By Dominique Johnson
The North Star Catholic
On April 7th, Father Jose Thomas, with the Missionary Congregation of the Blessed Sacrament, arrived in Juneau from Kerala, India, a state in the southern part of the country, to serve as a missionary priest in the Archdiocese of Anchorage-Juneau.
In his short time in Alaska, Father Jose said he has enjoyed celebrating Mass and getting to know parishioners at St. Paul the Apostle parish, where he is assigned as parochial vicar. He joked that the only challenge for him so far was when it snowed his third day in Juneau; “rain I am used to, but the snow was something I hadn’t experienced before,” Father Jose said.
Growing up on a farm in southwest India, Father Jose recalled how his devout Catholic family helped foster his curiosity in the priesthood at a young age. He remembers telling people as a child, “In the future, I will become a priest.” While in primary school, he recalls walking a mile every day with his grandfather to attend daily Mass, and every evening his family would come together before dinner to pray a devotion and read the gospel. This is a common tradition among all Christian families in India. He shared, “In the daytime, people work, but at the end of the day they come together, grandparents, parents and children in prayer. I think having a praying family helped me to become a priest.”
At the age of 15, Father Jose attended the seminary for the Missionary Congregation of the Blessed Sacrament to begin the 11-year formation process to the priesthood. The charism for the order is “Live and proclaim the eucharistic ministry we celebrate.” Father Jose said that he joined the congregation not knowing much about them, “but a vocation is a selection by God, we are chosen by God,” and it was God that led him to this order.
The formation process for the congregation included time to discern, live in community, study theology and philosophy and serve in mission communities. Father Jose was ordained a priest, along with 26 others, to serve the Missionary Congregation of the Blessed Sacrament on January 6, 2009.
Father Jose has spent his ministry up until now serving mission communities in India for his congregation. So, how did he decide to come and serve the Archdiocese of Anchorage-Juneau? He learned about Alaska and our mission diocese from a former classmate in seminary, whose cousin is Father Shijo Kanjirathamkunnel, C.M., who serves at the Cathedral of Our Lady of Gaudalupe in Anchorage. When learning about the need for priests in the archdiocese, Father Jose thought it would be a good place for the Missionary Congregation of the Blessed Sacrament to serve.
So, he contacted Archbishop Andrew Bellisario, C.M. to inquire about becoming a missionary priest in Alaska. With approval from his congregation and Archbishop Bellisario, Father Jose made the journey to Juneau.
As he spends more time in the state, Father Jose said he looks forward to meeting more parishioners and serving different ministries. In his free time, he plans to spend time on the various trails and learning which vegetables will grow best in the Southeast Alaska climate.