From Mustard Seed To A Big Tree

The preaching mission of the Vincentian Congregation, like any other divine project, grew up from a mustard seed to a big Banyan Tree spreading its branches to five continents. Vincentians are now universally acclaimed as the champions of Renewal Movement in the Church. Standing at the peak when we looked down to the valley will fill our hearts with gratitude towards the Almighty who carried us in his strong hands to the summit. This short article is such an humble attempt.

Popular Mission

Preaching Popular Mission is the specific and distinctive charism of the Vincentians. St. Vincent De Paul, the Heavenly Patron of the Congregation, as the Pioneer of Popular Mission, started it for the spiritual enhancement, and nourishment of the sacramental life of the poor village folk in France. Just like the Congregation of the Mission was raised up by the Lord in the 17th Century for the preaching of Popular Mission in France, in the 20th Century the Vincentian Congregation was raised up to do the same in India and then to the ends of the earth.

A humble beginning: Mar Augustine Kandathil, the late Archbishop of Ernakulam Archdiocese, a great supporter of Our Congregation instructed the pioneer members that the purpose of the Vincentian Congregation is to preach Popular Mission in the parishes, and it should be done free of charge. Because of the ardent desire to preach a Popular Mission in the Vincentian style and method the pioneer members planned a retreat based on the directory of the Popular Mission of the Congregation of Mission. It was preached in Thottakom House from February 24-March 3, 1946. This was a prelude to the present Popular Mission. The first Popular Mission in Kerala in its full form was conducted in 1952 in St. George Forane parish, Angamaly. The team members were well trained for it by Fr. Fernando CM, the then Novice Master of the Congregation. The Popular Mission progressed in a very slow pace until Fr. George Kammattil took charge as the Superior General of the Congregation. In 1972 the appointment of Fr. Xavier Elambassery as the first formal Director of the Popular Mission gave a new impetus to Popular Mission. A lion part of the structure of the present type of Popular Mission took shape during his tenure as the Director. In 1978 in connection with the Episcopal Silver Jubilee Year of late Joseph Cardinal Paekkattil, the then Archbishop of Ernakulam Archdiocese, His eminence requested the Congregation to conduct PM in as many parishes of the Archdiocese as possible. Twenty three Popular Missions were conducted in the Archdiocese in the same year. From there it began to be spread to other dioceses in Kerala. In 1980 the First Popular Mission Centre was established in Potta.

Popular Missions In Marymatha Province

On January 1, 1990 when Marymatha Province was formed majority of the members of the Popular Mission team opted for the Province. Thus we could keep up the momentum and continue the preaching ministry with new vigour. Potta Ashram continued to be the Popular Mission Centre of the Province. Due to the limitless support of the First Provincial, Fr. George Kammattil and sincere commitment and able leadership of Fr. Romulus Nedumchalil Popular Mission continued to grow to new heights. Many young priests who were well trained in preaching during the Seminary formation itself began to come forward to be members of Popular Mission team.

1. Present status

Popular Mission continues to be the most effective form of Retreat for the renewal of the Parish and families. Even though so many retreat teams and centres have emerged in the recent years, and Bible Conventions are wide spread, the priests and faithful unanimously agree that none of these make a lasting effect in the parishes as the PM. Every alternative week except during the months June to August our team goes out for PM. The present phenomenon is that we get invitations both from Syro- Malabar parishes and Latin Parishes alike. In between 15 to 18 PMs are conducted every year. Few Popular Missions are conducted outside Kerala especially in the Syro-Malabar dioceses like Belthangady, Ramanadapuram, Kalyan, Bhadravathy ect. At present we have invitations up to 2017. Thanks to the vigour and enthusiasm of the young members of our Province who are engaged in preaching all the PMs turn out to be successful.

