| By Father Joy Chalissery

‘A Clear Sign From the Lord’

“People look at the outward appearance, but the Lord looks at the heart.” (1 Sm 16:7)

All credit for my vocation goes to my parents and seven siblings, who influenced me with their Catholic faith. Ever since I responded to the Lord’s call as a 17-year-old, my life has been full of surprises — joyful surprises! Dorothy Day said rightly, “You will know your vocation by the joy that it brings you.” Yes, the joy I have felt all along has been a clear sign from the Lord!

Having to go through five different seminaries during my priestly formation still remains a surprise to me, as do many of my priestly assignments. When I came from India to visit Birmingham for just a few months, I didn’t have a clue that the Lord had a long term plan for me —  I am now in my 24th year in Birmingham!

My current assignment is only a continuation of the Lord’s surprises! Six years ago, I embarked on a journey with the faithful of Madison to start a new parish in the Southern Bible Belt.

In the midst of all the surprises, there is a fulfillment in serving God’s people. Showing them Jesus and seeing Jesus in them brings me much joy, beyond any telling. The words of Pope Francis make so much sense to me: “Do not be afraid of what God asks of you. It is worth saying ‘yes’ to God. In Him, we find our joy.”

My older brother, who has been a priest for 47 years, reminds me that the Lord has more surprises awaiting me, a priest of only 32 years. The words of St. (Mother) Teresa of Kolkata motivate me: “Wherever God has put you, that is your vocation. It is not what we do, but how much love we put into it.”

The people I serve shower me with much love and care, so to love them back is effortless. Simply, my priesthood brings me so much joy! The words of Jesus ring true: “And everyone who has left houses or brothers or sisters or father or mother or wife or children or fields for the sake of My name will receive a hundredfold and will inherit eternal life.” (Mt 19:29)

My prayer is that more and more women and men respond to His call and find this joy!

Father Joy Chalissery is the pastor of Most Merciful Jesus Catholic Church in Madison