Five minutes with… Fr James Antony CMI
The Catholic Voice spent five minutes with Fr James Antony CMI, parish priest of Corpus Christi, Gowrie. Parishioners recently celebrated with him his 50th birthday and 20 years of priesthood.
Where were you born?
I was born in the state of Kerala, India. I’m now a naturalised Australian.
What are the circumstances behind you coming to Australia?
After being ordained a priest in India in 2000, I developed an academic background in business studies. I came to Australia in early 2010 for doctoral research in marketing. When my supervisor left, I couldn’t find another in my area of interest. Archbishop Mark Coleridge said to me, “Though you are a good scholar, you are also a good pastor. Why don’t you consider giving more of that [the pastoral] in the Archdiocese?” After reflecting on it, I decided to change to the pastoral and shortly after started at St Joseph’s Grenfell.
You have four degrees including a Master of Business Administration and a background in marketing and commerce. How have you used that background in your ministries?
My religious and secular degrees have helped me gain a stronger world view, including a better understanding of people and situations. People asked me, what am I going to market? I told them I would use my knowledge of marketing to assist in my vocation which is all about Christ and the church. I was able to apply my marketing skills during the COVID-19 pandemic.
You were a visiting scholar in the US and Thailand. When and where was that? How many languages do you speak?
As part of my university role in India, since 2000 I have visited many universities around the world. Apart from my mother tongue (Malayalam) and English, I speak a little Tamil and Hindi and have a working knowledge of Spanish.
You recently celebrated 20 years in the priesthood and your 50th birthday. What blessings and challenges has your ministry brought you?
I am thankful to God for his continued love, care and compassion. Past years were mixed with ups and downs. I lost my brother in a road accident shortly before my ordination and I lost my mother when she was 57 years old. ‘Faith’ held us together and allowed me to move forward to where I am today.
You are a member of the Carmelites of Mary Immaculate (CMI), the first religious order formed in India. What attracted you to the order?
It was my ongoing search to reach out to disadvantaged children that landed me with the order. CMIs run 500-plus educational institutions in India, in cities and villages. I continue to help the disadvantaged children directly and indirectly.
Your ministries in Australia have taken you to Grenfell in central west NSW and Pambula parish on the south coast. Was moving to Australia a particular challenge for you? Any experience of magpies?
I had travelled and worked abroad and knew what to expect in a first world country. No culture shock. My openness to learning and adapting helped. Magpies chased me in Grenfell and they made a hole in my hat. I was lucky to escape without injury to my head. It was a learning experience.
What are your favourite leisure interests?
I love any sport but especially driving, basketball and volleyball. Also a little bit of martial arts. I am a fitness freak. In India, I joined with my friends to ride my Royal Enfield motorcycle over long distances.
You like cricket?
I love cricket. After the recent test match between Australia and India, I texted: “What a wonderful cricketing experience for both nations, I haven’t seen test cricket so fascinating for a long time.”