2. Popular Mission in African Mission

The new era of Vincentian Mission in E. Africa started with the coming of Fr. Joseph Kurupanparambil who is internationally known as J.K Bill to Kigoma, Tanzania in 1992. He was a prominent preacher in the earlier years of PM in Kerala. Being a man of great initiative and daring nature he decided to introduce PM in Africa. The first PM in Africa was conducted in Katubuka Parish in the Kigoma Diocese where Fr. James Edavazhithara was the vicar. Fr. Bill tried to incorporate all the features of PM in that retreat. The great success of that PM inspired the Bishops and clergy to invite Fr. Bil to other parishes and dioceses to preach similar retreats. Later he shifted his basis to Dar Es Salaam and staying in Mbagala Spiritual Centre started going around the whole of East Africa to preach PM. In 1996 a Popular Mission was arranged in Guadalupe Parish in Nairobi, Kenya. LateCardinal Moris Ottunga, the then Archbishop of Nairobi personally attended it and was very much impressed. He welcomed Fr. Bill to Kenya to spread his ministry. The great renewal experienced by the Sisters of Mary Immaculate of Njery, Kenya by the retreats of Fr. Bill prompted the Superior General of that Congregation to donate one of their houses in Lenana Road, Nairobi to the Vincentian Congregation to continue the Mission. Staying there Fr. Bill began to go far and wide to preach the PM. In 2000 Fr. Paul Parekkattil came to help Fr. Bill and entrusted the Mission in Kenya to him and Fr. Bill moved to Uganda, and there through him PM became the brand name of any renewal programme.

In Tanzania our Missionaries who gained mastery in Kiswahili language started organizing Popular Missions in the parishes run by the Vincentians and then spread to other areas. They also tried to incorporate all the important features of PM with some adaptations to African context. Later on the team members found it difficult to travel long distance and stopped PM for some time until favourable situation arises.

3. Popular Mission in Andhra

Our Zealous missionaries in Andhra Pradesh who got workable knowledge of Telugu dreamt of conducting PM in Andhra Mission and it came true in 2005 with the PM preached in Bhimadole Parish which is entrusted to our care. Fr. Paul Puthuva, Fr. Francis Naduviledath ……..were the pioneers of Telugu PM. Later on a Popular Mission team was constituted under the leadership of a Director and assistant Director. When Bishops and priests came to know of PM and personally experienced its tremendous effect in the parish community they began to invite our team for PM. Now our team goes to almost all dioceses in Andhra Pradesh. The magnitude of the invitations we are getting shows the great appreciation people have towards our programme. Every Year 15 to 20 PMs are conducted in Andhra.

From Popular Mission To Retreat Centres

Potta Retreat Centre

The beneficiaries of PM began to demand for follow up programmes and means of spiritual growth. In response to that the Holy Spirit inspired the Superiors of the Congregation to start a retreat centre in Potta. Fr. Mathew Naikomparambil was appointed as the first Director in 1983. At that time nobody knew that this is going to be the beginning of a great storm of renewal in the whole church. The daily retreat programme started by Fr. Mathew began to attract hundreds and thousands. People from far and wide began to pour in to get healed of their infirmities and to be renewed in spirit and mind. There was a time when 20000 to 25000 people used to come on Saturdays for the One-Day retreat. So many priests of the Vincentian Congregation and Diocesan clergy and many lay ministers began to render their free services during those retreats. The seedling which was planted in 1983 grew up as a big tree and even now remains as the unique feature of Potta Ashram. Now the average number of attendants on Fridays is 3000 and on Saturdays 2000. The contributions of Fr. Mathew Naikomparambil, Fr. George Panackal, Fr. Mathew Kacha ppilly, Fr. Alex Aikkara, Fr. Augustine Padinjarekkuttu and a long line of priests who followed them cannot be forgotten in this regard.

Residentiantial Retreat Centres

1. Potta Ashram

The First Residential retreat centre of the congregation was established in Potta in 1985. In the beginning we had the facility to accommodate approximately 70 people. Gradually the number began to increase and we had to hire near-by houses and institutions to accommodate people. Now the centre can accommodate almost 400 people. The residential retreat is being conducted in every alternative week.

