By Lauren Upchurch
Whether you need encouragement, good conversation, spiritual guidance or a nice cup of tea, there is someone on campus who wants to help.
The Rev. John Pozhathuparambil is a Franciscan priest from Kerala, India, and he currently works as the campus minister in the campus ministry office. This July, Pozhathuparambil, lovingly called Father John, will be celebrating his 10-year anniversary at Bellarmine.
He joined the seminary as a 16-year-old, and after 11 years of schooling, he became ordained. He holds a master’s in philosophy, theology and literature and is earning his doctorate in ministry.
“I would argue that the most important thing Father John does for campus ministry is drawing others into real encounter with God, rekindling their spirits through his own gregarious personality and example,” Director of Campus Ministry Laura Kline said.
Kline said Pozhathuparambil adds to the Bellarmine atmosphere with his playful and considerate nature.
“I grew up in a village with all religions, especially religions like Hinduism and Islam. I grew up understanding, loving and being compassionate towards everyone,” Pozhathuparambil said.
He also said he has learned from each religion and credits who he is today to his multicultural upbringing.
“We welcome everybody [at the Campus Ministry Office] from every path of life. That is who we are and who I am. We all climb the mountain, but we travel up different paths,” Pozhathuparambil said.
“Father John improves our campus by pushing students to be more reflective and contemplative, and to let go of stress,” Mary Wurtz, a senior FLIS and theology major said. “Bellarmine students have so much anxiety and stress related to school, and he helps people to let go of their worries, even for a couple of minutes, and think about the deeper, more meaningful things in life.”
Along with the metaphorical mountain of life, Pozhathuparambil also enjoys hiking literal mountains, as well as fishing and skateboarding, all of which he said connects him to nature and God.
Pozhathuparambil said the family concept of Bellarmine is what drew him here and has kept him here for so many years. “It’s like a family. Everybody knows and cares for each other. I enjoy that,” he said.
He is not only the campus minister, but he said he hopes he serves as a friend and welcomer to all who step foot on campus.
“I love how Father John treats me like family and that he has never met a stranger. As a Franciscan priest, he fully embodies the hospitality and generosity of St. Francis and makes everyone feel at home when they are in his presence,” Wurtz said.
Pozhathuparambil said he hopes his legacy at Bellarmine will be that he showed everyone compassion and welcomed everyone no matter the circumstance.
“He always has a piece of advice or a word of encouragement for anybody who is struggling, and he has been a constant source of positivity to me throughout these four years at Bellarmine,” Wurtz said.
Kline said she thinks Pozhathuparambil will always be known for his hand hugs, his warm smile, his personality and his “Kentucky accent.”
“I am not a stereotypical priest. There are a lot of misconceptions about priests—people think we are awkward or intimidating. Once you get to know me I hope I can change that,” Pozhathuparambil said.
Wurtz said that she thinks of him first for his hospitality, generosity and the way he treats everyone like family.
“I think people expect Father John to be very religious—he is a Catholic priest, after all—but I love the beauty and simplicity with which he expresses his spirituality,” Kline said.
No matter who someone is or what they believe, Pozhathuparambil said he wants to get to know them.
“We know each other, keep each other and are proud together as a family,” Pozhathuparambil said.