Blessed Kunjachan
Blessed Kunjachan Birth and Family of Kunjachan Thevarparampil

Dalits  (Harijans) at the lowest rung of the Social Ladder

For centuries they were treated as untouchables and even as unapproachables. The upper caste Hindus kept them at a specified distance. If this was violated, they had to purify themselves by a cleansing bath. The low caste people were not even allowed to use the public roads, near temples. They were never allowed to enter places of Hindu worship or schools or other public places.

Mar Thomas Kurialacherry, Bp. of Changanacherry was very kind to these hapless people and he employed every possible means to raise them up from their sad plight.

First of all he tried to convince the priests of the diocese about their obligation to sow the word of God among the poor. In a letter, the Bishop sent to the priests on 1st June 1916, we read:  "The great desire of a good priest should not be acquiring higher positions or amassing abundance of wealth, instead it should be the salvation of souls. To achieve this end, priests should follow the example of the Lord Jesus, discarding comforts, wealth and even the very life". The counsel of the Bishop exerted a deep influence on the mind of the young priest, Augustine.

Initiation in the Diocese

The Evangelical work in the diocese of Changanacherry was entrusted to Fr. Hilarios T.O.C.D., a religious priest of the Syrian Carmelite congregation. Visiting the various parishes of the diocese, he could attract many to the fold of the Holy Church, by his retreats and counsels. While residing in the monastery at Mutholy, he wrote to the parish priest of Ramapuram on 21-12-1924:

"I could find on special investigation in places like Piravom, Thuruthipally, Koothattukulam, Ramapuram and Kudakachira, that there were many people ready to receive baptism. If the necessary fund is available, evangelisation work could be begun in those places, immediately .................... Kindly inform me how you would be able to cooperate with me in this endeavour"

Annual Retreat and the first instance of Conversion

In his mission tour Fr. Hilarios T.O.C.D. came to St. Augustineís Church, Ramapuram in March 1926. Actually he had been invited by the then vicar, to preach the annual retreat to the community of the faithful. At the insistance of the preacher, some of the landlords led their own dependents to the Church on the last day of the retreat.

The preachers taught them the essentials of the Christian faith. With the intention of instructing them further later on, they were ready to administer them the sacrament of Baptism. No one was compelled to receive the sacrament. Those who were not interested could go home freely. It is recorded that about two hundred people received baptism on that day.

Opens a new Vista in Evangelisation

It was in March 1926 that Kunjachan God returned to Ramapuram from Kadanad. He noticed the events that happened in the Church during the annual retreat. There he witnessed the beginning of a new field of Evangelisation. He saw the hundreds of Harijan families, who lived around him. None of them owned even a single piece of land. They lived in small huts made in other peopleís property. Not only were they illiterate, but they didnít even know the value of education. At the end of a dayís work, what they were given was only a small measure of rice. Reaching home in the evening they had to make use of this very rice to prepare food for themselves and their children. In the morning again they started to work in the field.

Instructors afraid to touch the students

In those days the children from Harijan families were denied admission in the public schools. Also the other students didnít like these poor children sitting beside them in the class. The teachers too hated their presence.

Shed as Schools

Kunjachan realised that there was not even a single person among the neophytes who knew to read and write. He was convinced that imparting education was of primary importance in the field of his activities. Therefore he started schools known as Kalaries in small sheds in different parts of the locality.

Blessed Kunjachan