Lisa Kochanowski
Assistant Editor/Reporter
May 20, 2023 // Diocese

Vocation Journey for Retiring St. Michael the Archangel Priest Inspired at Young Age

Lisa Kochanowski
Assistant Editor/Reporter

Father Vincent Joseph Rathappillil

Father Vincent Joseph Rathappillil was brought up in a traditional Catholic home in Kerala, South India. The family was part of the St. Thomas Christians, and he was very involved in all parish activities from an early age.

“When I was in 5th grade, I became an active member of the St. Vincent de Paul Society for young adults. This spiritual orientation I received at an early age gave me encouragement and inspiration to dedicate my life to the service of the poor,” said Father Rathappillil, who joined the Vincentian Congregation guided by their patron St. Vincent de Paul.

It is this affiliation that brought him to his current assignment with St. Michael the Archangel Parish in Waterloo, where he has been since 2018.

“The Vincent Congregation of which I am a member has a mission territory in East Africa. Before I came to the U.S., I was a missionary there for 10 years, organizing the activities of our missionaries. Before I came to this diocese, there was another Vincentian working in this diocese. When he moved out of this diocese for his doctoral studies, I was given the opportunity to pursue my vocation here,” notes Father Rathappillil. “I have been working in different parishes for the last 13 years. When Father David Carkenord retired from active priestly life in 2018 at St. Michael the Archangel Parish, Waterloo, Bishop Rhoades appointed me as the pastor here.”

Father Rathappillil’s time at the historic church has been filled with many memorable moments. The recent pandemic has left a deep impact on people around the world and was an impactful experience for the man of faith.

“By the grace of God, I am one of the survivors of that horrifying COVID pandemic in 2020,” said Father Rathappillil, who believes he got a second chance at life because of all the love and care given by the parishioners. “When I was in isolation, I experienced God’s love and care through many of the members of this community and the paternal understanding of our Bishop Rhoades for which I am so grateful.”

No job comes without hurdles, and filling the shoes of a beloved shepherd was the biggest obstacle for Father Rathappillil.

“I succeeded Father Carkenord, who had been the pastor of this parish for about 30 years,” notes Father Rathappillil, who was the first international priest in this parish. “It was a challenge for me to create a space for me in the hearts of the faithful here because the faithful of this parish were used to ‘Father Dave’s style’ of running the parish.”

Eventually, the community connected, and he was able to incorporate his style to create a loving spiritual journey for the members of the congregation.

“As a religious, I was taught not to be satisfied with doing the minimum in priestly ministry and also to be available to the flock all day,” said Father Rathappillil about what he hoped to bring to the community. “I have been faithful to these since I became a priest.”

His time at St. Michael the Archangel is coming to an end though, and Father Rathappillil said it has been a wonderful few years. “I will definitely miss this beautiful and serene rural atmosphere, an open swath of land that has few homes or other buildings, and not very many people. As I grew up in an agricultural ambience like this back in Kerala, India, it was easy for me to adjust to this noiseless situation. Sometimes a charming small town is always more inspiring than a glamorous big city. Above all, I will miss the sincere love and appreciative attitude of the people here.”

Not only is Father Rathappillil’s time in Waterloo coming to an end, but so is his time in Indiana, as he will move to a new location in the summer. “As per the rules of our congregation, normally a member is not allowed to stay outside of the religious community for more than 10 years. I have been out of the community for about 13 years. Therefore, it is important for me to get back to the community. Our province has several communities in the New Jersey and New York areas. I will be with one of the communities by June 20, 2023.”

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