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Man on a Mission

By France Griggs Sloat

Justin George Vettukallel is carrying a heavy load. He’s taking six business courses this semester to complete his MBA by June.

The heavier load, however, may be his responsibility to establish a monetary fund to support the Catholic mission of his diocese in rural northern India. Vettukallel, a Catholic priest of an ancient Indian order, was given his new assignment last year, but he had no background in business. He needed to study finance and accounting to learn how to manage such a multimillion dollar endeavor.

So, through his contacts within his order of Catholic priests, he started his studies in business at Xavier last year on partial scholarships from the Precious Blood Church in Dayton, where he’s living, and from Xavier. Now, as he makes the daily drive from Dayton to Xavier, he contemplates how he’ll use his MBA to finance his diocese’s mission work. He plans to use his new business skills to raise $1 million a year that he will be responsible for reinvesting and dispersing where the need is greatest.

Vettukallel is a member of the Missionary Society of St. Thomas the Apostle, an order of priests of the Syro Malabar Church established by St. Thomas in 52 AD. Vettukallel grew up in the South India state of Kerala, where the population is well-educated and well-off. But he wanted to work with the poor in North India, so he moved to Ujjain City to study at Ruhalaya Seminary, which is run by his order, and was ordained in 2003.

His first position as chancellor put him in charge of its missions, which include serving the mentally ill, victims of HIV/AIDS and the illiterate. In the agricultural, Hindu region of Ujjain, the need is great—about 40 percent are poor, and 35 percent can’t read. Now he must find the money to support the work.

“We mostly depend on Germany for our funding,” he says. “My passion is to have the people of India be responsible for their indigenous church.”

With his determination—and his MBA—Vettukallel may be just the guy to tackle that heavy load.

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