by PETER GRACE
One of Hamilton diocese’s two newest priests, Fr Joseph George, was ordained to the presbyterate on October 10 in
He was ordained alongside his colleague Fr Stuart Young (NZ Catholic, Nov. 1-14).
Fr George told NZ Catholic that he was born in December 1983 and brought up in Kerala, in the southern part of India.
“We are four in our family: my parents George Mathew and the late Annamma George, my younger brother Ebin, and me,” he said.
His parents owned farmland, where they lived and worked the farm. His brother, Fr George said, is now at university.
“I was blessed to receive a Catholic upbringing within the Syro-Malabar Catholic Church (one of the Eastern
Catholic traditions). As we lived close by the parish church, my parents never missed daily Mass.”
From his early years, he said, he had a great fascination for the priesthood and thought about becoming a priest.
His mum used to say: “If you become a priest, your ticket to heaven is confirmed.”
Although, he said, he could not buy into that kind of thinking after two years of seminary life.
After schooling, Fr George joined the Vincentian minor seminary (his parish priest was a Vincentian) in 1999.
During his priestly formation he completed eleven and half years, which included one year of orientation, two years
of pre-degree studies, novitiate, three years of philosophy studies in Depaul Institute of Religion and Philosophy affiliated to Dharmaram Vidhyakshetram, Bangalore, and three and half years of theology in Vijnananilayam, affiliated to the Pontifical Urbania University Although he was drawn to the idea of being a diocesan priest, he said, he ended up forming himself as a religious candidate.
During the course of formation, he was able to make a further discernment with regard to his vocation.
He had three occasions of strong promptings to move out of the religious congregation, but the first two times did
not take enough heed of them.
“However, I shared the matter with the spiritual directors and I was discouraged.”
Nevertheless, he felt he had to pray that the Lord lead him to do what the Lord wanted him to do. “I knew the consequence of my prayer, but I did pray this with a sincere heart.”
Finally, Fr George said, it happened, but he was not shown the door. However, his diaconate was postponed as a disciplinary action against smoking, “which is very much disapproved of, but practised”.
“I applied for a discernment period… I wanted to be open to the spirit: If I am not called to priesthood, I should find my real call.”
Fr George said that in reconsidering and further discerning his call, he began to sincerely analyse his life and thoughts in the presence of God so as to respond positively to his will.
“I shared my reflections and inspirations with spiritual fathers of various orientations to have God’s own light
on my inspirations,” he said. “As the outcome of one year of prayer and discernment, I was convinced of my call to
diocesan priesthood, and I decided to respond to it positively.”
He shared his discernment with his superiors. They understood and respected his discernment, he said. But he was advised about the uncertainties ahead, as they knew the context, where most Syrian dioceses have enough and more priests and plenty of vocations in the Syro-Malabar Church in Kerala.
“I realised the impending risk of going ahead… But still I wanted to be true to myself. I trusted in the Lord and abandoned myself, saying: ‘Lord, if my discernment is true and in accordance with your will I believe that you will have your own ways to lead me through and through.”
Fr George said he was put in touch with then Bishop of Hamilton diocese, Bishop Denis Browne, and Fr Michael Gielen who then was also still serving in Hamilton diocese, and the application process was initiated and processed.
“I entered New Zealand on May 9, 2012, Fr George said. “In view of needing to adapt to New Zealand Catholic and secular life, I spent two years in parish ministry and a year in the seminary.
“When I look back, I can say that it is the Lord who took me by his hand and brought me here, otherwise I would not
have been here at all as a priest who was ordained on October 10, 2015.”
Fr George said the greatest challenge was discerning the will of God with respect to being his priest or not. “However it taught me a great lesson of being open to the Lord and to his ways.
“My greatest joy is that the Lord attracted me to his discipleship and then to his priesthood.”
Fr George said he was very glad to see his father, brother and a priest friend at his ordination.
“Currently I am happily based at Waihi and I am open to the will of God that comes through the diocese.”