Father Roy joins St. John the Baptist as new priest

Photo by Christy Porter -- Father Roy is welcomed by parishioners Mary Stone and Myrna Friend.

By Christy Porter

Guest Writer

Father Rayappa Chinnabathini joined St. John the Baptist Mission in Licking, St. Mark Parish in Houston and St. Vincent de Paul Mission in Roby as Pastor and Administrator on July 21. He will also serve as Chaplain at South Central Correctional Facility in Licking. He prefers to go by Father Roy.

He concluded his prior assignment as Associate Pastor of St. Mary of the Annunciation Cathedral and Old St. Vincent Chapel of Ease in Cape Girardeau before beginning this, his second assignment in the United States.

Fr. Roy recalls, “My Bishop in India came to me two years ago and asked me if I was interested in going to Germany and doing ministry. I did not desire that so he asked about the United States. I said, ‘YES.’ It was because I had experience with the U.S. It is a Christian country, their faith is very strong, and they always are very generous towards others. I personally experienced that, it was always a positive thing for me.” Usually the bishops in India and American mutually agree on a six-year service that can extend to 10 years. Fr. Roy expects to stay in the U.S. for the 10 years.

Father Roy was born, raised and educated in India to a traditional Catholic family. His village was evangelized in the beginning by the London Mill Hill Missionary Society, at which time his grandparents were converted to the Catholic faith. He and his siblings, as well as his parents, were born Catholic.

India is predominantly Hindu both religiously and in culture. The Indian people face persecutions from the Hindu majority both physically, and due to the caste system. Historically, the lower caste live in a colony outside the village where the higher caste live, the lower caste being the ‘untouchables.’ The Catholic Church and Christians of other denominations try to bring the lower caste up by giving them an education so they can employ or self-employ. There is opposition to attempts at integrating the higher and lower caste, but it is happening all over India right now. The lower caste desires and are achieving the rise to a higher standard.

Fr. Roy states, “Christianity is growing in India and changing the mentality of society. There is a desire to move up and the people are doing it. Christianity has changed the traditional way of life in a positive way.”

A family tradition of good strong faith originated with Fr. Roy’s grandparents, though the family was really poor. Fr. Roy comes from a family of seven children, three boys and four girls. Fr. Roy is the fifth child.

“The inspiration and backbone of the family was my mother,” says Fr. Roy. “She raised her family praying that at least one son and one daughter would join the religious life; she offered them to God. My brothers left the seminary, but my youngest sister is a nun with the Order of Our Lady of Fatima formation in India. She serves as a principal in a school. My mother is very happy.”

There is also a first cousin and a maternal great uncle who are religious priests, and another cousin is a religious nun.
 Photo by Christy Porter -- Father Roy is St. John the Baptists’ new priest.
Basic necessities, and a lot of financial help, were provided by the solidarity of the American people, and especially from the Catholic Church.

“Without the Catholic Church and school in our community, there would have been no food to eat, no shelter, no good clothing, no medical help and no good education,” enumerates Fr. Roy. “I always appreciated the help we got, so much help from America. We were strengthened physically and had a good education. The Indian people were never pressured to join the church, but the Catholic community was so welcoming. Those that joined the church were supported spiritually, as well as materially.”

With help from the U.S., the church provided milk powder, brought on ships in big barrels to the harbor, which was delivered to the diocese and dispensed to the parishes. They also provided oil and a wheat product, which was cut into small pieces and used to provide food. In India, the main economy is based on cultivation or agriculture, mainly rice. Rice is eaten twice a day, afternoon and evening, sometimes for breakfast. Vegetables are raised, mainly beans, cabbage, cauliflower and bitter gourd. Bitter gourd is a young, edible fruit pod said to have many health benefits.

Medical care was dispensed by the Mother Teresa sisters, or nuns who would rotate weekly through the different villages.

A good English education was provided by Catholic institutions at a school located beside the church. People in India try to get their children into English teaching schools with six out of 10 students studying English.

“The priests gave us a good formation at the church and at the school,” claims Fr. Roy. There are also many orphanages where care is provided. The hierarchy of education is somewhat different than in the U.S. first through fifth grades comprise elementary classes, sixth through tenth is high school, and eleventh through twelfth is junior college. A majority of the graduating students go into professions.

Says Fr. Roy, “Two of my older brothers joined the seminary and in the beginning, I had no intention of becoming a priest, but wanted to attend apostolate school (sixth through tenth) and go to seminary to study. It was a free education located in each diocese.”

Fr. Roy eventually decided to join the priesthood, and, as a priest, has a strong personal desire to help educate the children in India, and he makes that an ongoing personal project. He shares that $400-$500 is the entire cost for tuition, supplies and an English education for a child per year.

“I personally experienced the positive help, both spiritual, and material from here, the U.S.”

He shares that while in seminary school, taking three years of philosophy and four years of theology, he spent his seven summer vacations working at lepers’ colonies. India has several leper colonies (three in his diocese), but this number is reduced and still decreasing. The bishop sent a seminarian for hands-on-care of the lepers. It’s a terrible thing being a leper. The colonies are usually two to three miles away with forest separating them from the closest villages. The seminarians, along with sisters, took care of the lepers’ daily needs, as well as sharing the rosary, communion and daily mass. They would also cut the forest back to lay and gravel the roads to the colony. It was a wonderful experience being with them.

April 26, 2010 Fr. Roy was ordained into the priesthood. He served a year as an associate pastor. He then served as a pastor and principal. For three years he was one of several counselors to the bishop in his Indian diocese. He then came to the U.S. assigned to the Diocese of Springfield – Cape Girardeau. An orientation to American life is provided by the bishop before Indian priests come to the U.S. Fr. Roy is one of 55 priests from his diocese in India now serving in the states. They maintain communication while being located as far spread as Oregon, Wisconsin, Mississippi, Washington, Texas, Kansas and Arkansas.

“I go home once a year, this year in May. While I was there, my niece became a nun, and I baptized my nephew,” says Fr. Roy. “This helps with being away from home.”

Fr. Roy shares that the climate is totally different here, as India is really hot, temperatures sometimes reaching 123 degrees with more humidity. Although as Fr. Roy acclimates to our weather, he sometimes now feels hot. Also the food is totally different, new foods for him.

“In the beginning I was not used to the food, but it is good food and very nutritious. The food we eat in India is not as nutritious as here,” says Fr. Roy.

“I really love the people here. Though there is a racial difference and a difference in the language, the people here don’t show that difference. They love their priests regardless of nationality, and have shown no prejudice at all. The American people are really firm in their faith,” states Fr. Roy. “While in the seminary, we study and learn a lot, but as a priest, I enter the field and it becomes a practical thing. The people have great faith and it strengthens my faith. It is a more simple faith compared to the theology and philosophy learned in seminary.”



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