Father Joseph Konikattil, pictured above, is the official pastor of three schools—Fairmont Catholic School, St. Mary Central School, and Notre Dame High School in Clarksburg.
By Joyce Bibey
FAIRMONT—He has been assigned as the official pastor of three schools – Fairmont Catholic School, St. Mary Central School, and Notre Dame High School. For some this may seem a bit daunting- working in two cities with three different administrative staffs and three school advisory boards. However, Father Joseph Konikattil is eager to help and sees it as an exciting opportunity to enable students to “carry Christ in their hearts and soar high in the community with the wings of knowledge.”
Father Joe, as he prefers, because most people stumble over his last name, which is pronounced Ko-nah-‘kah-til; is no stranger to school leadership. In fact, he has an impressive list of accolades that includes being named by the Federal Government of India the best principal for promoting information technology in a school. He was also recognized three times as an elite principal by the State Government of Manipur, in Northeast India.
He is certain his beliefs on the importance of Catholic schools will be evident in his leadership.
“Catholic Education enables a person to face the future with confidence because he/she is equipped with knowledge powered by faith,” he said. “Catholic school is the nursery of faith. It is like the seed sown in the good soil: “some seed fell on rich soil, and produced fruit, a hundred or sixty or thirtyfold”(Mathew 13:8). It certainly produces and makes a difference in the community.”
Children all over the world have great potential but need the foundation of Christ’s teachings to empower them, he said.
“Students have great talents but need greater motivation to pursue after academic and spiritual excellence, and parents need to guide their children properly to realize their great potentials to face the future with great vision,” he said. “(West Virginia specifically) is a great land thirsting for CHRIST.”
Without a doubt Catholics and non-Catholics alike benefit from religious based schools, he said.
“I worked in Catholic schools with more than 90% Hindus and 10% Christians,” Father said. “Catholic schools welcome everyone and (instructs) based on the principles of Catholic doctrines. The principals of Catholic doctrine also reflect universal values such as love, peace, freedom, social justice and progress, equal rights, human dignity, forgiveness etc. to make a person a better human being without sacrificing Catholic identity. These universal values regulate the formation of the young, and the religious and moral education provided in the Catholic schools is in accordance with the good conscience of any parents who are either Catholics or non-Catholics.”
At both Fairmont Catholic and St. Mary Central grade schools his goals are clear: “provide a safe environment for learning and to build up the morale and increase enrollment; give the best possible for the students and to prepare and inspire the students to lead meaningful lives in our catholic tradition; and make the learning a joyful experience for the kids so that they remember their days at school for the rest of their lives.”
He said these communities that are equally rich in hospitality “deserve a good Catholic school to keep abreast of the technological and scientific advancements, and to grow in Catholic tradition.
“I will reach out to the community and make use of all the resources available for the good of the school and establish a strong Catholic identity,” he added. “I definitely need the helping hands of the entire community on deck to sail together toward a greater glory.”
His focus is on point at the high school level too. Notre Dame may sit in Clarksburg, but the school community crosses over many city and county lines. The key will be to unite all the communities and help them realize they are one great big family.
“Rebuild the human infrastructure and provide the best for the students and make it a powerhouse in WV in all the fields,” Father Joe said. “Faith formation is an ongoing process and high school life prepares the students to make the right choices in their lives. The exposure to the Catholic faith and religious education as a core subject develop a strong religious foundation in high school.”
Families need to realize that Catholic education is an investment in their child, the community, and the future.
“It is worth the cost,” he said. “It is the greatest investment parents could ever make in human resource development, and they will never regret it. Catholic schools have superior academics, faith formation, and the character formation in a safe environment where every child is accepted and respected by all. Catholic education leads to better career opportunities and a more successful life.”
Catholic schools are more than academics and extra-curriculars.
“It is the holistic development of a person: mind, body and soul; academics, athletics and faith,” Father Joe explained. “Catholic education is the part of the mission of the church and all the teachers are dedicated to their students in developing the human potential and empowering individuals to become responsible, contributing members of society through faith and knowledge.”
As any good leader, Fr. Joe is strategically looking down the road five years, “I know I will have been successful in my role as pastor for these three schools if teaching faculty, parents and students have close cooperation as members of a family and pursue after excellence with greater faith in God.”
He said he will do everything he can to help the schools be elite.
“Children are the future of the country and they need to be formed well with good values to preserve this country as the greatest,” he said. “Thus, God expects all to be responsible stewards to keep this country even more beautiful. ‘Much will be required of the person entrusted with much, and still more will be demanded of the person entrusted with more.’”(Luke 12: 48)