Admin: A very good morning to you Father.
Fr. John Joseph: Good morning to you.
Admin: What are your thoughts or reflections on your Golden Jubilee celebration Father? How did you feel on that day?
Fr. John Joseph: I really felt very happy that the Golden Jubilee was celebrated in a simple, humble and nice manner (smiles). It is God’s grace that I have reached 50 years of priestly life and God has blessed me abundantly and I have no regrets in my life. I enjoyed the day with my relations…. close relations, about 15 of 16 of them came, friends and the fathers, especially I was happy that Fr. Provincial himself had come. I was happy that my classmate Fr. Forte had come also.
Admin: Father can you tell us about your calling for priestly vocation? At what age did you realize your calling?
Fr. John Joseph: At the age of fourteen, I was chosen as a young aspirant to Tirupattur Don Bosco Aspirantate. I was very happy to be with my companions and superiors. They were all very nice to me. Though I felt homesick, I continued my studies in Don Bosco, Tirupattur. After my PUC, I went to Yercaud for my novitiate. I was chosen….see vocation is a choice, though you may desire, unless God chooses us we cannot succeed. So Novitiate was a vary happy year – one year. After that, three years of Philosophy in the same place, Yercaud. In the second year, we did privately teachers’ training so that when we go for our practical training we could teach.
Starting Tamil (laughs), I was starting from Aa, Aah, E, Eee and succeeded in getting a second class for Tamil and all the other subjects, we passed very successfully the teachers’ training. The next one was practical training, and two years of Philosophy was with a difficult subject “Latin”. At that time, it was compulsory to study Philosophy in Latin.
Admin: Even masses were celebrated in Latin?
Fr. John Joseph: Yeah. Thank God I went through. For practical training, I was sent to Don Bosco, Broadway. Three years of full-time teaching in St. Gabriel’s High School and minding the oratory boys in the evening. Very happy three years, because my rector was a very loving and affectionate person, Fr. John McFerren. After three years were over, I went over to Theology – two years in Kotagiri and two years in Kristu Jyoti College because at that time the college was shifted from Kotagiri to Bangalore. At the end of four years of Theology, I was ordained on the 20th of December 1969 and that is why now the Golden Jubilee.
Admin: Was the calling known to you or did you have a vision or somebody guided you or inspired you?
Fr. John Joseph: Yeah, one of the masters was guiding me in the Novitiate, the Fr. Casarotti, the Rector was guiding me in the Philosophate. I was not miraculously called, but through normal channel I was called to be a Salesian.
Admin: Father, can you tell us what are the things that attracted you to Don Bosco and to become a Salesian?
Fr. John Joseph: Don Bosco’s love for the youth, that is one. Don Bosco’s system of education – Preventive System. Then, Don Bosco’s way of dealing with people – it is not that we are dealing with machines, we are going to deal with people. Loving kindness was there in Don Bosco’s system and it impressed me very much.
Admin: How important is it to recite the Rosary and what are the benefits that you think you get by reciting the Rosary and also about ejaculations?
Fr. John Joseph: Mainly the Rosary every day that we are saying together and the Eucharist were the key attractions which I had. Because I was born on the feast day of the Body and Blood of Christ. We, at that time, used to call it the Feast of the Holy Eucharist. Everyday mass we had, everyday Rosary we had, then small small ejaculations and a visit to the Blessed Sacrament in between Lunch and Tea had helped me a lot besides the guidance given by the superiors.
Admin: So you have a very great affection towards Mother Mary?
Fr. John Joseph: Of course, in my dangers and difficulties I call upon Mother Mary – Ave Maria – and Mother Mary was there at my side and in fact I could feel the presence of Mother Mary by my side all through my life.
Admin: What is your message to the young aspirantates and who are already brothers?
Fr. John Joseph: See in today’s world is a changing world, so many attractions are there in the outside world. Therefore, unless you have firm faith in Jesus and asking help from Mother Mary and Holy Trinity – Glory be to the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit- a prayer which I often say in my daily life – will help. Unless you mortify yourself and prayer you cannot succeed in the priestly life.
Admin: Can you share with us your special moments in the priestly career? Can you share with us one or two such moments?
Fr. John Joseph: I used to read a book called “The Imitation of Christ” – a small booklet. Imitation of Christ calls for the mortification – mortify yourself, mortify your senses and unless you pontify yourself, you will not be successful in your life. Temptations are there and definitely we are all human and unless we fight against the temptations of the devil, we cannot become priest.
Precious moment was my ordination. Fr. John McFerren, my previous Rector came all the way to our home and other fathers came home to celebrate the first mass. My father, mother and grandparents were also alive on my mother’s side; on my father’s side grandparents had already passed away. The ordination year was a very happy year and the day of ordination also.
Admin: 25 is over, now 50 years and we are expecting you to celebrate the 75th also…
Fr. John Joseph: (Interrupts) I am telling the Lord. “Lord! Lord! Enough, I have done sufficient. I have not neglected my duty in any way. I was in so many houses and I was happy in the houses to do the duty entrusted to my care.” The first three years of my priestly life was in Broadway. I was so happy because I had done my practical training and teaching in St. Gabriel’s – three years. I knew the place, so I went happily and by that time I had picked up sufficient Tamil to talk, not only doing the exam. First three years, I was the administrator, principal of the primary section and warden of the hostel – three duties – heavy, but I was busy – full-time busy and I was happy in doing that because if was all for the youth.
Admin: What is your motto in life Father?
Fr. John Joseph: My motto is, “To Love and To Serve.” Unless you love, you will not be able to do full justice to your duty.
Sorry that my health is not allowing so much to mingle with the students now, because this is my last stage of, what you call….(smiles) change or transfer. I have passed through so many houses and Theoleogates, to Kristu Jyoti College, Poonamalle Seminary and so to say I am happy as a priest and if you had to ask me what will you choose suppose you’re reborn. I will say, “I will choose to become a priest and a Salesian priest (says firmly).
I have spent 12 years in charge of Don Bosco Past Pupils – six years as a National Delegate and six years as a Provincial Delegate. I have a good group of past pupils still very much attached to me and attached to Don Bosco. Many of them are in touch with me even now. During that time, I had taken 76 past pupils to Australia for Don Bosco 88 or DB 88. I also took 25 of them to Turin, Italy when I was a delegate. Those are very good memories.
Admin: Most of them must be in their 50s?
Fr. John Joseph: Oh yeah! They are all doing well and in high positions, managers, scholars etc., they are all doing very well. Madras Province, Calcutta Province, Bombay Province and Shillong, in these provinces past pupils are doing wonderfully well.
Admin: Thank you so much for your time and patience Father.
Fr. John Joseph: It’s my pleasure.