(ANS – Rome) – The last missionary we present before the Missionary Expedition followed a peculiar path to reach this step: from a young age he trained in a missionary aspirantate. And now he can’t wait to return to what he considers his “new home”.
Can you introduce yourself?
I am Sarath Kumar, born in Vandavasi, Tamil Nadu State, India. I am 23 years old and there are five of us in my family: my parents and three brothers. I went to Sri Lanka to do my novitiate and there I made my first profession on 29 August 2020. After having completed my post-novitiate studies and having done a year of internship in Sri Lanka, in view of my entry into the Vice Province as a missionary , I responded to the Rector Major’s appeal for this 154th Missionary Expedition.
What pushed you to make this choice to become a missionary?
As a child one day in church I heard the passage from the Gospel which went like this: “Go into all the world and preach the Gospel to every creature” (Mk 16:15). This verse captured my heart! Furthermore, a priest from my parish used to tell me about some of the missionary experiences of his friends who work in Africa. This inspired me to become a missionary and so I chose to attend the missionary aspirantate. There, the interaction with the missionaries increased my passion and my stay in Sri Lanka during the novitiate and post-novitiate inspired me to stay there and serve the people of that small island, the pearl of the Indian Ocean, which is It has become like my home.
Are you happy with where you are going? Do you have fears or concerns about the new place, culture and people?
I am very happy to be a missionary in Sri Lanka, which is like another home for me. I feel at one with the people of that land, as if they were my relatives, and I can’t wait to return to this “home” of mine. I am truly grateful to the General Councilor for Missions for guiding me to make this choice to be a missionary in Sri Lanka.
How did family, friends and brothers react when you told them about your missionary vocation?
Initially my family members were afraid of it. My mother was not willing to send me to Sri Lanka, but she eventually gave in to my stubbornness. She said to me, “Son, it’s your life and you’ve decided. It will be difficult for us to make you change your decision, but we have great faith in you, that you will certainly do well, and God and Our Lady will guide you.” These words gave me a lot of strength, because I consider Maria my role model. She is a strong woman and I attribute all my successes to her.
My Indian classmates felt strange when I told them that I wanted to go to study in Sri Lanka, due to the economic crisis that country was going through at the time. But the Director in the post-novitiate and my superiors supported me a lot.
What are your plans and dreams for your missionary life?
My dream is to help young people build their lives. In the current situation, young people are confused and do not have the means to move on a safe path, due to the chaos caused by the economic crisis in Sri Lanka. There is also a slight decrease in vocations, and I want to do my best to make them emerge as honest and God-fearing citizens. I feel that this situation is similar to the one Don Bosco faced as a young priest, and my personal desire is to spread joy, hope and happiness in their hearts.
Do you have any model of a great missionary in mind whose style and life you want to follow?
The great model of my missionary life is Our Lady, who went to announce the joy of Christ to Elizabeth, who gave the good news of Christ to the world, who led the people to Christ in moments of perplexity during the wedding at Cana , who remained as a courageous disciple, at the foot of the cross, who gathered the first children of the Church, the apostles and disciples. I also love Cardinal Cagliero, who I have always admired as an aspirant, because even if he had a problematic character, he became a great leader and missionary thanks to his love for Don Bosco.
What is your message to young people on the missionary choice and vocation?
God has his own way of calling each of us. He never forces us, but he appeals to us. He is a God of joy, cheer, happiness, courage and strength. He wants us to live fully in the world but to be united with Him, his holiness comes through freedom and happiness, not through fear and avoidance of the world. He wants us to live fully in this world and to live our lives fully, he will let us know his will when the time is right for us: all we have to do is be ready in that moment to listen.