Kanickaisamy Lawrence was barely nine-years-old when he developed an interest in becoming a priest.
It was the early 1990s, and he was just a grade four student at St. Paul’s Higher Secondary School in Salem, a city located in the south Indian state of Tamil Nadu.
Every Saturday, Michael Bosco Duraisamy, who was the bishop of the Roman Catholic Diocese of Salem at the time, would spend half an hour with Lawrence and his peers at the school, giving them treats and entertaining them with stories.
What left a lasting impression on Lawrence was the way that Duraisamy encouraged him and his peers to treat one another as brothers and sisters.
“Though I wasn’t aware at the time, some kind of inspiration was within me. To not be exactly like him, but the way he approached the people, young kids like us,” said Lawrence. “I wanted to be like that. I was inspired by him. Let me become a priest. Let us see what the life is.”
Born in 1982, Lawrence grew up on a farm in the hamlet of Kembathpalli in Tamil Nadu, the second-youngest of seven children. He also wouldn’t be the first priest in his family — his uncle was a priest before him, as well as the principal of St. Paul’s Higher Secondary School.
“I was an altar boy from grade four onwards. As I was doing grade four, I was part of a choir,” said Lawrence. “Slowly, I tried to re-expand myself with church activities. Conducting prayers, singing songs, stuff like that.”
He remained at the school until grade five, following his uncle after he was transferred to St. Anthony’s Higher Secondary School, located in the neighbouring village of Elathagiri.
While at his new school, Lawrence continued to get more involved in the church. He was still an altar boy in grade eight, and by the time he entered high school, he had already made up his mind to pursue the priesthood.
In 2001, after completing high school, he entered the priestly formation, marking the beginning of a 13-year journey to priesthood.
He enrolled at the Kalai Kaviri College of Fine Arts in 2002 in Tiruchirappalli, India, where he completed his bachelor of fine arts in 2005. Shortly after, he spent a year in the outskirts of Tamil Nadu’s capital city of Chennai, completing his year of spirituality.
“It’s meant to be by myself, by ourselves, with the Lord. We call it in Latin ‘ora et labora,’”, he said. “That means prayer and work. No communication from outside. No calls to the family. Whatever happens, you should not go anywhere.”
It was here where he spent his time developing his understanding of God, not only through prayer but by also reading and studying the Bible.
He completed his master’s in philosophy in 2008 at the Loyola College in Chennai, before going back to Tiruchirappalli to spend a year doing fieldwork.
“I can confidently say that all the religions speak about love. We have our own understanding, we try to follow a different way, but God is the same,” he said.
In the fall of 2009, Lawrence was a student of theology at St. Peter’s Pontifical Institute in Bangalore, India. He would spend the next four years deepening his connection with God and learning about the Old and New Testaments amongst other priests and nuns.
By the end of 2013, Lawrence had finally entered his first step into priesthood: he was a deacon at a school in the city of Nagercoil in Tamil Nadu, where he spent a year teaching history, general math and yoga.
It was in May 2014 when Lawrence was ordained as a priest. By June 2014, he was a co-pastor at the Archdiocese of Madurai. In 2017, the opportunity to work abroad was presented.
“It was my turn to go and serve as a missionary in a different country. They asked me if I wanted to come to Canada. I never thought I would end up here,” he said.
In November 2017, he saw snow for the first time when he arrived in Kelowna to work as a pastor at St. Edwards Catholic Church in Lake Country. He would also become one of the school chaplains at Kelowna’s Immaculata High School for the 2018-19 academic year.
“When I came here, I thought people would understand me. But I figured it out now: my accent was poor and I needed to improve,” he said. “I had to be slow in my expressions and ask for help. I started asking, and people were so kind there.”
In July 2019, he was assigned to work as the pastor at Creston’s Holy Cross Catholic Church.
“It’s so beautiful. I enjoy every minute of my life here. People are so kind,” he said.
Nearly six years after being ordained as a priest, he said that his focus is continuing to improve his relationship with the community.
“With God, no one knows my relationship with God except for me. My faith should be practically lived every day,” he said. “I love my brothers and my sisters. I love my God. But the love of God should be shown in the love for my neighbours. My life is giving the Lord to others.”
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