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Missionary serving local Catholic churches

by Clarke Davis

Jojaiah Mandagiri, 47, is a Catholic priest who has come from India to serve three rural Kansas parishes in Jefferson County.

It is hard to ignore the contrasts.

His home is a nation of 1.2 billion people and he is now the parish priest for Corpus Christi in the Mooney Creek community, surrounded by cornfields and soybeans, and the churches in the small, rural communities of Valley Falls and Nortonville.

Jojaiah Mandagiri

Jojaiah Mandagiri, 47, is a Catholic priest who has come from India to serve three rural Kansas parishes in Jefferson County.Photo by Clarke Davis

He finds the toughest part of his job being the distance he has to travel to serve the three churches and care for the members.

He makes hospital calls to be with the family and provide prayer for the patient, but those hospitals are as far away as St. Joseph, Mo., and Atchison to the north and Lawrence and Topeka to the south.

“I’m always moving,” he said, “but I can handle it.”

His first name, Jojaiah, is the same as “Joseph” and he asks his church members to call him Father Joe.

He was born into a Christian family and has three brothers and a sister. His ancestors were Christian as far back as he has any knowledge, although only 3 percent of the Indian population are Christian.

India is the birth place of Hinduism, now 81 percent of the population, Buddhism, Jainism, and Sikhism. The latter three make up less than 3 percent. The Muslim religion claims 13 percent.

Christianity was introduced to India by St. Thomas the Apostle, who established seven churches and was then killed for his efforts by a Hindu priest.

The priest belongs to the religious order of St. Francis de Sales or the Fransalians. His order has 1,350 members, 48 of whom are serving in the united States. Their basic tenets are preaching missions, evangelization, education, and foreign missions.

When asked to serve the local churches, his response was, “I am a missionary. I am willing to serve and work wherever you want me.”

His stay in America is for 10 years. He has been here 4 1/2 years, having served as an associate pastor to churches in Leawood and Kansas City.

Father Joe became pastor of the churches in July following John Reynolds. Reynolds is on a six-month sabbatical and then will be assigned to a church in Wamego.

Father Joe has three older brothers, all of whom were at one time asked to join the priesthood, but it was Jojaiah who eventually agreed.

The family home is in southern India. His father, who died in 2002, was a chicken farmer and his mother, who now lives with family members in India, is a housewife. The eldest son is a teacher and school principal while the second son is a farmer and the third is a health inspector. His sister is a housewife.

He noted how fast his country is changing and improving for the better and he credits education and limiting the number of births for making the difference.

Many families are now limiting the number of children to one or two and the education system is creating an educated class of citizens, especially in the professions of medicine and engineering, he said.

While he celebrates the regular Mass schedule, keeps up his hospital rounds along with baptisms and marriage preparation, the main order of business now is education classes.

He said classes are now beginning in all the parishes and for the children entering their teen years and adults wishing to convert or become Catholics, those classes will culminate with a confirmation service just prior to Easter.

The priest said he has received a warm reception in the local communities and is happy to be here.

“I’m more than happy, I’m privileged,” he said.

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Posted by on Sep 12 2011. Filed under Featured, The Vindicator. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0. Both comments and pings are currently closed.

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