“In the dispensation of the fullness of time, so as to renew in Christ everything that exists through him in heaven and on earth”. Ephesians I:10. Msg. Thomas Thenattu goes to Gwalier with this mission of Juesus Christ.
The minds of the Knanaya community are filled with pride and pleasure when a priest from the community is ordained as the first bishop from the Pallotine missionary congregation. Msg. Thomas Thennattu is the son of Thennattu Kuruvilla and Annamma who belonged to St. Mary’s parish of Koodalloor. His excellency, Mar Thomas Thennattu is the second bishop of Gwalior diocese.
After his service in the tribal areas of Madya Pradesh, Fr. Thomas has been serving as the parish priest of St. Pius X Church in Nagapur for the last five years. This parish church was demolished, rebuilt and blessed and after that he wanted to take rest for a brief period of time. He did not know that a higher office was awaiting him. He came to Kurisumala Ashramam spending time in prayer and meditation, far away from the day today busy life. He spent a few hours with his family members and at that time granted an interview with Apnades. The following is a brief extract from the interview.
How do you see the new appointment to the post of the bishop ?
It was a special selection of God Almighty.It was not at all anticipated. I had served in different places in Madya Pradesh. But Gwalior is new to me. I know only one or two priests in that place. I was really shocked and surprised when I got the message from the Nuncio. I have to go to a new place where I have no previous experience at all. Gradually I realised that God has a special plan in that and I gave my consent.
Could you explain the infrastructure of the new diocese?
It is a comparatively new diocese. It was founded in 1999. The first bishop was Mar Joseph Kaithathara from Kottapuram diocese. There are 28 priests and 20 parishes. The diocese has a big area in its jurisdiction, but the Catholic faithful are few. Most of the people are farmers.
Who influenced you in choosing priesthood as your vocation ?
My own mother and our relative Fr. Kuriakose Thekkeparambil influenced me to a great extent to become a priest. My mother’s intense prayer was behind the matter. She used to take me to several priests and the stories that I heard about missionaries inspired me and so I decided to join the Pallotine congregation.
What were your ministries in North India ?
When I was a brother I travelled several kilometres through the forest in Madya Pradesh doing some service to the aboriginals. My first christmas celebration after my ordination as a priest was with the aboriginal inhabitants. After that my service was focussed on missionary activities. Nowadays missionary work cannot be done as easily as in the past. Circumstances have changed. Now people can be attracted to christianity by putting in to pratice the teachings of Jesus Christ through our selfless service.
When you look back in to the past ?
Until now I have been serving in the catholic community. Everywhere church and other infrastructure facilities were available. But in the new diocese catholics are few and far between. So I know that I have to be very careful in my work without disturbing the religious and communal harmony. It is very difficult to found new churches. We have to face different kinds of opposition. We have to overcome all these difficulties in order to go ahead.
How do you feel as a member of the Knanaya Community ?
I am proud of being a Knanayite and I think that my new appointment is a blessing to Kottayam Archdiocese. It is well and good to have more and more missionaries from Kottayam Archdiocese.
When the brief interview in the limited time was over, Rev. Fr. Luke Poothrukayil and some sisters from St. Joseph parish church Ettumanoor came to greet the bishop designate with flowers. Msg. Thomas cut the cake and shared the same with all present there. Though he was born in Koodalloor, he is now a member of Ettumanoor parish church.
Written by P C Kuriakose