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Archives New priest, MSC, arrives in Watertown

August 16, 2023

By Darcy Fargo

Though very different from the parish community he was serving in Pennsylvania, Father Jaya “Jai” Kumar, a Missionary of the Sacred Heart (MSC) now residing in Watertown, said he is finding warmth in this place known for its cold.

“There’s something about this place,” he said, shortly after his July 2 arrival in the North Country. “It’s been a very warm welcome. Living in this community, this Missionaries of the Sacred Heart community, is very different from what I experienced in Pennsylvania. There, it was two churches. Here, I’ll be helping at six churches – three in Blessed Sacrament Parish and three that are served by the Missionaries of the Sacred Heart.”

Before arriving in Watertown, Father Kumar, 51, served as parochial vicar at St. Jane Frances de Chantal Parish, in Easton, Pennsylvania.

“I came just in time to inaugurate COVID,” he said, laughing. “It was a very different start from what I’m having here. I wasn’t able to get involved and meet people at that time.”

Since arriving here, Father Kumar has been traveling to the various parishes he’ll be serving, celebrating Masses, participating in events and getting to know the people and places.

“It’s been really beautiful – very welcoming,” he said. “I look forward to a meaningful faith walk with the people of this diocese. And I look forward to meeting with Bishop (Terry R.) LaValley, who welcomes me here.”

Father Kumar arrives in Watertown in his 25th year of priesthood. He said he joined the Missionaries of the Sacred Heart in the order’s early years in India, making his first profession in 1993.

“When I come here, I’m one of the youngest,” he said. “When I go (to India), I’m one of the oldest. It’s my jubilee year as God has brought me to Watertown. I gave my first sermon on water as the source of life, baptism and immersing ourselves with Christ and celebrating new life with Christ. That’s how I feel coming to serve here – celebrating new life in Christ.”

Having completed his formation in India and the Philippines, Father Kumar said he had some worries, but he was excited to go where he was called.

“We’re missionaries – ready and willing to wholeheartedly face everything for the Lord and for the mission,” he said.

Father Kumar says both his vocation and his joy in going where he’s called are “the sheer grace of God.”

“It’s been a very beautiful journey of 25 years,” he said. “It’s all the grace of God. With our own limitations, we feel unworthiness. He sustains us with his grace.”

Growing up in a household of four children, two boys and two girls, Father Kumar said his father prayed God would call his son to the priesthood, but he wasn’t the son his dad had in mind.

“My vocation was from home,” he said. “Dad used to pray specifically, ‘Lord, I pray and I ask you to call or bestow a divine vocation to priesthood on the first fruits, and he’d name my brother. That’s the way grace works. The seed had been put there, and parish and priests watered it.”

Father Kumar said he enjoys living with the local Missionaries of the Sacred Heart and living in a home with a chapel housing Jesus in the Eucharist.

“The Eucharist is the center of our life,” he said. “And I’m in Blessed Sacrament parish, the house has a chapel, and the parishes have exposition and benedictions. I’m very happy to be here with all that comes with it.” 

Prior to his arrival in the United States in 2019, Father Kumar served in both parish roles and formation roles within the Missionaries of the Sacred Heart. He said he looks forward to continuing to grow in his ministry while here in the Diocese of Ogdensburg.

“It’s a privilege, honor and great blessing to be a priest and to be in persona Christi – in the person of Christ,” he said. “He’s taking me to all these places, commissioning me, sending me – sending me with purpose.”

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