mgls celebrate their new priest
By Natasha Marsh
It has been thirty years since the religious community, the Missionaries of Gods Love (MGL), began in a suburban house in Canberra. Now an officially recognised religious institution, it has over 60 members – priests, brothers and sisters working in Australia and abroad. The newest MGL priest is Fr Baiju Thomas, who was ordained 25 June 2016 at St Scholastica’s church in Burwood, Melbourne. Now on his way to Kraków, Poland for World Youth Day, Fr Baiju took the time to speak with Catholic Voice about his rough road to the priesthood, and his trust in God who “loves to do the impossible.”
Born in Kerala, India, Fr Baiju Thomas was abandoned by his mother when he was just two years old. After his father died, his mother left him at an orphanage run by Vincentian priests.
Inspired by their witness, the young Baiju felt strongly called to the priesthood. However, because of his background, he says there were “many voices” opposed to his vocation. “I heard people say that a ‘seminary is not a home for the destitute’”, he said.
“Some said that it would be impossible for me to get into a seminary. Then, when I got into the seminary, some said it would be impossible to complete formation,” he said.
After a year in the seminary, he was expelled due to the fact he didn’t have a “proper family background.”
However, Baiju pushed through the discouragement and continued to hope.
“Though I had such painful experiences, my hope did not go away, since the Lord I have known from a young age was a God of impossible things,” he said.
While it was looking unlikely that Baiju would be able to complete his training in India, he came across the autobiography of the American Bishop and evangelist Venerable Fulton J Sheen, Treasure in Clay. It was through this that he thought about the Church in Australia and, after a time, discovered the MGLs.
He organised an interview with Fr Ken Barker, founder and moderator of the MGLs. Fr Ken jokingly said that he “took a risk” on Baiju, by accepting him into the community. Within a year of this interview, Baiju had joined the MGLs. It was 2008.
Continuing from its charismatic origins, MGL seek to bring the “fire of the Holy Spirit” and the “fire” of the love of Christ to the world, with a focus on the poor and marginalised.
Archbishop of Canberra and Goulburn, the Most Rev Christopher Prowse, in his homily at the Mass celebrating the official recognition of MGL by the Vatican on 9 February 2014 spoke how the MGL “offer the world the hope and joy of the Gospel”.
“They witness to the charismatic dimension of the Church. They find apostolic energy in Eucharistic adoration and deep contemplation. In essence, they witness to the experience of God’s love for us all,” he said.
This “apostolic energy” and joy is evident by the MGL at Melbourne’s Catholic Theological College, a melting pot of religious orders, archdiocesan seminarians and lay students. The ‘Catholic hippies’, with guitars close at hand, are known for their enthusiasm, joy and love for God.
Simple, but not simplistic, their witness of joyful community is compelling in an age increasingly affected by individualism, cynicism and loneliness.
Fr Baiju, who was on his way to Krakow at the time of the article, will, no doubt, be spreading the “fire” of the love of God to the two million pilgrims expected to flood the streets for World Youth Day.
He will bear witness to the crowd in the typical MGL habit of brown pants, white shirt and chunky sandals–chosen to reflect this solidarity with the poor.
Reflecting on his life, Fr Baiju offered words of encouragement for those who are struggling with discernment.
“If you feel it is impossible for you, then feel relaxed, because now it is the job of the Lord who loves to do what is impossible in the eyes of human beings.”
Upon his return to Australia, Fr Baiju will serve his first appointment as Assistant Priest at St Benedict’s Parish in Narrabundah, Canberra. He is looking forward to beginning life as a priest; “All I want to do is to preach the Gospel in the light of my story,” he said.
“The rest I leave in the hands of the Lord who has been the safeguard of my dreams.”
The “God of the impossible” continues to bless the MGLs and on August 19 at St Dominic’s Church, East Camberwell, Melbourne, Fr Baiju will celebrate with the rest as Rembert Fernando, David Lemewu and Antony Santhiagyu become the newest priests to spread the message of Divine Love.
On Saturday October 7, Adam Crouch and Daniel Serratore will be ordained to the priesthood at St Christopher’s Cathedral, Manuka, Canberra.