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Priest with a mission

“Go out into the whole world: Proclaim the Good News to all creation” (Mk 16: 15).

That is just what missionary priests do: They go out into the whole world to proclaim the Good News of Jesus Christ, often carrying out their priestly ministry thousands of miles from home.
One is Herald of Good News Father Ilayaraja Amaladass, a native of Paruthivayal, India, who came to Vermont in 2013 to serve as a parish priest in the Diocese of Burlington.
Bishop Salvatore R. Matano, ninth bishop of Burlington, had invited priests from  outside the United States to help here because of a declining number of Vermont priests and an increasing median age.
For Father Amaladass, Vermont is mission territory.
“I am a missionary. Oh yes I am,” he said with a broad smile as he sat at his desk in the rectory of Our Lady of Fatima Church in Wilmington where he serves as administrator. (He also serves the churches of St. John Bosco in Stamford and St. Joachim in Readsboro.) “God has a plan. If one door closes, another opens up. In one place faith may be fading, in another it is flourishing.”
Before his 2015 assignment in southern Vermont, he was parochial vicar at Christ the King Church in Rutland.
“God has His own plan for spreading the Gospel,” he said.
Cooperating with God’s plan has been what Father Amaladass has done, even following his parents’ desire for him to become a priest. The third of four sons, he entered the seminary in India after 10th grade when he was just 15.
His mother “wanted to dedicate a son to the priesthood,” he explained. At first he thought about not being able to marry and having to preach to a congregation, but he knew he was spiritually ready to enter the seminary: He attended Mass every Sunday, was an altar server and lector and prayed the rosary daily.
By the end of his philosophy studies, Father Amaladass said he knew the priesthood was right for him.
He was ordained a priest of the Heralds of Good News in India in 2009 and spent four years as a parochial vicar in four churches in his home state.
Then his provincial asked him if he would like to go to the Vermont where three members of the order were already serving, and he agreed. “I could have said no, but I said yes,” he said.
Being a missionary priest can be difficult, he acknowledged, because of the difference in everything from climate to food to culture. “It’s a challenge, but at the same time you enjoy learning new things with new people, and God helps you, and the people are behind me,” he said.
He keeps in touch with his parents – who own and run a rice farm – via Skype and says family is the “core of everything.”
That’s why he calls for Vermont Catholic families to pray for and encourage vocations; this should also happen in parishes and in Catholic schools, he added.
“God will provide,” Father Amaladass said, emphasizing the need to pray and work for vocations for Vermont from Vermont.
This story was original published in the Fall 2017 issue of Vermont Catholic Magazine.
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