Tributes are flowing in for much-loved Indian-born priest Fr Isidore Anantharaj EV after his death following a long battle with cancer.
The 69-year-old parish priest of Mater Dei, Blakehurst, and St Raphael, Hurstville South, was also the archdiocese’s episcopal vicar for immigration, working to help countless refugees and migrants to feel at home in Australia.
The Archdiocese of Sydney’s vicar general Fr Gerald Gleeson advised of Fr Anantharaj’s passing in his Blakehurst presbytery early on 20 January with “great sadness” in a statement. He asked for prayers for the priest’s family, including his sister Angelina and his niece who were present at his death. Fr Gleeson said that Fr Anantharaj’s health had been deteriorating for some time and that a further tribute and details of his funeral Mass will be provided “in the coming days”.
Archbishop of Sydney Anthony Fisher OP said he was very sad to learn of the death of Fr Anantharaj whom he described as a “dear friend”.
“He was a true man of God and God’s people and he wanted to spend himself completely in their service,” the archbishop said. “He loved the flocks he led in the several Sydney parishes he served. And he loved his work with the Immigration Office and the ethnic chaplaincies – work that often demanded patience, wisdom and diplomacy.
“Though he struggled with cancer for a good while, he always resisted when I suggested reducing his duties.”
Archbishop Fisher said the priest was “an outstanding example of the changing face of the Church in Australia” and was beloved of parishioners, family members and his brother priests.
“Every time I saw Isidore in hospital, at parish celebrations or priests’ meetings, he brought his big smile, generous spirit and reassuring words,” Archbishop Fisher said. “I will miss that smile and all his support. Until we meet again, dear brother, God grant you peace of body and soul, light perpetual for your mind, and well-deserved eternal rest.”
The news of the loss of “our beloved parish priest” was also posted on the parish website.
Fr Anantharaj was ordained on 20 April 1979 in Madras, India and was incardinated into the Archdiocese of Sydney on 11 September 2008.