Joe McWilliams
Lakeside Leader

We haven’t necessarily been keeping score, but Father John M. Joseph seems to be the third pastor of Slave Lake’s St. Peter Celestin Catholic Church from the Indian state of Kerala. He arrived last month, replacing his colleague Father Ephrem, who is also from Kerala.

So far, so good for the new priest, who is a 28-year veteran of the profession.

“So far I feel it is very good,” he says. “I hope that I can cope without difficulty.”

There is a bit of difficulty, he admits, in understanding some of his parishioners when they speak quickly. Some of them will likely also struggle with his particular style of South Indian pronunciation.

“It will take some time,” he says. “They will slowly come to know who I am.”

Asked for his impressions of Slave Lake so far, Fr. John says one thing that stands out is how people seem very busy and minding their own business.

“Very quiet and calm,” he says, of his early impressions of the community. In India, where he is from, it is very noisy from first light every day, he says. Slave Lake is quite serene by comparison.

Born and raised in the city of Kottayam, Fr. John is part of the fairly large Christian minority of that state. He’s also part of a large extended family group with the name Manjamattathil, which is what the ‘M’ in his name stands for, between the ‘John’ and the ‘Joseph.’

Most of Fr. John’s service as a priest has been in Kerala, but he did spend two years in the Archdiocese of Chicago, plus a few months in Mexico, where he says he tried to learn Spanish.

How he found out about the position in Slave Lake was – not surprisingly – through Fr. Ephrem, who was returning home after several years at St. Peter’s.

“I was asked,” he says.

Father John M. Joseph