Friday February 11, 2022
ather Sebastian Chacko,
KEARNS – On January 11, the Diocese of Salt Lake City welcomed Father Sebastian Chacko, who was installed as priest-in-residence at Saint Francis Xavier Parish in Kearns.
Br. Chacko, who was born in India in 1948, felt his calling to the priesthood from an early age, he said.
“When I was 6 years old, my uncle was ordained a priest. My mother always prayed that one of her three sons would be called to the priesthood,” said P. Chacko.
Your prayers have been answered; on December 19, 1976 he was ordained a priest in his hometown.
Ms. Chacko is fluent in the Samoan language in addition to English, Malayalam, Bengali, Hindi, Tamil and Swahili.
“Almost every state in India has its own language and dialects. I studied in different parts of India and learned the local languages,” he explained. “As a missionary in whatever country I worked, I had to learn their language in order to be an effective priest and missionary.”
In 1990 he was incardinated [formally accepted] in the Diocese of Samoa and incardinated in the Diocese of Hawaii in 2005.
During his time in Samoa and Hawaii he pastored five different churches. He retired from Hawaii in 2017 at the age of 70, but then received an invitation to serve the Samoan community in New Zealand.
The original invitation was meant to serve two to three years, but when he got there he learned he could only stay a year.
“It was government policy that priests were not allowed to serve after the age of 70,” said Father Sebastian, as he prefers to be called.
However, his ministry as a missionary priest continued; he was asked to come to Utah to minister to the Samoan community there.
“The Catholic Samoan community in Utah has wanted a Samoan priest to support them for over 20 years,” said Fr. Sagte Sebastian. “When I was recently in American Samoa, the Vicar General there told me, Rev. Br. Viane Etuale asked me if I could go to Utah, and then I applied and was accepted.”
Fr. Sebastian will assist Father. Eugenio Yarce, pastor of St. Francis Xavier parish, said Fr. Ken Vialpando, diocesan vicar for clergy.
The community is made up of Latinos, Anglos and Samoans.
In addition to the languages mentioned, Fr. Sebastian also speaks some Latin and Italian, and he is beginning to learn Spanish — “at least enough to be able to say mass and worship in Spanish,” he said.
In greeting Fr. Sebastian, Fr. Vialpando joked: “While you are here you may even have time to learn at least one or two more languages and why not since the seven languages you already speak are just those tip of the iceberg.”
So far, Ms. Sebastian has enjoyed his time in Utah, he said. “Everything is pretty good here, except for the cold.”
He lived 15 years in Samoa and 22 years in Hawaii, “so this is a different place,” he said. “I got very good impressions from the welcome by the Samoan Catholics and Rev. Fr. Eugenio Yarce and the community.”
His goals for his new community are “to provide them with spiritual assistance using their language and culture. … By the grace of God, my experiences with the loving and respectful Samoan communities will be useful in beginning and maintaining ministry among and for them,” he said.