Twenty Years of Grace
Today we keep the memory of a historic event. It was on this day 20 years ago that the Region of Alwaye was inaugurated at Nitya Sahaya Bhavan, Chowara. This special issue of the Community Links tries to look back to these 20 years and presents to you the growth of the Region to a Province.
Region of Alwaye
Establishing a Unit for the confreres belonging to the Syro-Malabar Church was not an overnight development. Efforts ever made over the years to study the spirituality, liturgy and history of the Syro-Malabar Church. For this purpose seminars were organized during summer holidays for the professed members. After sufficient time was spent studying the pros and cons of having a separate Unit, confreres petitioned the Provincial Chapter of 1990 to establish a Syro-Malabar Unit of the Congregation. Chapter favoured this request and the General Council approved it. Rev. Fr. Bernard Pereira, the Provincial of Bangalore Province inaugurated the Region of Alwaye on Feb 19, 1992 at Chowara.
Confreres belonging to the Syro-Malabar Church were given an option to join the new Region or remain in the Bangalore Province. 17 priests and 15 professed students opted for the Region. However, before the Region was erected, one of the priests, Fr. George Enanickal was called by the Lord for his eternal reward on December 10, 1991. Thus, the new Region started off with 16 priests and 15 professed students.
The first Regional assembly was held at Chowara itself from Feb 19 to 21. Fr. Michael Naickanparampil was elected the Regional Superior and Frs. Thomas Mulanjanani and George Areeckal were the consultors.
Vice-Province of Alwaye
Often we talk of people, ‘they are born to win’. The same may be said about the Region too – ‘it is born to grow’. Within three years the General Government raised the Region to the status of an autonomous Vice-Province. It was inaugurated on July 3, 1995 by Major Archbishop of the Syro-Malabar Church Mar Antony Cardinal Padiyara.
The challenge before the Vice-Province was to consolidate and stabilize the Unit. Great emphasise was given to formation. Keeping in mind the growing number of confreres, Communities were established. Apostolate too was given due importance. Stabilizing the finance was a major task.
After stabilizing the different areas of life of the Vice-Province to a great extend, efforts were made to raise the Vice-Province to the status of a Province. The General Government was pleased with the life and activities and the progress of the Vice-Province. So it raised the Vice-Province to a Province – the Liguori Province. It was inaugurated on June 27, 2008 by Mar Varkey Cardinal Vithayathil, C.Ss.R.
The province now has 8 Communities, 54 priests, 43 professed students, and 35 students in the lower stages of formation. It is blessed with a thriving apostolate and a band of enthusiastic missionaries. Over the past 20 years the province has witnessed tremendous growth in all areas of life. Let us just glance through them.
Nitya Sahaya Bhavan, Chowara was the first Redemptorist foundation in the Syro-Malabar Church. It was started in 1981. The principal reason for starting this foundation was to begin the Juvenate formation in Kerala. After much search for a suitable land, this beautiful place on the bank of the river Periyar was bought in 1981. Meanwhile the Juvenate was already begun with six juvenists in a rented house at Thottumugham. In 1982 the Juvenate was shifted to the present house.
The new foundation in Chowara helped to revive the parish missions in the eighties and made the vocation promotion easier.
When the Region was established it became the residence of the Regional Superior and later on the residence of the Vice-Provincial Superior. In 2007 the Vice-Provincial residence was shifted to Mattoor.
The present Chowara house was built in three phases. The old section was completed in 1989, the refectory, kitchen and rooms above were built in 1997, and the new building which includes the chapel was completed and was blessed on November 1, 2001.
Alphonse Bhavan, Edoor
The revival of Malayalam missions in the eighties brought in the need to look for another foundation. Since the northern part of Kerala offered a lot of opportunities for apostolate and vocations we looked for an ideal place in the diocese of Tellicherry to establish the next foundation. After much search a suitable plot was bought in 1990 in Edoor and it was occupied in the same year. A house was built with all the needed facilities for a community and it was blessed on May 24, 1994.
Alphonse Bhavan functioned as a Mission House. However, it was not to remain so for long. When the first Vice-Provincial Chapter decided to begin our own Novitiate formation, Alphonse Bhavan was chosen as the Novitiate house and the first batch on Novices began their Novitiate formation on June 1, 1997. Later on another floor was added to provide more facilities for the Novices.
