HISTORY OF CHENGANNUR DIOCESE
Chengannur Diocese, One of the prominent dioceses of the Malankara Orthodox Syrian Church is now planning to celebrate the Silver Jubilee of its existence. Late H.H. Moran Mar Baselios Marthoma Mathews I Catholicos of the East established the Chengannur Diocese Vide Kalpana No. 52/85 of 10th March 1985. We the members of Chengannur Diocese did feel the Grace of God and His guidance during the last 25 years. The farsightedness and administrative ability of our spiritual shepherd His Grace Thomas Mar Athanasios take our diocese to new pastures-both spiritual and material.
FOND REMEMBERANCE OF THE PAST
We share the joy of jubilee celebrations with sweet and respectful memory of His Grace Geevarghese Mar Philoxenos, popularly known as, Puthencavil Kochuthirumeni. This Great Mertropolitan’s vision, hardwork, love of the church turned ‘Pothelkulam’(soaking tank)to Bethel(God’s Abode) Puthencavil Kochuthirumeni lives in the heart of devotees not only in the Diocese but also in whole church. Today Bethel is a tower that nobody can ignore in the church. The bold and dynamic leadership of late H.H. Moron Mar Baselios Marthoma Mathews I Catholicos made the creation of Chengannur diocese a reality . We always remember him with gratitude. While going through the history of the diocese so many distinguished personalities including the first metropolitan of the diocese His Grace Thomas Mar Athanasios come into our mind. The former diocesan secretaries late Rev. Fr. P.G. George and late V. Rev. Fr. P.G. George Cor episcopa gave ample support to the activities of Thirumeni. Rev. Fr. K.O. Philip and Rev. Fr. John Paul adorned the post of diocesan secretary later and did their best for the progress of the diocese. 28 priests have served this diocese and entered into the realms of light . They are remembered on this occasion with gratitude and we offer our prayers for the departed souls. All the laity who worked for the Diocese also continue to be in our prayers. The holy remains of four metropolitans of the church are there in two of the churches in our diocese. The tomb of Mar Ivanios is at Old Syrian Church, Chengannur and the tombs of Marthoma-VI, Marthoma-VIII, and Puthencavil Kochuthirumeni are at St. Mary’s Orthodox Cathedral, Puthencavu.
DIOCESE THROUGH THE YEARS
Chengannur Diocese established on 10.03.1985 is now a fully developed diocese. It spreads out in Alappuzha and Pathanamthitta districts having 51 churches and 10 chapels. The diocese has 9250 families, giving strong leadership and great contributions to almost all activities of the church Four Metropolitans of Malankara Orthodox Church are from Chengannur Diocese. They are H. G. Thomas Mar Athansios, St. Mary’s Puthencavu (Chengannur Diocese), H. G. Kuriakose Mar Clemis, St. Mary’s Koorthamala , (Thumpamon Diocese), H. G. Geevarghese Mar Ivanios, St. George Mangalam (Kottayam Diocese), H.G. Gabriel Mar Gregorios, St. Stephen’s Kudassanad (Thriruvananthapuram Diocese). Two of the Bishop elect viz Fr. V. M. James (St. Elias Budhnoor) and V. Rev. Yoohanon Ramban (St. Thomas Kurampala) are from our diocese. One Ramban Cor-episcopa, 5 Rambans, 12 Cor-episcopas, and 115 Priests, 13 Deacons, 9 Nuns and 15 Theology Students from the Diocese are serving the church. The churches of the diocese are vibrant due to the energetic leadership given by the Priests.
During the last 25 years we rebuilt 25 churches and 5 chapels in our diocese. Our churches are shining like stars in the sky revealing the orthodox culture and our heritage. It was because of the strong leadership of the vicars and the support of the laity. We observe the Ist Sunday of January every year as the diocesan day. Our Diocesan Metropolitan started his work in the diocese giving due importance to the spiritual development. The Gospel team started with 6 months training for 75 persons has now grown into the voluntary Gospel team with 150 persons and is now known as Diocesan Gospel team. This Diocese started to observe the birthday of ‘Yuhanon Mamdana’ (St. John, the Bapist) as Children’s day. The sunday school Parent Teachers Association was introduced in our Diocese for the first time in the history of the church. By taking clue from the action of our diocese to arrange seperate seats for bride and bridegrooms during the betrothal, H. H. The Catholicos issued an order in this regard to all the churches.
In order to spiritually educate the members of the diocese we introduced “Divya Bodhanam” Course. Philox School of Liturgical Music was started to make workship more impressive. We are conducting Pre-marital counselling programme for the would be brides and bridegrooms. Our diocese is the first to make Pre-marital Counselling Compulsary. “Daivavili Sangham” began for the first time in the Chengannur diocese for people planning a life according to the will of God and giving training to the young for priesthood. Every year before the reopening of the schools, we conduct career guidance classes led by prominent teachers under the banner of “Vidyajyothi”. We conducted coaching classes for Sunday school students of std X & XII and gave coaching to std V to IX students from for the sunday school competitive exams. Efficient sunday school leader gave leadership to this programme.