2. Divine Retreat Centre, Muringoor

There is nothing accidental in God’s plan. When the doctors started the hospital in Muringoor, the Holy Spirit inspired them to name it Divine Hospital. From time immemorial God planned that place to be the nucleus and cradle of Renewal Movement in the whole world. Neither Fr. George Panackal and his Committee members nor the authorities of the Vincentian Congregation dreamt that it is going to be such a mammoth institution. From the part of the Provincial Administration it was a prophetic decision to buy the Hospital and extend the Potta ministry. With the help of the leading businessmen and officials in and around Chalakkudy we managed to get loans to buy the property. Thus in 1991 Divine Retreat Centre came into existence. Millions of people have renewed their lives, thousands have experienced miraculous healings, innumerable sinners have been converted, hundreds of lay ministers have been trained, and many new ministries have been developed through Divine Retreat Centre. It became and continues to be a refuge and safe haven for the abandoned in the society, broken hearted, unwed mothers, Aids patients, mentally disturbed, orphans etc. It became an ideal model of integrating spiritual, physical and material wellbeing of the people as envisaged by St. Vincent De Paul. DRC Muringoor has retreats in 7 languages simultaneously in two campuses. It is the biggest retreat centre in the world. Every week in between 3000 to 4000 people attend the retreat.

3. Vincentian retreat Centre, Puduppady

The third retreat centre of the Province in Kerala is Vincentian Retreat Centre, Puduppady, started in 1994, in the Diocese of Thamarassery. Two residential retreats are preached every month. On Tuesdays and Fridays almost 1000 people come for prayers. It is meant to be a centre for the faithful in the Malabar Area.

Widening The Horizon

Jesus commanded the disciples to be his witnesses in Jerusalem, Judea, Samaria, and to the ends of the earth (Acts 1: 8). The preaching ministry of Marymatha Province followed this model of progression in extending its horizons. From Kerala we went out to other states in India and then to other continents. People who experienced the power and effectiveness of Potta-Divine ministry went back home and began to spread the news by words of mouth. The global evangelization ministry of Fr. Mathew Naikomparambil also impressed the people all around the world. Invitations from Bishops, clergy and people alike began to pour in to the Provincial House to start retreat centres in other states in India and even abroad.

4. Tabore Divine, Kalyan

Tabore Divine Retreat Ashram, the first retreat centre of Marymatha Province outside Kerala, was opened in 1993 in Kalyan. Now it is operating in two campuses. There are retreats in 6 languages. The Friday and Saturday One-Day programmes attract thousands every week. When the new buildings under construction will be ready we will be able to give better facilities to the people.

5. Divine Vachan Ashram, Ballarpur

The second retreat centre in Maharashtra was opened in 2008 in Ballarpur, Chanda Diocese. With limited facilities the ministry is progressing well. By the help of generous donors we are able to provide spiritual retreats free of charge. The poor villagers who attend the weekly retreats there really profit out of it. Hindi speaking people are the usual participants.

6. Divine Ashram, Ahmed Nagar

In 2013 the vacant Boys’ hostel was converted to Divine Asram and started retreats for the Marathi Speaking villagers. It is still in its infancy stage. The out-reach programmes in the parishes and villages are well appreciated, and many Non-Catholics and Non-Christians receive faith.

7. Divine Retreat Ashram, Faridabad, Haryana

In 1998 Divine Retreat Ashram Faridabad was established under the Archdiocese of Delhi. The monthly night vigils attract thousands of people every month. People from Haryana, Delhi, Punjab etc. come in big groups under the leadership of area coordinators. The residential retreat conducted every month is well attended. It is a place of spiritual refuge for the Nurses and Nursing students in and around Delhi.

Retreat Centres In Good Shepherd Region, AP

1. Sinai Dhyanashram, Premagiri

The first Retreat Centre in Good Shepherd Region, AP, Sinai Dhyanashram, was established at Premagiri under Kurnool Diocese. There the services are being conducted in Telugu and English. From a humble beginning it has grown up to a well-established retreat centre which can accommodate almost 150 people.

