ASIA/KUWAIT - Mission in the Confessional: The Story of Father Dominic Santamaria

Thursday, 18 April 2024 local churches   priests   sacraments   mission  

by Antonella Prenna
Kuwait City (Agenzia Fides) - More than eighteen thousand masses, eight thousand one hundred and forty baptisms and seven hundred and forty-eight marriages. The number of liturgies and sacraments celebrated until Easter 2024 says a lot about the life of the Indian-born priest Dominic Santamaria, who was ordained a priest in Jerusalem on June 27, 1970 and has lived in Kuwait since October 27, 1973.
Father Dominic Santamaria is responsible for the Co-Cathedral of the Holy Family in Kuwait City in the Apostolic Vicariate of Northern Arabia. He is the first priest to be incardinated in the Latin Vicariate and to this day he is part of the community along with ten other priests who serve in the largest Catholic church in the country under the leadership of the Vicar Apostolic of Northern Arabia, Bishop Aldo Berardi, O. SS.T..
"At the age of 25, I was appointed parish priest of the Holy Family Parish in Crater (Aden, Yemen), where I remained until I was incardinated here in Kuwait," said the Catholic priest. "In Yemen," said Father Dominic, "I left a part of my heart behind. I still jealously guard a comb that I used there when I still had hair. Every morning, even though I have very little hair now," he adds with a smile, "I use this comb and always think of Yemen in my prayers".
Dominic, who comes from Goa, always wanted to become a priest ("as a child, I celebrated mass by handing out pieces of paper as if they were wafers"). The priest, now a charismatic figure throughout the Vicariate of Northern Arabia, is known as the 'Padre Pio' of Kuwait because of the time he spends in the confessional. "People," he adds, "also affectionately call me 'Don Bosco' because when I go out on the premises I am always surrounded by children. Although in reality in recent months I do not go out much because the last time I went out was to go to hospital after a bad fall", the priest says calmly. "To date, I have baptized 8,140 children and I hope to baptize many more. It is an immeasurable joy to be able to give them Jesus." Father Dominic tells Fides that he has never experienced a crisis in his priestly vocation "since I received the call one night on Holy Thursday, while I was adoring the Blessed Sacrament". "People listen to me because I have a very clear tone and I speak loudly. Every day I invite everyone to repeat 'JESUS-MARY-JOSEPH' as many times as possible. Which is why they also call me 'the Priest JESUS-MARY-JOSEPH'...". "My days," says Father Dominic, "are still full, beginning in the morning when I tidy up my room and my things and then dedicate myself to the Liturgy of the Hours, prayer before the Blessed Sacrament and spiritual reading" (in the days of our meeting the priest read a text by Edith Stein, editor's note). There are also the prayer of the rosary, the Eucharist, meditation and the examination of conscience." Father Dominic loves his mission, which is why he pays a lot of attention to his health, which he maintains through a healthy and economical diet. "No sweets, no chocolate, no wine, no coffee". The place assigned to him at the table is always set with two small plates on which he eats his meals, one of which always contains fruit, and a large glass for the water that he drinks hot in the evening.

“I have been here at the Co-Cathedral of the Holy Family,” said Father Dominic, “since I arrived in Kuwait in 1973. Having stayed here throughout the Iraqi army invasion, I received a first Vatican recognition from Saint John Paul II. On November 30, 2005, Pope Benedict XVI awarded me the Cross of Honor 'Pro Ecclesia Et Pontifice' in recognition of my decades of service to the country."
The 'Pro Ecclesia Et Pontifice' award was created in 1888 to mark the Golden Jubilee of Pope Leo XIII. It is awarded in recognition of service to the Church and the Papacy. (Agenzia Fides, 18/4/2024)