AFTER spending the last five years in Shannon, Father Francis Xavier Kochuveettil is moving to Toomevara, where he has been appointed as co-parish priest, beginning there on August 26.
An Indian native, coming to Shannon was obviously a huge change, but he says he adapted quite quickly.
“The people are very friendly, very, very friendly. When I came here I had no idea about Ireland at all, I learned everything from Shannon.
“People supported me and encouraged me with everything. When I came here Tom Ryan was the parish priest, there was Canon Brendan and Father Arnold was the curate at that time, and we’ve had a good team here.
“People are lovely here and I always thank God for bringing me here. It’s such a nice place here.”
To the uninitiated, the accents in Clare are not the easiest to comprehend, and that was something he had to get used to.
“I can follow English, but the Irish-English is very fast, and I found it very hard to follow. But the people were very patient, I have nice memories of that,” he laughs.
Father Francis said that while he did settle very well in Shannon, he said he accepts that he is moving on.
“The people, the place, it’s like my second home now. When I visited India, and was coming back to Ireland, I didn’t feel that I was going somewhere foreign again. It’s a home from home, I was very settled in Shannon, I loved it. But this is a priest’s life, you move on to different places.”
He used to go out cycling during the pandemic, and while it was a strange time, he coped.
“I didn’t feel that alone, but when you’d be saying Mass it’d be in an empty church and that was very difficult. But I survived!”
Curate Father James Michael arrived in Shannon during the pandemic, and Father Francis said he was delighted to see him arriving.
“He came to my home and it was a blessing to have someone who spoke my language, someone that I knew from India, we were good friends from there. It was a blessing for me to have company in my home.”
He visited Toomevara recently and is hopeful he will enjoy his time there also.
“I was there and I had a little tour of the area, because I don’t know the place or the people. I had a little tour, saw the four churches in the parish, I met some people there.
“People are very good there, it’s a nice place and with God’s grace I hope I can give my priestly service there. It is a bit hard to move from here, but I believe this is the plan of God, we have to move from one place to another according to the plan of God.”
To mark Father Francis’ time in Shannon there will be a mass of Thanksgiving on Monday August 15, the Feast of the Assumption of Our Lady, at 7pm in SS John and Paul Church. It will be followed by a Parish reception at Wolfe Tones. All are welcome.
Owen Ryan has been a journalist with the Clare Champion since 2007, having previously worked for a number of other regional titles in Limerick, Galway and Cork.