1. Sinai Dhyanashram, Premagiri

The first Retreat Centre in Good Shepherd Region, AP, Sinai Dhyanashram, was established at Premagiri under Kurnool Diocese. There the services are being conducted in Telugu and English. From a humble beginning it has grown up to a well-established retreat centre which can accommodate almost 150 people.

2. Divien Mercy Dhyanashram, Mangalagiri

In 2009 the second retreat centre came up in Mangalagiri in the Diocese of Guntur, AP. Fr. John Kanichery has been instrumental for the development of this centre. Now it has all the infrastructures necessary for about 200 people.

3. Divine Dhyana Illam, Coimbatore, Tamilnadu

Marymatha province responded to the plea of the Tamil speaking community to have a retreat centre in the State, and established Divine Dhyana Illam in the outskirts of Coimbatore in 2004. It caters to the needs of the Tamil Christians as well as the Malayalee communities in and around Coimbatore. Recently it achieved high momentum. The newly built residential block has given a fresh impetus to the retreats.

4. Retreat Centres In Africa

“Don't you have a saying, 'It's still four months until harvest'? I tell you, open your eyes and look at the fields! They are ripe for harvest” (Jh. 4:35). This saying of Jesus is true of African Mission. We are reaping rich harvest there through the retreat centres.

5. Vincentian Prayer House, Nairobi

The Vincentian Prayer House was started in a small house in Lenana Road donated by the Mary Immaculate Sisters of Njeri. Later it was shifted to Lavington in 2004. An Irish well-wisher called Glen Kielty built the new Prayer House for us. Though the Prayer Hall was built for 1000 people with in few months after the blessing the hall began to overflow with people. Now every Saturday more than 3000 people attend the one-day retreat. Everyday more than 300 people come for the prayers and adoration. Retreats for small groups are also conducted in the limited residential facility there.

6. Vincentian Retreat Centre, Thika

It is situated in the land donated by a rich man called John Thuo near by the Thika-Nairobi highway. In 2011 we started the First Friday programme and immediately it began to attract thousands. Now we have a retreat hall which can accommodate 15000 people and on every second Saturday it is full. The residential Retreat Started in 2013 and now we accommodate almost 1000 people for the residential retreats. People of all walks of life support the centre. It has become the centre for the renewal of the whole of East Africa.

7. Centenary Vincentian Retreat Centre, Entebbe, Uganda

Great support Fr. Bill was getting from Ugandan Church prompted him to start a prayer centre in Uganda. In a land donated by a pious lady we built the house and retreat centre. It is close by Lake Victoria and Entebbe Airport. Though we do not have residential facility there we conduct one-day programmes and weekend retreats. Since the tomb of Fr. Bill is there many people who consider him as a saintly man come every day to pray.

8. Retreat Centre in Nzanji, Kampala, Uganda

It is situated in the outskirts of Kampala, the capital city of Uganda. Due to the limited scope of development in Entebbe we thought of having the residential retreat centre in Nzanji. At present we have built a retreat hall and priest’s residence and we have One-Day programme on second Saturdays which is attended by more than 1000 people. People are enthusiastic about the centre and waiting for the development.

9. Divine Mercy Retreat Centre, Kabulassoke, Uganda

With strong support of the Diocese of Masaka we have developed the Divine Mercy Retreat Centre, Kabulassoke which is a few KM from the city of Masaka. The main beneficiaries of the retreat centre are the poor villagers. The language used for the service is the local language Luganda. Besides the One-Day programme conducted once in a month special groups come there to make retreats. We have accommodation facility for almost 200 people.

TO The American Continent

The beneficiaries of world evangelization ministry of Fr. Naikomparambil, and people who experienced the healing power of God through Potta-Divine ministry began to pray for a Vincentian centre in America. The Holy Spirit inspired Dr. Titus and his friends to buy a plot of land in Washington Township, New Jersey with an existing house. Now the fame of this centre is spread far and wide, and in the residential retreats an average of 120 people participate. The one-day Conventions in Malayalam and English attract hundreds.

