst of poverty. After the 5th class my father was unable to send me to middle school, because the parish had only up to primary school. I was inspired by two parish priests who worked selflessly for the people. Since I longed to study and to become a priest, my father agreed to send me to 6th class in Nileshwar, Kerala. After one year he said that he could not afford to spend more money for my studies. Hence, the priest of that place Fr.Jerome D’Souza, arranged for my studies, staying in an orphanage in Feroke where the director Fr. Edwin Fernandez SJ and warden Bro. Mathew, liked me and asked me to work as a sacristan in the parish church and sleep in the parish house, where I saw the personal mortifications of the director. I tried to imitate them thus my faith grew. I wanted to become a priest but my stammering and inability to study till 10th class made my dream unrealizable. After passing the 8th class, I was told to pray to our Lord and Mother Mary for vocation and to be selected for priesthood. I prayed as never before or after. When I met Father Peter Verhalen SVD, in Mangalore in 1954 in the month of May, he said that I was clever, but I had stammering. If I would be healed of stammering by the time of the ordination, it was good, otherwise I could be sent back. In the novitiate, only with the special intervention of God I was promoted to the vows, just on the previous day of the first vows, though all others were promoted a month earlier.
My ordination was on 24th October 1970. It was an important event when Jesus Christ could begin to use me, and i could be working in the shoes of Jesus. The motto for my priesthood was “you shall be my witnesses in Jerusalem, Judea, and to the ends of the earth (Acts 1:8)” This is fulfilled when I got the chance to preach God’s Word not only in India but also in Europe from 2000. I was permitted to complete my doctorate in the Pune University in 1973. The two dreams I had cherished, first to become a priest and to study, were blessed by the Lord. But I had the feeling that I am greatly chosen by the Lord in spite of my unworthiness and sinfulness.
The studies gave me a better knowledge of the Bible and Upanishadic Hinduism. This helped me in my ministry of Inter-religious Dialogue and later on in my preaching ministry in Europe. He put His desires in my heart, and He fulfilled them, which undoubtedly I could not attain with my own power or ability. When I look back I realize that the Lord was preparing me for his work, I can only thank the Lord joyfully for what he has done and is doing in me (Phil.1:6).
As a priest I was sent to Jhabua with Fr.Thomas Thalachira. I used to go to the villages with the catechists in the mornings. I found real joy in being with the simple and loving tribal people, I would take the poor children in my hands and kiss them. This was a very good way to make parents love and accept us. In me there was the innate feeling from my childhood that all men are equal and that they are our brothers and sisters. Therefore I was dealing with the underprivileged people with love. I really loved them and they loved me.
At this time I decided to say Yes to all that the superiors or others would ask or suggest to me in spite of stammering. I did those things which were asked of me. Once a catechist said “in spite of father’s stammering, father has so much zeal and preaches the Word of God, whereas, we have the ability to speak, but we do not have his zeal.” My willingness to do whatever the superiors asked of me, helped me in my future life and ministry.
When I was in Masih VidyaBhavan(A Dialogue Centre), in Indore from 1975 – 1991. I had a deep desire to reach the message of Christ to our non-Christian brethren, I put up many exhibitions with the help of many young people. And many non Christian people came to see and learn about Christian faith. The first one was entitled as “God in Search of Man.” Around 25000 people came to see the exhibition and learn about Christianity. I also started a postal course on Christianity and many people enrolled their names for Bible correspondence. For the promotion of this ministry I was visiting many non Christian homes. I wished that the people of other religions must be able to come and eat with us. When I look back these practices of mine helped me to speak with deeper convictions.
In 1978 in the month of October I went to Bombay for a Charismatic Convention, in the retreat I was touched by the power of the Word of God, healing of the sick people and casting out of the demons. When I came back to Indore, the late Bishop George Anathil through his secretary, Bro. Antony Thottan SVD, asked me to pray a prayer of Exorcism over a catholic girl, suffering from sickness; the doctors were unable to diagnose her sickness and she was behaving very strangely. When I reached the Hospital, I saw and heard a man telling her “in the name of Jesus, I command you, the evil one, to get out of her.” She retorted “who are you to tell me, you are a man of flesh,” immediately after that I commanded her in the name of Jesus to keep quiet. She obeyed me. Then I realized that Jesus is all powerful and demons obey him and his Risen power is flowing into our lives, and that He is continuing to work in our lives and through us into the lives of other people. In Germany, I commanded a possessed lady in Malayalam, “in the name of Jesus to get out of this lady” she replied in Malayalam : “I will not go away”, in a language she did not speak. Such encounters made me grow in the Faith of what the Catholic Church teaches about Jesus: that Jesus is truly God, and man, and the savior of the world. He has come down to man to set him free from sin, sickness and the power of the evil one. He wants that we live his Word and be like him. Also he continues to work through the believers and especially through the Priests who continue the power Jesus has given to the Apostles.
