An Interview with Father Raju. Sahayaraj. OSM

by Gordon Nary




Gordon: Why did you decide to become a Servite?


Father Raju: I was born in a catholic family and brought up in the Roman Catholic institutions right from the beginning of my child on word. I used to serve at the altar in the Cathedral Church of Kumbakonam diocese. Two of the priests of our diocese inspired me to become a priest while doing my 8th standard. But I had no knowledge of the differences between a diocesan priest and religious at that time. The vocation promoters of various congregations used to visit the schools during the academic year and present the history and spirituality of their congregations. Since I had the Marian background both at home and at the parish church I got inspired by Servite history and spirituality which is centered on Our Mother Mary as presented by a Servite friar in the school where I was studying. I got convinced of my religious vocation to the Servite way of life during the course of my formation. Fraternity, one of the most favoured Charisms of the Servite Order is very dear to my heart which sustains me to live my daily commitment with delight and contentment.


Gordon: What is your parish and approximately how many parishioners do you have?


Father Raju: I live in the Servite religious community called Jegan Matha Priory in Trichy (Tiruchirappalli, Tamil Nadu). Originally it was in the outskirts of Trichy. Now This area is well developed now. The religious house was started in 1982 with a private chapel where people used to participate in the sacramental and liturgical celebrations. Due to the catholic population growing in number it was elevated into a parish in 1991. There are 650 families with 3000 Catholics residing in this parish now.


Gordon: Approximately how may Servite priests are in India?


Father Raju: The Aikiya Annai Province is composed of 64 solemn professed friars of whom 60 are Indians, 3 Burmese and 1 Italian.


Gordon: What impact has the Covid-19 pandemic had on your parish?


Father Raju: Covid-19 has brought the life to stand still. Life seemed to be very hard at the beginning especially from 25th March to 31st May. Our parish is formed of different sections of people: upper middle, middle and lower classes. People with daily wages were very much affected. They had genuine problem due to lack of daily earning. We extended our assistance joining hands with other organizations in providing the food materials to around 200 needy families up to May until the lock down was partially relaxed with limited transport facilities. We also met the needs of all those who knocked at our doors with whatever was possible within our reach. We also distributed 200 food pockets every day from 1st of April for around two months. The Fear of Corona was the spoiling sport which affected our mingling with people. People were not allowed to participate in the liturgical celebrations until mid October 2020. Since the situation has improved life has come back to almost normal from mid-November onwards with restrictions implemented by both the government and the Church authorities including wearing of masks.


Gordon: What are the challenges of access to a Covid-19 vaccine in your parish and how could they be resolved?


Father Raju: The Vaccine, in my opinion, is a far distant dream to the people of India. Right now the vaccine is administered to the front line workers like health careers. In the course of time it will be extended to others. The doctors in India, are even apprehensive about the Vaccine. A proper and right understanding on Vaccine has to be given to the people. As far as I know, no one has been vaccinated in our Parish so far.


Gordon: What publications do your write for?


Father Raju: I do write to a Tamil Servite magazine called Appadiye Agattam.


Gordon: Thank you for an insightful interview.