June 9, 2020
|Fr. Joy Joseph at Holy Cross Church in The Colony, June 05, 2020. (NTC/Ben Torres)|
THE COLONY — The calling of Father Joy Joseph, TOR, pastor of Holy Cross Parish in The Colony, began in his youth. “I couldn’t think of another life,” he told the North Texas Catholic as he reflected on the 25th year of his priesthood.
Born to faithful Catholics, his parents helped found his home parish, St. George in Poolappadam, Kerala, India. “Five [or] six families were Catholic, so… my parents and a few other parents built a shed and we began with one Mass a month.” Mass was celebrated in the Syro-Malabar rite (an Eastern Catholic rite commonly practiced in India). Eventually, a Carmelite monastery was built a few miles away, providing priests to celebrate weekly Mass at St. George. Fr. Joseph became a regular at the parish. “When I was studying in catechism, I got a prize for not missing a single class the whole year.” Fr. Joseph laughed at the memory.
The young man noticed that the Carmelites and seminarians “were so happy, and free, mingling with people, singing, helping…. they gave me a lot of inspiration.” A friend from St. George encouraged young Joseph to consider the Franciscan friars. A Franciscan priest traveled by bus from northern India and walked the rest of the way to Fr. Joseph’s home to help him discern his vocation.
Fr. Joseph’s first year of Franciscan formation was in his home state of tropical Kerala, where he was taught more English and Hindi and learned about the Franciscan way of life in preparation for his journey to Bihar, a state in northern India with very different language, food, and weather.
The first time Fr. Joseph attended a Roman rite Mass was with the Franciscans. Used to the lengthy, musical, incense-filled Syro-Malabar rite, he wasn’t sure when to sit, stand, or kneel. “I had no idea what was going on,” he recalled with a laugh. The years of his formation were full of studies and service in northern and southern India, including mission work with the Santal people, who have very little access to infrastructural luxuries such as running water, electricity, or education. The novitiate year he spent studying, meditating, and praying in a remote village was the “most important” part of his formation process. “It’s a time to make a mature decision,” Fr. Joseph reflected. “It’s a very grace-full time.”
On April 22, 1995, Fr. Joseph was ordained a priest at St. George Parish in Kerala. By then, St. George was a brick building — but still too small to hold the several hundred guests at the ordination: family, parishioners, and many fellow Franciscans, including “one jeep full of friars.” In front of the church, a colorful canopy was set up with a view of the forests and “green mountains” in the distance. Incense wafted in the light summer breeze. “It was very hot. Oh, I will not forget. And humid,” Fr. Joseph added. Under the canopy, the bishop ordained Fr. Joseph in the Syro-Malabar rite, and immediately afterward, Fr. Joseph celebrated his very first Mass. Then there was a feast of biryani, chicken, and vegetables.
|Fr. Joy Joseph distributes the Eucharist at Holy Cross Parish in The Colony, June 05, 2020. (NTC /Ben Torres)|
Like his formation and studies, Fr. Joseph’s priesthood has taken him all over India — and beyond. After completing a master’s degree in canon law and serving several years at the TOR formation house, he was sent to upstate New York to complete a master’s in Franciscan studies. “I was scared,” he laughed. “But I felt very happy, very honored.”
He returned to India for a few years, then was assigned to the Diocese of Fort Worth in 2008. He served in several parishes before being appointed pastor of Holy Cross Parish in 2015.
“I really enjoy my ministry at Holy Cross,” Fr. Joseph said. “People are so welcoming, accepting… loving, caring. Maybe I’m biased,” he said with a chuckle.
He enjoys serving a parish that is “friendly, and… small, like my home parish.” In 2010, he was appointed a judge on the diocesan tribunal, a unique aspect of his ministry. His knowledge in canon law has made him “more sensitive… I look into any way I can help.” According to Fr. Joseph, canon law “is more pastoral than civil law.”
April 22, 2019 began Fr. Joseph’s jubilee year. That fall, Holy Cross Parish honored Fr. Joseph’s jubilee with a reception and cake. During his annual visit to Kerala, he celebrated Mass (followed by another reception) at St. George, now a “beautiful building” with plenty of windows, ceiling fans, and statues. Then he traveled to Bihar to celebrate Mass at the Franciscan motherhouse with about a hundred fellow Franciscans.
The last few months of Fr. Joseph’s jubilee year were eventful, including the spread of the coronavirus and national unrest due to racial violence. Fr. Joseph encourages Catholics to pray for an end to the coronavirus pandemic, for an end to abortion, for peace, and for people to be united. He said the role of Catholics begins with “promoting brotherhood and understanding and caring in your own parish.” In India, his home parish is just down the street from a mosque and an Orthodox church. “We existed in peace and love,” Fr. Joseph recalled.
April 22, 2020 marked the end of Fr. Joseph’s jubilee year. After 25 years of priesthood, Fr. Joseph reflected on his Catholic upbringing and vocational journey. “I do believe that God consecrated me in the womb of my mother,” he said, referencing Jeremiah 1:5.
THE COLONY — The calling of Father Joy Joseph, TOR, pastor of Holy Cross Parish in The Colony, began in his youth.