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Rev. Thomas P. Joseph

Deceased: 2022-02-09


ICTE Spring: 2014

Father Thomas Joseph, a former Salesian priest and educator who served for the last 15 years as a parish priest in Hawaii, died Feb. 9 in India, his home country. He had been battling brain cancer for several years. He was a priest for 42 years.

Father Joseph was responsible for bringing the Congregation of the Missionary Sisters of Mary Help of Christians from India in 2008 to St. Joseph Parish in Hilo to do pastoral, educational and social ministry. Sister Lucinda Salboro of the Missionary Sisters of Mary Help of Christians and parish secretary at St. Pius X Church in Manoa said Father Joseph was “highly educated and well-versed in the church’s history, and his homilies were profound, reflective and from his heart.” “Presiding at Mass was his passion,” she said. “He had a strong faith in God, was always hopeful, and stood his ground. He touched many lives.”

Father Joseph’s best friend, Father Paulson Mundanmani, pastor of Christ the King Parish, Pleasant Hill, California, called him “intellectually bright, a good teacher. His students remember him fondly.”“Tom was a great friend to me,” he said, “and we became pretty close during his devastating illness. His will to fight his cancer was self-evident, and it reflected his equally passionate commitment to his lifelong Catholic beliefs.”

Father Joseph, formerly Father Thomas Purayidathil, arrived in Hawaii in the fall of 2007, after serving for five years as a parish priest and school principal in Oakland, California. His first island assignment was to assist for three months at St. Theresa Church in Kihei, Maui. He was then appointed administrator of the Kula Catholic Community. In 2008, he was named associate pastor and then pastor of St. Joseph Parish in Hilo and the neighboring Malia Puka O Kalani Parish in Keaukaha. Also that year, Bishop Larry Silva named Father Joseph as a member of the Diocesan Theological Commission. He was also incardinated into the Diocese of Honolulu.

In 2009, he was appointed pastor of St. Elizabeth Church in Aiea. In 2014, Father Joseph returned to Maui to the Kula Catholic Community as administrator. In 2015, Father Joseph was assigned parochial vicar of Sacred Heart Parish and St. Pius X Parish in Honolulu. He was named administrator for St. Pius X Parish, Manoa, on Jan. 1, 2019. In November of that year, Bishop Silva granted him a three-month medical leave. He retired on July 1, 2021.

Father Joseph was ordained in 1980 in his Indian home state of Kerala at the country’s southern tip, an area which tradition says was first evangelized by the Apostle Thomas, after whom he was named. Six of his years following ordination were spent as a school principal in India. In 1988, upon the request of his order, he went to the Salesian University in Rome to teach, which he did for 13 years.As an educator, he earned a doctorate and published several books on education, communications and the mass media. In 2001, he began a five-year sabbatical in the Diocese of Oakland, Calif. He had been a frequent visitor to the United States, having studied for his Ph.D. at Penn University, and had friends in Oakland. In Oakland, he served as a parish priest at St. Cornelius Church in Richmond and also took up the duties of principal of the parish’s elementary school.