Superior General's Message
Superior General's Message
As you might have already known, the Synod of Bishops of Syro Malabar Church in its Assembly in January 2019 had given a favorable opinion to initiate the cause of beatification and canonization of Rev. Fr. Varkey Kattarath, the Founder of Vincentian Congregation. Subsequently in the same year we obtained Nihil Obstatfrom the Congregation for the Cause of Saints, Rome. The process for his beatification and canonization was officially initiated on February 5th 2020, at the Generalate during the function in which His Beatitude Cardinal Mar George Alencherry, His excellency Mar Antony Kariyil, Mar Jacob Manathodath, Mar Mathew Vaniyakizhakkel etc. participated. Including more than a hundred of VC priests, diocesan authorities, nuns and lay faithful in excess of 450 people participated in the functions of the day. Various Commissions and office bearers also took charge on the same day.
Fr. Varkey Kattarath was born on October 13, 1851 at Poonjar. Having completed his priestly formation, Deacon Varkey received the Holy Ordination at the age of 22 with the special permission of the Holy See, from the Archbishop of Verapoly, the Most Rev. Leonard de Mellano OCD. Fr. Kattarath as a parish priest did his priestly ministry in the parishes of Edamattam, Thathampilly, Kanjirapilly, Angamaly, Ollur, Vilakkumadam, Ezhuppunna, and Vaikom in an outstanding way.
Fr. Kattarath cherished in his heart the desire to live a life of a sanyasi (religious) from the beginning of his priestly life. He shared this wish to Mar Louis Pazheparambil and his Excellency wholeheartedly agreed and encouraged him. He collected the Regula of the Congregation of the Mission started by St. Vincent de Paul in France and entrusted it to Fr. Kattarath and encouraged him to do the necessary things for the new religious congregation in accordance with the charism of St. Vincent de Paul.
While doing his ministry as parish priest of Vaikom Fr. Kattarath did the necessary preparation to begin the new religious congregation. He succeeded to get a few acres of land for the same there at Thottakom which was part of his parish territory. Meanwhile he could find three more fathers- OusephKariapuraydam from Poonjar parish, Mani Paramkulangara from Bharananganam parish and KusmosKattehzath from Champakulam, to join in his venture. Thus by the providence of God Fr. Kattarath founded the Vincentian Congregation at Thottakom. Mar Louis Pazheparambil blessed the temporary chapel on November 20, 1904 and also laid the foundation stone for the new Ashram and the Church.
Due to various adverse circumstances the fathers were forced to leave Thottakom one by one. Fr. Varkey Kattarath left Thotttakom on March 15, 1915. After some years Rev. Frs. George Mannara, Antony Pavuathil and George Vattamkandam expressed their desire to lead a religious life to Mar Augustine Kandathil, the then Archbishop of Ernakulam, who directed them to revive the religious community once founded at Thottakom. Accordingly, they revived it and began the community life at Thottakom, on 19th July 1927.
Fr. Varkey Kattarath served as the chaplain of Carmelite Convent Mutholi in a praiseworthy manner from 1890-1893. Further he worked as the chaplain of the Carmelite Convent Vaikom from 1895-1915. There he committed himself for the material and spiritual welfare of the nuns. Mar Kurialachery appointed him on February 7th 1916 as the chaplain of the SABS convent at Chapmakulam. Further on August 20th 1924, Fr. Kattarath was appointed as the Superior General of the SABS Congregation.
The revivers visited Fr. Kattarath at Champakulam and invited him to Thottakom to join in their company. When he realized that it was the will of God to go back to Thottakom Ashram and to unite with the community of the revivers he, without considering seriously his illness and other difficulties, started his return journey and reached at Thottakom on 27th October 1927. The revivers and the people at Thottakomwelcomed him warmly.
Fr. Kattarath was well aware about the difficulties connected with hisold age. Therefore, he wrote a letter to the Archbishop of Ernakulam Mar Augustine Kandathil seeking special permission to take vows, and with his special permission he took his first vows before the superior of the Thottakom ashram, Fr. George Mannaraon July 21st 1929. In the following years since the health of Fr. Kattarath was deteriorating, the ashram superior Fr. GoergeMannara informed Mar Augustine Kandathil about the situation of Fr. Kattarath and his desire to take the final profession. Thus on July 19th 1931, with the special permission of the bishop, Fr. Kattarath made the perpetual profession and became the first member of the Vincentian Congregation.
On October 24th 1931, after three months of his perpetually professed life, his soul flew to the Lord to receive his eternal reward.Mar James Kalacherry, the Bishop of Changanacherry, observed, during the funeral homily of Fr. Varkey Kattarath that “He proved to be an extraordinary man by being a person of principles, an ideal priest of great spirituality, and a zealous promoter of devotion”.
When we analyze his way of life we realize that Fr. Varkey Kattarath was a loving and caring pastor; he preached Jesus Christ through his words and deeds; he had great dedication towards the priestly ministries; he had a passionate heart for Jesus; he used to celebrate Holy Mass with great piety and devotion; he was ready to undertake any pains for being with the Lord; he had a charitable heart towards the poor and the needy; he was fascinated to lead a community life with other priests; he was always ready to render any kind of physical and spiritual help to his sheep; he was a devout spiritual director, and above all, he was loved by people irrespective of caste and religion.
As it is the beginning of theprocess of his canonization let us ponder over his priestly spirituality and sanctity. He is a good model for us in assimilating the spirituality of St. Vincent de Paul and charity towards the poor. Let us pray that if God willing, he be venerated as a saint at the earliest, and he be an intercessor for us before God.
Wishing you all the best and praying for all of you,
Fr. Sebastian Thundathikunnel VC,