Greetings from Fr. BalaJoji Thanugundla, better known as Fr. Joji. It is a great privilege and a blessing for me to introduce myself to the Catholic community of Saint Anne as I am looking forward to joining you to serve and celebrate my priestly ministry. I come from a family of six children, four boys and two girls. I am number five in order, and I have a younger sister who lives in the city of Chicago on the northwest side. My father passed away in 2013. One of my brothers also is a priest (Fr. Jerome), working in India.
I was born in 1968 in Warangal, a small town in South India, and my family moved to Hyderabad (a big city in South India) in 1978. Ifinished my high school and college in Hyderabad. I studied Theology (B.Th) in Bangalore and was ordained a priest in 1994. I also completed my Bachelor of Arts (BA) and Master of Arts (MA) in Sociology in Hyderabad.
I came to the United States in 1997 and worked in various parishes as an associate pastor. My first appointment was at Immaculate Heart of Mary, on the northwest side of Chicago, then, in 2003, I went to the south side to St. Gerald Parish in Oak Lawn. In 2009, I came to St. James in Arlington Heights and worked there for seven years. I have learned a lot from these various communities and am still learning to grow in faith. I have learned and experienced that God dwells in each of us, and it is up to us to make Him alive. I have tremendous conviction that God is unconditionally loving us every moment, leading and guiding us. I always enjoyed being pastoral, connecting with people celebrating Sacraments. I have been deeply satisfied by the fact that I have been loved by people, and I hope I have loved them in my ministry as a Priest.
I enjoy being part of the school and religious education to share my presence and interact with children and bring them closer to God. I have been part of RCIA groups, conducted Bible studies and was part of many other ministries. Working at St. James for 7 years taught me much, and the busy schedules and non- stop invitations and parties made me realize the need to be connected to people at a deeper level. Besides church work, I am interested in all sports and social gatherings. I used to play lot of soccer but after breaking both my ankles, I stopped playing. I am a good ping pong player and one of the best Baggo players. I do not want to brag, but I am really good. I am open to a challenge.
I am truly excited to be here with you to serve, to love and to celebrate my priestly ministry. I have been to Saint Anne few times. I know Fr. Bernie and Fr. Chris. I am anxious to join them and the staff, to get to know you and to begin my life here. Thank you for your warm welcome.
Peace and blessings,
Fr. Joji Thanugundla