A Swift Glance

As the South East India Province looks back at the path it has trodden, it realizes that it has not traversed too long a distance, but certainly has travelled the harder way. This is a Province, which began its journey relying on the providence of God, with not much material assets to boast of. All the same, it finds its strength in its unordinary manpower and exuberance. It continues to remain as a faithful child of the Congregation. The Province is aware of the conditions in which the Congregation was founded and the way the Congregation responded to the needs of the time and the Church. South East India Province continues to carry out the mission of the Church and of the Congregation in the same vein. Here is a short history of the province in various apostolates.

The Congregation, founded in 1838 in France, reached the Shores of Pondicherry (now known as Puducherry), which is part of this very Province, already in 1846 less than a decade after its foundation, but it took almost a century and a half to take root in this soil where MSFS set foot for the first time in India. In was only in 1975, MSFS began to send its members to Tamilnadu. Two priests namely Fr. Joseph Puthiaparambil and Fr. Peter Chakkulickal were the pioneers who were designated to the diocese of Uthagamandalam. After the construction of the minor seminary in Pudukottai, the vocation to priesthood in this congregation began to be rapid and the mother province Visakhapatnam showed keen interest in taking up new missions, especially remote villages in Tamilnadu.

Tamilnadu – Pondicherry Region: 2005-2008

Considering the vastness of the area, the rapid growth of the mission and the bright possibilities of further mission in Tamilnadu, the Provincial Council of Visakhapatnam Province set up a Study Committee to explore the possibilities of bifurcation of the Province. Rev. Fr. Agnelo Fernandes, the superior General and Rev. Dr. Thomas Perumalil, the Provincial Superior took strenuous efforts towards this end. Having received various opinions and proposals, the General Superior created Chennai Region under the mother Province of Visakhapatnam. It consisted of the civil state of Tamilnadu and the union territory of Pondicherry.

Chennai Region was born on 24 January 2005, the Feast of our heavenly Patron. Rev. Fr. A. Lawrence was appointed as the Regional Superior. The inauguration of the Region and the installation of the Regional Superior took place in SFS Seminary, Pudukkottai. The Regional Superior under the guidance of the Provincial of the mother Province convoked the Regional Assembly, which was held in the same venue from 16 to 18 February 2005. The Regional Superior took his residence at SFS School, Pudukkottai. As per the wish of the Regional Assembly, the Superior General approved the change of the name of the Region to Tamilnadu – Pondicherry Region.

South East India Province: 2008

The Region, which witnessed rapid growth, was eventually raised to the status of a Province. Rev. Fr. Agnelo Fernandes, the Superior General made this declaration in the year dedicated to the Eucharist by the Holy Father Pope John Paul II. Accordingly, the Province was born on 24 January 2008. Rev. Fr. A. Lawrence, who had served the Region with his dynamics as the Regional Superior, received the mandate to guide the infant Province as the first Provincial. The inauguration of the Province and the installation of the Provincial were held in the Seminary in Pudukkottai. The Provincial convoked the first Provincial Congress from 10 to 14 March 2008, which was conducted in the seminary. As wished by the members, the new Province was named “South East India Province”.

The Province had to soon witness the change in the location of its Headquarters. The Provincialate that was functioning from the SFS School campus, Pudukkottai was shifted to Kunnathur, 12 km from Trichy. The inauguration of this house took place on 05 December 2009.

On 24 January 2011, Rev. Fr. A. Dharmaraj assumed the office as the second Provincial of South-East India Province. Under his leadership, the Province took a further leap through its innovative ways of missionary activities. He was appointed as provincial consecutively for a second term of three years. In accordance with the tradition, he took charge on 24 January 2014.

Here below, we mention the growth this province has witness in the sphere of the four major apostolates of the congregation.

  1. Apostolate of Formation

In 1982, a small building was constructed in Kalifnagar under the name “Anbu Illam” (House of Love), which served as the minor seminary for the candidates from the state of Tamilnadu. Soon it was shifted to Thirukogarnam and named as MSFS Minor Seminary. April 16, 2007 was a milestone in the History of MSFS presence in this region. On this day, SFS Seminary, Pudukkottai celebrated its Silver Jubilee, which more or less marked the silver jubilee of our presence in this region too. In order to make the event more meaningful, the seminary hosted the priestly ordination of 5 deacons.

The procedure of our Formation to Priesthood is as follows: The candidates who join us after their PUC will have two years of Initiation and those who join after 10 Standard will have formation for three years, during which they would also complete their PUC.

After the completion of the initial formation in Pudukottai and having completed two months of Pre-Novitiate, the candidates are sent to Salesianum, Visakhapatnam, the Novitiate that belongs to the Visakhapatnam Province. At the end of the year, they make their first vows and are sent to Suvidya College, Bangalore, the inter-provincial Philosophate. During their stay here for three years, the students learn Philosophy and complete a Bachelor Degree in Secular studies too.

