Fr M A Joe Antony, SJ
On Sunday, 23 July 2017, the world lost one of its most faithful and helpful friends.
So did I; so did many others in India and New Zealand.
Around 1130 am (IST) that day, Wenceslaus Anthony, 59, whom we all called ‘Wency’ affectionately, died suddenly at the Apollo Hospital, Chennai, plunging his family and numerous friends into shock and deep sorrow.
Ever since I assumed charge as the Editor and Publisher of ‘New Leader’ in December 1989, he was a pillar of strength to me and the magazine. Wency graciously agreed to be the Chairman of the Managerial Board, whose other members were V A George, Father Vincent Chinnadurai and Carlton Lazaro.
They provided managerial expertise, which, along with a complete change of content and layout, gave the ‘New Leader’ a new life and reputation. Wency was always a happy, cheerful and fun-loving person and all the Managerial Board meetings were joyful occasions.
For some years, we decided to honour the best Christian journalists in the country with the New Leader Awards. Wency was the Chairman of the New Leader Awards Committee and with his charm and persuasive skills, he was able to get famous people like Mother Teresa, former Union Minister Margaret Alva, former Lok Sabha Speaker P A Sangma, eminent writers Rajmohan Gandhi and Nihal Singh as chief guests.
His success as an entrepreneur and businessman began in India and continued in New Zealand which became his homeland since 1999. He became the Chairman of the India-New Zealand Business Council in 2009 and later its Head of Government Relations.
In January 2014, he was appointed as Member of the New Zealand Order of Merit on the Queen’s New Year Honours List for his services to New Zealand-India business relations.
Tragedy and Triumph
The last few weeks of his life were visited by tragedy and triumph which seemed to chase each other. In May 2017, Pope Francis honoured him with ‘Pro Ecclesia et Pontifice’ (For the Church and the Pope), an award given to the laity for meritorious service to the Church. The wedding of his nephew was on July 7 and hence, his friends, led by Fr Casimir Raj SJ, organised a felicitation function on July 6, 2017 at Don Bosco, Egmore.
On July 5, he went for a medical checkup, where Cardiologists found three blocks in his heart and performed angioplasty. He attended the function the next day and spoke spiritedly for about 15 minutes.
Soon after the wedding, he left for the Holy Land with his wife, Susan and daughter, Sneha – a trip that he wanted to make for the past ten years. But he felt tired and sick throughout the trip and after returning to India, complained of breathlessness. He was rushed to the Critical Care Unit of Apollo Hospital, Chennai on July 20, where a team of doctors tried in vain to save him from what they suspected to be the deadly impact of a bacterial infection he must have caught during the trip. His earthly life came to an end around 1130 am on July 23, 2017, immediately after he was anointed.
All those who loved him and so will miss him tend to see it as a tragedy.
But he led a well-lived life during which he loved so much and helped so many.
Father M A Joe Antony is a family friend of Wenceslaus Anthony. The above is an edited version of an article that he wrote for the ‘New Leader.’