SALT LAKE CITY — Fr. Alex Vellappally, from the Diocese of Kanjirapally, India, was honored by Dean Jannah Mather and the University of Utah College of Social Work at a farewell luncheon at the College of Social Work June 26.
"I would like to express what I think you all feel – how wonderful Fr. Alex is, and how wonderful it has been for us to have him here this year," said Mather, as she presented Fr. Alex with a certificate from the Alcohol and Drug Abuse Treatment Training Program, where he completed his training.
"We became fast friends and we thank Fr. Alex for letting us into his life," said Hank Liese, University of Utah associate dean for Academic Affairs, College of Social Work. "He has a gentleness and a kindness about him and a way of calming me down, which I need from time to time. We thank him for what he brought to this college; we are going to miss him."
"My heart is full of joy and gratitude for this wonderful year," said Fr. Alex, adding that he will miss his colleagues in Utah, who made him feel at home.
Fr. Alex said he feels fortunate to have worked in the Diocese of Salt Lake City under the direction of Bishop John C. Wester and his team of pastors.
"They gave me a warm welcome and always considered me a member of their team," said Fr. Alex.
During his stay, he helped at many parishes by celebrating Mass, the Sacrament of Reconciliation and visiting the sick.
"I always received very good feedback while exercising my ministry here," Fr. Alex said. "It increased my self confidence and motivation to serve and commit to the ministry."
While filling in for Father John Schwall, pastor of Our Lady of Lourdes, Fr. Alex was invited to share the story of his vocation for Karen Streeter’s classes at Our Lady of Lourdes School.
"It was really exciting and I also shared some practical tips on meditation and relaxation with them," Fr. Alex said. "The students sent me thank-you letters about what they learned and I will never forget their wonderful gesture of love and gratitude."
Father Jan Bednarz, Saint Martin de Porres pastor, inspired Fr. Alex with his "care of the sick and the lonely in the parish, and how some of his parishioners are exemplary in their commitment to the parish," Fr. Alex said.
While staying at Saint Catherine of Siena/Newman Center, he learned a lot about the Dominican community, he said.
"And they were patient in teaching me how to celebrate the Roman Rite Mass, where I celebrate the Syro Malabar Rite," Fr. Alex said. "I will go back to India with a strong sense of achievement, motivation and confidence. I am thankful to everyone."
A farewell potluck party will be held for Fr. Alex July 14 after the 5 p.m. Mass at St. Catherine of Siena Newman Center. Those attending are asked to bring a dish serving at least 12. Those with last names beginning with A-F, green salad or pasta salad; G-R, main dish or casserole; S-Z, hot or cold veggie or fruit casserole.