By Fr. Emmanuel Selvaraj, CMF
I always wanted to be a missionary ever since I was 16. I did not know about congregations back then. So, I joined a diocesan seminary (apostolic school) which sends missionaries to North India. I was born in Kovalam, Kanyakumari, a small village where three seas converge (the Bay of Bengal, the Indian Ocean, and the Arabian Sea), and I had a beautiful childhood.
It is when I met many Claretians who were staying and studying in my class in the major seminary in Calcutta that my desire to join them grew in my heart. But by the time I was deciding, my ordination happened. I was working with Santhal tribals near the Bangladesh border working for a parish which had 52 substations. I remember I used to go by bicycle to say Mass on the muddy roads. Staying in the village and baptizing those tribals gave me joy. I had to stay in the parish which had no electricity and running water and of course food was limited. (Meat on Sunday only). I was the warden for 190 boys who used only kerosene lanterns to study at night!
Again, I met more Claretians when I did my Masters in social work studies at Loyola College, Chennai. But it was only when I came to Minnesota, became a citizen of the USA, that I met Fr. Rubiston, CMF through a nun. I expressed my desire to him, and he put me in touch with the vocation promoter, Fr. Byron Macías, CMF who introduced me to Fr. Rosendo, CMF and others. Thus, I landed in San Gabriel as a postulant last July. Although I was older compared to young seminarians, the congregation allowed me to do novitiate with the permission of my bishop.
I was pastor at St. Patrick Church, Hallock, and Holy Rosary Church, Lancaster, MN before coming for my novitiate in Dominguez, a beautiful place with a loving community. Although I was a pastor for 14 years in the Diocese of Crookston, Minnesota, and worked in various places in New Jersey as an associate pastor, my heart was for Claret’s congregation as I read his life story in my private studies. God has his own way of inviting us to work in His Kingdom.
After completing 34 years of my priesthood now, I look back and I connect with Saint Claret. When I was a missionary in West Bengal, India, I was the headmaster of a Bengali medium high school. I learned various languages in India, and published self-help books. I did my Masters in social work at a Jesuit college, in Chennai. I worked as the Vocation promoter, then as youth director of the diocese and various other such roles which encouraged me to proceed in this congregation. I would like to thank all those who were instrumental in my life's journey to become a Claretian. I am sure God has put me in the good hands of loving brothers and this missionary congregation. On September 8, 2021 is my first profession and I'm looking forward to doing missionary work. Please pray for me. My hobbies are golfing, skiing, and learning new languages.
We are, first of all, a gift of God. We want to respond to this gift personally and as a community. I listened to God anew and waited for His guidance. I found joy in the process of congregational life. I live now with enthusiasm and ready to spread the flames of love wherever I go. Whether during the call or preparation in the novitiate, I never wavered. In fact, I was full of active joy and waiting to serve. The new mission to which we are called: to be the “arms” of Mary. I liked the brotherly characteristics of dignity, liberty, confidence, joy, tenderness, compassion and solidarity. Eucharist and the Word of God and other devotions were my strength. I learned to be attentive to everything that happens in the various parts of our world and the Church; and to be ready to respond using the missionary criteria of what is "most urgent, timely and effective".
I am incorporating my charisms (I have few) and harmony with other charisms, ministries and ways of life; promoting the role of the laity, especially that of women, in the Church. As Claret, to "pray, work and suffer", so that the quality of our personal and community life reinforces the proclamation of the Kingdom that we wish to express through our apostolic actions. I see more positive results in the 65 countries in five continents where I am called to strengthen the experience of God in my life. May our mother Mary, to whom I have a special devotion, help all, especially those who come and join our congregation.
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