Fr Felix Roche : 'Service to Humanity is Service to God'

Sep 2, 2009

“Social justice and justice for the poor” - the phrase often reminds us of politicians who very often mouth platitudes to placate gullible voters during elections.  There are however, instances where sufferings due to social injustice have spurred people to dedicate their lives for the betterment of the people and help them rebuild their lives by leading a life of dignity and respect.  It was the sufferings, the humiliation and injustice that his family and he had faced that catapulted Felix Roche, SVD, to become a priest and fight from within the system.  

Fr Felix firmly believes in the dictum of “Service to humanity is service to god” and goes about his mission of carrying out service to humanity through the organization Jana Chaithanya Yuva Sangham (JCYM), a well known name to many people across Andhra Pradesh, set up in 1990. JCYM has taken up the noble task of enlightening the poor and the oppressed in the form of folk songs, folk dances, skits, dramas and plays with a team of dedicated artistes under the vision and guidance of Fr Roche. 

A catholic priest means one usually conjures up image of a church, Sunday mass and other services in the church and a rather mundane life in the parish.  But one can never think of a priest donning the role of an ordinary man and going about putting up dance and songs programme with his troupe much to the consternation of those who do not consider it a priestly duty in the true sense of the term.  Fr Felix Roche does just this as he feels he can serve god by doing good to the people around him. The mobile team of JCYM which tours around Andhra and the neighboring states might not put up a programme of high caliber or of good technical quality.  But if we go by the term ‘medium is the message’, his programmes which may look funny and not very attractive at times, convey the message in no uncertain terms to the downtrodden and the oppressed.  For the last two decades JCYS has been creating awareness and motivating people to come out of the shackles and gain control over their lives.  As the founder and director of the JCYM Fr Felix is a contented man having fulfilled his long cherished desire of reaching out to the poorer sections of the society. 

Fight against Injustice

Born in Fajir, a small village near Konaje, Mangalore, Fr Felix Roche is the 5th of the 13 children of Mr Anthony Roche and Nathalia. Those were the hard days and the family had to face lot of hardships due to poverty.  But the worst was the suffering the family had to face in the hands of his own parish which made a young Felix wonder whether he could do something for the weak and the helpless and the thought of social justice just got embedded in his mind.  “I realized that not only the politicians were cheating the people but also the religious priests by not doing their duties according to their vows.  This made me think as a humanist rather than just a religious priest” says Fr Felix.

With the seed of social justice sown in mind in early childhood Felix Roche decided to become a priest and joined the SVD seminary at Kirem class 8th.   “There is no greater treasure than knowledge, were the golden words of my father which resonated in my mind throughout my early life”, says Fr Felix recalling his father who had tremendous influence on his life since childhood. Keeping with this aim of providing social service Fr Roche did his MSW from Ranchi University to equip him with the task ahead. He chose the neighbouring state of Andhra Pradesh for carrying out his mission.   

Hurdles came his way when he was forced to seek ordination from Mumbai Province,  which once again pricked his heart due to the injustice meted out to him for no fault of his. Instead of getting disheartened it spurred him further to direct his energies to work for empowering the people at the lower ladder of the society.  He says “being denied ordination in my hometown was a set back but that did not dishearten me.  I faced the challenge and that has helped me making me stronger and more pragmatic minded” he contends recalling the tough time he had in organizing the ordination outside his hometown. “I always felt that whenever I became weak god helped me to become strong and used me for his service by showing me the right path”, he reasons. After his ordination in 1982 Fr Roche assumed charge as a parish priest of Veeravally Parish in Nalgonda district of Andra Pradesh.  For the last 28 years he has been working in Andhra Pradesh continuously in his quest of providing social justice.  

Necessity as we all know is the mother of all inventions and Jana Chaithnya was born to give vent to the long felt deep rooted feeling of justice to the weaker sections. He contends “social evils like corruption, dowry, drug addiction, bride burning, caste system, rape, alcoholism, superstitions and many other evils are common among the people even today.  These evils are unique to our own country and require unique initiatives and modes to fight them.  JCYS was established to fight against such blind practices prevalent in Andhra Pradesh”.

Reaching out to the needy

Ever since the organization  has been in the forefront performing  street plays, folk dances, folk songs  etc., to create awareness among the people to bring about a change in their lives.  These plays strike a deep chord among these people resulting in a change in their mindset.  The overwhelming response they get to their performances amply proves this.  The 10 member troupe of JCYS along with Fr Roche tours all over Andhra Pradesh in a mobile van camping in different places for weeks together to stage programmes.  It goes to the credit of JCYS that the public who witness their programme willingly contribute whatever little they can.  The organization survives on donations from public and NGO’s apart from the financial support provided by SVD society.   “Their contribution, however small it may be is a vindication that we have been able to touch their heart and soul” Fr Roche opines.


