Fr Lancy D’Silva CSC and Fr Santosh Pereira MSFS, both from Bangalore, arrived last month and are quickly making the transition to the Australian way of life and worship. Their arrival brings the total number of international priests – Indian and African – serving in the Archdiocese to 25.
Fr Lancy, the only priest in Adelaide from the Congregation of Holy Cross, said he was looking forward to focusing on pastoral care and “bringing people together with their faith”.
“I told my provincial I am going to Australia with an open page and whatever comes or whatever is asked of me by the Archdiocese I am ready to do,” he said.
For the past year Fr Lancy has been on sabbatical, working as a parish administrator for St Anne parish in the diocese of Pensacola-Tallahassee, Florida. Prior to that his ministries included serving as a pastor for six years in two different parishes and as an associate pastor and vocation director for 10 years.
“In this position I was invited to different schools to give talks and organise seminars and promote vocations. I had a few recruits to the congregation of the Holy Cross in that time,” he said.
The 47-year-old has studied extensively and holds three Bachelor degrees (education, philosophy and theology), as well as a Masters in Sociology and Masters of Science (counselling and psychotherapy).
“I speak various languages like English, Hindu, Kannada, Konkani, Tulu, Marathi, Khasi – which are basically Indian languages,” he added.
Raised in a “traditional Catholic family with traditional values”, Fr Lancy said he was privileged to be an altar server as a boy which helped him to “slowly develop that interest and motivation to be a priest”.
However, it was the urgings of two of his neighbours – who were twins and had joined the Congregation the year before – that finally convinced him to follow a vocation as a priest.
“It was back in 1988 and our family was middle class, we didn’t have a TV and no rich food…we only ate chicken and meat once a while or when there was a feast. And the twins told me, Lancy, if you join the seminary you will get to watch TV and have good food!”
Of course, his commitment to God was strengthened through discernment and studies and in 2002 he was ordained a priest. Fr Lancy acknowledged the important role his parents played in his journey to becoming a priest.
“They were a source of inspiration and encouragement,” he said.
At age 33, Fr Santosh is now the youngest Indian priest serving in the Archdiocese and joins three others from the Congregation of Missionaries of St Francis de Sales in Adelaide – Fr Manu Kumbidiyamackal (Para Hills-Modbury), Fr Shibu Jacob (Salisbury) and Fr Josy Sebastian (Noarlunga-Seaford).
Ordained in 2013, for the past three years he has served as the provincial secretary, becoming the first priest born outside of Kerala to fill this position. Over the years Fr Santosh has completed three Bachelor degrees (arts, philosophy and theology) and said he hopes to continue studies in the future.
With four brothers and a sister, Fr Santosh said his journey to becoming a priest was greatly influenced by his parents and Catholic upbringing in Karnataka.
“In the evening we would sit together and pray the Rosary and my mother would make a prayer at the end, ‘Lord you have blessed me with five boys and I would be happy if you would call one to become a priest’,” he recalled.
While he had never expressed a desire to become a priest, Fr Santosh said when a priest from the Missionaries of St Francis de Sales was appointed to his parish he had a strong impact on him, and he decided to join the seminary.
“This was the first time I was away from my family. There were 54 boys in that group and I was the only one who could not speak the local language. It was very hard.
“When I think of those days I wonder how I survived – the food was completely different, it was a different culture and all the others spoke a different language, and I didn’t know English to be able to communicate with them.
“But I believe if God has called, God will help. From that moment until today I never regret the decision I have taken.”
Now fluent in English, Fr Santosh is looking forward to his pastoral service in the Archdiocese and perhaps even finding time to continue to play basketball, cricket and volleyball.
Like Fr Lancy he is also trying to adapt to the weather.
“The shocking thing is the warmth of the people, in a very positive manner.”