by Joe Bollig
KANSAS CITY, Kan. — In his work as a chaplain at the University of Kansas Medical Center here, Father Rafi Kuttukaran was known as a dedicated and faithful priest who gave comfort to the sick and consolation to those who mourned.
He was also known as an avid gardener, and it was while working in his garden at home that Father Kuttukaran, 58, unexpectedly died on Aug. 10.
Father Kuttukaran was born on Oct. 6, 1960, in the town of Thrissur, in the state of Kerala, located on the west side of the southern tip of India. He was the fifth of eight children of Lonappan Kuttukaran and Rosy Thekkekara.
He was ordained a priest on Dec. 30, 1992, for the Diocese of Imphal, located in the state of Manipur in far northeastern India. After ordination, he held pastoral assignments (including Sacred Heart Church in K. Chanshil) and served as his bishop’s secretary.
Priests in that region of India were sometimes targeted for kidnapping and extortion, or simply murdered. Father Kuttukaran was himself kidnapped once and injured, but he escaped and returned to the state of Kerala.
Afterward, he went to the United States and served in various capacities and locations at parishes, as a contract chaplain for the U.S. military, and as a hospital chaplain beginning in 2005. Eventually, he became a U.S. citizen.
While at the University of Kansas Medical Center, Father Kuttukaran was known for his deep Marian devotion and his dedication in ministering to patients, their families, visitors and the staff. It was said that he considered the medical center to be “his parish” and those there as “family.”
Also, it was his delight to celebrate holidays with patients who were unable to go home.
A funeral Mass was celebrated for Father Kuttukaran on Aug. 20 at Holy Name Parish in Kansas City, Kansas. The main celebrant was Archbishop Joseph F. Naumann and the homilist was Father Jomon Palatty, pastor of Annunciation Parish in Baldwin and St. Francis Parish in Lapeer. The family requested no flowers but suggested contributions to Holy Name Parish.