‘Mar Philoxinos Guidance Centre’ provides theological books, Reference books, educational books for those who are preparing for higher education like medical and engineering with internet facility. “Ashraya Social and Charitable Society ” was started to take up socially useful activities.
The Magazine of Chengannur Diocese “Bethel Patrika” is a monthly of good quality and reputation.
Our Metropolitan organized classes at the district level for church managing committee members and auditors to train them in local Parish church administration. It is an honour, that we collected good amount on Catholicate Day and it was always more than the target amount. The spiritual organisations like Balasamajam, Sunday School, M.G.O.C.S.M, Youth league, Marthamariamsamajam and Prayer groups work very effectively in the Diocese. In order to nurture the Orthodox faith we are conducting conventions since 2008. The convention is conducted during the beginning of Great Lent. A full time priest is appointed to collect Tithe. The whole amount is used for Charity. We gave away 15 lakhs for this purpose so far.
“Shiloham hospital ministry” is being managed under the leadership of a priest. He visits the patients, console and pray for them in the hospitals within the limits of this diocese. This ministry is a solace to all peoples irrespective of caste colour or creed. We also conduct seminars & eye testing camps etc. under the hospital ministry. We are extremely happy about the progress of the construction of five houses which is a part of Jubilee house building project. It is with the help of Churches and prominent personalities of the diocese. A committee is working for this project. The Construction of the 5 houses for the homeless is nearing completion.
Sapthati Celebration of H.G. Thomas Mar Athanasios- Our Diocesan Metropolitan.
The Sapthadi (70th Birthday)of H.G. Thomas Mar Athanasios was celebrated in 2008.We undertook various projects in connection with the seventieth birthday of our Metropolitan. Saptadi Smaraka loan scholarship project is a real help to the economically poor but smart students in Our diocese. Under this scheme 28 students are at present studying for professional courses in different parts of India. Haritha (Green) project to promote ecological preservation is acquiring momentum in our diocese. His Grace the Metropolitan exhorts people to protect earth and return to nature. Members of the Youth League take an active role in this project.
A team of 90 students from Gujarat from the schools under the management of The Society of St. Basil of which H.G. Thomas Mar Athanasios is the President visited Kerala in November 2008 and conducted 2 Cultural Programmes in honour of our Diocese Bishop. The theme of this programme was “National Integration”. H.H. Karekkin I the supreme Catholicos of All Armenians was the Chief Guest.
THE SILVER JUBILEE YEAR
The Silver Jubilee Celebrations were officially declared open by H.H. Moron Mar Baselious Didimos I The Catholicos & Malankara Metropolitan on 30th May 2009. Different Programmes were conducted under the auspices of the different spiritual organisations. Three-day meeting of the Balasamajam was a great success. As part of the Jubilee Celebration we conducted Divyabodhanam jubilee meeting, law awareness class by Kerala Council of Churches, Priests family get together, Moms organisation inaguarated under the leadership of Marthamariam Samajam and formation of Saint Dionasious foundation.
On Vijaya Dashami Day. Our Diocesan Metropolitan initiated many students to Education. Essay and Elocution competition, Music training class, visit to Trivandrum Regional Cancer Centre, fraternal meeting of persons from Social, Political and industrial field will be conducted very soon under the leadership of the Youth league. Philox school of Liturgical Music & Philoxinos Pries’t mission are very effective. 55 persons under the leadership of the diocesan secretary made a pilgrimage to the Holy Land - the dream land of all Christians. Valedictory function of the jubilee celebrations are conducted along with the diocesan convention of 2010. Different programmes are arranged for February 24, 25, 26, 27, 28 and March 1.
Proclamation rally on February 21, conventions on February 24, 25 and 26, Con celebration of 24 Priests under the leadership of diocesan Metropolitan on February 27th are arranged. A meeting of the Priests of Chengannur, Thumpamon, Niranam and Mavelikara diocese will be conducted under the leadership of the Vaideeka Sangham. It is decided to conduct an impressive procession from the Chengannur Christian College junction around 2pm on 28th February. It is expected to reach Bethel at 4pm and the valedictory function will be conducted. H.H. Moron Mar Baselios Didymus I Catholicos, H.H. Aram I- The Armenian Catholicos of the Holy see of Cilicia, Catholicos designate, honourable Metropolitans, Central and State Ministers and other leaders are participating in the said meeting. There shall be a christian classical music concert on 1st March.
We Salute the Holy memory of Late H.H. Moron Mar Baselios Marthoma Mathews I and Late H.H. Moron Mar Baselios Marthoma Mathews II for giving spiritual leadership to the Chengannur diocese established on 10th March 1985. On this occasion of the Silver Jubilee Celebrations, I - one of the first Priests of this diocese offer a thousand loving garlands to our diocesan Metropolitan who will complete 25 years as Metropolitan. I offer my humble Prayers to God Almighty to shower blessings on the diocese for its progress in the coming years too.
Fr. Thomas Kokkaparampil