In his typically quiet and reserved manner, Fr Jolly Chacko MS softly recounts his childhood growing up in a devoutly Catholic family from Kerala, India. The son of a farmer and his wife, and one of seven children, they “would pray the daily rosary and evening prayers”.
His large family, whom he describes as “very Catholic and involved in parish life” were happy when he told them he wanted to be a priest. “I come from a very religious family who were active in parish life. We were part of the parish community.”
“God was calling me,” Fr Jolly continued. “I wanted to be a follower of Christ, to serve God’s people and be at the service of the Lord.”
Born into the Syro-Malabar Rite, Fr Jolly entered the La Salette seminary in India at the age of 23 after studying at university. He attained a double masters degree in psychology as well as in political science. He has also undertaken courses in spiritual direction as well as pastoral care.
He would eventually study and work in India, France and the Philippines where he was ordained in the Latin Rite.
“I felt called to be a missionary. Being a missionary helps me to serve the people through the ministry, through talks, through advice, through spiritual help,” Fr Jolly said.
After ministering for a number of years with the La Salette community as Novice Master, Director of Scholastics, in parish ministry and as Vicar Provincial he was invited like other MS priests to work in the Diocese of Parramatta by the then Bishop of Parramatta, Kevin Manning.
Since arriving in Australia, he has been assistant priest at Marayong and Penrith parishes and has recently completed his first year as parish priest at Saint Finbar’s Parish, Glenbrook. In addition, Fr Jolly assists with the formation of deacons and the permanent diaconate.
“As a Missionary of Our Lady of La Salette, I enjoy my mission to the Diocese. I am happy as a priest, happy with my ministry, happy being a religious,” Fr Jolly said.
Far from his humble origins living on a farm in India, Fr Jolly provides spiritual and pastoral support to the parishioners at Glenbrook parish, nestled in the Blue Mountains.
A polyglot, speaking four languages (English, Malayalam, Tagalog and French), Fr Jolly is mindful of his role as a missionary and a parish priest. “I am here for people, especially in the most vulnerable times in their lives,” Fr Jolly said.
“People have different needs, I do more home visits in Glenbrook to address the needs of an ageing population. However, I am more than happy to see more and more young families getting involved in the parish.”
Fr Jolly describes his parish as a “very welcoming community, friendly people”.
“The parishioners are very cooperative of the parish needs. They are a friendly people, a welcoming parish and also, a well-educated parish.”
Fr Jolly sees the Missionaries of La Salette as playing an important role in the Diocese. “Our mission is a mission of reconciliation. It is not only about sitting in a confessional box but reaching out to people, reconciling families and reconciling lives.”
“This is an important element in the Year of Mercy – living a reconciled life.
In his unassuming manner, Fr Jolly explained how he sees the work of Christ. “It is important we all give the gift of forgiveness. We all make mistakes. It is important to forgive as mercy is a gift you give and a gift you receive.”