//Visiting priest kicks goals for families, youth

Visiting priest kicks goals for families, youth

By LEON OBERG, Friday, 24 February 2006

A FORMER Indian soccer star/coach has joined the staff at Goulburn Mary Queen of the Apostles Catholic parish.

Father Francise Kolencherry who represents the Syro-Malabar Catholic Church, arrived in Goulburn a week ago as an assistant priest.

In addition, his job will be to "look after the spiritual needs" of Syro-Malabar church members living and working within the Archdiocese of Canberra-Goulburn.

Used to working with tens of thousands of under privileged people at a time in his homeland, India, Fr Francise agreed Australia was something of a culture shock.

Born and educated in India’s south and ordained in December 1980 after being "head-hunted" on the soccer field, Fr Francise undertook further studies in spirituality in Canada and organisational management in Holland.

He also undertook Indian studies in people management, specifically in respect to improving their quality of life.

With all of those credentials, Fr Francise spent 16 years working as the director of Catholic charities in India.

During that time he constructed 100,000 homes for the homeless, introduced toilets into homes that did not have them, established education programs for children of the poor and developed self-generating employment programs for some 60,000 out of work adults.

At the same time he oversaw the establishment and developed of 2200 individual people’s organisations, each one consisting of 200 members, and introduced a credit union to further help them.

Fr Francise also found the time to be the secretary director for the India’s nation-wide ‘Save a Family Plan’ which saw Canadian families sponsor the poorest Indian families in a bid to improve their standard of living.

During his time, 25,000 Canadian families had signed up for the program.

Another of his successes was the role he played as founding president of an ambitious plan to reorganise orphanages in his home state of Kerala.

"We had 798 separate orphanages containing some 44,000 children belonging to the poorest of the poor and we felt we could improve their rights if we could bring them together beneath a single umbrella," Fr Francise said.

Because he sat on the government board that determined the bringing together of those orphanages, vast improvements resulted for the children in respect to food, clothing and their education.

Fr Francise’s appointment to Canberra-Goulburn followed a four-year stint working in the USA in pastoral ministry.

"My spiritual role with Syro-Malabar Catholic Church followers within this Arch-Diocese will be part time, but already I have made contact with 25 individual families that follow this arm of the Catholic Church which dates back to 52AD – then established as St Thomas Christians," he said.

Fr Francise expected to spend most of his time in the Goulburn parish working at both the Fatima church and the old SS Peter and Paul’s cathedral.

He said one of his aspirations would be to "bring inspiration" to Goulburn youth.