I was born on June 29, 1980 in a village called Karungudi, in the State of Tamil Nadu, India, as the youngest of the four children to Mr. Arockiam and Mrs. Amalorpavam. My father was a grade school teacher and my mother worked in our village grade school. Both my parents were simple, hard-working, faith-filled and God fearing people. They were my first and primary teachers in the matters of faith, morals, discipline and behavior.
We were a middle-class family and my siblings, and I were well cared for and provided for by our parents. I had a very healthy and a happy childhood in a loving and nurturing family and being the youngest child, I was spoiled a bit. As a teacher, educating his children was of immense importance to my father, and he made sure that we all received good education.
After completing grade five in my village school, I went to a boarding school administered by the Sacred Heart Brothers, in a village far away from my village. Being away from my parents, family and village for the first time, it was very hard in the beginning, but I learned to slowly adjust myself to the new reality. After completing my grade eight, I moved to another High School, administered by my local diocese, for my grade nine. After completing my grade twelve, I entered in the Congregation of Holy Cross.
The seed of my vocation to priesthood was sown in me by my parents, especially my mother, when I was a little child. The desire to become a priest grew in me due to many factors – the love and respect commanded by our pastors when they came to celebrate Mass in my village, the commitment of the Sacred Heart Brothers in my school, the influence of the Diocesan priests in my High School, the invitation from priests and brothers from various religious communities and so on. There were also factors that challenged my desire – my brother who was not keen on me becoming a priest; my relatives who thought that my family is well to do and therefore it would be foolish on my part to give up on the prospect of a good family life; the people who thought I was too mischievous in my childhood days and therefore would not fit into the style of religious life and so on.
During my High school years, especially during my grade ten, at the end of which it was most common to join religious communities, priests and brothers from different religious communities would come to invite us to consider joining their community. Though I had a strong desire to join a religious community at that time, I decided to continue with my schooling and my discernment. As in grade ten, during grade twelve, priests and brothers from different religious communities would come to invite us to join their community. By the end of my grade twelve, my desire for religious life grew even stronger. I had invitations from at least seven different communities of priests and brothers to “Come and See.” After much consideration and reflection, I decided to join the Congregation of Holy Cross.
My initial years of formation in the Congregation of Holy Cross took me to many States within India and gave me an exposure to many cultures and languages. At the end of my Novitiate in 2000, I made my first profession in the Congregation of Holy Cross. That was followed by my degree and philosophy studies. During my philosophy, I was asked by the Provincial about the possibility of coming to Canada, completing my theology studies here and helping with ministries of the English Canadian Confreres for some years. I was thrilled with the offer and the opportunity, as I always had the desire to go abroad, either for studies or for ministry.
In May 2006, I was warmly welcomed by the Holy Cross Community in English Canada and began my Master of Divinity program in Toronto. At the completion of the program, I was ordained in December 2009 in my hometown in India.
In September 2009, I was appointed as the associate Pastor of St. Kevin’s parish in Welland and in January 2014, I was appointed as the Pastor of the same Parish, a role which I continue to date. Additionally, I was appointed as the Region Superior of the Holy Cross Fathers in English Canada in June 2015, a role which I continue to date.
I am so grateful to God for the gift of my vocation, to my parents and family for nurturing my vocation and for all the Formators and Confreres in Holy Cross for helping to strengthen my vocation. I am also grateful for the many opportunities I have received to nurture my God-given gifts and to use them at the service of people.
Father Vijai Amirtharaj, CSC