On completion of these studies, the students come back to the Province for a year of Regency. Thereupon, they would be sent for theological studies. The Province has collaboration with the mother province Visakhapatnam, with North East province and with South West province. Therefore, our scholastics are sent either to Eluru, Andhrapradesh or to Shillang, Meghalaya or to Bangalore, Karnataka. During these years, the scholastics also make their Final Profession and receive the order of Diaconate on a date, in accordance with the norms of the respective study houses.

After the completion of their theological studies, the deacons come back to the province and are appointed in one of our parishes for diaconate ministry, at the end of which, they would receive the ordination to priesthood.

  1. Apostolate of Mission and Re-evangelization

One who thinks of the history of this Province, needs to go back to the distant vague days of 1970s. In 1975-1976, Fr. Peter Chakkulickal and Fr. Jose Puthiaparambil worked as assistant parish priests in St. Joseph’s church, Soosaipuram and in Pankka Halli in Uthagamandalam (Ooty) Diocese respectively. In the following year the former was appointed as the parish priest in St. Thomas’ Church, Muthiyanoor and the latter in St. Mary’s Church, Thalavadi in the same diocese.

In 1985, the parish of Mary Help of Christians, Vaniyambadi was entrusted to the pastoral care of the MSFS. This remains till date as the oldest MSFS parish in Tamilnadu. In 1993, the mother Province Visakhapatnam took up the Sacred Heart Parish, Kadayal in the undivided diocese of Kottar (now in Kulithurai).

The years that followed witnessed an intense concentration on the mission in Tamilnadu. These initiatives came from Rev. Dr. Mani Panthalany, the then Provincial of Visakhapatnam Province. In 1996, four parishes were taken up for mission in Tamilnadu. They are: Christ the Redeemer parish, Kelambakkam  in the erstwhile Madras-Mylapore Archdiocese, Our Lady of Annunciation  parish, Kanankadu in the Archdiocese of Pondicherry-Cuddalore, St. Antony´s parish, Kalladithidal in the diocese of Sivagangai and St. Francis de Sales Parish, Thirugokarnam in Thanjavur  diocese. The latter had been already looked after by the fathers in the Seminary even before it was bifurcated from Sacred Heart Parish, Pudukottai.

In 1997, the Archdiocese of Madurai entrusted St. Antony´s Parish, Ammapatty to the MSFS. In the same year, Our Lady of Miracles parish in Kadapakkam was taken up on short term basis. On 18 July 1998, the Holy Trinity Parish, Adanur was bifurcated from Villupuram in the Archdiocese of Pondicherry and was entrusted to the MSFS. In the following year, the missionary activity of the MSFS spread further to two more parishes, namely Our Lady of Ransom Parish, Elapakkam, in the Archdiocese of Madras-Mylapore (now in Chengelpattu) and Infant Jesus Parish, Othaiyal in the Archdiocese of Madurai.

As collaboration with these dioceses and the appreciation from the people grew, the MSFS found more chances coming on their way to work in the churches of Tamilnadu. Notably their collaboration with the Archdioceses of Madras-Mylapore, Pondicherry and Madurai became stronger. The Archdiocese of Pondicherry entrusted this time Our Lady of Fatima Parish, Kodungal to the MSFS on 27 July 2000. In the same year, St. Xavier´s Parish, Virudhunagar was also entrusted to the care of the MSFS. Meanwhile, some of the new priests were offered to the Archdiocese of Madras-Mylapore as assistant priests. The parishes that benefitted from our presence are: Ambattur, Choolai, Thiruvettriyur, Kilpauk, Meenjoor, Kasimedu and Erukkencherry. On short term contract the MSFS took up some parishes. Michaelpuram in Pondicherry Archdiocese was under the pastoral care of the MSFS from 2000-2005. Similarly, the Sacred Heart Parish, Sengattur, the Sacred Heart Parish, Vedanthangal (2002-2007) and St.John de Britto Parish in Chengelpattu diocese were also entrusted to the MSFS.

The MSFS took up the mission in the tribal areas of Kolli Hills in 2001. Subsequently, Semmedu on the hill top was made a parish in the diocese of Selam. In the same year, St. Joseph´s parish, Perungozhi in the Archdioceses of Madras-Mylapore was erected as an independent parish and was entrusted to the MSFS. A little later, the presence of MSFS was to be found also in the diocese of Palayamkottai, where they took up Sahaya Matha Parish, Nallatinputhur on 28 May 2003. They turned once again towards the Archdiocese of Pondicherry, which entrusted the Sacred Heart Parish, Manalurpet on 28 October 2003. In the same year, Our Lady of Rosary Parish, Manavalanagar in the Archdiocese of Madras-Mylapore came under the care of MSFS. During this period, the province fostered a good collaboration with the diocese of Trichy too. Some of the young priests were designated to the diocese to be appointed as assistant priests. They worked in Keeranur, Ponmalai, Periya Anaikaraipatty and Manapparai at various times. On 20 June 2004, All Saints Church, Raja Shanmuga Nagar (R.S. Nagar) was entrusted to the MSFS by the Archdiocese of Madras-Mylapore.

