Born: 22 March 1932, Singapore
Entered: 18 June 1951, Novitiate of the Madurai Province
Ordained: 19 March 1964, Kurseong, Darjeeling, India
Final vows: 15 August 1970
Death: 23 September 2015, Singapore
Father Ponnudurai was born on 22 March 1932 as the eldest of five children in Singapore. His family moved to India during his childhood years. However, he stayed on to complete his secondary school and at the end of which he entered the Madurai Province of the Society of Jesus on 18 June 1951. His formation to the priesthood climaxed with his ordination in India on 19 March 1964. He made his tertianship in India and made his final profession as a Jesuit on 15 August 1970. During the course of his seminary formation, he was in France to complete his MSc in Astrophysics.
Father Ponnudurai’s first posting was at Fort Louis, Mauritius from 1965 to 1975. He had spoken fondly of his experiences there and had the opportunity to revisit it before his death. He then served in Medan, Indonesia for a few months in 1976.
In 1976, Archbishop Vendargon of Kuala Lumpur invited him to go to Malaysia. He was given a residence visa and was appointed pastor of the Church of the Risen Christ in Kuala Lumpur from 1976 to 1980, covering also the Church of Christ the King in Selayang. He was then posted to the Church of Our Lady of Fatima, Brickfields from 1981-1988 as parish priest. He was engaged in various forms of pastoral work and the giving of retreats. While being available to all, he ministered largely to the needs of the Tamil speaking communities.
After failing to secure an extension of his stay in Malaysia, he was sent to Singapore in 1989, for ministry in Singapore at the Parish of St Ignatius and assisting in the apostolate to the Tamil speaking Catholics in Singapore. In the 1980s, foreign professionals working in Malaysia — priests included — were finding difficulties in renewing their work visas. Father Ponnudurai was one of them and had to leave Malaysia. He arrived in Singapore on a one-month visa, only to discover that having been born in Singapore, he was eligible to apply for citizenship. He promptly did so, and joined the Kingsmead community.
On 18 December 1990, he was transcribed from the Madurai Province to the Macau-Hongkong Province as a member of the Dependent Region of Malaysia-Singapore.
Fr Ponnudurai was appointed the novice master as well as a team member of the then newly established Spirituality and Counselling Centre. Later, he was asked by Archbishop Gregory Yong to help out each Sunday at the St Vincent de Paul Church.
He was appointed a team member of the then newly established Centre for Ignatian Spirituality and Counselling, and conducted retreats.
On 22 September 1992, Fr General Peter Hans-Kolvenbach appointed Father Ponnudurai as the Regional Superior of the Malaysia-Singapore Region, succeeding Father Paul Tan, SJ. He took office on 28 October 1992 and served in this ministry of leadership until the end of 1998.
Father Ponnudurai continued to minister to the faithful at the Church of St Ignatius. Despite his failing health, he continued to exercise his priestly ministry in Singapore and Malaysia, making regular trips to serve in parishes.
He was admitted for surgery on 17 September 2015 at the National University Hospital, Singapore, due to a heart attack. Surrounded by family, friends and all those who loved him, he passed on to our Lord at 4.19am on 23 September 2015.
Book: 50 years of the parish of the Church of St Ignatius, 2012