Fireside Chat with Drs. Anup & Annilyn
Dr. Anup Kudakkasseril, a sincere and zealous Jesus Youth leader, graduated from Kottayam Medical College, Kerala. After encountering Christ in a very diﬃcult time of his medical college career, Dr. Anup decided to commit his life to the Lord. Dr. Annilyn Sebastian, an ardent leader and minister of Christ, graduated from Thiruvananthapuram Medical College, Kerala.Dr. Annilyn was deeply moved by God’s helping hand during her entrance into an especially selective residency program. As young people who loved Christ and grew through the JesusYouth movement in medical school, Dr. Anup and Dr. Annilyn got married on February 6th,2003. Later that year they moved to the United States, where they both completed their medical residency at Hershey Medical Center, Pennsylvania. A traditional, model Catholic family rooted in the JesusYouth lifestyle, Anup, Annilyn, and their seven children – Anita, Antony, Albert, Aaron, Abel, Abraham and Ann – now live in Houston, Texas. Anup practices as a pediatrician in Houston, and is the JesusYouth America National Family Coordinator. In addition to managing their family, Annilyn coordinates homeschoolers, mentors families, and facilitates marriage preparation courses. Dr. Anup and Dr. Annilyn lead a large, beautiful family together, and are actively engaged in the JesusYouth Houston ministries. Here is some insight into the story behind this inspiring family.
How have you integrated the Jesus Youth family lifestyle, with its pillars, into your family?
Three aspects of Jesus Youth spirituality are prayer, fellowship, and mission. Bringing these aspects to the dynamics of the family ministry is one of the main goals of the family ministry. Prayer and a personal relationship with God is the foundation for everything. Knowing the will of God, and being able to strive for it, is only possible through prayer. The fellowship of the movement brings together families who strive for the same goal, which is a great inspiration and encouragement for all. Formation of young people is one of the foremost missions of the families in the movement. Reaching out to other families, and encouraging them to lead an active Catholic life, is another area that we focus on. We strive our best to achieve these goals with a lot of encouragement and support from other Jesus Youth families and youth. We try to keep our house open for all families and youth.
How do you impart the Catholic values, with its traditions, to your children and family?
We believe children learn best from examples. Besides giving them an introduction to the basics of our faith, we strive to become role models for our children. This challenges and inspires us to practice what we preach, but at the same time, acknowledge our limitations. We keep our focus on God, knowing that He alone can work through our weaknesses to impart the formation that our children need. We try to instill an atmosphere of faith, discipline, and virtues. We encourage kids to see God’s helping hands in our daily activities and life. We also encourage our children to develop a personal relationship with God, through personal prayer.
Through the fellowship of the Jesus Youth movement, and spirituality, how have you been impacted, and your family blessed? What struggles do you encounter in managing both a large family and a ministry?
We owe a lot to the Jesus Youth movement for everything that we have today. We are able to see the beauty of many other families who are striving to attain the same goal that we are working towards. The Lord, working through the movement, continues to give us clarity about the various teachings of the Church on marriage and family life. Keeping an open house for family and youth, we have been
blessed tremendously through the fellowship and relationships we have made over the years. Our kids are also blessed with the benefits of these fellowships, as they now have lots of uncles, aunties, and friends they look upto. We have definitely experienced growth in our spirituality as the Jesus Youth spirituality keeps challenging us to live upto its standards. Having a large family brings along its own challenges and struggles. We have, by God’s grace, been able to keep a reasonable level of organization within the family, which has helped us a lot in running a large family. Even with the struggles of a large family, what we have seen repeatedly is that when we are ready to make a sacrifice, and are open to receive grace, He is very ready to provide the grace we need. Having said that, we don’t feel that we are responding enough to God’s call in our lives. Giving first priority to the Kingdom of God is our hope and prayer, which is not always easy. Our limitations come in the way. Our hope and prayer is that the Lord will give us the courage and strength to do His will each day of our lives.
Despite Dr. Annilyn being a trained physician, your family has chosen to have her stay at home-managing the family and homeschooling children, among other things. Why is that? What is the motivation behind leading such a traditional family unit?
Annilyn completed her MD in Pathology and fellowship in Blood Banking and Transfusion Medicine. After residency and fellowship, she applied for a job. She was offered a job in San Antonio, which was later retracted due to certain managerial issues of the institution, which was beyond our control. By that time we had our fourth child. We felt that the Lord was telling us that we should be focusing more on the formation of our children. “Parents are the primary educators of their children.” CCC 2221-2231. This means that we should be actively engaged in the lives and formation of our children, regardless of whether they are educated at home or school. We also knew of some families within the movement, who taught their children at home. This was an inspiration for us to start homeschooling our children and Annilyn decided to stay at home for this purpose. The most compelling reason was to be able to provide a strong Catholic foundation, and impart family values and morality, which to us seemed very challenging with a ‘modern’ lifestyle. As parents, we believe that we are in the best position to help our children reach their full potential, which God has bestowed on each one of them. We as parents should not forgo our duties to impart education in faith and virtues. We can only do so by spending time with the children. For us, homeschooling has been providing a means to do so.
Most families today are quite nuclear and small. What is the inspiration behind choosing to raise a large family, now with seven children?
We have always tried to be open to the will of God in our lives. Children are a blessing from the Lord. Understanding the Church’s teaching helped us realize that we should be open to life, and to accept the children that God is giving us. Learning the Church’s teaching on Natural Family Planning helped us to realize that God has a way of planning for a family. We felt that we need to come out of our selfishness and comfort zone, and embrace God’s plan in our lives.Though we were both open to the idea of a large family, we had never imagined or dreamed that we would end up with seven kids! As each child was born, we were really able to treasure and cherish the uniqueness of that child, and the joy each one gave us. This led us to where we are now, and we thank God for blessing us abundantly! Each of our seven children is a special blessing. Our life wouldn’t have been complete without all of them.
How has faith and family life been working together in your life?
Our Catholic faith is of foremost importance in our family life. Not only do we try to live according to the Church’s teachings, but we also try to tap into the graces flowing through the Church. We try to attend regular communion and have regular confessions. We also try to celebrate the lives of the many saints in our day to day life. We pray with the children throughout the day, and have family prayer at night. We try to lead a life dependant on God. Through all these, we try to integrate faith into our family life. Children need to see that faith life and family life go hand in hand, and are not two separate entities.
You are the Jesus Youth America National Family Coordinator. How has the ministry helped further furnish your family life? What do you see yourself, both you and Annilyn, in near future with ministry?
The Church’s teaching on family is based on the self-giving life of the husband and wife, and the formation of the children. The movement has helped us to live this in our daily lives as much as possible. The Lord has blessed us in many ways, and we feel that we have not responded to His call enough. Our innate weaknesses prevent us in executing His will in our lives. Our hope and prayer is that we may gain the strength to do His will in our day to day lives. We also pray for the courage to take that blind leap of faith when we realize His will.