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Growing Indian community celebrates

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The feast of St Thomas the Apostle was cause for double celebration last month following the appointment of Father Anthoni Adimai SdM as the first Indian priest to take on the role of administrator of the Adelaide Cathedral parish.

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One of Fr Adimai’s first official duties was to concelebrate the feast of the ‘apostle of India’ Mass which was attended by hundreds of members of the various Indian Catholic communities in
St Francis Xavier’s Cathedral on July 5.

Fr Adimai arrived 10 years ago on a three year contract to the Archdiocese of Adelaide and three months later was appointed parish priest at Hectorville. His superiors at the Society of Eugene de Mazenod in India approved extensions to his contract and also endorsed his recent appointment to the Cathedral parish which includes the pastoral care of five suburban Mass centres and St Patrick’s Church in Grote St.

While it was sad saying farewell to the Hectorville community, which he described as “like my family”,
Fr Adimai said “I felt it was a need and that the Bishop trusted me for this role”.

One of his priorities is to provide stability around clergy celebrating the Eucharist at the Burnside, North Adelaide, Stepney, Dulwich, Thebarton and Grote St churches to enable communities to connect with their priests.

“We need to create relationships as much as possible, and from there we can develop a pastoral plan for each community,” he said.

As the administrator of the ‘mother church’ in the Archdiocese, Fr Adimai acknowledged the significance of his appointment.

“I think it’s very important for members of the Indian community to see that someone from their community is in this role,” he said.

With 16 Indian priests working in the Archdiocese, and two more on their way, Fr Adimai said this applied not just to those Indians who are part of the Cathedral parish but to the many parishes where they are participating in the life and ministry of the Church.

He said it is a growing community, with the largest number of migrants to Australia last year coming from India, and a relatively young one.

“It’s all families and students and the parents want to nourish the faith of their children, they are looking for something the Church has to offer as catechesis, preparing for Sacraments, and ongoing faith formation as ways to participate in the life of the Church and deepen their faith,” he said.

“It’s a kind of a merging of the existing community and new arrival communities to make the parish very vibrant and celebrating the differences in one faith in Jesus Christ.”

One of nine children, Fr Adimai is from Kanyakumari, Tamil Nadu in southern India and was ordained in 2000. He spent seven years in the conflict-torn Indian/Pakistan border region where he helped set up schools and self-help groups for women in the Jammu-Srinagar Diocese.

In Adelaide he was instrumental in starting a Tamil language Mass on the second Sunday of the month at Hectorville parish, following a request from the Tamil community.

Indian Catholics belong to three major Catholic rites – Latin, Syro-Malabar and Sryo-Malankara. They were all represented at the annual feast Mass of St Thomas, who sailed to India in 52 AD, through choirs and prayers of the faithful in different languages and as participants in the offertory procession.

The colourful Mass included a traditional ceremony of welcoming the clergy and the people to the celebration of the Eucharist with symbols of light, fragrance and incense and offering rice, coconut and fish as elements of life for the offertory.

Fr Adimai said it was customary for Indians to “bring their best” to Mass and that’s why they dressed in their finest traditional clothing.

 

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