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Faith & Family: Father Joe enjoys small-town life

Jay Sowers / The Natchez Democrat — Father Joseph Xavier was recently named the pastor at Our Lady of Lourdes in Vidalia.
Jay Sowers / The Natchez Democrat — Father Joseph Xavier was recently named the pastor at Our Lady of Lourdes in Vidalia.

VIDALIA — Joseph Xavier is slowly learning the names and faces of each member of Our Lady of Lourdes Church.

It may not seem like much to most, but Xavier’s ability to connect with each church member is the reason he chose to serve in Louisiana and not New York or California.

“People are more loving and caring here and it’s not just, ‘Hi and bye,’ all the time,” said Xavier, who was named pastor of Our Lady of Lourdes last month. “Here, I can know everyone’s names, get closer to them and relate to them as much as possible because it is a smaller number of people than in a big city.”

Before coming to Vidalia, Xavier served as an interim priest in Houma and Thibodaux and also served as a priest in Bunkie for a year.

Xavier was ordained in his hometown of Tamilnadu, India.

Xavier, or “Father Joe” as he prefers to be called, first came to the United States to help a friend who was pastor at a church in Galliano, La.

“I came to help him and realized there was a need for priests in this area, so I decided to spend some time here,” Xavier said. “There are not a lot of native priests for the parishes here, so they need help sometimes.”

Xavier said his immediate plans for the church will be focused on spiritual work and reaching out to different members of the community.

“We have several elderly and homebound church members that I would like to visit more frequently,” Xavier said. “Even if it’s just visiting them or giving them sacraments, that is something I’d like to do more of.”

Xavier said he is adjusting well to life in Vidalia and the South in general.

“The language and new culture was a bit of a shock at first,” he said. “I learned English at a young age, but it was more British English than what is spoken here.

“Everyone has been very understanding and said I’m doing fine.”

Our Lady of Lourdes, which is located at 503 Texas St., was established in 1887. Xavier replaces Father George Pookkattu, who was transferred to Campti, La.

Mass is celebrated at the church at 4 p.m. Saturday and 9:30 a.m. Sunday.