Santhome Minor Seminary, Podimattam
When the Region of Alwaye was established it had just two houses – Chowara and Edoor. One of the first decisions that the Region took was to begin its own pre-novitiate formation in Kerala. With this purpose in mind a plot of land was bought at Podimattam in the diocese of Kanjirapally in 1993. The house started to function as the pre-novitiate in the existing building in 1993 itself. Later on a small section was built to cater to the basic needs of the community and the formation. The community and the students adjusted themselves within the limited facilities available. However, these facilities were not enough for a permanent set up. Thus the old building was demolished and a new one with some of the basic needs for formation was built. It was blessed on April 15, 1998.
St. Clement’s Study House, Vadavathoor
After the inauguration of the Vice-Province, the Vice-Provincial Government was on the lookout for a property to start a house of studies for the major seminarians. In 1996 a plot was bought at Vadavathoor with the view to send our students to St. Thomas Ap. Seminary as day scholars. In 1996 itself we occupied the place. A small section was built to accommodate a small group of students and the first batch started their philosophical studies there in 1999. A proper building with basic facilities was built later on and it was blessed in September 26, 2001.
St. Gerard’s Monastery, Karavaloor
All the four Communities the Vice-Province had so far were formation communities. It was a felt need to establish a non-formation community. With this in mind a small plot of land was purchased in Karavaloor in the archdiocese of Changanacherry. A house for community and a church was built. Both the house and the church were blessed on December 14, 2002. In May 2005 the archdiocese established a parish at Karavaloor.
St. John Neumann Bhavan, Kunnambetta
As the number of confreres was increased, we had to look for another foundation. A suitable piece of land was bought in Kunnambetta in the diocese of Mananthavady in May 2003. A house for community and a small monastery chapel were built and were blessed on January 27, 2005. Later, the diocese established an independent sub-station at Kunnambetta. Recently a shrine to Our Lady was built and it was blessed on January 28, this year.
Liguori Bhavan, Mattoor
Ever since the formation of the Region of Alwaye, Chowara was its headquarters as well as a formation house. In order to have the Vice-Provincial house separate from a formation house, we bought a plot of land at Mattoor in 2005. A house with basic facilities was built and it was blessed on February 10, 2007. The Vice-Provincial residence was shifted from Chowara to Mattoor in December 2007. Mattoor became the Provincial residence when the Vice-Province of Alwaye became a Province on June 27, 2008.
Amala Estate, Vadakkancherry
Financial stability is a necessary element for growth. As part of stabilizing the province financially, an estate was bought near Vadakkancherry in the diocese of Palakkad at the beginning the 2008-2011 triennium. There was already a house in the estate. Necessary alterations were made to the house in order to accommodate a small community there.
Houses outside Kerala
It was a felt need of all that we must have a foundation outside Kerala. With this in view we have made an effort to establish a foundation in the diocese of Thuckalay. From 2006 onwards we were working in and around Marapady. However, things did not work out as we expected. Finally as per the decision of the Provincial held in January 2011, we moved out of Thuckalay.
Efforts are on to purchase a property in Maloor, near Bangalore. With this ‘a foundation outside Kerala’ may come true.
When we became a Region all stages of formation except the juvenate were in Bangalore. Over the years we have stated different stages of formation here.
The first Regional Council decided to start the pre-novitiate formation in the Region itself. Thus a house was rented in Chowara itself and the pre-novitiate formation was started there in 1992. Later it was shifted to a rented house in Valakkayam near Kanjirapally. In 1993 the present property in Podimattam was bought for the purpose of having the pre-novitiate formation there.
One of the important decisions of the first Vice-Provincial Chapter in 1996 was to begin our own Novitiate formation and to have it before philosophy. Thus, Edoor was designated as the Novitiate house and the first batch of novices began their novitiate formation in 1997 and made their profession on June 1, 1998.
With the introduction of Novitiate formation, we had to look for a place to send out students to do their philosophical studies. Vadavathoor was not yet ready to accommodate students. So the first batch that completed their Novitiate was sent to the Carmel Hill Philosophy College of the O.C.D. Fathers in Trivandrum. Meanwhile necessary facilities were built in Vadavathoor to accommodate a small group and we started to send our students to St. Thomas Ap. Seminary for philosophy from 1999 onwards.
Though five of our students from two batches did their theology in Vadavathoor from 2002 onwards, we continued to send out students to M.S.A, Bangalore for theology.
From 2001 onwards we organize pastoral year programme for our young fathers. Immediately after the ordination our newly ordained are sent for parish experience from 2003 onwards.
