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Father George leaves SEAS for Our Lady of the Lakes

For the Rev. Abraham George, his life and career are about serving God and the people.

He has been doing that for the past five years as associate pastor at St. Elizabeth Ann Seton Catholic Church and will continue his service as the new pastor at Our Lady of the Lakes Parish in Mound, Minn. His last Sunday at Seton Church was June 14.

"It is about serving the people, the community and God," George said. "My five years here have been spent in a very loving community; I will miss the people.

"It is time to leave, but it is hard to leave," he said. "You do have mixed feelings."

The church pastor agreed.

"This is a month of celebrating and thanksgiving for us," the Rev. James Perkl, church pastor, said. He added George leaves Seton Church with the love and support of the parish community.

George came to the Seton community June 8, 2004. He had spent three months in New Brighton, after coming to this country from Kerala, India.

About 2.5 percent of the population in India is Catholic. George's order is the Carmelites of Mary Immaculate, which was founded more than 150 years ago in India. It was the first Catholic order in India.

Today, there are 1,500 CMI priests, with 110 in the United States. There are two in Archdiocese of St. Paul-Minneapolis. George refers to them as "missionary" priests.

Within the Archdiocese of St. Paul-Minneapolis, there are 222 parishes, served by "internal" priests (those ordained in this country) and "external" (from other countries, including India and Africa).

George grew up in a family that lived its faith - he has a sister who is a nun. His parents strongly encouraged him to seek a career in the church.

"I had inspiration from my parents, teachers and the priests," he said. "I always knew where I was going."

He entered the seminary, which involved years of college studies in philosophy and theology. He earned teaching degrees and eventually taught geography in high school, while also assisting with pastoral duties in his order in India.

He had never been to this country, let alone this area, when he was called to come to Minnesota in 2004. He did have visions of the cold winters here. He likes them now.

He also had to learn to drive as Americans do. In India, vehicles are driven on the left side of the road. He was a quick learner.

"As associate pastor, you can do everything under the direction of the pastor," he said. "That's all the sacraments, including baptisms, communion, weddings, funeral, and all Masses."

When he came to Hastings and Seton Church, George found a very welcoming and friendly community, ready to extend their arms to help with the adjustment, and open their hearts.

Originally, he had thought he would stay three years, but the archdiocese and the bishop extended it another two years.

He is looking forward to the next stop in his "journey" of life and faith. Our Lady of the Lakes, which is celebrating its 100th anniversary this year, has a little more than 1,200 families, and has a school for those in preschool to grade eight. George will be assisted by a deacon.

"I've told some of the people here that now we have to share Father Abraham with another parish," said Seton's volunteer/communications coordinator Faith Siebenaler. "It was so good to have him here."