Bishop Welcomes Four Priests from India to Serve in the Diocese


By Tony DeGol

The Church of Altoona-Johnstown is joyfully greeting four priests from India who have come to the diocese to serve at parishes and minister to local Catholics.

The priests, all members of the religious community Heralds of the Good News, arrived in the diocese on April 2.

They are currently residing in community at the Saint Aloysius rectory in Cresson, and they are immersed in enculturation classes at Mount Aloysius College in Cresson to assist in their acclimation to American culture.

Soon, Bishop Mark will appoint the priests to parishes, but they have already visited a few faith communities to celebrate or concelebrate Mass and meet parishioners.

On April 16, Bishop Mark visited Mount Aloysius College to celebrate a Mass with the Indian priests at which priests of the diocese were invited.

The occasion offered an opportunity to give thanks and glory to God for the presence of the Indian priests in Altoona-Johnstown and for the Indian priests to become acquainted with diocesan and religious community priests already in ministry here.

It is no secret that the Diocese of Altoona-Johnstown is facing a shortage of priests, with most priests leading two or more parishes.

As the diocese looks to the future, with a good chunk of priests likely to retired in the coming years and no seminarians currently in formation, the arrival of the four Indian priests is surely a sign of hope.

The Very Reverend Alan Thomas, Vicar General for the Diocese Altoona-Johnstown feels optimistic about God’s plan.

“I have a lot of hope today that God is sending us four new priests who will not only address our immediate needs but that maybe despite what we do the Lord will have a way of announcing the Good news perhaps anew to people who desperately need to hear it,” noted Father Thomas in his homily at the April 16 Mass.

Watch Proclaim! TV on April 28 at 10:30 a.m. on WATM ABC 23 to hear from the new priests, as well as Theresa McKeegan of Mount Aloysius College, who is lovingly working with the priests as they continue enculturation. Meanwhile, the new priests extend the following greetings:

Father Savarimuthu Simon:
May the name of Jesus Christ be praised every moment. Hello dear brothers and sisters in Jesus Christ.  I am very happy to share a little bit about myself.  I belong to the order of Heralds of Good News, which has been a pontifical right since 1984.  I belong to the Divine Mercy province.  I have one brother and sister, both of whom got married and settled in India.  We lost my parents when I was three years old.  I had a dream to become a teacher but ended up joining the seminary to become a priest.  With God’s assistance I have become a priest, and He blessed me with lots of talents for and love of our faith. I have been a priest for eight years. I have worked as an assistant pastor in several different dioceses in India. Now I come to you in the Diocese of Altoona-Johnstown. I am very much looking forward to working here and building up Gods own Grace and his providence with you and the Catholic Church as a whole.  I am grateful to Bishop Mark, the vicar general and fellow priests of the diocese. I remain…. Fr. Simon

Father Michael Raj Arokiasamy:
Hi dear friends…this is Father Michael Raj (Fr. Michael HGN) belonging to the province of Divine Mercy in the order of Heralds of Good News the missionary Society which was founded in 1984 in India. We missionaries work all throughout the world having a specific purpose of sending zealous and hardworking priests wherever there is need. There are more than 450 priests in our order involved in various kinds of ministry in India and other parts of the world. I joined the seminary in 2005 to become a priest inspired by the missionaries to our place. I am the second one among three sons to my parents. I was born on the 23rd of September 1989 in a small village in Thennur, Tamilnadu. I was ordained in the year 2017 on April 29. I did my priestly ministry in various places and dioceses. I served as assistant pastor for nearly six years in different places where I met people of different cultures and languages. It is God’s plan that I have to come to the Diocese of Altoona Johnstown and to my ministry. By the grace of God I hope I can carry out my ministry and responsibility here in the diocese and be faithful to my ministry in serving God and His People. I thank Bishop Mark and all the priests over here in the diocese for inviting me to the diocese. I hope and pray that God who accompanied me and called me will also be with all my ministry and undertaking especially here in the diocese. Thank you all for your prayers and support… “By the Grace of God I can do all things ” New place… New culture… New challenges… He’ll lead me on… With prayers, Fr. Michael Raj Arokiasamy

Father Ashok Kumar Alphonse:
This is Father Ashok Kumar. I belong to the order of Heralds Good News. I come from a small village called Madampattu in India. The story of my vocation dates back to my childhood days where I longed to become a Catholic priest. I expressed my willingness to parents and then to my spiritual director Father Caroff who was a missionary priest in our diocese. After completing my schooling, I joined the seminary. I was ordained a priest on 12th May in 2016. In my eight years of priesthood I served in the provincial administration as secretary, a pastor in a mission parish and vocation promoter of our province. The constitution of Heralds of Good News enumerates the basic motto of our society as to to be sent wherever there is need. Thanks to my order I’m here to serve in the diocese. I’m looking forward to working here by the grace of God.

Father Joshi Presanth Narisetti:
I am Father Joshi Prasanth and belong to the order of Heralds of Good News of missionary Society of Apostolic Life. I come from Andhra Pradesh from India, from a traditional village where there are 15 priests and 17 religious nuns serving the Catholic Church. I felt the Call of Jesus in me from my childhood to become a priest. I was ordained on 25th April, 2018, in my hometown that is Patha Reddy Palem. I received my first appointment from my provincial as the Principal of St Paul School, Assam,  a mission place. I served as Principal for three years. My second appointment was to be as the Vice Rector of Spiritual Orientation Center, one of our own formation houses at Eluru. I felt so happy when my provincial proposed me to go the Diocese of Altoona Johnstown. As Jesus sent his Apostles to go to the different towns and proclaim His Message, I feel that I am sent by my superiors to serve the Altar of God in this Diocese. I do feel that The Lord God is with me throughout my ministry. I do hope and pray that The Holy Spirit continue to protect me and inspire me to carry out the ministry for which he called me. May God bless us all. –Fr Joshi Prasanth Narisetti