In 2011 the Vincentian ministry in America spread its wings to Plant City, Florida. Though the growth of this centre is in slow pace it is steadily progressing. At present we have only one-day conventions once in a month.

The Vincentian presence in Canada started in 1998. Vincentians used to be invited for retreat programmes in different parts of Canada even before. The Family Prayer Mission, Toronto, headed by Mr. Rappai Nedumpara and assisted by Mr. Shiju Thomas promised to buy a property for us to start a retreat centre in Toronto. God had already prepared a suitable place for us. In 2014 they managed to buy a United Church property with all its buildings. In November 2015 we officially started the preaching programme there. During the regular Friday programmes the church overflows with people. It has a bright future.

To Europe, The Cradle Of Christianity

Though the members of our Province used to go frequently to European countries for preaching retreats we did not have any retreat centre in Europe. In 2008 the Province entered into an agreement with the Diocesan authorities of Rottenburg-Stutgart Diocese, Germany, to start a retreat centre in the Diocese. Accordingly our priests began to stay in a hired house and started the preaching ministry in rented facilities. The service is conducted in Deutsch and is free of charge. For week end retreats the average participation is almost 100 people. We are earnestly looking for a place of our own.

"As the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways and my thoughts than your thoughts” (Isaiah 55:9). Yes the plan of God for the Vincentian Ministry in England is really greater than our expectations. With the help of Divine TV Foundation Trust in England we could buy St. Augustine Abby, Ramsgate, UK. It was formally inaugurated in February 2014. With necessary renovations and furnishings we started the residential retreat in the existing facilities. We can accommodate almost 100 people in the Abby. The mission is fast growing there. The One-Day conventions started attracting more than 200 people.

To The Land Of Kangaroos

In the recent years there has been a remarkable increase in number of immigrants from Kerala going to Australia seeking jobs and higher education. The Church is now concerned about their spiritual needs. Holy Spirit inspired the Bishop of Broken Bay to invite us to his Diocese for running a retreat centre in Somersby which is owned by the diocese. In 2013 the Province accepted the invitation and formally took up the retreat centre in contract basis. The people there wholeheartedly welcomed our ministry, and give full support. The growing numbers of the participants bear witness to the success of our ministry. Our attempt to have a centre of our own is about to be fulfilled.

Mission In North East

The North East States of India has a strong Christian presence. The Protestant and Anglican Missionaries have penetrated to these states and converted many tribal folks into Christianity. In the recent years the Catholic Church has also started to penetrated deep into these tribal areas.

Marymatha province, in response to the invitation of the Bishop of Ittanagar, Arunachal Pradesh, started the first retreat centre in Gumto. Along with the pastoral care of the local parish we started the preaching ministry in 2008. Since it is at the boarder of Assam and near to Nagaland we are getting a good response from the people. His Grace Menamparambil, the then Bishop of Guwahati, who is a great supporter of our ministry invited us to his Diocese and offered full support to start a Retreat Centre in Khetry, Assam. Today this centre has grown to be a full-fledged retreat centre. Particular tribal groups who speak tribal languages come each week and they go back home and spread the good tidings and bring more and more people. The effectiveness of our ministry in North East prompted the Bishop of Kohima, Nagaland, to welcome our ministry and we started our preaching ministry in the pastoral centre of the Diocese. In 2013 the Bishop donated few acres of land in Zhadima village and Fr. Sony Puthiyedam strated to stay in a rented house and look after the construction of the retreat centre. It is scheduled to be blessed in the month of May. Our out-reach ministry is producing desirable fruits. A second centre in Ittanagar Diocese, Arunachal Pradesh, has been opened in 2013 in Joram parish. Preaching ministry is yet to be developed there.

