Bird Cove: A Catholic priest from India working in Canada was killed in a road accident a week before he was to attend his brother’s wedding in his native land.
Father Johnbosco Villaphadass was hit by a vehile on July 26 evening when he was on a walk, reports northernpen.ca. He died on the way to the hospital.
The 39-year-old priest has served the Our Lady of Grace Parish in Bird Cove, a town in the Canadian province of Newfoundland and Labrador, since February 2015.
“It’s a shock to all of us,” said Bishop Peter Joseph Hundt of Corner Brook and Labrador. “He walked three times a day in that area where there was very seldom vehicle at all. We can’t believe this could have happened,” the prelate said.
Father Vallaphadass was the second Indian priest to die in a motor vehicle collision in Bird Cove. In January 2013, Father Biju Antony was killed with a snowplow. For a town that is overwhelmingly Catholic, it has been a devastating tragedy to all. Father Antony, who also 39, was killed along with another man on the Northern Peninsula.
Father Villaphadass, known as Father John Bosco, was only one week away from returning to his home in India for his brother’s wedding.
The priest came to the diocese in November 2014. He spent most of his time in Newfoundland in the area. He was known to travel home to India each summer.
Bishop Hundt says while the Bird Cove is deeply saddened by his loss, it’s particularly sad for Villaphadass’ family with his return so close.
Police say Villaphadass died while en route to hospital. No one else was injured in the accident and the police say their investigation is ongoing.
Irene Myers, town clerk and chairperson for Bird Cove’s Our Lady of Grace parish, said Villaphadass enjoyed walked in the area where the accident occurred.
“He found that was one of the best places to walk because there wasn’t much traffic,” she added.
Villaphadass was known to enjoy his time in Bird Cove more with each passing year and left a lasting impression on the community. Myers saw Villaphadass on a daily basis and said he was always conversational and happy.
“He would always have something to talk about,” she said. “If I didn’t see him one day, I knew he had to be off to Corner Brook or somewhere.
“He was doing good work here and got along with everyone.”
Bird Cove local Regina Purcell was like family to Father Villaphadass. The two had grown to have such a loving and caring relationship that Villaphadass soon began to call her his mother away from home.
When he needed help cleaning the house, preparing meals for guests, organizing with the church, or a friend to speak with, he always called Purcell.
“We were very close and we were always together,” said Purcell. “He told me he could trust me with everything.”
Moving from India to a rural outport in Newfoundland can be a considerable adjustment. Purcell said he was nervous at first but would catch on to things very fast and came to be very comfortable with the community. He became like a member of her family.
“There’s so much I’d like to say but don’t have the words right now,” Purcell said, choked and emotionally strained by the loss of Villaphadass.
There are plans for a wake service and funeral mass in Bird Cove before Villaphadass’ body is taken to India where a funeral and burial will take place.
“Father Bosco was a good priest, a friendly priest, and we believe that he’s gone home to eternal life,” said Bishop Hundt. “The grief here is not for him but for us because we’ve lost a friend.”
Wanda Pittman was also among Father Villaphadass’s close friends in Bird Cove. “People took to him. He was a loving man,” says Pittman, who also remembers Villaphadass as incredibly shy.
The Indian priest would ask Pittman for advice, especially when it came to travel in winter. “He would bounce his ideas off of me and I would try to help him out in the right way.”
Pittman said he was looking forward to the trip and started a countdown a couple of weeks ago.