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GRANDFATHER OF EIGHT ORDAINED CATHOLIC PRIEST AT 83

India

April 14 1999

Twelve close relations were among those at Father George Thekkekara´s recent priesthood ordination in central India´s Jhansi diocese: his four children and eight grandchildren.

"The call of the Lord was loud and clear even at this age for reasons known to Him alone," the 83-year-old priest, popularly known as "Uncle George," told the March 25 Church event.

Bishop Frederick D´Souza of Jhansi, who ordained the grandfather for his diocese, said that what matters to God is not the quality or quantity of ministry as much as "the unreserved availability to serve Him."

Father Thekkekara, ordained at the shrine of St. Jude the Apostle, patron saint of hopeless cases, told UCA News April 9 that "God is not concerned about abilities or disabilities, and does not care about appearances or age."

In 1943, when Thekkekara married Mary Thomas at age 27, becoming a priest was not in his mind, but he always "wanted to live the way Christ wanted."

He said that his wife was a "very pious, hardworking and highly exemplary lady," hailing her hard work to "instill a deep and abiding sense of faith" in their four children.

In 1976 his wife sought treatment for cancer in the United States, he said, adding that "there I developed the desire to be a married deacon."

After her death in 1982, Father Thekkekara said he "lost interest in everything, including life," but his wife´s words on her deathbed that "Jesus has a plan in me dying and you living" kept coming back to him.

Stressing that his wife played a vital role in helping him to "hear the call to follow Him wholeheartedly for the rest of my life," Father Thekkekara said the "whole family was supportive and positive."

He joined the seminary and obtained a theology degree in 1994 from St. Peter´s Seminary in Bangalore, Karnataka state. His son Stan said that "the whole family took it as a joke" when his father first said that he wanted to became a priest, but that "now we are all proud of him."

The new theology graduate knew that a diocese or congregation had to accept him before he could be ordained a priest, and he applied to several dioceses in India and abroad without success.

However, in 1995 Bishop D´Souza accepted the southern India native of Kerala state for his northern India mission diocese, saying "it is not what you can do that the Lord counts, but it is what you are."

Bishop D´Souza told UCA news April 8 that his decision to give the seminary graduate "an opportunity to discern his call in mission was an enriching one. He was an example to all in the diocese."

During his three-year trial, "Uncle George" served as a teacher. He said that his previous experience as a physical education instructor helped him cope with the extreme climate in the Hindu-dominated mission.

Father Thekkekara, who Bishop D´Souza said is his "seniormost priest," shares what he calls his "four-p formula" with all, including his children and grandchildren, urging them to "prayer, patience, perseverance and pursuance."

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