It’s never too late for mission. That’s what Alexy and Shiny proved when they packed their normal life and set on a journey with three kids. Sharrol Jose talks with them about their life as fulltime missionaries

Certain conversions  are so remarkable,  they can make a  mark in the history.  The life of Alexy  Pallan and Shiney Alexy is an  example. From a regular life  of supporting youth and their  activities, they have come a  long way. Today, they are in  the forefront of proclaiming  the Gospel in India. Joining  the Santvana Community, they  are now fulltime missionaries.

Meet them along with their  children Savio (20), Veronica  (19), Rosa (17), Daniel (14),  and Ruth (12).

Can you share with  us your encounter  with Christ and your  involvement in the  movement? 

ALEXY: I was in a phase of  life where I was a rebel to the  Catholic Church and criticising  its teachings and practice.  My parents were insisting  me to attend a retreat. I went  for it unwillingly. During  the retreat, I had a great  conversion experience and it  became a turning point in my  life. I took a decision to stop  criticizing the Church and  started obeying the Church  teachings. Most of my doubts  on Catholic teachings were  cleared slowly over a period  of time. After the retreat,  E.X.James, a JY leader invited  me to prayer meetings and JY  programs. I started becoming  involved in the parish ministry  and attended various training  programs. I became the zonal  coordinator for Ernakulum  and was also part of the Kerala  Youth Central Team (KYCT).

SHINEY: I was a law student  when I attended a Jesus Youth  campus meet at Palakkad.  My brother Wilson, who had  attended a campus meet  earlier, was actively involved  in the music ministry and was  an inspiration for me. After  the campus meet, along with a  few other friends, we started a  prayer meeting in our college.  Later on, I attended another  JY retreat and this was a huge  turning point for me. Prof  CC Alicekutty, one resources  at the retreat became a  big influence in my life.  Mentoring with Alice chechi is  the backbone of my spiritual  growth. Moving on, I became  actively involved in Jesus  Youth and also became part of  the KYCT.

How did you get married  and how was the initial  few years.

Both of us were already active  in Jesus Youth when a few  senior Animators and elders  brought the proposal for our  marriage and discussed with  our parents. The proposal was  considered by our parents and  we got married in June 1996.  After marriage, I continued my  business and Shiney shifted  her practice to the High Court  of Kerala. We continued our  journey in Jesus Youth and  were actively involved in all  activities.

What inspired you to join  Santvana Community?

In 1999, there was a JY Kerala  Conference, and the theme  was Mission. We were inspired  by a few testimonies of those  who went for mission. We got  a deep desire to go out as a  family for mission and started  enquiring about possibilities.  It was then we met Fr Dheeraj Sabu IMS, who introduced us  to Santvana. He invited us to  stay with them for a month  and that changed us. The  community living inspired  us to live a life of holiness  and the reach outs were a  tremendous influence. We  decided to become fulltime  missionaries. We went back  to Kerala, made necessary  arrangements to close our  business and practice, and was  ready for our new life. 

WE HAVE A TIME OF FAMILY MEETINGS WHERE

WE GET A QUALITY TIME AS FAMILY. DURING THIS

TIME, ALL ARE ENCOURAGED TO SHARE THE HAPPENINGS

Could you tell us more  about the Community and  its activities? 

Santvana is a Community of  Christian faithful consisting  of Missionary families,  Missionary Sisters and  Brothers including clerics. It  is canonically recognized as  a ‘Pious Association of the  Faithful’ in the Archdiocese of Delhi in 2003. Fr Dheeraj  Sabu IMS is the founder of  Santvana Community. Our  Apostolate is Prayer and  Proclamation – evangelisation  of India through intercession,  reaching out to the unreached  – mission to the remote  villages in India, organising  and conducting trainings  and mission exposure trips  to equip the faithful for the  Evangelisation.

VALUES ARE NOT TAUGHT

BUT CAUGHT. IT IS A LIFESTYLE

THAT WE HAVE IN OUR FAMILY

What is the relevance of  the Santvana community  in your family?

Santvana is a home away  from home. The community  made us a missionary family.  This is like a large joint  family with a common vision  of evangelisation and the  spirituality of ‘Prem – Marg’  – Path of Love. Living as a  community compels and helps  us to walk the talk. Frequent  coming together and sharings  encourage and support one  another to learn from others.  The best thing is that the  community had played a very  relevant role in the formation  and outlook of our children.

What prompted you to  choose homeschooling?  Is that a step for mission? 

