A collection of the experiences of fifty years of a Missionary Priest in central India.
Ordination and first Appointment.
The exciting news ! A priest for ever-
Fr. George Pallivathukal.
In March 1962. When Bishop Dubbelman visited the seminary at Ranchi, he had a surprise for me and my companion from Jabalpur, Lukas Kalayathummoottil. The Bishop told me "George,you will be ordained on the 8th of September this year. I am going to ordain you before time with dispensation from Rome because I have to go to attend the II Vatican council and I do not know when I am going to return. So get ready for the great event." I thanked my Bishop and told him that 8th September, besides being the Birthday of our Heavenly Mother,is an important day for me for one more reason. It is the death aniversary of my Mother.She died on 8th of September 1945 at 8'Oclock in the morning. Bishop replied "you will be ordained at 8'O clock in the morning,the time your mother died and your mother shall be blessed with having a son as a priest". I thanked the Bishop for his understanding and sensitivity. I immediatly darted off to the chapel,knelt before the Eucharistic Lord and thanked him for guiding me long journey to the priesthood. I thanked my mothers, both the heavenly one and the earthly one, for their prayers for me.
Anointed to Bless and to celebrate.
Soon praparations for the ordination started. Information to my sisters and relatives,retreat,printing of cards and souvenirs etc. Bishop Dubbelman wanted to ordain me and my companion Bro.Lucas with his own hands in our Cathedral Church at Jabalpur. So we came to Jabelpur on the 6th of September 1962. On the 7th morning we were ordained deacons by our Bishop. By this we were commissioned to baptize as an official minister of the church,to preach the gospel and to officially distribute communion and assist the sickand the dying.
We were waiting for the next day, the 8th September. In the morning we the two ordinandi were led to the Sacrament of Holy Orders. The church was packed. My two sisters and two paternal uncles who came from Kerala were seated in the front line. At around 8'Oclock the ordaining Bishop placed his hands on my head, the time my mother died,calling on the Holy Spirit to decend upon me and then he anointed both my palms. After the anointing my sister Mary George tied my anointed palms together with a decorated handkerchief specially made by her for the occation.Tying the anointed palms of the newly ordained is a privilage of the mother. In the absense of my mother, my sister did it for me. After the ritual washing of my hands the Bishop handed over to me the chalice and the paten with host and wine empowering me to celebrate the Eucharist. Finaly the Bishop embraced me with a strong kiss on my right check the sound of which was heard all over the church, accepting me into the presbyterium of the diocese. At the moment I commited myself to live, to love and to work for my diocese. My diocese became my first love. My sister Mary George was the first one to receive communion from my hand,then Sr.Tessy and then my two uncles.
The First Mass.
The next day on the 9th September I celebrated my first Mass in the St.Thomas' church, Ranchi, one of the parishes of the Jabalpur city. Bishop arranged for my first Mass in Ranchi Parish because my sister Mary George was a member of the Ranchi convent. The parishioners of Ranchi, the Montfort Brothers and the sisters of St. Joseph convent made the celebration of my First Eucharist a memorable event. Bro. Eugene Mary, the Superior of the Montfort community who later became a prist, took care of my relatives from the time they arrived in Jabalpur until they left the place. So I had no worry about them. One of the boys who served at my first Mass Diago Fonseca later became a Norbertine Priest.
My second Mass.
My second Mass on the 10th September was celebrated in the convent chapel of the F.M.M. sisters at Napier Town.The then Superior Mother Xavier (Sr.Maura O'Conner) and the sisters of St.Norbert were very kind to the new priest and they had played an active role during our ordination. The F.M.M sisters are a combination of Franciscan Hospitality, Mission spirituality and Mother Mary's sensitivity.The celebration of my second Mass in the F.M.M convent was a sign of gratitude towards them.
Back to the seminary.
After a week long celebration in Jabalpur Fr. Lucas and myself went back to Ranchi to continue our studies. In the evening I reached the seminary, Fr. Eelen, my spiritual father came to my room and said that he wanted to make his confession. I was nervous and so I tried to make a number of excuse to send him away. But he was insistent. Finally I told him that I did not have stole with me.He took out a stole from his cassock pocket and gave it to me and said here is the stole and knelt down by the side of me. This was the first confession I heard the absolution I gave in my priestly life.We had to attend regular classes and the same time we had plenty of oppertunities to do priestly ministries in the Archdiocese of Ranchi.
We, the new priests were permitted to go home for Christmas holidays. My first Mass in my home parish, Elamgulam, was fixed for the 3rd December 1962, the feast day of St. Francis Xavier. Mass was in Latin. The seminariens from Ranchi who had come for holidays formed the choir. It was a grand celebration. My maternal grandfather was still alive. Tears of joy rolled down from his eyes when he kissed my anoited hands. He gave me a chalice to celebrate Mass every day. I had the joy of meeting my teachers both the of primary school,Elangulam and the high school,Chengalam. Fr.Jacob Kanjirathinal who awakened the desire in me to become a missionary priest was the happiest person on that day.
One of my maternal aunts was very angry that I went for priesthood. She had no children and her husband had died. She thought that after my studies I would get married and have a family of my own and I would look after her. Her calculations went wrong and for pristly studies. Hence she was very angry with me she had stoped contacting me as long as I was in the seminary. But on the occasion of my first Mass at home she was present and bitterly cried for being angry with me for ten years.
Last months in the seminary.
After a month long holiday at home I went back to the seminary for my last semester. We had still to complete our course in Scripture and in Dogmatic Theology. By April we finished our classes as well as the exams. Now it was time to leave and go back and go back to the diocese. Thre of us Hatia missionaries went to Hatia to say good bye to our friends whom we have been assisting. We also visisted and thanked those who have been helping us in defferent ways. Finally I visited all my professors and thanked them personally. Rector Fr.Mathijjs told me that the entire staff was happy for having had me in the seminary. They appreciated me for my studies as well as my activities outside the seminary. He told me that the staff had recommended me to the Bishop of Jabalpur for studies in Rome. I could shine well in canon low,he said. Canon Law was my favourite subject.
On 20th of April 1963, Fr. Lucas and I said good bye to our Alma mater and left for Jabalpur. We were now ready to accept the challenge that the lord had in store for us. "Go out into the whole world... Mk. 16, 16,-18."
Assistant Priest at Junwani.
After the ordination the Bishop had given me an appointment to join the Dullopur mission as assistent to Fr. Antony Thundiyil. So I was mentally preparing myself for several months to go to Dullopur and work there. People of that place were predominantly "Baigas", a primitive tribe of Madhya Pradesh.They were culturally and socially different from the people of other parts of the diocese. However when I came back from the seminary after finishing my studies another letter from the Bishop was waiting for me. Bishop wrote that Fr. Otto Paymans of Junwani was asking for my services and therefore he was cancelling my appointment to Dullopur and sending me to Junwani. So I started with a transfer already before I started my ministry.