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Major Seminary and Ordination

ursday, August 5, 2010

Major Seminary and Ordination

St.Joseph's Pontifical Seminary

Going to Carmelgiri, the philosophy section of the St.Joseph's Pontifical Seminary was a new experience.The seminary almost looked like a college. The building looked fresh and new. The cold winds blowing through the windows at night made us feel cold and shivering.Long corridors, big library, big class rooms, more facilities, courts etc were the new conveniences available for us.

The professors were Spanish Carmelite priests.Fr.Firmin who passed away at a very early age—a year after our ordination- was very much loved by us. I felt saddened at his passing away.Fr.Aurelian was the Superior at Carmelgiri. Before our arrival , he was the Rector of seminary. He was the quintessence of humility, simplicity and gentleness.His bent figure, walking along the corridors of the seminary and greeting the students with a gentle smile , will never be forgotten.

Since some of us came with undergraduate degrees, the study in the seminary was very easy. I secured “stella”(star) ,in most of the subjects all through the seminary years.It was great hearing Fr.Michael Angel announcing the grades on the Schola Brevis Day. I enjoyed hearing him announcing my name with Stella in most of the subjects. All the students who secured more than 90% at the annual exams were given" stellas"(stars).

When I was a third year student in Philosophy at the Carmelgiri seminary, I was appointed the Prefect of the second year students. Some of the students were very artistically talented. In one of the exhibitions organized by the batch, the model of the Taj Mahal created by them won the admiration of many. I have to thank specially the Father Prefect,Fr. Alex Chettiath who was very supportive and encouraging.When he left for visits abroad, Fr.Parampath became the Fr.Prefect. I worked with both of them very cordially .I have actually enjoyed the year when I was the Br.Prefect of the second year students. Some of the students in the batch have become Archbishops. Abp.Chennoth and Abp.Kallarackal belong to that batch. It was also a time that I could interact with with Fr.Aurelian more persoanlly.I remember him patting on my back when I cracked some jokes with him.

It was while I was in the third year that we received the sad news of his demise. It was a great shock. We participated in the funeral services .A lot of priests came for his funeral. He taught us ascetic theology. It was all taught in Latin. he was loved and respected by all the students.He washed his own clothes and hence his cassocks always looked a pale yellow color.

One of the teachers I remember from the Carmelgiri days was Fr. Firmin O.C.D. He was a good teacher and he was our Fr.Prefect in the first year. I think he gave me rides in his car a few times. He died very young .He died in the first year after my ordination. I did attend his funeral. Fr.Raymond taught us philosophy .Of course,we cannot forget the four Indian professors teaching at Carmelgiri at that time: Fr.Mankuzhikary(later Bishop),Fr.Parampath, Fr.Chettiath and Fr.Thurthel.All were loved by the students and had a very good influence on the lives of the students.Fr.Mankuzhikary’s ontology classes were very famous as he used to teach in peals of laughter because of the many jokes he cracked during the classes.He was also very eloquent and sharp in his comments.

I also remember the time when I had the chance to participate in the first Shakespearean drama enacted at the Seminary. I got the role of Iago and I think, from the comments after the play, that I did my role very well. We had to memorize all the passages and it was a Herculean task. We did well. The staff from the U.C.college were also there to watch our performance .It was for the first time that the roles of ladies were played at the seminary.Two seminarians took the roles of Desdemona and Ophelia. Fr.Aurelian who watched the play walked out when he saw the ladies appearing on the stage.Fr. Mankuzhikary had to do some explanation for allowing the roles of the ladies.

I was also invited to do a role in a Malayalam play later. But I don’t think it was a great success.I was also not interested in doing any roles in Malayalam plays.But later at the theology section(Mngalapuzha),Fr.Senan Buckley invited us all to act in T.S.Eliot’s “The Murder in the Cathedral.”I think I got one of the roles of the Tempters.But it was not as exciting as the role of Iago that I did in Othello.

After the three years of philosophy,we moved to Mangalapuzha.While I was in Mangalapuzha, I was put in charge of the Shop in my first year.That was not my forte. My aptitude was for something connected with writing or reading.While at Mangalapuzha, Fr. Alex Chettiath informed me that Archbishop Kavukatt wanted to see me .So I went to Changancherry to meet him. He asked me whether I could meet the expenses for going to Rome.I told him about my brothers studying in colleges at that time .But then, nothing was heard about it. But I was happy pursuing my studies at Alwaye.

One of the incidents that remains in my memory was the time when I was in charge of the shop.During one of the vacations, we had to remain there to take the inventory of the things at the shop.One night one of the seminarians wanted me to teach him how to play cards.He and his friends came to my room in the Deacon’s block.Fr.Michael Angel somehow saw them entering my room.The next day, in the morning, as we were working in the shop we saw the Rector pacing back and forth before the door of the shop.I asked my friends to open the door of the shop more widely.He then came to us and asked me to accompany him to his room.He asked who were in my room that night.I told him the facts.He asked me to tell them to leave the seminary right away .I thought he was dismissing them.Later ,we found out that he was asking them not to stay during the vacation days at the seminary.But they had to leave that day itself.It was hard for them.

Later,when I visited Rome in 1979,he was the Rector of the Damascene college.I told him all about these past incidents.He laughed and laughed very heartily.It was the first time I heard him laughing so much.Of course, the burden of being the Rector was not there.He could enjoy all the stories from the past life.