(Vice) Provincial Governments
The first Regional Assembly elected Fr. Michael Naickanparampil as the Regional Superior and Frs. Thomas Mulanjanani and George Areeckal as council members. The same team was re-elected in 1993 and they were appointed by the General Government as Vice-Provincial Superior and council members when the Region became a Vice-Province in 1995.
The following confreres gave the pastoral leadership to the (Vice) Province so far:
1996 – 1999: Frs. Michael Niackanparampil (Vice-Provincial), George Puthenpura (Vicar), Chacko Pendanath (II OVPC) Clement Vadakkedath (I EVPC) and Augustine Kumpidiamackal (II EVPC).
1999 – 2002: Frs. George Areeckal (Vice-Provincial), Joy Poonoly (Vicar), Mathew Paruthical (II OVPC), Zacharias Kanjooparampil (I EVPC), and Thomas Mulanjanani (II EVPC).
2002 – 2005: Frs. George Areeckal (Vice-Provincial), Joy Poonoly (Vicar), Mathew Paruthical (II OVPC), Thomas Mulanjanani (I EVPC), and Jose Poovannikunnel (II EVPC).
2005 – 2008: Frs. Clement Vadakkedath (Vice-Provincial), Joy Poonoly (Vicar), Mathew Paruthical (II OVPC), Jose Poovannikunnel (I EVPC), and Joseph Verananickal (II EVPC).
2008 – 2011: Frs. Clement Vadakkedath (Vice-Provincial), Jose Poovannikunnel (Vicar), Kuruvila Marotickal (II OVPC), Biju Kunnumpurath (I EVPC), and Joseph Valachathinakathu (II EVPC). When the Vice-Province became the Liguori Province, the General Government appointed the same team to continue as the Provincial Superior and his consultors.
2011 – 2015: Frs. Joy Poonoly (Provincial), George Areeckal (Vicar), James Kizhakkayil (II OPC), Joy Mullasseril (I EPC), and Joseph Verananickal (II EPC).
There is no doubt that we exist for apostolate. Fortunately the Liguori Province is blessed with confreres who are enthusiastic about their apostolate, and they have a tight schedule of apostolate. The Lenten missions of 2012 itself are the best proof for it. Usually we preach parish missions and retreats to religious and priests. However, the last 10 years saw our young fathers involving themselves very actively in the youth apostolate. Requests are pouring in from different quarters which include outside Kerala and, at times, outside the country.
Church is missionary; so too is our Province. Our confreres have either worked or are still working in different countries such as Sri Lanka, New Zealand, Austria, Denmark, Caribbean Islands, the U.S.A. and Canada. Besides these, there are short programs conducted in different other places.
Mar Varkey Cardinal Vithayathil, C.Ss.R.
The Liguori Province is always proud of Mar Varkey, a member of our province. The Holy Father Pope John Paul II appointed him the Apostolic Administrator of the Syro-Malabar Church and the Archdiocese of Ernakulam-Angamaly on December 18, 1996 and was ordained Bishop on 6 January 1997. The Pope appointed him as the Major Archbishop of the Syro-Malabar Church on 23 December 1999. He was nominated a member of the Sacred College of Cardinals on 21 January 2001, and raised him to that dignity at the Consistory of 21 February 2001. He was one of the cardinal electors who participated in the 2005 papal conclave that elected Pope Benedict XVI. In February 2008 he was elected President of the Catholic Bishops Conference of India and held the presidency up to March 2010. He was ailing for some time and died on April 1, 2011. His mortal remains were brought to Liguori Bhavan, Mattoor on April 9 around 6.10 am. He was buried at St. Mary’s Basilica, Ernakulam on April 10.
During these 20 years we have lost 3 more confreres. On December 31, 2001 Fr. George Puliappillil died and was buried on January 1, 2002 in Edoor itself. Fr. Mathew Manjakunnel breathed his last on July 9, 2011 and was buried in our cemetery in Chowara on July 11. Fr. Mathew Paruthical too was called by the Lord on December 8, 2011. He was buried in Chowara next day.
Years of Grace
‘Twenty years’ in the life of a Unit of the Congregation is indeed a short period of time. But this young Unit has made phenomenal growth and progress within the short period of 20 years. Growth in the number of confreres and houses is there for all to see. There is a remarkable enthusiasm and vitality in our apostolate, missions, retreats, youth programmes etc. There is also a true community life, and confreres are eager to help one another and foster gospel friendship. All this is achieved not through our own efforts but through the power of God’s grace. On this occasion of the 20th year of our Unit’s formation we humbly thank God for his divine providence and say with profound gratitude “We are what we are by the grace of God” (cf. 1 Cor 15:10).