It was Fr Dheeraj, who  introduced the community  towards homeschooling as the  best method for the formation  of children and kept on  encouraging us and motivating  it. After much discussions  and prayer discernment, we  were convinced that this may  be the best formation they  may get for their integral  development. Along with  the academic studies, they  get time to be spiritually  equipped and formed to face  the modern world. A time  for personal prayer, bible  study, family time, playing,  household works, visiting  new places and people etc.  We also take part in National  Secular homeschoolers  meets and organize Catholic  homeschoolers meet ups which  gives them good exposure.  These get-togethers brought  similar children from different  states and now, they have  friends from all over India. The  Community has the concept  of LifeSchool – Santvana  neighbourhood homeschools,  i.e. two or more families come  together regularly. Twice a  year, all the Lifeschoolers come  together for ‘Lifest’ where they  have different activities like  art, craft, music, sport, retreats  etc . They get to travel, they  get to learn firsthand, they  study on their own and take  up initiatives and do things.  It gives them leadership and  life skills. This helps them  to grow in relationship with  Jesus and His mission and  leadership. They have taken up  teaching the poor children who  are part of Santvana Sahara  mission which support and  enable the underprivileged  children in Delhi suburbs. They  are growing as resources for  children’s retreats and other  programs.

Isn’t it difficult with so  many kids? How do you  manage everything? 

So many kids? We have only  5 children. We just celebrate  our family life. “Seek ye first  the kingdom of God and he  will provide.” The first part of  this Word of God is important.  When we do the Lord’s work,  He takes care of us.

What are some of the  things you do as a family  to inculcate faith? 

Values are not taught but  caught. It is a lifestyle that  we have in our family. When  the children were smaller, the  prayer times were filled with  fun. e.g. we sit in a circle, pass  the ball around and praise  the Lord. We practice 1Thes  5:16-17 (Rejoice always, pray  constantly, give thanks in all  circumstances; for this is the  will of God in Christ Jesus for  you) and encourage the children  to thank the Lord in all things,  happy and unhappy incidents,  success and failures. They were  thus encouraged to make prayer  a joyful time. The children took  up small initiatives for lent and  were at times more steadfast to  Lenten practices than elders.  Once, we noticed that the elder  children were very regular in  weekly confession. This inspired  us to do weekly confessions.  We realised that when we took  small steps for the Lord, He  made much larger strides for  us by inspiring the Children  to grow deeper in faith and  catholic values.

We have a time of family  meetings where we get a quality  time as family. During this time,  all are encouraged to share  the happenings. Share the joy,  hurts, misunderstanding etc.  This is helping us to improve  our communication and to be  open to share everything, and  accept everyone. As parents  this has helped us to improve  ourselves too. We also have a weekly family adoration and a  weekly bible study where we  try to live the Word of God.  Some time back we’ve had a  retreat for our family. We have  a consecration of our family to  the Sacred Heart daily. As Pope  Francis says in Amortis letitia,  we have a saint for our family,  St. Teresa of Lisuex.

What do you think are the  dangers faced by today’s  families?

Communication is the  backbone of family life. Some  time back, some kids who are  part of the Santvana Sahara  Mission, came to our house  and had lunch with us. One  little girl came to me and said,  “thank you so much not only  for the food but for allowing  me to sit at your table and  have food. In our family we  do not sit together and eat. I  found so much joy in sitting  together.” This time that we  spend together as a family  and the communication we  have, is very important for  families to grow.

We have gadget free times  (8-9 am, 1-2 pm, 8-9 pm) in  our family where none of us  use any gadget whatsoever.  This time also coincides with  our meal times so everyone  gets to communicate with  each other over the meal.

Savio, your eldest son  has chosen priesthood as  vocation.

How did he take  this decision?  From the time of their birth  we have been praying for  the vocation of our kids. God  has something for each one  of them, and we pray that  they may choose what Lord  wants them to be. From his  childhood, Savio has seen Fr  Dheeraj celebrating holy mass  in our community house. He  used to say that he wanted to  be a priest who can celebrate  mass at home.

Every year, we organise  mission trips for teenagers,  youth and others. One such  mission trip was for a group  of teenage boys who were  inclined or had at least a tiny  desire to take vocation as  priests. Savio was there for  this mission trip. During one  of the visits in a remote village  in North India, he saw sisters  at the convent distributing  the communion which was  previously consecrated by the  priest who visits there once or  twice in a month. He realised  then, that without priests, we  would have no Eucharist. He  was then convinced that his  call was for priesthood.

Sharrol Jose , Chennai , India
Sharrol Jose , Chennai , India

Sharrol Jose has been actively involved with Jesus Youth movement since her college days and is currently the formation coordinator in Chennai. She lives with her husband and three children in Chennai, India and is part of the Kairos Global Editorial Council