An Interview with Father Dominic Irudayaraj SJ

by Gordon Nary


Gordon: When you received your vocation, with who did you first discuss it and what was their advice?


Father Dominic: Providence, as our experiences would attest to, graciously greet us in many and plentiful measures. My vocation story has a small semblance of the same, as I had two occasions to say fiat to God’s call. The first was an invitation to join the Salesians when I was finishing my 7th grade. My dad was the first one to hear my desire and he took some time—as is typical of a caring father—and after some relevant questions, he gladly consented to my request, together with his words of encouragement. His untimely death, just before the Salesian vocation camp, came in my way of joining the Salesians.


The second opportunity arrived after I completed my schooling and was getting ready for university studies. It all took the Jesuit vocation promoter just about 20 min. to reawaken in me the desire to be a priest. With four older brothers—two of whom were already seminarians by then (now priests)—I had more persons to consult with, starting obviously with my mom. With all their support, I joined the Jesuit Order in 1992 and has been a happy Jesuit since then.


Gordon: What seminary did you attend? And what was the most challenging course that you took and why?


Father Dominic: Both for my Philosophy and Theology studies, I was missioned to Jnana-Deepa Vidyapeeth, a papal Atheneum, in Pune, India. Both studies brought to me constructive challenges. During Philosophy, the daring desire to ask probing questions on weightier areas of life was not only permitted but also encouraged. Looking back, I acknowledge with gratitude that a unique opportunity to consolidate the various facets of my life, faith is the chief!


Theology, on its part, ushered in chances to ask context-sensitive questions, particularly in interpreting God’s ever-living Word.


Gordon: Why did you choose to teach as your career?


Father Dominic: If I may say, it’s simply in the family gene. With my parents and siblings enthusiastically involved in teaching roles at various capacities, I suppose it was natural for me to lean towards this ministry. And the Jesuit educational apostolate provided the perfect platform to take root and blossom.


Gordon: What are the courses that you teach at Hekima University College?


Father Dominic: in the last two years, I had the opportunity to teach all the basic courses of the Old Testament (Intro to OT, Pentateuch, Historical Books, Prophets, Wisdom Literature and Psalms).


Given my IT background in graduate studies, a few innovative courses such as Technology and Theology, Creation and Computer Science and Teaching Theology in a Technological Age were also offered.


Gordon: What are the courses that you teach at Pontifical Biblical Institute?


Father Dominic: Given my Licentiate as well as doctoral studies on the book of Isaiah, I have so far had the opportunity to teach two exegetical courses on the same book: Isaiah: Towards Renewed Faith and Resurgent Hope and “Trito-Isaiah”: Text, Themes, and Theology.


Gordon: With all of your other work, why did you accept a new position as a Research Associate at the University of Pretoria?


Father Dominic: a pertinent query, Gordon. Let me begin from the larger context. In the recent General Congregation of the Jesuits, collaboration and networking emerged as one of the current ministerial priorities. The same has been reiterated in the global Jesuit thinking that took a long process, leading to fruitful results, now titled: Universal Apostolic Preferences. Hence, it was sheer providence that a conversation with Prof. Alphonso Groenewald, University of Pretoria, lead to possible collaboration between the institutions, of which the Research Associate is but a small step forward.


Gordon: As a Biblical scholar, what is the most challenging book of the Bible and why?


Father Dominic: permit me to respond to you in two parts. First, if our focus concerns an entire book, Job would be the most challenging. Here, I’m guided by both its engaging content as well as the passionate discussion that it generated during our Wisdom Literature course. Second, if challenging texts are of our interest, then “the texts of terror” (cf. Phyllis Trible) come to my mind, especially texts that have violent overtones.

Gordon: When and why did you write Violence, Otherness, and Identity in Isaiah 63:1-6 The Trampling One Coming from Edom?


Father Dominic: the book is a revised version of my doctoral thesis, completed in Jesuit School of Theology of SCU, Berkeley. As such, the nucleus was born in 2013, matured into a thesis in 2015 and eventually became a monograph 2017.

Two basic questions guided this research endeavor: (i) how shall we meaningfully read violent texts in the Bible? (ii) When such violence is particularly aimed at our near-neighbors, the text(s) becomes all the more challenging. The book addresses both these interpretive challenges and proposes some options of meaningfully engaging them through Social Identity Theory and Iconographic Exegesis.


Gordon: Why should all parishes have a Bible Study group?


Father Dominic: going by my Nairobi experiences of being and praying with Bible study groups, I would only and gladly attest to the immense blessings that such small, intentional, and Word-centered gatherings, discussions and sharing can usher in. Any parish can only be richer by availing such opportunities towards mutual enrichment by the ever-living word of our gracious God.

Thank you!


Gordon: You are welcome. We deeply appreciate your taking time to do this interview.

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