By Alice Huth-Derrah
The St. Elizabeth Seton Catholic community extends a warm and enthusiastic welcome to Father David Kulandaisamy, who comes to our parish from St. Gabriel Catholic Church in Cave Creek. Father David officially took up his duties on July 1 as St. Elizabeth’s Parish Administrator. Still in the process of meeting parishioners and familiarizing himself with his new surroundings, Father David’s quiet warmth and gentle sense of humor are sure to win the hearts of all.
An unwavering faith, built upon a rich historical and biblical knowledge of Catholicism within his own family and his home country of India, is immediately evident upon meeting Father David, and he is eager to share this. He explains that it was Thomas the Apostle, arriving in 52 A.D., who introduced Catholicism to India. Many in certain parts of India still refer to themselves as “St. Thomas Christians.” Father’s own family can trace their Catholic roots “back some 250 years” thanks to the presence of Jesuit priests who began arriving in India in the mid 1500’s. This included St. Xavier who evangelized and converted many to Christianity in early modern India. Father David, like these early evangelists, embraces the richness and beauty of teaching about and sharing the word of God, a devoutness that comes from a deep-rooted connection to his faith.
Arriving in America only eight years ago, Father David is a long way from where he was born and raised in Tamil Nadu, one of the large states located along the southeastern coastal area of India. Brought up on the family farm, Father smiles as he describes working alongside his parents tending to “sugar cane, small onions, various vegetables…and peanuts.” He lightly laughs and says, “It sounds big and it was only four to five acres.” The farm is still family-owned and operated today. Father David’s call to the priesthood seems to have always been at the core of who he was and would become. His parents believed he was truly “offered as a child of God.” Married in 1958, his mother and father hoped to start a family; however, as a few years passed without children, they prayed to be blessed with a child. Almost a year later, on May 19, Father was born to the delight of his parents. He would be one of nine children, three of which are still living. Sadly, most of his siblings died quite young, and one brother died in an automobile accident at the age of 30. Although his mom has passed away his 85-year-old father, along with the rest of his family, still resides in India.
Father David would be the first in his family to receive an education. He attended the Roman Catholic Mission School (RCM) where he also served as an altar boy and sacristan. All students studied five subjects including their “mother tongue”, and beginning in 3rd grade, English was added to the coursework. Father David remembers that he along with other school children “often studied at the church because we had no electricity in our homes.” In addition to being the answer to his parents’ prayers, the 3rd grade would serve as another important marker for Father’s calling to the religious life. His teachers called him “priest,” inspiring him so much that at the age of 16, Father David joined the seminary. Father was ordained on May 6, 1990, and recently celebrated 33 years in the priesthood.
During his free time, Father David enjoys games like basketball, volleyball, table tennis, and cricket, most of which he learned to play while a seminarian working with youth in India. He is also an avid reader, as evident by the many books on his desk. Father David is the inimitable life-long learner, committed to continuing to build a deep, personal connection with Christ and helping others find the same precious relationship.