Father Thomas Kunnath celebrated a Mass of Thanksgiving with the parishioners of Sacred Heart Parish, Trenton, where he served as parochial vicar, July 10 at the CYO Day Camp in Yardville. Following the Mass, the parish honored Father Kunnath during a picnic. Standing next to Father Kunnath is Msgr. Dennis Apoldite. John 
Batkowski photo
Father Thomas Kunnath celebrated a Mass of Thanksgiving with the parishioners of Sacred Heart Parish, Trenton, where he served as parochial vicar, July 10 at the CYO Day Camp in Yardville. Following the Mass, the parish honored Father Kunnath during a picnic. Standing next to Father Kunnath is Msgr. Dennis Apoldite. John Batkowski photo
As Father Thomas Kunnath settles into retirement, he does so with a heart filled with gratitude. He treasures having the support of loving family members and friends and meaningful experiences of priesthood both in the United States and his native India.

“God is always good to his children, and we are called to do likewise,” Father Kunnath said in his homily during the July 10 Mass of Thanksgiving he celebrated a week before he bid farewell to Sacred Heart Parish, Trenton, where he served as parochial vicar since 2013, and the Diocese of Trenton where he ministered for 28 of his 37 years of priesthood. He headed home for India on July 17.

PHOTO GALLERY: Father Kunnath's Retirement Mass

“There are many opportunities for us to respond to the needs around us and we need to respond with love,” he said, reflecting on the story of the Good Samaritan. “We have to set the example and be Christian,” he said. “We have to keep our eyes open and see the need.”

When speaking of examples, Father Kunnath said it was those set by his grandmother and his parents and how they lived out their strong Catholic faith that ultimately inspired his future vocation as a priest and his sister Charlotte’s vocation as a nun. 


Without fail, “they prayed the Rosary every morning and every evening,” he said. “I come from a very religious family,” he said, adding that he currently has two uncles who are priests – one serving in the Newark Archdiocese and the other in India.

Father Kunnath’s priestly preparation began in St. Joseph’s Training College, then St. Joseph Jeppu Seminary in nearby Mangalore. Following his May 8, 1985, ordination by Indian Bishop Joseph Mittathani, he served several assignments in local parishes. But his family ties, namely his two priest uncles serving in the Archdiocese of Newark at the time, inspired Father Kunnath to relocate to the United States in 1994.

Following in his uncles’ footsteps he served a parish assignment in Newark before arriving in the Diocese of Trenton in 1998. As parochial vicar, he served in St. Raphael Parish (now St. Raphael-Holy Angels Parish), Hamilton; St. Ann Parish, Browns Mills; Epiphany Parish, Brick; St. Mary Parish, Barnegat; St. Joseph Parish, Keyport (now part of Our Lady of Fatima Parish, Keyport), and Sacred Heart Parish, which has undergone several parish restructuring processes. He was incardinated a priest of the Diocese by Bishop John M. Smith in 2003.

While Father Kunnath enjoyed how his various parish assignments afforded him the opportunity to become involved in all areas of parish life, he smiles when he recalls how he has tried to model the example of the Good Samaritan by recognizing the needs of others, especially through working as a Catholic chaplain for the Capital Health hospitals in Pennington and Trenton.

Whether it is celebrating Masses, hearing Confessions, or administering the Sacrament of the Sick, he found it to be a very moving and fulfilling ministry. “Confessions and Anointing of the Sick are important Sacraments” because they are healing Sacraments, he said. “They give people peace of mind. I want them to have peace of mind.”

In retirement, Father Kunnath will live with his brother and his family and, for the time being, focus on regaining his strength following an illness that required a lengthy hospital stay.

“I enjoyed my time here in Trenton. The people have been very loving and accepting of me as a priest. And my priesthood is a gift,” he said, “a gift from God.”