Updated: Apr 15, 2021
Good Evening, Fr. Dean, Fr. Rector, Fr. Arun, Fr. Balaraju, Fr. Prakash and my dear fellow parishioners. On behalf of our Parish Council and all parishioners, I am here today to say thanks to Fr. Arun, for his service to our Parish, bid him a fond farewell, and welcome Fr. Balaraju, our new parish priest.
Time flew so fast that we just cannot imagine 5 years have passed since Fr. Arun took over as our parish priest. This corona pandemic made us to lose count of days and months. Fr. Arun is a dynamic person. Though he never worked as a parish priest before coming to our parish, he got down immediately doing all the activities of the parish with surgical precision. He re-organized the parish council, and other committees and groups in the parish, and infused new life in them. He believed in the saying that Cleanliness is next to Godliness, and got down to cleaning the church campus, parish office and even the cemetery.
In Mathew 5:48, Jesus said “Be Perfect, as your heavenly Father is perfect.” Though most of us do not give a serious thought to this saying, Fr. Arun has taken this as personal instruction to him by Jesus. He tries to attain perfection in whatever he does. You will be surprised to see the way he organized the parish records, financial accounts, and other documents needed for Audit review. When it came to religious events, our Fr. Perfect wanted everything to be done perfectly, starting from Altar Servers, ringing the bell, choir singing, celebrating the mass, homily, announcements, etc. Last year when our Archbishop Peter Machado visited our parish for confirmation, Fr. Arun invited a few of us from SSVP to have Tea with the Archbishop. The Archbishop was very pleased with Fr. Arun’s work at our parish and said you have an excellent parish priest.
Once at a Jubilee celebration at Mount, Provincial, Fr. Francis Serrao, who is now Bishop at Shivamogga, said that when it comes to sermons, we have some priests who have a starting problem. Like old buses they go on and on without moving any further, and once they start moving, then they have stopping problem, they do not know when to stop. But our Fr. Arun is a good preacher. His sermons are brief, precise, in depth and educational. We longed to hear his sermons.
Fr. Arun paid great attention to the Holy week celebration and brought Main Celebrants from outside for the triduum. Last year due to Covid we did not have holy week celebrations at the church. This year again, since the Government ordered that Good Friday Service should not be held in the church, he took great pain in arranging this Holy Week service for our parishioners in seven different religious communities. It was a herculean task for him to convince the religious houses, arrange main celebrants at each place and also arrange confessors in different languages.
During covid lockdown, Fr. Arun took great pain in arranging daily mass on You Tube. He said that since this U Tube mass is watched by people everywhere, it is very important that it is celebrated with devotion and punctuality. During the lockdown his activities were not just confined to spiritual work but also to feeding the hungry. He went around local communities, risking his own health and safety, distributing grocery items to migrants and poor families.
Fr. Arun is a very kind hearted and emotional person. Charlie Chaplain once said,” I have many problems in my life, but my lips do not know that. They always smile”, Fr. Arun, despite his problems, always had a smile on his face. He made it a practice to visit his parishioner’s houses. He got emotional when he saw the poor who have no money to buy food, or medicine and no means to educate their children. Once after the funeral of one of our parishioners, I asked him if he needed a ride home, he said no, I have my bike, I will visit the bereaved family, spend a few minutes with them before I go home. After one hour or so, he came to my house and rang the bell. When I saw him, his face and cassock were covered with mud. I asked him what happened Father? He said first let me use your wash room, I want to wash my hands and face. After washing, he said that he visited the bereaved family and as he was leaving, they all cried, so he became emotional and his eyes were full of tears, he could not see the street properly and he fell in a ditch with his bike.
Fr. Arun is a Man for all Seasons. For us Mangaloreans, the Feast of Nativity, which we call Monthi Fest, is a big feast. Fr. Arun, though not a Mangalorean, knew the importance of this feast to us. He took active part in the celebration of Monthi Fest, including selecting and inviting main celebrant from outside. Two years back this feast came on a Sunday. Fr. Arun arranged a special mass for us as he could not change the Sunday Mass timings, and helped us to feed nearly 1000 people for lunch at the church campus.
Father Arun always felt that our parish needed a parish hall as there is no place to conduct Sunday school for our children. With the help of rector Fr. Anil DeMello, he renovated the parish office and the adjoining 3 rooms. Since he could not accomplish his dream of a parish hall, he recently converted the garage behind the parish office into a small hall and last Sunday held a craft workshop for over 50 poor children in that hall and provided them lunch. Father Arun, as and when we get some money, we will try to refurbish this hall and name it after you.
To conclude, Fr. Arun, you are a Priest, who has dedicated your life to God, and you have to go wherever you are sent. So, I feel apt here to remember a few lines from a poem by a Hawaiian poet titled “Always for Others”. The poem says: “God handpicked you from a myriad of souls, molded you since you were a baby, to prepare you for a journey not for you, but always for others. You hold the body of Christ, embrace his name and proclaim it, and as a Father and a counselor you have become, not for you, But Always for Others.”
Father, it is sad to say goodbye to someone whom we truly love, honor and respect. Flavia Weeden, a well-known illustrator of children’s books said “some people come into our lives and quickly go. Some people move our souls to dance. They awaken us to a new understanding with the passing whisper of their wisdom, some people make the sky more beautiful to gaze upon. They stay in our lives for a while, leave footprints in our hearts and we are never ever the same.”
We thank you Fr. Arun for being such a noble part of our lives. Fr. Jossey Rodrigues, the Novice Director, once said in his farewell speech to his Novices after their Vows, go wherever you are sent and work for the Greater Glory of God, and finally when your journey is finished and your mission is accomplished, come back to Mount St. Joseph to receive your final Crown. (I asked Fr. Jossey, why come back to Mount? He said, because here we have both the old age home and the cemetery.)
Good Bye Father Arun, you will always be in our hearts and prayers. Go wherever you are sent and finally when you have run your race and accomplished your mission, come back to Mount to receive your crown.
Now on behalf of all parishioners I welcome our new parish priest Fr. Balaraju. He has a M.A. and M.Phil from Dublin, Ireland. Fr. Balaraju is a simple person. He is currently working in the Jesuit Mission in Bijapur where he has built a church, the inauguration of which is scheduled this week.
8 years ago, I had the privilege of attending his Final Vows ceremony at Mount St. Joseph. Mount St. Joseph was my second home and I was there for every function. Along with Fr. Balaraju, 4 others priests did their final vows, they were Fr. Jossey DeMello, Fr. Edwin Martis, Fr. Franklyn Dsouza and Fr. John Crasta. During their felicitation, Provincial, Fr. Serrao said that out of the five making final vows today, four of them have just returned from overseas studies, except Fr. John Crasta. Fr. John Crasta came from a small island near Kasargod, so he only crossed the river and no sea.
Now a few tips to you Fr. Balaraju: You are coming to a dynamic and growing parish. As the Metro line completes on BG Road, many more new families will come to our church. They need a good shepherd. Fr. Arun has set a high standard and raised the bar. Don’t get intimidated by this. With the help of ward leaders, you can do many more good things. Fr, Arun used to give a patient hearing to all linguistic groups and finally make his own decision. You too follow that practice, as they say in Hindi, “Sabka Sunna, Dilka Karna”.
Fr. Arun used to tell a joke related to that day’s readings at the end. The reason for his joke, was that some people used to leave the church soon after receiving the communion, but after hearing his jokes they remain until the final blessing. Ask Fr. Arun to give his joke book to you. He may not need it at his new assignment.
Welcome Fr. Balraju, and all the best to you.