Indian priest finds warm (and cold) welcome in southwest Kansas
By David Myers
Southwest Kansas Register
Not long after a baby boy was born in the town of Uppaladadia in the southern tip of India -- a stone’s throw from the Bay of Bengal Sea – the infant’s parents took him to a priest.
The baby had contracted typhoid fever and despite the doctor’s efforts, was at the point of death; the priest blessed the baby, baptized him, and told his parents, “This boy will one day serve God.”
“With his blessing, I was cured,” said a smiling Father Kola Prakash Rao, MSFS, the newest priest to grace the high plains of Kansas.
Father Kola arrived in the Diocese of Dodge City Dec. 22 and is currently staying in Spearville with Father Rene Labrador. He will be assigned to a parish by Bishop John Brungardt following the orientation program for newly-arrived international missionary priests.
“I went through elementary school and high school, and upon seeing the example of the priests, I impressed upon the Lord that I wanted to be a priest,” Father Kola said. On April 21, 2004, he was ordained a priest of the order of the Missionaries of St. Francis de Sales.
A decade later, the priest who is quick to smile and offer a humble bow of the head, stepped off a plane in Kansas City. Bishop Brungardt picked him up in Burlington and drove him the four hours to Spearville.
It was his first time in the United States.
“It was the first experience in my lifetime with snow,” he added. “It was so good to see the snow falling. I had the feeling that I wanted to go out and play!” he said, laughing.
Father Kola is the youngest of four; he has two brothers and a sister living in India, along with his parents, who, prior to retiring, served as farmers, growing tobacco, cotton and rice.
One of his best friends is Father Benjamin Dande, also a member of the Missionaries of St. Francis de Sales, with whom he attended seminary. Prior to his recent reassignment, Father Dande was pastor of St. Joseph Parish, Ashland and Holy Spirit Parish, Coldwater; and before that of St. Lawrence, Jetmore and St. Anthony, Hanston.
More than 40 members of the order currently serve in the United States.
In whichever parish he is assigned, Father Kola said that he hopes to be involved in youth ministry. He also looks forward to visiting the sick.
In his off time, he enjoys watching news and sports. (When asked if he liked American football, he laughed and said that Father Rene – who is from the Philippines – tried to explain it to him.) The two have already enjoyed backyard basketball at the priest’s residence in Spearville.
Father Kola (who laughed and said that Father Rene called him “Pepsi Kola”), enjoys reading, as well as a sport that isn’t quite as popular in the United States as it is in India: Father Kola’s soon-to-be-announced parish in the Catholic Diocese of Dodge City may want to look into starting southwest Kansas’s first cricket team. Now that would be a fine welcome, indeed.