NEWPORT CITY – Two years ago, Fr. Shiju Chittattukkara, S.D.V, left his home in southern India to spread the Catholic word in the United States. His first stop was St. Mary Star of the Sea Catholic Church in Newport. Last Thursday, Chittattukkara left Newport to serve at Our Lady of Solace in Coney Island, N.Y.
Chittattukkara came to Newport as an assistant pastor to Father Michael Reardon. Chittattukkara had been a priest for a year and a half before coming to Newport. This was his first time in the United States. Prior to coming to the Northeast Kingdom, he knew nothing about Newport.
“Newport is a very beautiful place,” he said. Chittattukkara said he enjoyed the four seasons. He thought it was a mistake when first told he would be coming to Newport. “I never thought I would come to America.”
Chittattukkara learned English in India but did not practice it until he came to the United States. He feels he speaks English better now than he did two years ago.
In Brooklyn, Chittattukkara will serve as an assistant pastor at a church that serves the English and Spanish communities. Moving from Newport is going to be a culture shock, he said. “New York is not Newport,” said Chittattukkara. “Newport is peaceful. I’m very comfortable here.”
Chittattukkara said he loves the people in Newport, will remember them and will miss them.
While in Newport, he saw snow for the first time. He said he was surprised at how white snow is. However, he said his concentration was on the parish, not snow or cold.
Chittattukkara, 32, said he is joyful and happy that he is a priest. He first knew he wanted to be priest at the age of 16. He joined the congregation in 1996.
The primary religion in India is Hindu, said Chittattukkara. Catholic following in his area of India is 18 percent.
As a whole, Chittattukkara is not concerned that the Catholic Church will diminish.
“It will get better,” he said, referring to the numbers in the church, “despite all the problems and difficulties we are facing right now, the church will not die.”
Chittattukkara’s message to the residents to the Newport area is, “Try to be the people of good will.”