Venerable Thomas Kurialacherry –
Founder of Adoration Congregation
Thomas Kurialacherry, fondly called as Kunjuthomachen was born on January 14th, 1873 at Champakulam in Changanacherry, Kerala to Chackochen and Accamma. As a child, he grew up with extra ordinary goodness and piety. From his tender ages onwards Thomas had a special devotion to the Eucharistic Lord and Blessed Mother. To be a priest was his lifelong desire and he took the decision for priesthood while he was studying at Mannanam. While having his seminary education in Rome, being influenced and inspired by the Perpetual Adoration sisters who used to spend their day and night in adoration before the Blessed Sacrament, he received an inner call to make the Eucharistic Lord known, loved and adored by all, always and everywhere. During the nine years he spend at the Propaganda, he excelled in everything and in the College register it is recorded about him as the first in everything, the beloved leader of the classmates and a zealous missionary.
He had his ordination on 27 May 1899 from Cardinal Cassantha, and he offered his first Holy Mass in the chapel of Jesu that belonged to the Jesuits. On his return he pursued the inspiration to promote Eucharistic devotion in his own homeland by all means. It was mere providence that he met with Philomina Vallayil, who later came to be known as Mary Francesca de Chantal, who had a deep desire to become a nun and who shared the same charism. With her co-operation, he founded the Adoration Congregation on 8th December 1908. In 1911, Fr. Thomas Kurialacherry was elevated as the Vicar Apostolica of Changanacherry, which led to the further growth and subsequent spreading of the congregation in different Syro-Malabar dioceses of Kerala.
Bishop Kurialacherry was a zealous social reformer and a person who was enthusiastically involved in bringing transformation to the marginalized sections of society. He was a faithful son of the Church. As a priest and a bishop, he was a good shepherd who cared for the sheep under his care. As a social reformer, he stood for equality, peace and justice for all. His prophetic voice resounded throughout Kerala against social evils. He brought the Dalits into the main stream of the Catholic community. A man of ecumenical vision, he worked for the unity of various Christian communities. As a man of compassion, he was a joy to those in sorrow, refuge for the afflicted and a soothing presence for the suffering. As an educator – he was a lamp to those who were moving in darkness – a man of great intellectual vigour. Being a strong advocate of education, Mar Thomas started several educational institutions including St. Berchman's College at Changanacherry. His 113 pastoral letters bear witness to the apostolic zeal for the spiritual welfare of the people of God. Above all, he was a man of God, an ardent devotee of the Eucharistic Lord. Mar Thomas laboured assiduously to instil devotion to the Blessed Sacrament among all the faithful by vigorously promoting “40 and 13 hours devotions” and solemn Holy Hour celebrations in the parish community.
When he prepared for his ‘adlimina’ visit to Rome, he had a conviction that it would be his last journey. It was the Silver Jubilee year of his ordination and he had planned to participate in the beatification process of St. Therese of Lisieux. Before leaving, he entrusted the sisters to the Immaculate Virgin Mary and asked forgiveness to all for his shortcomings. Reaching Rome, the seminarians from Changanacherry studying at Rome, invited him for Holy Mass at Propaganda College, which he readily accepted. Though tired, he offered Mass, but fainted after that. Thus he offered his first Holy Mass and his last Mass at the same altar. He was called to eternal reward on June 2nd 1925. His mortal remains were brought back to Changanacherry in 1935 and interred in the Metropolitan Cathedral Church.
All were convinced that Bishop Kurialacherry was a saintly man. Sisters as well as people outside began to pray for him for favours. The continuous stream of pilgrims to his tomb and the graces and favours received through his intercession, gave impetus to the desire of seeing Mar Thomas raised to honours of the altar for the greater glory of God and the good of His people. The cause of beatification was started in 1983 at Mar Thomas Kurialacherry Vikas in Changanacherry, and the diocesan process was completed in 1991. The present postulator is Rev. Msgr. Paul Pallath. The “Positio” illustrating the heroic virtues of the Servant of God was submitted to the Sacred Congregation for the cause of Saints in 1996. A team consisting of 8 Theologians and a Promoter of Faith studied it and unanimously voted in 2010 March 26 that our Founder exercised heroic virtues. Now the ‘Positio’ will be taken for study and discussion by the Cardinals and Bishops in the ‘Congregation for Saints’. When they too approve and the Pope produces a decree recognizing the virtuous life of the Servant of God, he will be exalted as ‘Venerable’. A first class miracle further will beatify him, and again a further miracle will pave the way for him to be canonized.
