Indian Catholic News

Cycle priest becomes popular in Rajkot village

Father Kanatt visits every Catholic family on all important occasions.

Carmelites of Mary Immaculate Father Vinod Kanatt, nicknamed “cycle priest," on his bicycle for a home visit in his Junagadh parish in Rajkot district. (Photo: Saji Thomas/
By Saji Thomas

On the rugged mud paths of villages and the tarred roads of Rajkot town, people often spot a Catholic priest rushing on his cycle.

After almost a decade’s work in Rajkot’s Junagadh parish, Father Vinod Kanatt is now nicknamed “cycle priest” in the diocese managed by the Carmelites of Mary Immaculate congregation.

“He always surprises us. I have never seen a priest cycling home to exchange birthday greetings,” said 65-year-old Tony Dias after welcoming the priest to his house in January. The priest came to wish Dias' daughter Flora Mascarenhas on her 40th birthday.

The 52-year-old priest offered a white envelope carrying a birthday card and greeted Flora Mascarenhas who has been mourning the death of her husband. He then prayed over the woman for the gift of her life, changing the melancholic atmosphere in the house.

Dias said the priest makes it a point to visit the house of every Catholic in his parish on their birthdays. “It is very hard to find such a priest, when priests hardly visit houses once a year under obligation,” Dias said.

“Father Kanatt visits every Catholic family on all important occasions… and the priest will be the first outside the family to know if anyone is sick. And, in some cases, he takes the sick to hospital and family members get to know of it only later,” Flora said.

When Flora’s husband Alex Mascarenhas, a school teacher, suffered a cardiac arrest the priest was informed. He helped rush Alex to hospital, where he died. “The priest stood with us until the burial like a family member,” Flora said.

Several parishioners like Ouseph V.O, a retired government employee, say their life is “centered around the parish as we have a pastor who is always with us for everything.”

The priest visits the elderly regularly “and do all the help they need including providing food, medicine, taking them to hospital or any other requirements they have,” Ouseph said.

Carmeline Josline Dias, an 83-year-old widow, says she lives alone and “whenever I need anything I call up Father Kanatt.”

“He takes me to hospital regularly for checkup and arranges for other help I need in time. He is just a ring away and that is my confidence,” she said.

Aspirancia D’Souza, a mother of two adult mentally retarded girls, says her family has “no one to bank on other than the priest.”

Her daughters need help “for everything” she said, adding she fell down and injured her spine, making the situation worse. “I have now stopped cooking, and live on food the priest arranged through parishioners,” she said.

“When no one is able to fetch the food, he brings it for us,” said husband John D’Souza, a retired government employee, who suffers from trauma.

Ouseph said parishioners share food in the parish at least twice a month “which helps build up the bond”.

The priest was first appointed to the parish in 2008 but was transferred after six years of service in 2014. However, he was re-appointed following the parishioners’ demand.

“Father Kanatt is an ideal for pastors in parishes,” said his Bishop Jose Chittooparambil of Rajkot.

“The priest is always available and ready to address the issues of the people,” the bishop added.

The prelate doubted most priests are unable to work with parishioners as Father Kanatt may be because they are involved in institutional work such as managing schools, hospitals.

Father Kanatt said he is not doing anything extraordinary. “What I do is precisely my duty as a priest,” said the priest, who quit a government job as principal in 2008 after 10-years’ service.

“That job did not give me the satisfaction that I have now,” he told adding: “I am convinced that the duty of a priest is not to run a school or any other institution.

“When we give generously, we too get generously that is what I am experiencing,” he said asserting that he never had any problem in finding funds to help the poor.


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