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Continuing the missionary reach of St. John Seminary


Father Valanarasu Newton-Williamraj (left) and Father Alwin J. Chinnappan (right) were ordained for their home diocese of Kumbakonam at Holy Cross Cathedral on May 22, 2021. Pilot photo/Gregory L. Tracy

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With the May 22 ordination of eight priests at the Cathedral of the Holy Cross, the clergy of the archdiocese added six new priests to its rolls. There were also two priests ordained by Cardinal O'Malley in that ceremony who both are sons of the Diocese of Kumbakonam in India. The Indian diocese is located in the southeastern area of the subcontinent in the state of Tamil Nadu.

Both Fathers Alwin J. Chinnappan and Valanarasu Newton-Williamraj completed their seminary formation at St. John's Seminary, Brighton. They will both be serving for several years in parishes of the archdiocese before returning to their home diocese in India.

In the history of St. John Seminary, there have been years when the seminary educated only seminarians for the Boston Archdiocese. In other years, when we had more future priests than we could use in the archdiocese, some Boston seminarians were formed to serve in other dioceses, especially in the Midwestern states, such as South Dakota and Wisconsin, and even further on the Pacific coast, in Washington state.

In the 1950s and 1960s, seminarians came from other nations, including the Philippines and Jamaica, to prepare for priestly ministry in their homelands. In those years, there was a smattering of men from other dioceses, initially only New England, and then from other states, including a few from dioceses in Louisiana, New York, and Pennsylvania.

Recently, there have been students at St. John's from dioceses in China and Vietnam, and now India is added to that list.

With the ordination of Fathers Chinnappan and Newton-Williamraj, a tradition continues with the added dimension that these priests are what we call in "Bostoneese" -- lend-lease. Usually, that happens when the archdiocese lends a priest temporarily for service elsewhere; a common example of this is when a Boston priest is on duty with one or the other branches of the military services and is "lent" to the Archdiocese of the Military Services.

So, in the cases of Fathers Chinnappan and Newton-Williamraj we have lend-lease priests from another diocese now serving in our parishes following their formation in our seminary.

During his diaconal year, Father Chinnappan served at St. Michael the Archangel Parish, Winthrop, and he celebrated a Mass of Thanksgiving there on May 23, 2021, at noon. The pastor of the parish, Father Christopher O'Connor, served as the homilist. Father Chinnappan will be serving his first assignment as parochial vicar at St. Agnes Parish and at St. Camillus de Lellis Parish, both in Arlington.

Father Newton-Williamraj has been serving as a deacon at St. Ambrose and St. Mark Parishes in Dorchester. He celebrated a Mass of Thanksgiving at St. Mark on May 23, 2021. Father Newton-Williamraj's first priestly assignment will be as parochial vicar at St. Francis of Assisi Parish and St. Clare Parish, both in Braintree.

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