So we heard this week that after five years with us, Fr James is leaving. Here is my message from this week's newsletter...
News came this week that our Fr James has been asked to move. He will leave on 9th August, returning to India, although he does not yet know the details of his next appointment.
James has been here exactly five years this week, and I’m sure we will all agree that he has been a very special blessing for us all. He had never been outside India before, and back then in 2005, he received less than two weeks’ notice of his transfer here from India. He was thrown in the deep end, as they say, joining what is one of the largest cluster of Catholic congregations in Wales.
Next, he is a religious priest, belonging to an Order, the Carmelites of Mary Immaculate, and looking to his provincial as his superior, whereas I am a diocesan priest, coming directly under our archbishop (when we have one). Then, he – and we all – faced differences not only of culture, but of Church culture too. To top it all, he comes from a different rite of the Catholic Church, the Syro-Malabar Rite. So, the phrase “steep learning curve” comes to mind... for him, for myself, and perhaps for all of us.
James took all of this on board, and centring on the sacramental ministry that lies at the heart of our priesthood, he settled down. He joined, of course, in Cardiff and South Wales, many fellow countrymen from the state of Kerala, and he has developed a ministry to them during his time here, again centred on the Mass, especially the monthly Syro-Malabar celebration at St Joseph’s.
For myself – can I say, a veteran of sharing a presbytery with at least half a dozen assistants of all sorts – James has been one of the easiest to live with. I would like to think that we have moved on from being just colleagues to being friends. I’m not sure that I would have been able to handle the changes that he did in coming here back in 2005. I am sure, however, that our 3 Churches could not have made the journey that we have over these years without him.