READY TO SPEAK THE LANGUAGE OF LOVE
Fr Kevin Mundackal made history when he became the first U.S. born priest to be ordained for the Syro Malabar church. Born into a family where faith was the top priority, he was taught to seek the guidance of the Holy Spirit at all times, even at a young age. He shares about his journey to priesthood and how God surprised him by making him a Syro Malabar priest.
How did you experience God’s intimacy?
When I was in high school, I had a personal and intimate encounter with our Eucharistic Lord. I was able to feel God’s presence and feel the embrace of His love. There was an overwhelming sense of peace. Christ became much more than just knowledge; He is a living and loving Person who dwells inside of me. I came to the realization that the God who loves me with an unconditional love also has a plan for me.
I began to have a personal relationship with Jesus Christ and like all relationships, I knew it would take much hard work.
What are the challenges you faced while discerning your vocation?
Trying to live a Christ-centered life in our modern culture is not easy, but the Lord had blessed me with people who made it easier for me to hear the voice of God. I was very good in my studies, and I could have excelled in any field of my interest. However, thoughts on giving my entire life to Christ filled much peace in my heart. Through prayer, I was convinced that I am not alone in this journey and there are many people out there to help me.
My parish was a great blessing for me in my faith formation. Our pastor, Fr. Jose Kandathikudy, made youth ministry one of his priorities and would encourage us in whatever initiatives we had. He let us use the church facilities for youth events and would always remind us that we, the youth, were the future of the Church. His witness and example were a great inspiration for me. He would faithfully attend and lead the parish Bible classes, even after coming from a long day of dialysis. He had a great zeal for preaching the Word and would encourage the children to be passionate about our faith and to even think about pursing a religious vocation.
God loves with an infinite love.
He is infinitely happy because
He is infinite love. He desires
that we, the children of
God, too, attain to His infinite
How did the Jesus Youth movement helped to shape your spirituality?
The Jesus Youth Movement played a vital role in my prayer life as well as in my vocational discernment. It was through Jesus Youth that I was able to attend several retreats and experience the Eucharist in a very intimate and personal way. It was here that I was able to understand that our Catholic faith is not something that we set apart for Sundays, but that the faith is a lifestyle that encompasses all aspects of our life. I was able to make many great friends through the movement, many of whom would encourage me to persevere in strengthening my relationship with Christ.
Many joyful people consecrated to Christ and His commandments of love journeyed with me and helped me to respond to God’s call to the priesthood. There were many elders in the movement who helped lead me and encourage me through their spiritual guidance. Through their self-sacrificial love and unconditional care for me, I was able to experience the love of Christ through them.
When and how did you receive your call to become a priest?
As I continued to grow in my faith, I started to get thoughts of priesthood. There was no loud booming voice or any special vision; it was just the Lord tugging on my heart and placing this desire in me to think about priesthood as a possible vocation. I did not make of anything of it at first, but as I could continue praying and spending time in front of the Blessed Sacrament, these thoughts of the priesthood continued to grow.
It was also providentially the Year of Priest, which lasted from 2009-2010. I was able to learn a lot about priesthood during this year. Also, my spiritual director, Fr. Vincent Euk, helped me to see that the Lord was leading me in the direction of the priesthood. I was also blessed to attend the Discipleship Training Program called ‘Overflow’ conducted by the Jesus Youth of America during this time, which strengthened me to have a deeper prayer life.
What made you choose to become a priest for the Syro Malabar Church?
I was open to becoming a priest for any congregation, but there was one type that I could not become –a Syro Malabar priest. Though Syro Malabar parish helped me greatly in my faith formation, I felt it would be better for me to join the American diocese, rather than the Indian diocese. At the time, we only had Sunday Qurbana in Malayalam. Since I did not know Malayalam very well, I associated everything about the Syro Malabar Church with the Malayalam language. I even thought that the Syro Malabar Qurbana was an Indian-version of the Latin-mass.
But all that changed when our pastor introduced the Syro Malabar Qurbana in English. For the first time, I was able to understand the meaning of the prayers. I was moved by its richness and beauty. After that Qurbana, I took one Qurbana book home and would read the prayers before going to bed each night. Soon, I fell in love with the Syro Malabar liturgy, and I started to research more about the Syro Malabar Church, the history, and what makes it different from the Latin Church.
I started to wonder whether it was possible for me to become a Syro Malabar priest. I met with my pastor and told him about the slight dilemma I was in, that I have recently begun thinking of becoming a priest for the Syro Malabar Church, but that my lack of knowledge of the Malayalam language would be an obstacle for becoming one. Fr. Jose then asked me a question, “Kevin, which language did Jesus speak?” I responded saying that Jesus spoke perhaps one of the ancient languages like Aramaic. He then said, “No. The language that Jesus spoke was the language of Love. If you can speak that language, you can become a good Syro Malabar priest.” I was overjoyed. I knew that the Malayalam language was important for the Syro Malabar Church, but what is more important is that I learn to love like Christ and then perhaps the Lord will give me the grace to improve my Malayalam.
Draw close to Jesus in the real
presence of the Eucharist
and have an assiduous
prayer life and an intimate
relationship with Blessed
Jose Achan then helped me get in contact with Bishop Mar Jacob Angadiath and told him about my desire to become a priest. Bishop Angadiath accepted me as a seminarian for the St. Thomas Syro Malabar Catholic Diocese of Chicago and I joined the seminary after finishing 12th grade.
Any thoughts for those youngsters who are considering priesthood/ religious life?
“Come follow Me” (Mark 10:21) “Behold, I come, O Lord” (Hebrew 10:7). Our life is framed by these two scripture verses. The first from God, the second from man, request and reply. When the request finds no reply, man is forced to live a failed, tragic life.
Your vocation is your destiny. Draw close to Jesus in the real presence of the Eucharist and have an assiduous prayer life and an intimate relationship with Blessed Mother. She is the Mother of Vocations. If you want to perfectly preserve and fulfill your vocation to priesthood and religious life, entrust it to Our Lady.