New priest assumes duties at three parishes
By Jared Speckman
Despite spending a year in the United States, Lazar Carasala still finds himself making adjustments.
Carasala is the new Catholic priest who will serve three area parishes in rural Jefferson county.
Like his predecessor, Father Joe, Carasala is a missionary from India. He arrived in Missouri in May of 2012 and spent a month training at Conception Abbey, a Benedictine Monastery in northwest Missouri.
“When we landed here last year, a group of priests were given training for one month to know more about the culture and the accent of the area,” he said
After his training, Carasala joined the Church of Ascension in Overland Park where he served as parochial vicar.
Now, Carasala is making another transition. From suburban Overland Park to rural Jefferson County.
It’s a transition that he thinks he will make with ease. Carasala notes that he split much of his time in India between the cities and the countryside.
He hails from the southern part of India, near the coastal line where his mother and father were farmers. He is originally from the Santhome diocese but left to continue his studies in another Indian state after 8th grade. There are 35 priests from his home diocese working in the United States today.
In his native parish, it is customary that one person from each family work in the service of God. It’s a custom that his family has carried on through the years. On his father’s side, he has an uncle who is a priest. On his mother’s side, one of his aunts was a nun.
Carasala is the second youngest of six children. His three sisters are all teachers in India. One of his brothers works at a bank and the other runs a school. Each of his siblings is married.
Carasala, in his 25th year of priesthood, says his Catholic roots go back over 300 years and were heavily influenced by European missionaries.
Carasala notices the contrasts between the church systems in the two countries.
“Before coming here, I was told that in America, nobody comes to church,” he said. “But it is the other way. The church is full. In the city in Overland Park last year, the church was full for all the masses. They all come in time.”
Part of the reason that Indian priests come to America is simply because of numbers. India has more priests than parishes. In contrast, America doesn’t have enough priests for all of their parishes. Carasala’s contract to stay in America is for five years.
“In the past, the missionaries came to India,” he said. “Now we feel it is our turn to come and serve here.”
Since joining the three parishes in early June, Carasala has felt a warm reception from the people in the area. He has enjoyed being involved with smaller parishes.
“People are very friendly,” he says. “They’re encouraging me. I’m still getting to know the people but it’s easy for me to get to know each and everyone here because it’s a smaller parish.”
At his parish in Overland Park, he was involved with over 3,000 families, a dramatic difference from the close to 300 families here.
Despite all these cultural changes Carasala has experienced in his brief time in America, none of them come close to the one difference that sticks out to him the most.
“The traffic,” Carasala says with a smile. “The traffic goes in systems here. In India, it’s all chaos.”
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