Updated: Sep 14
My Vocation story.
Fr. Gaspar Masilamani CMF
I am from South India, a state called Tamil Nadu. My parents and grandparents were very pious and God fearing. I am the fifth of six children in a home where my parents instilled the value of faith and religion in our lives and hearts. We always prayed the rosary before dinner, and in addition to participating in the Sunday Eucharist, our family took an active part in our parish life, which encouraged me to get involved in different activities and be part of the pious associations of our parish including serving at the altar. That gave me a lot of exposure to and interest in priestly life.
By nature, I am a gentle person and sensitive to all that happens around me. As usual, my friends and I were playing in the church grounds during a recess in our 8th grade religion class. One of my friends had an old wound in his right toe which was exuding a lot of pus. I rushed home to get some healing medicine because we lived somewhat close to the parish church. As I got back to the church with the medicine, I started to clean his wounds with my bare hand without any gloves, applying the medicine. Some were mocking me and ran away as if I was doing something taboo. One of my friends stood by me, appreciating and encouraging me for what I was doing to help my friend. Later, he told me that if we (including him) became priests, we could do a lot to help poor people in need. That was the second inspiration I received, in addition to what I had experienced with my parents. We used to talk about this at length whenever we got together. I am happy to share that he is also a priest working in north India.
From then on, we continued to talk and discuss the different ways and means to be useful and effective to society but in particular, to the poor and marginalized. Honestly, I did not know the difference between a diocesan and religious (or order) priest. That was the time one of the Claretian priests visited the village of my grandparents who shared with him my desire to become a priest. Upon hearing that from my grandparents, the Claretian priest came to our city to visit me and my parents. That’s how I learned about the Claretians and St. Anthony Mary Claret. In time, I began to embrace the missionary spirit and the works of Claret and so I continued my journey with the Claretians. During my years of Theology, I worked with the Missionaries of Charity Brothers Leprosy Center founded by then Mother Teresa of Calcutta (St. Teresa of Calcutta). That was another moment of discerning and deepening my vocation.
I did my Minor Seminary and Philosophy in Madurai, Tamil Nadu, Novitiate in Bangalore, Karnataka and Theology in Calcutta, West Bengal. The first three years of my priestly ministry were in Tamil Nadu--one year in the parish and two years as vocation facilitator. Then I was sent to Tanzania, East Africa as a pioneering missionary to found a Claretian community there. I worked there for ten good years in various areas to establish the mission.
I was then sent to Barcelona, Spain for my higher studies. For five years along with my studies, I worked with immigrants from Africa, with youth, in jail ministry, etc. and then returned to India as a mission procure, trying to generate funds for Claretian missionary activities, for a year and a half. Following that appointment, I was sent to be a general mission procure of our congregation in Rome, Italy, where I worked for four and a half years. I was then sent to New York where I worked as Associate Pastor and Chaplain in a hospital in White Plains, New York. One year later, I was assigned to our mission in San Gabriel, Los Angeles, as Associate Pastor where I served for two years. For the past four years I have been serving as Pastor to Sacred Heart Church in Springfield, Missouri, which is a diverse faith community of approximately 60% Hispanics, 40% Anglos and a rich infusion of African immigrants to whom I can speak and relate to because I was blessed to have lived and worked in Africa and Spain.
I reflect on the generosity and goodness of God to me in all these rich, sometimes difficult and challenging experiences of missionary life, which have helped me to grow in my discipleship. I have tried, to the best of my ability, to obey the call to minister wherever I was sent. Everywhere I have been sent, I have been blessed with the fulfillment of my dreams and awakened to the responsibility of my vocation to reach out to the needy, while experiencing the gift and challenge to accompany those placed in my care as pastor and shepherd. This is a great call which requires much humility and the willingness to lay down your life for those you love and those who have been placed into your care. Our baptismal call and responsibility demand that we discern how God calls us. Many lay people, priests, religious brothers and sisters respond to this call where they are and live, which is a beautiful vocation. The charism of the Claretians requires that we go to new places and cultures and take the flame of the fire of Love to all corners of the world. I am grateful and humbled that I have been called to this great mission!
Consider your call to vocation and the rich and humbling experiences in which and in Whom you will find yourself in the mind, heart, ears, eyes and hands of Jesus as you accompany others.
If you're a young man who would like to be accompanied as you discern your vocation, contact our Vocation Director today! If you know of a young man who is discerning his vocation, share this article with him.