Vincentian Prayer Centres

Besides the Retreat centres many of the Houses of the Province have retreat programmes attached to them. Vincentian Retreat Centre Mangalore is gradually taking shape. The One-Day programme is attacting more than 500 people every month. The newly built Prayer Hall is ready for blessing. Vincentian House Nilambur started attracting hundreds due to the weekly one-day programmes conducted for specific groups like couples, youth, People with addictions etc. The regular Friday recollections conducted in Thottakom Vincentian House is becoming more and more popular and there is a great demand from the people to start a retreat centre. Second Saturday one-day services were conducted in Vincentian House Kalichanadukom till recently and now it is changed to three days non-residential retreats, which is proved to be successful.

Pastoral Miniostry

Vincentian Congregation has always tried to be animated by the spirit of St. Vincent De Paul, our Heavenly Patron. Following the spirit of the saint Marymatha Province has always given importance to the parish ministry by helping the Diocesan clergy in taking care of the souls of the parish. We do this in two ways- 1) taking up the parishes adjacent to our houses, and 2) sending priests to work in the parishes in India and abroad. Our priests are now engaged in pastoral ministry in 6 continents- Asia, Europe, Africa, North America, South America, and Australia.

Three parishes adjacent to our houses in Kerala are entrusted to our care: Thottakom, Puduppady, and Edathotty. Besides these Karani parish in Mananthavady Diocese is looked after by our priest who is the Director of St. Vincent’s Balabhavan, Meenanagadi. Three of our priests serve in the Diocese of Ernakulam-Angamaly Archdiocese and one in Ramanathapuruam Diocese, Tamil Nadu.

In Andhra 8 parishes are entrusted to our care: Bhimadole, Mangalagiri, Edera, Onipenta, Penubally, Velugode, Atmakoor, Premagiri. In Ahmed Nagar Mission we take care of 5 parishes: Ahmed Nagar, Rahuri, Kopergaon, Shrirambur, and Aurangabad. Three parishes are entrusted to our care in the North East: Gumto, Joram, and Zadima.

In Tanzania, East Africa, three parishes are attached to our Houses: Katubuka, and Uvinza in Kigoma, and Vikindu in Dar Es Salaam Diocese. This year one mission parish is going to be entrusted to our care in the Diocese of Mosh. In Kenya Vincentian priests are working in Kalimoni parish.

German Dioceses are so welcoming to our ministry and we have 18 priests working in 3 Dioceses. We have 3 priests in Italy, one each in Switzerland, Liechtenstein and Austria. In recent years we have extended our ministry to Australia and New Zealand and we have three and two priests working there respectively. Nine Parishes in USA have our priests either as pastors or associates. In the Diocese of Saskatoon, Canada we have two priests appointed as pastors of the parish. In Lima, Peru, (South America) one parish with almost 15 outstations are looked after by four of our priests.

Conclusion

We are so much indebted to God who guided us forward all these years. If the preaching ministry and the pastoral ministry of the Province has grown beyond our expectations and spread to 6 continents it is due to the sacrifice and generosity of many who responded to the inspirations of the Holy Spirit. “I planted, Apollos watered, but God kept everything growing” (1Cor.3:6). Yes some of us planted and some others watered and the new generation is harvesting the fruit. But it is God who made it grow and bear fruit. So all Glory to God Almighty!!

About Us

The Marymatha (Mother of God) Province of the Vincentian Congregation has 332 professed members (238 priests, one brother, 93 Scholastics), 11 novices and 81 minor seminarians. We are blessed with sufficient number of vocations. This year itself 43 young men joined our Minor Seminary. Our priests work in the states of Kerala, Karnataka, Andhra Pradesh, Maharashtra, Tamil Nadu, Goa and Delhi in India and in different dioceses in Tanzania, Kenya and Uganda in Africa.

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Address

Marymatha Provincial House, P. B. No. 1
Angamaly South- 683 573, Kerala, India

Contact Us

Phone : +91-484-2452336, 2457890 (Provincial)
Email : marymathavc@gmail.com
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