Had he not become a Catholic Diocesan Priest, he would have risen to the level of a top-notch journalist. Every Sunday sermon of his would be pegged to contemporary issues with incisive commentary, commendable perspicacity and an enlightening correlation with the biblical passage of the day. But Rev. Fr. Thomas Simon was more than just an eloquent preacher who could set the pulpit ablaze with soul searching homilies, if the eulogies that are pouring in on a slew of parish and community WhatsApp groups are anything to go by.
As I woke up this morning, a message from my Don Bosco School, Egmore, classmate Ajay Harry Simon, left a lump in my throat. Rev.Fr.Thomas Simon had signed out of this world in the wee hours following a cardiac arrest in the hill station of Coonoor.
Here was a parish priest who was affable, adept at public relations and with the ability to almost instantaneously establish a rapport with parishioners and indeed, the local community. That he was inherently loquacious and blessed with an infectious smile, sparkling wit and a great sense of humour only served to bolster the chemistry.
When I shifted to Alwarpet about sixteen years ago, Fr.Simon was my Parish Priest in Our Lady Of Visitation Church, Abhiramapuram. I vividly recall meeting him to get my Family Card and he immediately recognised me from my NDTV years. When I mentioned that I was mentored by the Salesians in Don Bosco and the Jesuits in Loyola College, his eyes lit up. As I added, toughened by the Law College, he broke into a hearty guffaw! We exchanged notes on politics and several burning issues. I was bowled over by his perspective and editorial astuteness. I would present him my books that he would read and pass on to other priests and nuns. Fr.Simon was one of the few people who actually understood that my career shift from being a tv journalist to a lawyer was not all that surprising, given the common skill sets between the two professions.
On the personal front, Fr.Simon used to clarify my spiritual doubts, solemnized my marriage and blessed my mother in the hospital before her demise. I regret missing a grand event marking his Golden Jubilee of Priesthood. Well after his retirement, he continued to keep in touch by dropping in on Christmas Day. The pandemic deprived us of his visit in the last couple of years. Nevertheless, he would touch base on WhatsApp or facebook.
I will miss you, Father. You were like a good shepherd who steered back many a lost sheep. Do remote control your flock from heaven.
(Sanjay Pinto is an Advocate & Arbitrator at the Madras High Court, Columnist, Author & Former Resident Editor of NDTV 24×7)