At his ordination in 2016, Fr Das was one of the first two priests incardinated for Jesus Youth in Nagpur Archdiocese, India. Here, he shares his faith journey and how the Lord of providence has guided him, leading him to be a minister of His mercy and sacraments.

Please could you tell us a bit about yourself – your family and the impact it had on your faith formation.

I come from Vijayawada in Andhra Pradesh, India. We have been Roman Catholics for the past three generations.  At home I have my mother, elder sister and a younger brother.  My father passed away in 2015 – he was a righteous man, who preferred living his Christian faith by helping people – he was a Trade Union leader. My mother Mrs. Jhansi Rani is a pious woman, who even though she had a protestant upbringing, after marriage started living the Catholic faith. She taught us from childhood the importance of personal prayer and Holy Eucharist and of going to church regularly. My paternal grandmother used to help the Italian and Kerala Missionary priests in my native parish of Pezzonipet, Vijayawada, by cooking for them and teaching them Telugu. As such, my childhood was groomed by experiencing first-hand the witnessing life of my parents, and learning from my grandparents to help people in need, and to be ready to serve others in whatever ways possible, and to pray to God in all situations with thanksgiving.

Could you tell us about your God experience? And how you came into Jesus Youth.

 My full name is Gangula Vignan Das – which means servant of wisdom. However, during my childhood I was very poor in studies, so some people use to make fun of me, calling me “Agnan”, meaning ignorant. But after completing VII standard (year 7), I had to join X standard (year 10) immediately, skipping the 2 years in between. By God’s grace and through the prayers of my family members, I cleared X with good percentage in 1997. But when I joined +1(Intermediate) in Andhra Loyola college, I took Maths, Physics and Chemistry as main subjects, and failed miserably in all of them. At that time, I lost all hope in life and tried to end my life by attempting suicide. But somehow after a deep sleep (coma) of more than a day, I got back to my senses, and providentially found myself in good health. This was my first God experience! Even though I deliberately tried to end my life, precisely there I experienced God’s love, mercy and protection.

After this incident I started pondering about my life – how much wasted it would be if I died without a purpose. Slowly my thoughts went in the direction of entering the Armed forces like my paternal grandfather (who had fought in Burma during Second World War) – serving the nation as a soldier, and if necessary to die for the nation. On that positive note and with the encouragement of my father, I joined in NCC Airwing, doing it along with my Intermediate studies. One of my friends then was Mr. Denny Johnny, who after our +2 in Vijayawada, had gone to study Engineering in Kottayam, Kerala. There he was introduced to Jesus Youth, and shared with me about the movement when he returned for holidays, giving “Sing Halleluiah” books, Rex Band Cassettes, as well as introducing me to the JY website. For three years it went on like this – so during my initial years, I would say I was a virtual JY.

When did you seriously start discerning about priesthood and how did you decide on JY priesthood as God’s calling?

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Joseph Anthraper lives in Southampton with his wife Mahima and kids Anna-Claire, John-Paul and Samuel-Joseph, and loves reading, movies and theology. He is part of the Kairos Global Editorial Council.