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Washington D.C. and Return to India

Thursday, May 5, 2011

St.Matthew's Cathedral and Return to India

American Experience(1981)-2

St .Matthew’s Cathedral arranged a farewell party for me as I was leaving for India in December 1981.My leave from the college would be over by the end of December and hence I had to join the college before the end of Dec.81.They asked me to invite those who would I like to come for the dinner. The University President Dr.Pellegrino, the members of the Dissertation committee, Dr.Sendry, the Chairman of the Dept. Of English, Mrs.Anne Fuselli and Donna Fuselli ,Barbara Murphy and a few families from the Indian community were invited. It was a great dinner. The President of the University offered to hold a special convocation for me but later it was found out that it could not be held.

While I was in D.C. I went on a European tour, traveling through many of the major countries of Europe. Using a Eurail pass, I crisscrossed Europe for two weeks. Paris,Lourdes,Lisieux,Geneva, Munich etc were covered during this trip. For a week , I stayed with my cousin,Sr.Lillis at their convent near Munich.

On a vacation to India, I visited Rome and Assissi. During the trip to Rome, I had the chance to visit with Cardinal Baum who was the former Archbishop of Washington D.C. at his office in the Vatican. All the priests from Changanacherry who were studying in Rome at that time helped me during this trip and accompanied me on different days.

While in D.C. I did organize the Syro-Malabar community and began to celebrate masses for them at St.Matthew’s Cathedral.What was started then in an incipient form later grew into the Greater Washington Catholic community.

My years at St.Matthew’s Cathedral were some of the best years in my priestly life.There were none of us priests living at the rectory.There was a great sense of fraternity and lovre among the preists. There was great fun and laughter when we met.No frayed tempers and no gossips.Every one was sensitive to the needs of others.I can not forget the laughter and funny remarks of Msgr.Gerhardt and Fr Marty.He w as the PRO of the Diocese and was in charge of the communications at the time of the visit of the holy Father.


Immediately after my return from the States, I joined the college and started teaching in the Dept.of English. In the first few months after my return , the teaching assignments were very light.I had to forget my days in Washington and resume life as if nothing had happened .I got a small room with bare furniture as my living space and I started my new life from there.

After a few months, I was appointed the Warden of Sahrudaya(Sacred Heart) Hostel which was the largest hostel with more than 200 students. The hostel atmosphere had vastly changed from the time I was there five years ago. Students had become very unruly. It was hard in the first few months to keep them under control. I had to give up my nice and gentle ways of behavior that I acquired in the Sates and had to go back to rigid disciplinary methods would that involve suspensions, dismissals, and scolding etc.

That kind of life based on the enforcement of disciplinary regulations was a great drag on some one who came back after years of study in the U.S.

The wardenship at the hostel put a stop to any attempt in writing articles or doing research. I took it as my duty assigned by the Lord through my superiors.

I was appointed the Chaplain to the AICUF (All India Catholic University Federation) unit of the college. It was not something that I liked at that period in my life. I took it up as there was no one else interested in that ministry. Before going to the States, I would have preferred that ministry because I was young and I could easily move with the students. Still, after taking it up, I worked with the students and were actively involved in organizing different programs for the AICUF.

When I returned from the States, I had to work under a new administration with Fr.Mathew Pulikaparampil as the Principal. He was gracious to me and we went for walks together in the evenings. There were only a few more years for his retirement.

He was a generous and kind-hearted person.

Vice Principal(1985):

It was in March, 1985 that Fr. Mathew Pulikaprampil retired as the Principal. Rev.Dr.Jospeh Maroor was appointed the Principal and I was appointed the Vice-Principal.I was given the appointment a couple of months earlier even before it was made officially public by Fr.Joseph Karimpallil who was the Vicar General at that time. He was very good to me and told me privately that he was going to appoint me the Vice-Principal. That single decision on the part of Fr. Joseph Karimpalil changed a lot in my life and made me worthy of several other great assignments in my life.

I am deeply grateful to him for the love and regard he had shown towards me as well as to Fr.Maroor. I can never forget my debt to him.Fr.Maroor and myself later visited him when he was working as the Vicar of St.George’s Church, Edathua.

My years as the Vice principal, working along with Fr.Maroor were some of the happiest years spent on the Campus. Many showed great appreciation and regards for both of us as both of us received our doctoral education outside India.

One of the great moments in our administration was the celebration of the Silver Jubilee of many of the post graduate courses at S.B. We wanted to celebrate it with real gusto and publicity as S.B.College deserved such a recognition.

