Despite having recently made a journey of over 8000 miles, Fr. Raja Yeruva, Fr. Joseph Puli, Fr. Bala Narisetty, and Fr. William Polanki all conduct themselves in a manner that is both cheerful and warm. All four priests hail from the Diocese of Guntur, India. Throughout the coming months and years, they will act primarily as parish priests, saying Mass, conducting the Sacraments, and serving the people of the Diocese of Gallup.
They are here under the direction of their home Bishop, The Most Reverend Gali Bali, and are now ready to work under the direction of Bishop Wall.
Even with the new climate, people and culture of the desert southwest surrounding them, they were delighted to sit down for an interview by way of introduction to their new home.
For the most part, each priest knew a relative or colleague who had traveled or worked overseas, and knew they wanted to serve outside of their home diocese.
“Our Church is universal, and I was excited to try a different experience,” said Rev. Polanki. “I wanted to work elsewhere, and so my bishop sent me here.”
Fr. Narisetty cited the influence of his brother. “I’d been to Canada before – my elder brother was there. And so I knew I wanted to serve in North America.”
All four priests commented on the differences between the Gallup Diocese and India, but remained unfazed and eager to meet their new parishioners.
“At home, we have had the Faith for hundreds of years,” said Fr. Narisetty. “Many people think the British brought it, but it was Thomas the Apostle, in the first century after Christ, who first came here with it.”He noted the cultural influence of Catholicism in other facets of Indian life.
“There are Hindus who have a lot of religious devotion to Mary. India is a religious country, so they appreciate religion.”
Fr. Polanki spoke about his first impressions of the Southwest.
“Everything is different. Here there is less population, and over there we have many more people,” said Fr. Polanki. “But I have come here with much courage. As priests, we have the priesthood, which is a gift from God, and I would like to be a blessing for the people – I want always to be approachable to them.”
“We are eagerly waiting to be exposed to the culture,” said Fr. Narisetty. “First we want to observe, and then figure out where we can fit in. The people here are good. The Bishop and priests provide for us. We don’t feel far away, we feel right at home.”