BY PETER FEUERHERDRev. Joseph X. Arockiasamy - the last name is Sanskrit for "God of Good Health" - has been pastor of Sacred Heart Church in Stamford for five years. A native of Tamilnadu, India, Father Arockiasamy was ordained in India in 1985. He previously served as an associate pastor at St. Mary's, Glens Falls, and St. Joseph's, Fort Edward.
When did you know you wanted to be a priest?
I had interest ever since I was small. My family read our diocesan magazine, like The Evangelist. The magazine advertised for vocations. My cousins are priests and nuns. Whenever they came to visit for summer vacation, they had on their long white robes. My cousins who are nuns were in habits. They prayed. They were respected. Their life attracted me.
Who else was your inspiration when you were growing up?
My pastor. He was a simple man who was very prayerful and helpful. My grandmother took me to church every day at 5 a.m. We would be the first ones there when they opened the church door. The priest asked me to be an altar server. I was asked to conduct prayer services.
That's how I grew up in my early childhood, before I even entered high school. There were four boys and three girls in our family. We prayed together as a family for vocations. My sister is a nun, as well.
Were your expectations met?
Yes. I still want to be a good priest. I cannot tell that I am good; only the Lord knows. I am constantly trying to reach out to people. I am a people-oriented person.
Did you experience culture shock after coming to upstate New York?
I studied in the Philippines; there, I had culture shock. Here, it was different. But it wasn't a shock to me. There is a different way of understanding people. Everything here is done very neatly. Punctuality is important. If you have to be here at 10 o'clock, you have to be here at 10 o'clock.
Was the weather a shock?
The first time I was in Glens Falls, I saw 28 inches of snow on the ground. It was like a mountain. I was walking inside tunnels. But it wasn't the first time I saw snow. I had been to the mountains in Italy.
Anything you would have done differently in your priesthood?
I should have done a lot more things in India when I was an associate pastor and youth coordinator. I should have been more approachable to the people and taught more things, such as more Scripture classes. I should have organized the young people. Here we have a pastoral council, a finance council. In India we didn't have that.
What's been the hardest part of priesthood?
When you don't get support from the deacons or fellow priests. Where will I go? Who will understand me? Sometimes there is loneliness. But with my prayer life and with the help of people, I have been able to overcome it.
Do you miss India?
I cook Indian food. I invite people over. But sometimes I do miss my brothers and sisters, especially when my mother is sick. Every day, I talk to my sisters and brothers.
What's the best part of priesthood?
I am able to offer the Eucharist. I can offer Mass for my deceased father. He'll be very happy. I also offer Mass for my deceased brother. When we have a family reunion, I offer Mass. They are so happy. I am so privileged.
What sacrament gives you the greatest peace?
The Eucharist. When I have a problem, I go to the Blessed Sacrament. I also like anointing sick people. I feel I am giving them comfort, happiness, joy and peace. When I prepare them for death, it gives me a great feeling when they die peacefully.
What do you want others to know about the life of a priest?
The priest's life is a vocation. It's not an ordinary life. But it's a life for a particular purpose: to evangelize, to be with the Lord and with the people. We are called for a purpose, to preach and witness. We are human beings like other people. We also struggle. But we also have joy and happiness.
Music: Classic Indian
Movies: "Gandhi," "Romero"
Television: The Weather Channel, CNN, Fox News
Recreation: soccer, badminton, volleyball, walking, running, gardening
Foods: fish, chicken curry, venison