As a young boy growing up in India, Rev. George Velloorattil couldn’t help but consider what life would be like if he committed himself to the church. In his family, after all, were 17 priests.
Velloorattil joined St. Bernardine’s Catholic Church in Forest Park at the start of July, replacing Rev. Pat Tucker, a 14-year veteran of the southside pulpit. For Velloorattil, it is his fifth church within the Chicago archdiocese. Each of Velloorattil’s congregations has offered him a different glimpse of the metro area, and Forest Park is a quieter community, he said, with a beautiful church.
Officially, he’ll be installed at St. Bernardine’s on Sept. 27.
“I’m still trying to get the feel of the place,” Velloorattil said.
In accented English, Velloorattil speaks with a smile and is quick with a story about his family. He was raised with seven siblings and finally moved to Chicago in 1986 when everyone else had made the leap. Five of his brothers and sisters live in California; the rest are here in Chicagoland.
With such a large family, Velloorattil said it was three of his uncles – all pastors – who influenced him the most.
“I got inspired by them,” Velloorattil said. “I decided early in my age I wanted to be like them.”
Raised Catholic, the community’s newest church leader said there are experiences from his childhood that may help him in leading a congregation. It was impossible not to be concerned with others in the household, said Velloorattil, because there were so many to be concerned with.
“You grow up with a nature of sharing things with each other and not to be selfish,” Velloorattil said. “That’s what makes you a real person.”
Velloorattil said he’s still learning the mood of his new congregation, but already he has an interest in bolstering attendance and raising the church’s profile in the community. Outreach programs could help with both, he said, though he hasn’t decided exactly where to focus those efforts. During services, Velloorattil hopes his self-described “bubbly” personality wins over parishioners and brings a renewed excitement to the church.
In reading the Bible, Velloorattil takes a more strict interpretation so as not to confuse the intended message, he said.
“I want to be faithful to the teachings of the church,” Velloorattil said. “We have to teach what the church teaches. I cannot teach on my own.”