By Miss Julia St. Clair, Province Communications Director
(New Rochelle, NY – June 6) – Later this month, Fr. Thomas Pallithanam, who has served as the Salesian Representative at the United Nations (U.N.) for nearly five years, will head back to his home province in India.
Fr. Thomas first arrived in the SUE Province in October 2018. During his time here as the Salesian Representative at the U.N., Fr. Thomas has strengthened our Salesian presence at the U.N. and opened several doors for us. He has worked diligently and passionately to have the Salesians be present at the U.N. in Geneva, Vienna, and various other centers.
"Our work has to be from the bottom-up to connect our work in New York with the work that we Salesians do in the countries we are present," Fr. Thomas shared. “Policies are like weapons for civilians to demand accountability from the government. Through advocacy, we have our work go back to our 'foot soldiers,' which are the civilians."
Fr. Thomas will leave for a wedding in Dallas, TX, on Wednesday, June 14. Then, on Monday, June 19, he’ll journey to Italy to introduce his successor, Fr. Mathew Thomas Panamkattu, to the youth council dicastery in Valdocco. Afterward, Fathers Thomas and Mathew will head over to the U.N. headquarters in Geneva. Fr. Mathew will stay for a few days and return to New Rochelle on Monday, July 3, while Fr. Thomas will return to India.
Upon his return to India, Fr. Thomas will serve as an assistant parish priest. He’ll also share his experience in advocacy with young confreres and become involved in next year’s national General Election.
"There has been a lot of change in the government, and the political party in power wants to transform India into a Hindu, theocratic nation," Fr. Thomas explained. "During the inauguration of the new Parliament, only Hindu priests, who were seated separated by their caste, were present, and symbols of monarchy and totalitarian governments were used."
Upon his return to India, Fr. Thomas would like to be active in the Don't Break Your Promise Network. This is the largest civil society coalition in India, and it holds the government accountable. Fr. Thomas hopes to combine his short-term agenda to help Indian democracy with his long-term goal to prepare for the coming of the Kingdom.
"I believe the coming of the Kingdom is the coming of peace and justice," Fr. Thomas exclaimed. "For Salesians in India, our Achilles’ heel is our institutions, and we want to safeguard them. If we unite and get involved as a responsible, civil society, there is something we can do. We can prepare for the coming of the Kingdom as people become willing to stand up for justice and truth."
Today, the Salesians are present in 133 countries. Fr. Thomas would love to empower young Salesians to use global U.N. policies to cultivate peace. "We always say that we should make people, 'Good Christians and honest citizens,' but that’s not enough," he implored. "Let’s have them be 'Good Christians and responsible citizens.' Responsibility goes beyond being honest—and we have a responsibility to question if something is failing. Human rights advocates defend not their rights, but the lives of others. And we can use our advocacy to make our communities and societies better."
Fr. Thomas also encourages young people to examine their beliefs. "Although it’s common for people to stand up and say, 'I believe,' it’s important to ask ourselves, 'What do I really believe in?'" Fr. Thomas implored "Let’s challenge young people to say what it is that they truly believe."
The entire SUE Province, especially the New Rochelle community, remains truly grateful to Fr. Thomas for his incredible worth in strengthening the Salesian presence at the U.N. He is truly appreciated and will be deeply missed. We all wish him well and pray for him in his upcoming endeavors!