Orlem….a significant event of my life

Looking back at this beautiful chapter

arun simon
5 min readJun 18, 2024

2 years of my life (July 2022 to May 2024) was spent in this vibrant parish. It’s more than 15 days since I left the place, and probably a good time to look back at my life there. (I will avoid using names throughout this article).

  1. It was a privilege for me, a Jesuit, to serve in this extremely active, vibrant diocesan parish of Orlem. Extreme gratefulness to all who made it possible to be there; more grateful to those who made it a home for me.
  2. Made super exceptional friends (no names, but some very close ones). Having a network who loves you, supports you and is extremely committed in their own ministries is a real privilege. Been able to work with two exceptional, different parish priests and a super parish team is another privilege.
  3. What impressed me the most is the vibrancy and faith in the place. People are gentle; many of them are well formed in different aspects of life (professionally and spiritually). They are willing to contribute to the church and the larger society in different ways. One of the beautiful experiences of this talent was seen in the three hours agony, I could conduct (idea suggested and supported by the parish priest) with 10 lay people. I know there are so many others who could have contributed too. Those different perspectives, experiences and opinions were given a platform to be spoken and heard and it was much appreciated by the people.

4. The working with youth was my primary responsibility. My only dream in working with them was this quote I found in the initial days, and I think I could fulfil the quote atleast a little in my stay there. I am sure the ministry will grow and the youth has a lot of potential and they are already contributing in so many ways in the parish and the society.

5. Working with Lourdes Sports committee was always pleasant. I loved sports and they loved it too. They are good in organizing events too. One of my greatest insights in organizing huge events (same applies to the Youth Week too) was the experience of natural human tendency to look at 2 things that went wrong (they are significant mistakes, but) and forget the 98 things that were excellent (they are very significant too). I am not for overlooking the mistakes, but lets not overlook the goodness, and wonderful aspects that happened through these events; lets not forget the hard work, success and fruitfulness of these events. This leads to joy and gratitude, and surely we can correct the mistakes for he next time.

6. There are many small associations in the parish; they are small, but they make significant and crucial contributions to the life of the parish. Can a group of 10 to 15 people do something constantly in such a huge parish of 20k people? Associations like Divine Mercy and Library group shows that they can ; and they are doing it for years.

7. My French experience has already moved me into ecological thinking, and the parish eco cell works with such dedication in helping the environment. Many of them (surely those not in groups too) take decisions in their personal lives based on their ecological commitments too. Some earn their living through that. Yes, small, yet significant attempts towards sustainable living.

8. I should appreciate the choirs too. They are definitely brilliant, and I don’t have any musical ears (or call it sense) to critique them. But they all tolerated me (some even encouraged) and my singing; surely I didn’t sing much, but I sang doxology (through him and with him and in him…). I knew it was difficult to give a proper Amen response at times, but they innovated. And for one of my last masses, one choir even sang offertory hymn Blessed are you Lord. Even with the handicap in music, somehow I find it easy to sing that and I love it.

9. And probably the beauty of Orlem, especially for a young priest, is the feedback we receive. Many have appreciated or critically given suggestions, not on singing but on the homilies, and it was very significant in the journey. Occasionally youth has given feedback on homilies and surely it makes your day.

10. I should share one of my initial experiences in Orlem. It was a little sad one at that time, but I laugh at it now. After returning from France, I came just to meet the parish priest before going for a home visit and before starting my stay in the parish. I thought I will pay a visit to the blessed sacrament in the beginning. By mistake or carelessness, I forgot to remove my footwear. I was standing near the door. (I can justify myself saying that for three years in France, we never removed footwear in entering the church or chapel). Someone was so offended and he gave me a 2 line sermon on the sanctity of the place. Thankfully I don’t remember the person and he too would have forgotten that event. But I thought, what a welcome….Thankfully this was a one off event.

11. It’s not a perfect place, but it’s happy place. It’s home. It is because of the hard work, commitment, authenticity and witness of generations of parishioners along with the team of priests and sisters. It reflects Jesus and his mission to a certain extent. Its also privileged to have three religious congregations of sisters working with them, and a few of them being intimately associated with the parish for a few decades.

There is always a place in my heart for you Orlem. Thank you.

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arun simon

A Jesuit with all the crazyness… Loves Jesus…Loves church, but loves to challenge too… Loves post modern philosophy & Gilles Deleuze.. Loves deep conversations…