July 27 – IN KERALA
On 27 July 1935, Urumpadayil Thomas was born at Thampalakad (district of Kottayam), Kerala. He attended the school at Ponkunnam from where he was recruited by Br. Stanislaus Joseph. At age 15 he entered the juniorate at Coonoor and four years later the novitiate of Eachinkadu, where he received the name of Br. Peter Canisius. He would teach in turn in Andhra Pradesh, Madhya Pradesh, Uttar Pradesh, Bihar and Orissa – never in his native Kerala. The itinerary of Br. Peter Canisius was that of so many Indian Brothers who were natives of Kerala, a State that has thus been of great significance for the Institute.
Stretching out 550 km along the extreme south-west sea coast of India and 75 km wide, Kerala is very different from the rest of India by the beauty of its landscape of canals and lagoons, the richness of its tropical flora, its neatness, the density of its population (more than 1000 inhabitants per km2 in certain coastal zones), its success in the field of education (100% literacy in most parts), its strong percentage of Christian population (19% Christians, with 5 million Catholics), the number of vocations (in 1988 there were 38,000 Sisters, and 8,700 priests and Brothers who were natives of the State).
It was the 3rd Director Principal of India, Br. Eugene Mary, who had the idea in 1939 to go and ‘fish’ in these ‘waters’ for vocations. He sent there Br. John of God, a Tamilian, who learnt Malayalam and introduced himself to the local Christians as a Brother, a fact they did not suspect at all in the beginning. Just a few years ago the majority of Indian Brothers were natives of Kerala (in 1990, 248 out of 368). They had their formation and apostolate outside of Kerala. Kerala has changed much. Large families are on the wane and consequently the number of vocations has diminished. So, most of the younger generation of Brothers come from other States.
It was only in 1991 that Gabrielite India had its first house in Kerala, at Muringoor in the central Ernakulam district. It is meant for welcoming new recruits for their first experience in a house of the Congregation. In 1994, the Region of Yercaud (Province since 1998) opened its first school in Kerala, at Anakkara in the hilly Idukki district. On 25 May 1996, . one other school was taken ·charge of at Munnar in the same district; classes are held both in Malayalam and Tamil, this latter being meant mainly for children of the tea plantation workers. In 1997 it started a third school at Chinnakanal, Idukki district. In 1999, Muringoor, which was a national property, was also attached to Yercaud. Other houses are likely to be started in due course.