By Jennifer Mauro | Managing Editor
Father Joseph Gnarackatt approaches his 50th anniversary to the priesthood with a sense of happiness.
“We all have one priest – Jesus Christ. I am very happy to be able to do his work,” said Father Gnarackatt, parochial vicar in St. Dominic Parish, Brick, who will celebrate a half-century of his vocation this fall. “I am not a priest on my own. It is he who brings success to our work.”
Father Gnarackatt was born in 1939 in Muttom-Thodupuzha, Idukki, Kerala, India. He was one of 10 children and has three brothers and six sisters. Two of his sisters became nuns and one brother is a religious brother.
As there were numerous Catholic missions in the rural region where he grew up, it wasn’t uncommon for priests to visit schools and households. Combined with the fact that his uncle was a priest, Father Gnarackatt became familiar with the vocation.
“I was impressed by their life,” he said, explaining that by the eighth grade, he was beginning to consider the priesthood.
Indeed, one of his hopes for the Church is to see more young people involved in vocations, especially considering how his childhood was spent in the presence of religious.
“I would be happy to see more boys and girls go into religious life,” he said. “Not many [presently] consider it, but when I was young, in my background, it was one of the first things they would think of.”
Moves in Ministry
Father Gnarackatt attended Sacred Heart College in Tirupattur and St. Albert College Seminary in Ranchi, India, where he was ordained by Bishop Pius Kerketta, S.J., Nov. 26, 1967.
He ministered in Catholic churches in Bhopal, Madhya Pradesh, India, from 1968 to 1979, then worked at Asha Niketan, or “Homes of Hope,” a community that provides residential, educational, vocational and outreach services for adults and children with mental handicaps, from 1979 to 1982.
He resumed his parish work in 1982 with positions at three different Catholic churches in Bhopal until 1990, when he took a sabbatical and a friend arranged for him to help in Our Lady of Victory Parish, Chicago. The parish had six priests, so absent of a heavy workload, he took Scripture classes at the nearby university.
In 1991, Msgr. James P. McManimon, then-pastor of St. Anthony Parish (now Our Lady of Sorrows-St. Anthony), Trenton, asked through a mutual friend if Father Gnarackatt would come to the Diocese of Trenton. After being granted permission, Father Gnarackatt served as parochial vicar in St. Anthony Parish from 1991 to 1994. He credits both Msgr. McManimon and Msgr. Leonard R. Toomey, pastor of Sacred Heart Parish, Trenton, for his service to the Diocese.
Father Gnarackatt went on to serve as parochial vicar in the then-Our Lady of Sorrows Parish, Trenton, from 1994 to 1999. He was incardinated into the Diocese of Trenton Dec. 13, 1996.
In 1999, he became parochial vicar in St. Pius X Parish, Forked River, and a year later moved to St. Mary of the Lakes Parish, Medford. On June 15, 2001, Father Gnarackatt became parochial vicar in St. Dominic Parish, Brick.
Father Gnarackatt acknowledges that his life of service has spanned various landscapes. “Working in missions verses a parish was very different, but fulfilling,” he said, adding that one of his favorite things about being a priest has remained the same, no matter where he serves.
“I was always touched by the faith of the people, he said. “I try to do my best and do whatever I can do to help my fellow priests and parishioners.”
With 50 years of the priesthood behind him, Father Gnarackatt looks to the future with the same goals in mind. “I’m still trying to do better, to live Christ’s faith better. I’m still learning,” he said.