Our St. Rita community has been so blessed to have Fr. Raja Karumelnathan recently join us as our new parochial vicar. So, as we welcome Fr. Raja, we also would like to share some of his story so parishioners can get to know him better.
Born and raised in Tamil Nadu, India, Fr. Raja did not always know he would one day become a priest. He was raised in a Catholic family with two sisters and one brother, attending a local village church — at over 300 years old, it was a church with a rich history. For most of his upbringing, Fr. Raja attended Catholic schools, with a few years in the public school system during his high school year. In 11th grade, he was invited to join the seminary.
“I could never imagine this without the support of God’s grace,” he says. “I never had any interest to study, but it’s all a miraculous calling, I never had intentions of being a priest and it all happened. I was invited to a seminary program to explore and see if I would be a priest — I was qualified, so I joined.”
After 12 years of study and formation, along with a year of fieldwork, Fr. Raja was ordained to the congregation of Missionaries of St. Francis de Sales in 2009.
“I came to serve, not to be served — that was my motto for my ordination,” Fr. Raja says. “Then I always believed that I am called to serve the people, so I always choose to work in parishes, not (educational) institutions. I always believed I am called to help the people, and I am coming to serve them. I’m so happy as a priest because I remain grateful to the Lord for blessing me in this state of life.”
In the years since his ordination, Fr. Raja has served as both a pastor and associate priest in several different parishes. In June 2017, he came to America to serve in the Diocese of Houma-Thibodaux in Louisiana.
Fr. Raja enjoys reading, studying, and preaching. While still living in India after his ordination, he obtained his master’s in counseling psychology and is currently studying for his doctorate through Grand Canyon University in Phoenix. In his ministry as a priest, he desires to follow God wherever He leads.
“I believe God leads me better than I choose to lead myself,” he says. “Most of the time, I allow Him to lead. Most of the time, what I plan doesn’t go over. A better plan and the blessing of God comes — it’s better. When you plan something, God plans something that is really great.”
In his preaching and speaking, Fr. Raja focuses on the importance of the Gospel. He also enjoys connecting the patron for his present parish with the readings. He looks forward to sharing about St. Rita with our parish family.
“I try to interpret the Gospel, preach the Gospel, using saints and their lives,” he says. “The Gospel is lived by them, that’s what I believe. It’s more than a story.”
Belonging to his congregation, Fr. Raja has St. Francis de Sales as his patron saint. He admires the gentle spirit of St. Francis’ writings, which focus on the mercy and love of God.
Welcome, Fr. Raja! We are so glad that you are part of our St. Rita faith family!