After years of prayers from parishioners for a new shepherd, Fr Joby Kadambattu Ittira MS has been installed as parish priest of St Anthony of Padua Parish, Toongabbie.
Fr Joby had been administrator of the parish since February 2019, after his predecessor Fr Jose Manjaly MS was appointed parish priest of St Nicholas of Myra Parish, Penrith.
On Saturday 28 September 2019, Bishop Vincent Long OFM Conv, Bishop of Parramatta was the principal celebrant for Mass alongside Fr Joby and former parish priest Fr Paul Marshall, now parish priest at Our Lady Queen of Peace Parish, Greystanes.
“It’s [a] very joyous [occasion], I’m happy about it. It’s also a beautiful parish,” Fr Joby told Catholic Outlook ahead of his installation.
“With my experience of the last six or seven months here, there’s wonderful people here and I think this will be a good community for me to live my priestly life.
“I’ve found that the people are very welcoming, people are really good, and I’ve never had a bad experience here in the last almost eight months, the people are always nice to me. They’ve made me feel at home,” he said.
Parish Pastoral Council chair Tony Jose told Catholic Outlook that Fr Joby “brings with him a very high level of dedication to the pastoral care of the parishioners of Toongabbie. As a person, he is caring, compassionate and understanding. In addition, he is very approachable and friendly, someone people will not be afraid to go to.
“The parishioners were very keen to get a parish priest for their parish,” Tony said.
During the installation, Bishop Vincent said that he was honoured to be with the parishioners during the celebration and wished Fr Joby well in his new appointment.
Fr Joby was born in the Kerala region of southern India in 1980 and is the eldest of three. He was ordained in his home parish in Kerala as a member of the Missionaries of Our Lady of La Salette on 5 January 2008.
After serving as an assistant priest at a parish in Trivandrum, Kerala, and a few years with his La Salette congregation as the assistant rector of their minor seminary and Provincial Secretary, Fr Joby came to Australia in May 2013.
Fr Joby spent a few weeks serving at St Nicholas of Myra Parish, as well as St Patrick’s Cathedral Parish, Parramatta, before his appointment in August 2013 as assistant priest at Our Lady of the Angels Parish, Rouse Hill for one-and-a-half years, and spent four years as assistant priest at St Andrew the Apostle Parish, Marayong.
“It will be very special for the community to have Fr Joby installed for two reasons. Fr Joby’s roots goes back to India (Kerala) and [is] therefore a good blend with the changing demography [of the area]. The second reason being that the parish can now operate as normal and carry on with its mission works and the much awaited upgrade of the church and its facilities,” Tony said.
Fr Joby explained, “[I hope to bring] good faith formation [to the parish]. I’m a person who loves to support and lead a community. I would love to see that the parish grow together as a community, so I hope [to put] a stress on community, and I’d like [the parish] to be more inclusive, make people feel that they are part of the community, despite where they come from or what they are.
“Toongabbie is a multicultural and diverse community, so I would love and hope that all [people] feel that they are part of the parish, and to make it [the parish] more participatory and alive, they become more involved in the parish,” he said.
“In this occasion of installation of Fr Joby, I wish him, from the bottom of my heart, a great vocation in the Parish of St Anthony of Padua, Toongabbie, that he excels in becoming the ‘pastor for all’ [and] be the tireless servant of God in supporting the faithful of the parish,” Tony said.
“I’d like to thank the Diocese [of Parramatta] for placing their trust in me, because they have appointed me as parish priest, and also all the support to me over my six years in Australia. Also the people of Toongabbie for making me feel at home, and my La Salette community who always support me wherever I am,” Fr Joby said.
“I think it’s going to be a good run for all of us,” he laughed.
Following Mass, a light supper was held in celebration of Fr Joby’s appointment.