It was decided that we would be ordained in December and not in March as was the usual practice. .I think we presented some memorandum to the Bishops for the early ordination.Things were moving very fast hence for us.After the Ordination, we were expected to come back and continue our studies for three months more.The authorities never expected that the newly ordained priests would really use the occasion to free themselves from the strict observance of the seminary rules.Some began to come late after they went out.Others went for shopping and outings.It was becoming difficult for the Fr.Prefect to control the newly ordained priests from enjoying their new found freedom.They discontinued the custom of ordaining the Deacons in the middle of the year after that.

But one thing that happened during my deacon year devastated me.That was my father’s death.Unthinkable that such a tragedy would happen to me.

In fact all through my seminary years, I was praying for the health of my parents and was asking God to keep them alive to see my ordination day.It was not to happen in that way.

For some reason, when I went to Cochin, I went to see my eldest brother Mr.M.J.Pailo who was working in the Foreign Exchange Dept. of the Bank of Cochin.He told me that the father was taking rest after a heart attack.It was not even mentioned that my father had an heart attack.The only thing that was mentioned was that he sweated profusely and that the mother took him to see the doctor.The doctor after treatment advised him a month's rest.In those days, there was no strict observance of the rest.

When I returned to the seminary, I asked the Rector permission to go home and to see my father.I never thought I would get the permission.It was unusual in those days to get permission to visit the parents even when they fell sick.He granted me the permission right away.

He had always a soft corner for me.He never denied my requests. Maybe because, I was getting good grades in the exams.

I went home and spent the few days with my family.I wrote some letters for my father and he signed those letters.One of the letters was for my brother Joychan who was in Ethiopia with his family.The letter was a letter of congratulations on the birth of Jojo.

I told him that I would be leaving the next day .He told me to go the day after that.So I changed the date.That day, one of our priests and father’s friend,Fr.Pulickal came to visit him and they had a very long conversation together. After the evening prayer and supper we all went to sleep.But early in the morning, we heard a sound , and waking up , we saw mother weeping.The lights in the house all on and I heard mother saying that she had hard some sound from father and found immediately that he was not moving. One of my brothers, Josy, ran to bring the priest and he came to give anointing of the sick The doctor was called in.It was all too late.Father said goodbye to the world.It was sudden and all happened within a flash of a second.

I remember going for the mass on that morning and all through the mass tears were rolling down my cheeks.He was such a permanent presence in our life and we could not imagine that he would depart from us so fast.The funeral was held in the evening.It was a rainy day but the rain stopped for a while at the time of the funeral.Since our house was just across the road from the church, it did not take much time for the procession to reach the church.

A lot of people and many priests were present at the funeral. My youngest brother,Bernard, was in the Pallotine seminary at that time and hence the German fathers who were his teachers came for the funeral.No one from the Major seminary came for the funeral.My friends did not get the permission to come for the funeral as it was not the custom for the seminarians in those days to attend the funeral.But Fr.Joy Palakunnel and Fr.Chemmazham somehow came the next day to see me.It was a great consolation.My brother Joychan and his family were in Ethipoia at that time and hence they were not present.

After a week, I went back to the seminary and I remember myself weeping silently during the classes for weeks as the thoughts about my father's sudden demise came into my mind often.

The time came for our ordination on 18th of December.We went to the Cathedral at Changanacherry for the ordination.Archbishop Mar Kavukatt ordained all of us in one ceremony at the Cathedral.I said the first mass in the evening of Dec.18th.My brothers did all the arrangements.Fr.Reynod Purackal, the director of St.Antony's orphanage, gave the homily at the first mass.

The reception was held in front of our house and I remember Fr.Ithiparampil speaking at the reception.When I spoke in reply, I had to mention my father’s absence and the reference to my father filled my eyes with tears again. I wrote a poem about my father on the back of the picture cards that I distributed.

After a few days of vacation, we were back at the seminary.

Then , when the holidays came, we were sent home.

All of us together met the Archbishop and while we were taking leave of him gave us each Rs.150 as stipends for 30 masses . It was a lot of money then.We went on a trip together to Kanyakumary and then went on our different ways for the Easter duties.

I was waiting for my assignment.I was sure that I would not get a chance to go for higher studies although I was one of the top students in the seminary.

The Archbishop at our ordination emphasized that we should not look for opportunities for higher education but should get interested in any assignment that would be given to us.May be because three of us in that batch were graduates.

Since I did not get any assignment, I went to the Archbishop’s house one day as I heard that others were given parish assignments.Fr.Paul Urumpackal who was the secretary of the Archbishop told me not to wait there but to go home.Later word was sent to me through Fr.James Valiaparampil to meet the Archbishop.When I went there, Kavukattu Pithavu told me to go to the college and meet the Principal,Msgr.Kalacherry.He told me also to take English for my M.A. as there would arise a vacancy in that Dept.How thoughtful he was!I can never forget him.He even praised me once when I made a visit to the Bishop’s house.He mentioned to the fathers when I left that I had secured a triple class in my B.Sc.

I am deeply grateful to Archbishop Mar Matthew Kavukatt for giving me this opportunity in the academic world and also turning the direction of my life. His decision also made me much more attached to the diocese .It made me resolve deeply to do my utmost to work for the college, for the diocese and for the Church with all my heart.



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