Similarly, there are seriously sick people, whom the doctors are unable to help, are being healed, in the retreat or while I pray over them. I realize that I did not know that this person would be healed but after the prayer we could see that this person is healed. For example, a lady of 95 year old, who had shivering of hands, fear and serious pain all over her body was healed during the prayer. It was the faith of the daughter-in-law that was the cause of the healing of this person. Such experiences make me believe that Jesus is alive and present.
I also realize that the primary duty of the priest is to preach the Word of God, celebrate the holy Eucharist, give counseling with Word of God, hear confessions and administer other sacraments. We need to be convinced that we are only the mouth piece of Jesus and his instruments, when we do all these services. The conviction is that I have given myself totally to Jesus, he makes use of me and he does great things through me. We need to love our enemies, and need to love others and show compassion for the weak, trust in the providence of God, detached from name, fame, power, position, wealth, and from attachment to people, – thus we need to give Jesus the first place in our lives.
When I look back into my fourty years of priestly life, I realize I have grown through the ministry. Every preaching, for example, makes me ask myself whether I live what I preach. My celebrating the Eucharist makes me to believe that this is true Jesus, the Son of God and son of man, who is offering the bloody sacrifice on the cross for my sins, offering Himself in an unbloody way as at the last supper to make us partakers of the sacrifice of today…
Through our ministry and through our union with Christ, we become convinced that everyone is united with Jesus. Hence, they are members of the body of Christ, brothers and sisters to each other. It is my duty to respect everyone and I am responsible to bring them to Jesus. This respect and love is closer than blood relationships (Lk.8.21). Thus with St. Paul we can say “my little children, for whom I am again in the pain of childbirth until Christ is formed in you (Gal.4:19).” “You have been born anew not of perishable but of imperishable seed, though the living and enduring word of God (1Pt.1:23)” to live a Christ – like life. This thought makes us more satisfied than having our own children. The growth of the new generation of the believers is our responsibility and our joy…
This joy is much more as I began to preach retreats both in India and in Europe and also when I spend time for counseling the people. The people who come for the retreat change their worldly attitudes, become convinced of the Christian attitudes, become convinced believers and they give the lived and newly found faith to others. For example, a lady who was living a sinful life came for a retreat, during the retreat she realized what was wrong and she decided to change her life entirely. Then she brought her relatives for the retreat, then her lover and finally they both arranged retreats and brought back many more to Christ and continuing to arrange many more retreats. Here I feel joyful that I am sharing With Jesus the ministry of preaching and then He gives His own Spirit to the believer (Acts 4:29-31; 10:44) and that he is recreated and his life changes. Therefore I feel joyful to spend all my time preaching retreats and give counseling to people and even die preaching or counseling.
I realize that the problems of our lives become stepping stones for deeper growth. Hence I cannot sufficiently thank the Lord for doing things more than what I can. I also realize that God arranges things before we understand and later we understand that God was preparing us through all those strange happenings. When we recognize the working of God, we grow in our love for Him and trust him more and can give our future into his hands.
I have said to Jesus that I am ready to carry him through my preaching and carry the Eucharistic Jesus to people, and in return, I asked of him to keep me united with the Risen Lord and to carry me to the Father…
Fr. J. Mariakumar SVD
Ms. Mary Pereira
Born and brought up by committed Catholic parents, I was privileged to be rooted in faith, prayers and Sacramental life. Right from very young age, I has been interested in attending retreats and that gave me much inputs which were of much help in deepening the faith and growth in the knowledge of the Divine Word.
In order to be available for the work of the Kingdom of God with an “undivided attention to the Lord” (1 Cor 7.35), I opted for the vocation of Single life. After my post graduation in Sociology I was working in Teresian College, Mysore. Being committed to my vocation I was interested in helping the students in their spiritual life in her free time. I was brought into the ministry by the Lord, first for the Counselling and then for the Preaching ministry with Fr.James Mariakumar SVD. Discerning the call of the Lord to enter into fulltime ministry, I took voluntary retirement from the post of Superintendent after 20 years of service in the year 2000. In 2005 I did Dei Verbum Pastoral Biblical Course for three and a half months for the Ministers of the Word of God and Formators in the Biblical Pastoral Ministry conducted by the Society of the Divine Word, Nemi, Rome.
The Word that has been an inspiration for me right from my young age was Philippines 3.7 and 8.
“Whatever gains I had, these I have come to consider a loss because of Christ. More than that, I even consider everything as a loss because of the supreme good of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord. For this sake I have accepted the loss of all things and I consider them so much rubbish, that I may gain Christ”.
Though quite unaware of the deeper meaning of it in that young age, now I can be thankful to the Lord for enabling me to live that Word with the gracious help of the Holy Spirit.