FATHER Joseph Kanatt would appear to be as dedicated to his ministry as his cricket hero Sachin Tendulkar was to perfecting his game.
Fr Joseph aims to be available to the people of his parish at all times.
That doesn’t always leave him time to watch much cricket but it’s something he likes to do when he gets a chance.
He grew up in India, where cricket’s the number-one sport, and hails from Kottayam district, in Kerala state.
His dedication to mission led to him answering the call to leave his homeland a few years ago to serve in Brisbane archdiocese.
The archdiocese has an agreement with the Missionary Congregation of the Blessed Sacrament for priests to come from India to serve in south-east Queensland parishes.
Fr Joseph was one of the first to come.
“My superiors asked me, ‘Are you happy to go to Australia?’,” he said.
“(I said yes) because I had been working in India for quite a few years, so I thought it is a good chance to get to know a different culture and a different rite – because we are from the Syro-Malabar rite (an Eastern rite).
“I thought, ‘Oh, it’s a good chance for me to get to know another part of the world, and work in another culture, communities and faith communities that is entrusted to me.
“I’d never been overseas.”
He arrived in Brisbane in 2012, and now he’s on the move again – this time from the south of Brisbane to the north.
After serving at St Patrick’s, Beenleigh, for the past seven-and-a-half years, Fr Joseph is the new parish priest at Sandgate Brighton.
He was farewelled from Beenleigh last weekend and is having his first weekend (August 11-12) in Sandgate Brighton.
Beenleigh will always have a special place in his heart.
“They made me feel at home here (in Beenleigh),” he said.
After an initial three months in Annerley parish, Fr Joseph’s first appointment in Australia was as associate pastor to Fr Tony Girvan in Beenleigh and as chaplain at Logan Hospital.
Then, 18 months on, he was appointed parish priest of Beenleigh.
“In the beginning it was very hard to work in another culture, because, even though we are following the same faith, the way of the faith and adoration and the culture is different in different countries,” Fr Joseph said.
“So it was a big challenge when I arrived here, but eventually it became easy for me when I came to know more about the culture, and about the country, and about the way of doing things, and the faith formation.
“The one positive thing was it was a very welcoming community that is involved in everything here, especially here in Beenleigh, because they were welcoming me (from the start).”
Fr Joseph said his early days at the hospital were particularly difficult because of the language barrier.
“It was challenging for me because it is hard for me to understand their accent, and for them to understand me also,” he said.
But as those difficulties were ironed out, he came to enjoy the chaplaincy role.
He said this was partly due to the support he received from parishioners.
“I can say that it is very much a second family or my Aussie family here, in Beenleigh,” Fr Joseph said.
“They consider me as a member of the community or a member of the family.
“Many people have encouraged me, to teach me the language, to teach me the culture and to teach me the way of doing things and the way of speaking.
“It was good support for me to have feedback from the people.
“If I say something in a different accent, they will let me know, or if the same word goes for a different meaning in India from its meaning here, even though it’s English, they will come and tell me.
“That’s the freedom they have, and I also have that freedom to listen and to correct myself.
“That was a very touching thing.”
When he was installed as parish priest in 2014, Fr Joseph told the people the priesthood was not a profession, but a ministry, and that was the way he lived it.
His aim was to be a man of service to the community and to the ministry.
“I think the people welcomed that,” he said.
“Another important thing I was doing was to be available for them at any time.
“I told them when they are sick in the hospital and calling or when somebody is sick at home or in the nursing home, I was available all that time.
“That was very much appreciated by the people, so they had a freedom to come and tell me, ‘Oh, my father is in the hospital’, or ‘My husband is in hospital’, …
“My point of view was to give good spiritual satisfaction to their life, to give them an experience of the love of God.
“My satisfaction is to be with the people, and to be available for them at any time.
“That was important for me, and that gave me satisfaction because I am fulfilling my responsibility as a pastor or as a shepherd to lead them and to guide them.
“And my way of ministering as the parish priest is a balancing of the spiritual, material and community aspects – belonging, to build the one sense of belonging to the people, so they must know that the parish is a family for them.
“So all the celebrations and all the functions happening here were aiming for that – to bring people to the Kingdom of God, and building the Kingdom of God.”
Fr Joseph is ready to adapt again in his new parish – just like Sachin Tendulkar starting a new innings on a different wicket on a different ground.
“Going to Sandgate Brighton it’s a little bit of a challenge for me because it’s a different culture from here (in Beenleigh),” he said.
“It’s not as multicultural as here.
“The important thing is to work for God.
“We are called to be disciples of Christ and also called to go where God wants us to go.
“We are called to be with the people and understand them and to build the Kingdom of God.”