The Holy Father, Pope Francis once quoted a line from the Roman poet, Ovid: “Tacitu pede lapsa vetustas [with silent steps, old age slips up on one] It is a blow! But also, when one thinks of it as a stage of life that is to give joy, wisdom, hope, one begins to live again. It was with the same spirit that the Church of St. Joseph organised a birthday celebration for the gift of life of a person who dedicated his life to serving the community at large.
An extraordinary liturgical celebration was held on the 23 January 2023, as a Thanksgiving to God for the life of our beloved Msgr. James Gnanapiragasam who celebrated his 80th birthday. This memorable occasion was graced by Archbishop Julian Leow and Archbishop Emeritus Murphy Pakiam, Monsignor Stanislaus Soosamariam together with 32 priests, 13 seminarians and 2 IJ nuns. The Thanksgiving Mass was celebrated by Msgr. James himself. Hundreds of parishioners, friends, family members and relatives of monsignor from other parishes participated in the mass which began at 5.30 pm.
Soon after the Mass, there was refreshment served and a spectacular fireworks display took place in front of the Parochial House to kickstart the program followed by the traditional Lion Dance that led all the guests toward the dinner venue.
A variety of lively and exciting performances were staged by local talents of St. Joseph and from different communities such as Pakistan, Myanmar, Sri Lanka not to mention the solo, dynamic duo and group performances who rendered songs and dances. The band intensified the ambiance with various music genres of the 80s and 90s and the beaming laser light show.
A surprised montage was played to highlight Msgr. James’ journey toward his priesthood and birthday wishes from various ministries of the church.
Archbishop Julian personally extended his birthday wishes to Msgr. James and blessed the food. It was followed by a sumptuous 10-course dinner. More than 800 people attended the occasion and enjoyed the auspicious event.
In the midst of the dinner, Msgr. was called on stage together with his siblings and Fr. Frederick for the cutting of the cake. The dazzling fireworks were displayed while the crowd was singing the birthday song for Msgr. Monsignor then delivered his birthday message and thanked one and all for making his birthday celebration a memorable one.
It was indeed a well-deserved celebration for his 80th birthday. Thanks to Rev. Fr. Frederick Joseph for initiating the whole celebration and to the entire working committee and volunteers who worked tirelessly to make the event a successful, joyful and a story to be unfolded in years to come. The greatest form of gift to a person is the gift of gratitude. May we always embrace the clergy and pray earnestly that they continue to build the Kingdom of God with great love in their hearts.
By Mary Jane Buniel