An Arts Festival and a Science Exhibition were planned. We decided to invite the President of India to inaugurate the Jubilee. Both of us went by train to New Delhi to invite the President Mr.Zail Singh.Prof.P.J.Kurian M.P and Mr.M.M.Jacob ,the Deputy Chairman of the Rajya Sbha helped us in this matter. Prof.P.J.Kurian came with us to the Rashtra Pathy Bhavan.We met the President and he readily consented to do the inauguration. Immediately after coming from the Rashtrapathy Bahavn, we called Dr.K.C.Joseph M.L.A. to get the Sate Government’s sanction .Mr. Joseph right away met the Chief Minister and got the concurrence of the State Government for the visit of the President.The news was given to the papers and before we reached Changnacherry and the news of the visit of the President ‘s visit became known to all before we reached the college.

From that time onwards, things began to take a very swift and busy turn. A lot of committees were formed for the exhibition as well as for the visit of the President.

The visit of the President was a historic moment in Changancherry. The whole town was filled with people because of their interest in seeing the President arriving at the town.

We had our small problems in arranging the reception as some teachers somehow did not fee well honored in the reception line.

As a whole, it went well and a lot of teachers worked hard to make the visit as well as the Exhibition and the Arts Festival a success.

To commemorate the Jubilee, we decided to construct a research center which was the first of its kind in a college in Kerala.We also got many of our Departments recognized as research centers for the Gandhiji Univversity. We tried to appoint teachers with Ph.D.qualifications in our various departments.

I was also simultaneously holding the posts of the bursar and the warden of the hostel along with my work as the vice Principal and Professor of English.

Those were the years when I was fully occupied with my work in the college campus.

When I reached room, after the day’s work in the college, it was another full time job again because of my work as the Warden of the hostel.

As there were many students belonging to different lasses, there were always occasions of conflicts, disputes,disciplinary problems etc.

When I look back, I am totally surprised to find how it was possible to do all these things together.

I had with me first Fr.Matthew Punchayil and later Fr.Jose Kottayil to help me as associate wardens of the hostel. We managed to hold the students under our control and offer them guidance.

The Evening Prayer time with the students was an important moment in the daily life of the hostel.

When I was appointed the Vice Principal, the students held a congratulatory meeting in the dining hall at which the Principal was also present.

Fr.Matthew Punchayil left for higher studies in the U.S. and Fr.Jose Kottayil came in his place.Later,Fr. Jose Kottayil too would leave for the States for studies.

It was when I was the Bursar that we had the college campus fully secured by walls and fences.More watchmen were appointed at the entry gates of the college.

The Research Center was the crowning achievement of the period.

At this time , I was also functioning as the Secretary of the Kerala Bishops’ Commission for Education as per the request of Abp.Powathil.

While working as the Secretary of this commission, I was instrumental in helping the Archbishop to form the Inter-Church Council for Education.

As the Secretary of the Inter-Church Council for Education, I got very much involved in the fight for protecting the rights of the Minorities in discussions with the State Govt. of Kerala.

The Inter-Church Council for Education as the official representative body of all the Christian denominations in the field of education became a powerful force in Kerala in unifying the voice of the Church in the formulation of the educational policies of the Church.


I was appointed the Principal on 1991 .I was in Alleppey and Fr. Maroor called me to say that the Archbishop wanted to see me. I went straight to the Abp’s house and there after a brief conversation, the Abp. handed me the appointment order as the Principal of the college.

It was a big turning point in my life as it opened so many avenues for me to work and enabled me to develop my administrative skills.

The first year was spent in consolidating all the different achievements of the college in various areas.My dream was to make the college the best in every respect in the academic as well as in the athletic and artistic fields.

A Science improvement program was initiated to help the top students to achieve better and remedial courses were started for the low achievers.The result was seen immediately in the University examinations as the College began to be mentioned as the topmost college which has placed the highest number of the students in the first place among the colleges under the University.

It was during this time that the college was made a full member of the Federation of the Catholic Universities(IFCU). I went with Fr.Kottaram of the Ivanios college to attend the annual meeting of the IFCU at Toulous in France.

Traveling with Kottaram was an enjoyable experience.We stayed in the House of the Parish Foreign Mission Society in Parish for a few days and then spent a few days at the house of Mr.Kattoor and his family.It was while staying with them that we went to Lourdes.It was my second visit.It was a one day trip by train.When we came back we gave rosaries and devotional medals to the children of Kattoor.As the family was not practicing their faith in a formal way, it was a first experience for the children with the symbols of the faith.Fr.Kottaram then blessed the house.

The Conference of the IFCU was held at a church where St.Thomas Aquinas was buried.All the delegates were accommodated at the University hostels nearby.At the meeting, I was elected as an Asian representative to the Executive Council of the IFCU.At the first Executive Council of the IFCU after the election, they wanted the next Executive Council to be held in India.The responsibility for holding the meting fell on me.I thought then that with the help of Fr.Kottaram since he retired from the Principalship, it would be easier for me to make all arrangements for the meeting.

Sad to say, Dr.Kottaram passed away soon after that in a tragic car accident.I went to the Kottayam medical college to accompany his body to Kottarakara where he was working as the Vicar.


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