CHARLESTON — St. Patrick became the site of bittersweet farewells Oct. 2 as parishioners and friends of Father Peter Kulandai met to say goodbye.
For four years Father Kulandai has ministered to both St. Patrick and Our Lady of Mercy parishioners and has served as chaplain for the Knights of Columbus Council 8900. Father James Parker, pastor of Holy Spirit on Johns Island, delivered the farewell homily, thanking Father Kulandai for his work.
“This parish is what it is because of Peter,” he said. “We really hate to see him go — our brother priest, pastor, teacher, friend. He really has become a part of our lives.”
Father Kulandai came to Charleston after ministering in upstate New York. During his 12 years in the United States he has lost both his father and sister. He hopes to spend the rest of his years in his home country of India.
“People are asking why I am leaving and the answer is simply that as you age you begin to long for the dear ones in your life such as family and friends,” he said. “In 12 years you miss many family functions. I feel that my time has come to return.”
Father Kulandai tearfully thanked the friends who attended his farewell Mass, including the Sisters of Charity of Our Lady of Mercy, the Knights of Peter Claver, the Knights of Columbus, Father Parker, and Father Jeffrey Kendall, pastor of Sacred Heart.
“I’m glad I gained a lot of experience and friendship,” he said. “I am glad that I unknowingly cultivated so many friendships over the years and I am happy that you are all here today.”
He thanked Father Parker for his kind words and thanked Father Kendall for exhibiting the qualities of a true friend and neighbor. He thanked Msgr. Joseph Roth, pastor of the Cathedral of St. John the Baptist, for helping him to feel supported and comfortable in a strange land.
“I have had very good time here for the past four years,” he said. “I have developed spiritually and have tried to preach what I practice, which helped me to grow. Friendships have come to mean a lot to me when I had no family here to lean on.”
Father Kulandai promised that his prayers would remain with his parishes and his friends long after his return to the Archdiocese of Madurai. He left for India Oct. 12 and will serve as director of the diocesan pastoral center.
The two parishes hosted a reception following the Mass. All of the organizations within the churches thanked their pastor for his assistance and support through the years. The Knights of Columbus and the two parishes presented Father Kulandai with monetary gifts.
“Father Kulandai is such a humble person and I appreciate his fidelity to the Word,” said Sister Maryjane Golden, SSMN, director of religious education. “He was always willing to step aside for other people. When my father died I was touched with Father Peter’s compassion during that difficult time.”
Father Kulandai told those attending, “Thank you all — every one of you. You’ve helped me, touched me, made my life easier. I just ask for your prayers as I return to my diocese.”
He can be contacted in India at email@example.com or by writing to: Rev. S. Peter Kulandai, Director, Nobili Pastoral Centre, K. PUDUR, MADURAI 625 007, INDIA.