After the inauguration of the Tamilnadu – Pondicherry Region, it took up its first mission Sendurai on 5 June 2005 in the newly born diocese of Dindigul.   In 2007, St. Francis Xavier´s parish, Kanakkanpatty in the diocese of Sivagangai was entrusted to the MSFS. The Regional obtained the status of a Province on 24 January 2008. The new Province took up St. Mary´s Parish, Mariapuram in the diocese of Coimbatore on 24 June 2009.     The Province took up St. James´ parish, Ravusapatty in the diocese of Trichy on 10 June 2012.  On 4 May 2014, Our Lady of Refugees Church, Nachiyarkovil in the diocese of Kumbakonam was erected as an independent parish and was entrusted to the MSFS.

Apostolate of Education

The beginning of the apostolate of Education within the territory belonging to the Province can be traced back to 1988, when Fr. George Puraidam took the initiative to build the SFS Matriculation School in Alangayam. The year 1995 marked the humble beginning of two more educational institutes which would later turn to be the biggest ones in the Province. On 7 June, SFS Matriculation School was started in a shed in Kalifnagar, Pudukkottai, in the land which was originally bought for the purpose of constructing the seminary. On 5 July, was the birth of another SFS school, which found itself in the same nature, but in the Church premises of Vaniyambadi and later shifted to Janathapuram. Similar is the history of SFS School in Virudunagar, which was started in 2004.

The new South East India Province took keen interest on the apostolate of education. In 2009, three matriculation schools were started, each with 5 classrooms. These schools are SFS School, Perumbakkam; SFS School, Nallatinputhur and SFS School, Kelambakkam. In the following year, SFS School, Sendurai was started.

On 01 June 2015, the new SFS School under CBSC was inaugurated at the Provincialte. As the school building was not ready, a room in the Provincial house serves as the class room for the first batch of 22 children

  1. Apostolate of Frontier Mission

At the time of the creation of the Region, the mission in St. Lucia, in the West Indies was handed over to it. A few members were sent to these places in order to strengthen the mission over there. Later on, in compliance with the recommendations of the General Superior, the Region took up Italian Mission in 2006.

In 2009, the South East India Province attempted to expand its mission further outside the province territory. All together four confreres worked in the diocese of Baruipur in West Bengal. As the members saw less possibilities of missionary expansion, it was decided to call off the mission after three years of its existence.

Collaboration with other provinces was considered an important aspect of the frontier mission of the Province. In accordance with that thought, three confreres were offered to the North East Province in 2011 for a period of two years. In the same year, three confreres were sent to the Brazil Province and two to the East African Province. Two more were sent to Italy in order to strengthen our mission over there. Later on a few more were sent to these missions.

The year 2014 witnessed a deeper concentration in our mission in the Caribbean islands. Two confreres left for St. Kitts in the diocese of St. John´s-Basseterre on 18 August and two confreres left for the Commonwealth of Dominica in the diocese of Roseau on 22 November.

  1. Apostolate of Special Ministries

Responding to the signs of the time and understanding the needs of the local place, the mother Province started a Non-formal technical institute in Adappakaran Chatram, Pudukkottai. The Province began this project with a makeshift hall in 2004.

07 December 2007 is an important date for the apostolate of Innovative Ministries, as it marked the inauguration of Betty Home (Children´s Home) in Kolli Hills, adjacent to our presbytery. It was meant for the children´s from Kolli Hills. It is to be noted that the Province later took up a government project to run the Home. The same year also marked the inauguration of the Boys Home in Kelambakkam in the church campus. Due to unavoidable difficulties, this project had to be given up in 2015.

Kalai Ulagam (World of Arts) inaugurated on 10 August 2009 and has its office in MSFS House, St. Thomas Mount. The Kalai Ulagam proclaims the Gospel through Indian dance and music.

On 13 June 2011, the first unit of the Children´s Village, called Friendly Home, was inaugurated in Alangayam. It was designed that it would further have four houses and the entire institute would be brought under the umbrella of FIAT, a chain of social institutes in the province level.

On 2 July 2012, a new community was instituted for social apostolate in Christ the King Farm, Vayalogam. Besides the agricultural development and offering employment to the nearby villagers, this community looks after the Home for the poor children.

Present Statistics

At present the Province has 175 professed members, among whom there are 124 priests and 5 deacons. The priests are offering their service in 8 countries and predominantly within the territory of the Province. The Province has 37 centers within its territory, which includes 22 mission stations, 9 schools, an industrial school, two children´s villages and a boy’s Home.