The troupe members are paid a monthly salary and are like any other professional artistes. Elaborating further on JCYS Fr. Felix says, “The seed stages were not without hurdles. We started off presenting the shows voluntarily. After seeing the progress we made, the SVD society gave us an old jeep and some funds. With this help we toured across the state and staged our plays. With time we gained recognition and today we have our own centre in ‘Bhakti Yoga’. Our plays go on for about 3 hours and have a touch of humour, emotion and dance to keep the audience enthralled. Sometimes we enact plays everyday. Our troupe is multi religious in the sense that its members belong to different religions and are not restricted to one particular religion. The plays are based on about 115 relevant themes. HIV AIDS has been our major theme for the past 5 years now”.

Satisfaction – the greatest gift

Fr. Felix’s plays are aimed at the labour class and people from the lowest strata of society who fall easy prey to evil practices. Another feather in Fr. Felix’s cap is his path breaking work in establishing SHG’s or Self Help Groups in the villages of Andhra Pradesh. SHG savings provide loans and matching grants to the poor when needed. Each SHG has animators who act as facilitators and the groups are run and handled by the village folks. JCYS also provides intensive training programmes for NGOs in this task.

The pioneering work of Fr Felix through JCYS might have fetched him many awards and recognition including the national SIGNIS Award “for the best person of communication on Evangelization in 2007.  But his greatest reward would probably be the feeling of satisfaction and achievement of having able to play a miniscule role in changing the lives of the people.  The satisfaction of engineering a social change in our materialistic society and the achievement of the mission he has been serving cannot be measured.  “The contentment of doing something for the society is to be felt from within. My parents are no more but their ideals and their good wishes will always guide me to thread the path of truth and righteousness.  I have one more brother who is also a SVD priest and is in Mexico and we have been working in our own ways according to our convictions”, he says with satisfaction writ large on his face.

Contact Fr Felix Roch:

Tel : 0091 - 09440128860

by Ritesh Castelino & Chetana Kamath<br>Daijiworld Media Network - Mangalore
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Comment on this article

  • Nelson Anil Vaz SVD, Mudarangadi/ Colombia S.A.

    Sun, Sep 06 2009

    Dear Fr.Felix I am really proud of your mission.keep up the same spirit, may God bless your mission.

  • Fr Felix Roche, Nalgonda/Andrapradesh

    Sun, Sep 06 2009

    Iam overwhelmed by the response I have received from people all around the world. Your good wishes would go a long way in my endeavour to serve humanity. I thank all of you who have responded to me through daijiworld and also directly to my email. Thanks to daijiworld.

  • irene d''souza, Kirem/usa

    Sat, Sep 05 2009

    Awesome job Fr. Felix. People like you are a rarity in todays world but they do exist. God bless your efforts in this task bringing social justice. Keep up the great work and may GOD reward your efforts richly.

  • Charles D Cunha, I C Colony - Borivli

    Sat, Sep 05 2009

    Hi Felix Nice to hear about you and to see your photograph after almost 35 years.Wish you all the best in your mission life.

  • wilfred.maxim.d''souza, kulshekar/saudi-arabia

    Sat, Sep 05 2009


  • Dr. Cajetan Coelho, Goa, India

    Fri, Sep 04 2009

    ''Service to Humanity is Service to God''- Fr. Felix is doing fine. Let us wish him strength and courage in his vocation and mission. Such truly noble ventures are very vital for our nation building enterprise. Thanks for the inspiring write up.

  • wilfred.maxim.d''souza, kulshekar/saudi-arabia

    Fri, Sep 04 2009


  • Nolda, Udupi / Mumbai

    Thu, Sep 03 2009

    Rev. Fr. Felix Roche. Three Cheers to you. Keep going, hope this enlightens every mind.

  • A.D''Cunah Shenoy, Mangaluru

    Fri, Sep 04 2009

    Devinely impressive Fr. Felix. Service to humanity is service to GOd to look after the downtrodden. God is closer to the poor and your service to the poor is indeed an example many in the world can learn. Let us remove Social injustice. Let us save the poor from exploitation and hunger. May God bless you in your devine work.

  • nelson, mangalore/kuwait

    Thu, Sep 03 2009

    Fr Felix is a shining example of PRACTICE WHAT YOU PREACH. Actions speak louder than words. The almighty will surely bless you.

  • Marian L. Dsouza, Pernal/Kuwait

    Thu, Sep 03 2009

    I wish to quote from Bible: James 2:14-17 "Faith & Deeds" - What good is it my brothers if a man claims to have faith but no deeds? Can such faith save him? Suppose a brother or sister is without clothes and daily food, if one of you says to him "Go I wish you well keep warm & well fed", but does nothing about his physical needs, what good is it? In the same way,faith by itself, if it is not accompanied by action, is dead.

    In Fr. Felix we have a true follower and living example of Christ "Who went on doing good" among the poor and the downtrodden.May his breed increase and multifly, may he be a beacon of light to others to understand the meaning of Service to God: Indeed Fr. Felix Roche lives his call(vocation) by deeds and gives meaning to quotes from St.James - touching the hearts and winning the souls for Christ.

  • Robert Fernandes, Udyavar / Dubai

    Thu, Sep 03 2009

    Dear Fr. Felix Roche, your selfless approach for the enrichment of weaker section of the society is very commendable. By strengthening the village people to fight against social evils, you are contributing to our nation at large. May you be rewarded abundantly.

