CNEWA President on Indian Vocations
Seminarians pray at St. Joseph Pontifical Seminary of the Syro-Malabar Catholic Church in Kerala, India on 8 March. (photo: Msgr. John E. Kozar)
16 Mar 2012 by Dennis Sadowski
WASHINGTON (CNS) — Vocations to the
priesthood and religious life in Indias two Eastern
Catholic communities are strong and a sign that the
missionary spirit of St. Thomas the Apostle flourishes,
said the president of the Catholic Near East Welfare
At multiple locations in southern India — in
seminaries and houses of formation for men and women
religious — Msgr. John E. Kozar said he was blown away by the quality and quantity of the candidates for religious life in the Syro-Malabar and Syro-Malankara churches during his 12-day visit.
The first impression when you walk into a huge
seminary chapel or gathering hall is that you see 200, 300,
400 seminarians, Msgr. Kozar told Catholic News
Service March 14 from his office in New York. That in
itself is a culture shock when you compare it to what you
know here (in the United States).
Youre welcomed with big smiles. Youre
welcomed with songs and a warmth that reaches out and
grabs you, he said.
St. Thomas was the only apostle to make his way
to India and spread the Christian faith. After traveling
through Syria and Persia, now Iran, he is believed to have
sailed to India in A.D. 52, landing on the Malabar coast in
what today is Kerala state. He was speared to death in
A.D. 72 while praying.
CNEWA sponsors 2,134 seminarians and 857
men and women in formation for religious life in India.
Hundreds more are in formation as well throughout the
With such a large number of men and women in
formation, the two churches are able to send priests and
sisters on missionary service to other countries, which
Msgr. Kozar said he found an inspiration for his ministry.
Its an ingrained part of the life of the church there, he said. These two rites carry the missionary spirit today. To me thats very dynamic.
Msgr. Kozar also said he found collaboration
among the Eastern and Latin rites — especially among
their leaders, the bishops — to be strong, resulting in meaningful service to children, people with handicaps and
Most touching on the visit, he said, was seeing
children, some with severe physical handicaps that
affected their mobility, full of joy as they danced, sang
and greeted the CNEWA team. Msgr. Kozar said he was
impressed by the education standards upheld by the
sisters, giving children a chance to move out of the dire
poverty in which their families are rooted.
For that, he credited the sisters who oversee the
institutions for creating an environment that upholds the
dignity of each resident, without regard to physical ability, illness or family background.
Individual donors, through CNEWA, sponsor
about 18,500 children in numerous educational and health
and wellness programs.
The children in many parts of the world of poor
are really the jewel in their sincerity, their honesty, their simplicity. They are the reflection of the hope, the
idealism, the love of that country, the best of that culture, Msgr. Kozar said.
Tags: India CNEWA Kerala Msgr. John E. Kozar Thomas Christians