In May, 2017, Father Chanda Pillai PJ, arrived in America for the first time. After spending two weeks in Bella Vista with a priest who was in his religious order, he was brought to Heber Springs by Tom and Myrna Shaw to serve as priest of St. Albert’s Catholic Church.

Pillai is from Kerala state, South India, where he was born and raised. Pillai says the state of Kerala has the most ancient and largest Christian community in India. The belief is that St. Thomas, one of the 12 disciples of Jesus arrived in Kerala in 52 AD and formed the first Christian community in India, said Pillai.

Pillai has one brother and four sisters. His eldest sister is a nun. Pillai joined the seminary in 1976, received 12 years of seminary training, including three years of philosophy studies and four years of theology studies. He says the last part of his name, PJ, stands for Padiyara (name of his parental home or family) and Joseph (his father’s name).

He was ordained a priest in 1989, worked over 15 years in various missions stations, parishes and served as a rector and teacher (which included English) in two minor seminaries for nine years.  He has a Bachelor’s degree in Western and Indian Philosophy and Hindi literataure from Allahabad Central University, a Master’s degree in sociology from Mahatma Gandhi University, Varanasi and a Master’s degree in Counseling Psychology from MLC University, Meghalaya.

As a priest, he belongs to a missionary religious society/order called Indian Missionary Society.

He looks forward to ministering to the people of Heber Springs.