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Years at the Minor Seminary

Wednesday, August 4, 2010

Years at the Minor Seminary and S.B.ollege

Minor Seminary

When I got the result of the S.S.L.C exam , I told my parents about my decision to join the seminary to study for the priesthood. They did not place any objection although I was the first one in the family to be placed in the first class in the S.S.L.C exam. Before I told my parents, I had already looked into the rule book of the seminary by getting it from one of the seminarians from our parish. At that time Br. Kaithanthara, Br.Joseph Alummoottil and Br.Mathew Mepreth were the ones from our parish studying at the seminary.Bro. Mathe Mepreth took me to see the Minor seminary and meet with Abp.Mar Matthew Kavukatt.The Archbishop was very much impressed by the marks and asked me how I got such good marks in English.I also met Fr.Andumalil, the Manager of the Press and also Fr.Ithiparmapil who was at that time the Vicar of Nedumkunnam church. It was Fr. Zacharias Kaithara who prayed and blessed us at the church before I went to Changancherry to see the Rector and the Bishop .Later, I went with my Father to Changanacherry for admission to the seminary.

The first few days in the seminary were very hard. I used to spend the nights in tears. That was the first time I was away from home. At night we used to hear the tuk-tuk sounds made by the wheels of ox carts moving along the road in front of the seminary on market days. The sounds kept us awake at nights.

The first year students had no cots to sleep on .We slept on the coir carpeted hall .We had to carry our own beds to the hall for our sleep and later in the morning after waking up we had to roll them and put them back on the second floor. When the bell rang at 5.30a.m., we had to rise up and say the prayer aloud. Looking back now, it looked very surprising how we did all these in those days. But we were young and we had all the desire to study for priesthood. Any sacrifice for the pursuit of our ideal was worth taking. It was a time of total giving . We had nothing as our own and everything was shared.

Fr.Olassayil was the rector and he was very gentle and kind. We had only heard stories of the imperious nature of the previous rector, Fr.Thomas Porookara. I did not get a chance to see him but all the seniors had stories about his serious nature. He was very draconian and the students lived always in fear of him. He would ask the students, the story goes, to plant small mango seedling upside down to test their obedience. No questions could be raised with regard to correctness of the planting . Implicit obedience was required of the students!

The one thing that frightened us was the custom of clipping our hair short by the barber. By sheer good luck , all those who were going to college for higher studies were given the privilege of retaining their hair styles.

I had to spend five years in the Minor seminary as I went to college from the seminary. It was when we joined the college that the Pre-Unversity course was introduced. There was no choice with regard to science or arts major. It was after the Pre-University that one joined the three-year degree course where one could choose the courses in the science or arts stream.

The highlight in the Pre-University course was that I was awarded the Proficiency prize at the college Day. The Governor of Kerala, Mr. Ramkrihna Rao was the chief Guest at the college day program.It was a great honor to receive the prize from him. Being a seminarian , I did not take it a as very prestigious honor as I did not want to show any feelings of excitement . Hence I did not even tell the rector about the award.

Fr.P.C. Mathew was the Principal and his strict administration helped the college to keep a very high academic standard. Fr.Kattady was the Syriac teacher and he was very friendly with us. On the first day of the college, I slipped on the front porch of the college as it was wet and slippery because of the rain and sullied my clothes. It was to Fr.Kattady’s room that I went and got my clothes tidied.

In the final of the year degree course, I participated in the Science Competition held by the Dept. of Physics and was awarded the first prize in the Science Test. This time, I received the prize from the first Cardinal of India, Cardinal Valerian Gracias who presided over the college celebrations.It was at this meeting that the Cardinal made the remark of Fr.A.C. Eapen who was not present at the college day celebrations, referring to Fr.A.C. Eapen's low profile in public events: "Speech is silvery; silence is golden."

I was really fortunate in getting great teachers like Prof.C.A.Sheppard for English, Prof.Ulahanna Mappila for Malayalam and Prof.S.L.Thomas for Physics. Prof.Ulahannan Mappila was endowed with an unmatchable eloquence in Malayalam. His boisterous laughter and powerful voice do still sound in my ears.

I did participate in the speech and essay writing competitions held at the seminary and was awarded prizes in these competitions

Archbishop. Mar Matthew Kavukatt used to visit us once in a while at the seminary and would address us during these visits. His quote from Wordsworth about Bl.Virgin Mary that she is the tainted nature's solitary boast is fresh even now in my mind.

After finishing up our studies at the college, we had to spend a year for the study of Latin and Syriac before joining the major seminary.

I was appointed the Asst. Prefect . Joseph Thuruthmaly and Joy Palakunnel were the other office-bearers. We were a friendly group. Another important friend at that time was James Valiaprampil We were the four graduates in the batch of nine students pursuing the final year of studies at the minor seminary.

One priest I have to mention as a close adviser was our spiritual father, Fr.Thaiparampil. His affection and guidance were always there in my life. He had a very good collection of books and he used to spend his money for buying books on literature and religion. It was from his collection that I came across the works of Thomas Merton. I got the autobiography of Thomas Merton “ The Seven Storey Mountain " from him and I remember reading the whole big book within a week He was a source great encouragement while I was studying in the minor seminary. All of us enjoyed his company. I remember spending the whole night in his room with my other friends listening to the news of the election of John F.Kennedy.

After the final exam in Latin for the entrance to the Major Seminary , we went home for the holidays. The rector was Fr.Gregory Thycherril. He was very rigid and strict. He was a former Headmaster of S.B. High school.

Another memorable thing in our minor seminary life was our attendance at the graduation ceremony. We , four of us, Palakunnel, Joseph Thuruthmally, James Valiaparampil and myself, borrowed the suits of our teachers and left for Trivandrum for the graduation ceremony at the Senate Hall. We stayed at the Lourdes church. Fr.P.C. Matthew gave us a ride to the senate Hall for the graduation ceremony. The day before, we had to go for the rehearsal. After the graduation, we went to the studio and had our pictures taken with the gown and hood .We got pictures in different sizes. I remember carrying the pictures home with great excitement and my family, including my father , all looked at the pictures with great joy.

I have to say that our minor seminary life was happy one. I thank the fathers for having given us such a beautiful time. Our evening prayers were always said at the Parel Chapel. I was leading the prayers in English and Latin.

We had so many moments of pure happiness and joy while in the seminary. Fr.Thaiparampil kept us in very good spirits. His friendship and love continued until the end of his life. I miss his presence in our life even now. He was well read and educated and hence we could feel very comfortable in our dealings with him.


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