  • Gregory Pinto, SVD, Bondel, Rome

    Wed, Sep 02 2009

    Dear Fr. Felix, I am proud and happy about you Fr. Felix. May you have many more years in this unique mission after the example of our Lord to bring greater awareness among people about the the social evils and bring about a just and loving society.

  • A.S.Mathew, U.S.A.

    Wed, Sep 02 2009

    "Religion that God our Father accepts as pure and faultless is this: to look after the orphans and widows in their distress and to keep oneself from being poluted by the world" James 1:27. (Bible) Religion has been skyjacted with non-religious priorities, but thank God for people like Fr. Felix Roche in his divine call to serve the poor and needy, and fulfilling the call of God. May God richly bless your service for humanity.

  • Kurt Waschnig, Oldenburg/Germany

    Wed, Sep 02 2009

    Balakrishna T. Shetty is right, prayers and deeds together are absolutely necessary to reach near God. And Felix is a shining example for a Christian, he reaches the poorest of the poor. Best Kurt

  • Kurt Waschnig, Oldenburg/Germany

    Wed, Sep 02 2009

    Dear Felix Roche up to now you have done an excellent work for the downtrodden in Andra Pradesh and you have surely changed the lives of people there. They won self confidence and try to fight for their rights. Indeed, this is the work, a Catholic priest should do, to live with the poorest of the poor, giving them the confidence and the knowledge that they have got rights and they shall fight peacefully and legally for them. Dear Felix, your work is impressive and I will send you a mail to get in touch with you to know more about your plans. I wish your troupe and you the best. Your way of life as a priest is convincing. Best regards Kurt Waschnig

  • joseph vas, Indore MP

    Wed, Sep 02 2009

    Dear Ritesh & Chetana, while reading the achievements of Rev. Fr. Felix Roche we feel empowering the poorest of the poor surely pays its dividends. God bless Fr. Felix in his mission to serve the poorest of the poor to empower them. in union with the divine word, fr.juze vaz svd

  • Balakrishna T. Shetty, Palladakody/Mangalore/Riyadh

    Wed, Sep 02 2009

    Thanks alot Dear Mr. Lancelot N Tauro, Mangalore/Doha Qatar....If anyone does good service to the society, you could find a few good comments or appreciation. If any two persons would fight each other by their personal matter then you could find 100 of comments with in a minute by pulling here religious or political issue. What a shining INDIA is……

  • vishwa, mangalore\usa

    Wed, Sep 02 2009

    I feel he is working like Vivekanand ashram people in Hindu community( not limited to). They also belive in serving needy people( jana seva is janaradhan seva). They dont indulge in puja and temple life. they believe in serving needy people and empowering them. Hats off to you Fr Felix Roche, We need many such people to make this a beautiful place to live

  • Denzil lasrdo, DOHA-QATAR

    Wed, Sep 02 2009


  • Lancelot N Tauro, Mangalore/Doha Qatar

    Wed, Sep 02 2009

    Mr. Balakrisha T Shetty what a wonderful your comments. It''s true where there service there is GOD. Much appreciated and hat''s up to Fr. Felix Roche.

  • Clifford Correa, Pune/Kuwait

    Wed, Sep 02 2009

    Dear Fr. Roche, Hats off to you, your faith has made you stronger. My family and I pray that God''s showers all his blessing and graces on you to carry on your wonderful work. Yours is an example that many should follow and pray that more should come forward to help you in your endeavour.

  • Balakrishna T. Shetty, Palladakody/Mangalore/Riyadh

    Wed, Sep 02 2009

    This is a real humanity and great personality. Where Good is there is GOD. According to the respected Fr Felix Roch “Service to humanity is service to God” by his service to humanity he is seeing his God, really a great thing as well as act of him.

    Without doing any social service only praying to the God for 24 hours, we never reach near to the God. God may bless us by our good deeds not by only pray. But, we can do one thing is sure that while praying for us we can pray a bit for others welfare too.

  • Treza Dsouza, Mangalore/Qatar

    Wed, Sep 02 2009

    ''Hats Off'' to you Fr. Flex. Keep continuing with the commendable job. This is an example for all of us especially the religious order, who take vows and do not abide by it. As said in the Bible the gratest commandment is ''Love the Lord thy God above all'' and second ''Love thy neighbours''. By giving our service to the less fortunate and by loving one another, in this way we are loving our Lord God. Fr. Flex I pray to God to shower all his blessing on you and let the Holy Spirit decend upon you always to guard and guide you in giving you more wisdom and knowledge of understanding. God Bless you and your family.

  • Lydia Lobo, Kadri

    Tue, Sep 01 2009

    Hats off to these altruistic priests. We the civilians are in a way selfish. We work for our own good, prosperity and future of our own children. When we get old, we anticipate our children to look after us but we don''t care to find out where those old legends who served the poor ended up. Blessed are these personalities who think the poor as their family and work for their upliftment. Fr. Feix, I wish you a smooth sailing.

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