Mother Mary Francesca de Chantal –
Mother Chantal (Philomina Vallayil) was born on 23 December 1880 to Mathew and Mariamma at Champakulam. From her young age, she was impelled by a desire to love the Lord with her whole heart and give herself in service of the poor and needy. She had taken a firm decision right from her childhood which she kept intact till her death that she would not cause pain to Jesus or Mother Mary. Showing deep interest in spiritual activities, she attended daily Mass and was an active member of the Sodality of our Lady. Though she wanted to fulfill her desire to serve the humanity by becoming a Religious, she was forced by the family to give consent for her marriage. But, within a short time, she became a widow and returned to her own home in Champakulam.
God in His providence had prepared Philomina Vallayil to receive the very special gift of Eucharistic love. She spent her widowed days at home in silence, solitude, prayer and penance, cherishing and nurturing her desire to dedicate herself to God and His children. The unexpected encounter with Fr. Thomas Kurialacherry at Kalloorkatt Church opened a new way for her and it filled her with strength and inspiration. She found in him a spiritual guide who would lead her to her real destination.
Fr. Thomas Kurialacherry also was aware that a leader or collaborator was essential to lead and guide the young congregation he had in his dream. From his meeting with Philomina, he knew that she was the right person to fulfill what he had planned from the Perpetual Adorers chapel in Rome. Mother Chantal was a deeply religious woman and that was the source of her extra ordinary courage and strength. During the formation period, the Founder become aware of her motherly love, courage, strength and determination that were essential for keeping up with the demands of a new congregation. On 23rd January 1903, she left her house as directed by Fr. Thomas and spent a year with the Clarist sisters at Changanacherry where she pursued her school level studies. Later while continuing studies at Mutholi, she had about 17 children under her care, accompanying her. They were the first candidates in the congregation. Six of them received veil on 8th December 1908, which resulted as the foundation of the Adoration Congregation.
Since the Founder Mar Thomas Kurialacherry had to attend the needs of the diocese, the responsibility of starting new schools and colleges were entrusted to Sr. Chantal, which she did efficiently. All the first schools and convents of the SABS were erected and started as a result of her hard work and dedication. Her official life which did not last much long was thus filled with lot of difficulties that she had to face from government authorities, local people, Non-Catholics and even from those within the convent too. From within the convent walls she had to face humiliations which she took as nice occasions to identify herself with her Heavenly Spouse. She was denied the permission to make her final vows together with the others professed with her, due to reasons unknown. Her hardships in official life and official life itself came to an abrupt end by the unexpected demise of the Founder in 1925, where after she was pushed away from active life and remained so till the end of her life.
Later on in her life, Mother Chantal had to face many more trials and tribulations, which she silently endured and joyfully accepted to identify herself with the ‘Suffering Servant of Yahweh’. But all those were ample manure from which the congregation was able to take great leaps in its forward journey. Mother was never seen complaining or irritated or criticizing, but always bowed her head in submission repeatedly ejaculating ‘Glory to God’. She always stood silent conforming to the Eucharistic Lord, with whom she had a deep personal attachment. She was always the same person – loving, compassionate and caring to others, and seeking comfort and consolation only from the Eucharistic Lord. She shared what she had in plenty, her spiritual and material resources with those who were around her. Her compassion for the poor and needy which manifested right from her childhood was exhibited in her life of exile too.
Mother Chantal’s life was a total surrender to the will of God. From her early years at home, to the ripe years of old age she submitted herself to the will of God and found joy in it. Her deep attachment to Jesus in the Blessed Sacrament enabled her to overcome all the trials and tribulations in her life. Even when she was rejected by her own sisters, punished by the diocesan authorities and belittled by the public, she accepted everything with joy to make the Eucharistic Lord known, loved and adored by all. When the horizons of her apostolate was limited within the convent walls she acted as a missionary by making use of all opportunities that came across her to promote Eucharistic devotion. She spent long hours before the Blessed Sacrament, conversing with Jesus even in the odd hours of the night when no one was around. Most of the time, she could be seen lost in deep contemplation in the convent chapel.
The last days of Mother Chantal witnessed the depth of her physical suffering too. She was called to her eternal abode on 25th May 1972. Mother Chantal was a heroic woman in all aspects especially in her suffering and determination. During her lifetime itself she used to make children pray and she interceded for their intentions which made people draw to her tomb after her death. People come to her tomb in large groups from far and wide. Her intercession is mainly sought after by young ladies for getting married and by pregnant ladies for having a normal delivery.
Mother Chantal who cooperated with Mar Thomas Kurialacherry in founding the congregation was recognized as the Co-Foundress of the Adoration congregation in the Renewal Synaxis held in January 2007. Mother Chantal’s contribution to the congregation as the First member and Co-Foundress was a consequence of her immense love for Jesus in the Eucharist. This divine love was depicted in her love for all others and for the growth of the congregation, overcoming innumerable obstacles. The love she had for the poor, her devotion to the Holy Eucharist and her suffering in silence were heroic and continues to inspire one and all.