Story by Dubravka Kolumbic-Cortese, Correspondent
For Father Joy T. Chacko, parochial vicar in St. Gabriel Parish, Marlboro, every day he wakes up is a miraculous gift from God. “If I wake up, I am happy,” Father Chacko said with a chuckle. “There is nothing to be worried [about]. Why should I worry?”
Father Chacko, who came to St. Gabriel as parochial vicar in June 2010, is celebrating 25 years of service in the priesthood. He spent the first two years as a priest in his native India and a majority of the other 23 years within the Trenton Diocese. Throughout his various assignments, he’s found the most rewarding part of being a priest is seeing the changes in the faithful after they receive the Sacraments.
“People really are being changed and graced,” he said. “It is not my power or greatness, but it is the power of God, the power of the Sacraments, that changes people.
“For example, at the end of the Confession, I notice a change come about. They are graced. They become like a light of the world.”
It is that light that Father Chacko himself seems to radiate with an infectious laugh, joyfulness and deep faith.
“Respecting and accepting oneself, respecting and accepting others as they are, and respecting and accepting God as he is, that’s what my grandfather and father told me,” he recalled. “They were all regular people, but they had a lot of wisdom, I thought.”
Following a Calling
Father Chacko was born May 31, 1960, in Kallara, Kerala, India, the second of five boys. He speaks fondly of his childhood. “I cherish it,” he said. “Whenever I go back, it brings back my happy memories. It was a great time. It was a beautiful time.” As a family, they would pray the Rosary every evening and attend Mass every morning.
It was after 10th grade that he received the call from God to become a priest. He completed his priestly studies from 1988 to 1991 at the Khrist Premalaya, Bhopal Regional Theolgate Ecclesiastical Institute, in Ashta, Sehore District, India, and earned a bachelor of arts degree from Osmania University in Hyderabad, India, in 1994. Father Chacko was ordained May 7, 1992, in St. Thomas Church in Kallara, India, by Archbishop Abraham Viruthakulagara of Nagpur. He was quickly assigned as parish priest at Infant Jesus Parish in Hoshangabad, India. During his time there, he led a Fathepur Mission and was a staff member and procurator of St. Theresa’s Minor Seminary.
Father Chacko came to the United States in August 1994 at the recommendation of his Bishop who, he said, wanted him to “get out and learn from other parts of the world.” Upon his arrival in America, he was assigned as a temporary chaplain at Holly Patterson Nursing Home in the Diocese of Rockville Center, N.Y., as he awaited assignment in the Diocese of Trenton through the intercession of Msgr. Walter E. Nolan, then director of priest personnel.
“When someone asks me why I came to this country, I tell them, ‘If you can tell me why you were born, I will tell you.’ Then they smile at me, and I tell them, ‘It is because of God you are born, and it is because of God that I came to this country,’” he said.
After a month in New York, Father Chacko arrived in the Diocese in September 1994. Since then, he has served in several parishes, including St. Catherine, Middletown; Blessed Sacrament (now Blessed-Sacrament-Our Lady of the Divine Shepherd), Trenton; Incarnation (now Incarnation-St. James), Ewing; Holy Name (now part of Resurrection Parish), Delran; St. Ann, Keansburg, St. Veronica, Howell, and most recently, St. Gabriel. He was incardinated Dec. 6, 2000, into the Diocese of Trenton.
Of his time in the Diocese, he said, “I am trying to be a man, a human being, a child of God and then trying to be a priest. That is the most beautiful thing I try to do.”
It is this complete acceptance of God’s will in his life that Father Chacko holds on to even in the face of tragedy. His oldest brother died last year from heat stroke while returning home from a nearly two-day journey to obtain visas for him and his wife to visit the United States. His death prior to what was supposed to be a joyous reunion did not dampen Father Chacko’s faith.
“We have no control over anything,” he said. “We all come to our journey in this world, and then, in the fullness of time, we all go back.”
Father Chacko was in India in May to officiate the wedding of his brother’s daughter.
“Change is part of life,” he said. “God makes the changes. I just do my little work.”
Father Chacko’s work, however little it may seem at times, reflects a generous faith in God.
“Every day I wake up, I celebrate my life,” he said. “God is good.”