Good morning! My name is Fr. James Valladares addressing you from Adelaide, South Australia. This is my 52nd year in the priestly ministry; the first 20 were spent in the service of the archdiocese of Bombay.

I have officially retired but continue to be active to the best of my ability and in coping with the ever-increasing demands of the pastoral ministry. Providentially God has blessed me with the good health and the vigour to persist in my pastoral commitment. Serving God’s people has always been my prime and sole focus in the priestly ministry.

I am particularly grateful to the Melbourne East Indian Association for giving me this unique privilege of addressing members of the East Indian community all over the world.

I hail from Bombay, which was a stronghold of the East Indian community right from the second quarter of the XVI century and well into the middle of the XX century. I was especially blessed in belonging to a Catholic family, where the best traditions, values and standards of the East Indian community – in matters religious, familial, disciplinary, academic, and culinary – were consistently and religiously observed. God, it is said, has two homes – one in heaven, and the other in a loving family. “Where there is love and charity, God is there.”[1] Stated differently, God is to be found in ‘the divinity of service.’” And that is just where I found God – in my close-knit, prayerful, loving and collaborative family.

My research reveals that the East Indians or East Indian Catholics are an ethno-religious Indian Christian community, who trace their roots to those converted to Christianity in the XVI century when Portugal took over Bombay.

The Portuguese came to India in 1498, and their aim was to return the Indian Christians to Roman Catholicism. Converts, regardless of their status were ceremoniously received and treated with both respect and distinction. With the absence of education, both secular and religious, groups of this nascent Christian community engaged in agriculture, fishing and other rural occupations handed down by their ancestors. They resided in the following areas of the state of Maharashtra: Mumbai itself, Vasai, Thane and Raigad.

Drastic changes did occur under British rule. About the middle of the XVII century, the king of Portugal was seeking a suitable suitor for his marriageable daughter, Princess Catarina de Braganza. Reportedly he did announce that the lucky suitor would get Bombay as a dowry – a truly handsome and coveted prize. As can be expected, there were many eager contestants, but the cherished bride and the concomitant and prized dowry luckily fell to Prince Charles II of England. Their marriage did take place on 11 May 1661. As a consequence, Bombay, and the East Indians, became a part of the British Empire.

At that time, the well-established and flourishing British East India Company was seeking recruits for responsible jobs – persons who were educated, hard-working and honest. And they readily found that among members of the local Christian community, who thereafter came to be known as ‘East Indians’ or, more appropriately, the East Indian Catholics.

It is a matter of legitimate pride and joy to know that members of the East Indian community have excelled in art and architecture, language and literature, science and technology, medicine and nursing, law and commerce, education – primary, secondary and tertiary – and research, the hospitality industry and catering technology, drama and dance, music and singing, and even in the film industry.

It is my firm belief that each and every individual comes from God on a mission, with a message and an extraordinary act of love to share. Over the centuries, and especially in the not too distant past, it is a matter of legitimate pride and singular joy to see members of the East Indian community making outstanding contributions to our national and global community, serving with dedication and distinction in varied fields and in numerous countries around the globe.

One author has so rightly said: “What we are is God’s gift to us; what we become is our gift to God.” This pithy quotation aptly encapsulates the outstanding and laudable achievements of members of the East Indian community. Each and every one in his/her own way has truly served as their best gift to God.

It is my earnest hope and sincere prayer that God blesses them and their families abundantly, and so brings to fruition the good work launched by their hard-working and self-sacrificing forbears, diligently sustained by the unflinching fidelity and unceasing commitment of succeeding generations, and now generously bequeathed to the present, talented and enterprising beneficiaries.


May I request you to join in this prayer that I now make on your behalf for one and all around the world:

Heavenly Father, we praise and thank you for the countless blessings that you have generously bestowed on members of the East Indian communities over the centuries, but especially in this the XXI century.

We praise and thank you for the vision of our ancestors, their untiring and unstinted efforts to aspire to nothing short of the absolute best, their ceaseless commitment to the highest and best ideals in their personal, familial, social, professional and religious lives.

We praise and thank you for enabling successive waves of East Indian migrants to scatter to every corner of our globe, commence a new life with hope and optimism, and launch on extraordinarily successful careers. The contribution of each and every one has been notable, admirable and praiseworthy.

With respect and gratitude, we remember our dear departed ancestors. Like runners in a relay race, they have preceded us, conscientiously carrying the baton of hope, dedication and optimism. We ask that you grant them all a share in the glory and triumph of our Risen Lord.

Mary, our heavenly Mother, our ancestors have always fostered a heart-warming devotion to you, honouring you in the many shrines dedicated to your name, and joyfully celebrating the numerous feasts in your honour that occur throughout the year in our liturgical calendar. You have unfailingly heard their ardent prayers, and richly blessed them with what they did seek.

With trustful confidence, we repose our lives and future into your maternal hands, dear Mother Mary. Please do continue to shield us all from all harm and evil. Bless us with good health and deliver all in our global family from this menacing global threat.

(Please join me in praying the Hail Mary).

May God bless you all and always!

[1] “Ubi caritas et amor, Deus ibi est.” A Latin Antiphon for Maundy Thursday from the Medieval Church.