June 8 – BRO. STEPHEN
Br. Stephen was one of the second generation of Indian-born Brothers. Born on 26 October 1926 in Kerala, he was a brilliant student at StThomas of Palai College in Kerala then joined the mission hostel where he trained as a catechist in parishes. It was his meeting with Br. Michel that decided his future. Br. Michel, novice master at Coonoor, had visited Palai with some young Brothers on home leave; a rapport of mutual admiration was established between the old man and the young. After he had obtained his early academic qualifications, the young man entered the novitiate at Coonor at the age of 22.
From then on he shot ahead. He was appointed headmaster of St Patrick’s High School before he had taken his final vows and had to obtain an indult to take them before he had completed six years in temporary vows. He made his second novitiate in Belgium, which was a very rare occurrence at the time; on his return to India in 1959 he was appointed novice master after Br. Michel, but again at 36 he was canonically too young and had to obtain another indult. He was appointed Provincial of India at 39 years old.
He assumed heavy responsibilities in several large schools (Santhome in Chennai, R.S.K. in Trichy, StLouis at Adyar in Chennai, and Sattur); however, the most remarkable fact is that he dedicated a year to a course on Christian and non Christian religions and spent a month in a Christian ashram. He was thus preparing for the last stage in his life.
In 1982 he was allowed to work full time as a preacher of the Word of God which he shared with illiterates. He began to wear the saffron habit of the Hindu sadhus a shawl, a loose tunic and a loincloth. He walked from village to village, meeting people, visiting families, starting the practice of the daily rosary and eating what he was given.. He worked mostly in Tamilnadu and made a few forays into Andhra Pradesh.
On 5 June 1991 he and one of his nephews got on a bus travelling between Coonoor and Trichy. At 5 p.m. he felt tired and got off the bus; then he made his way towards the Kuithalai ashram, a distance of 500 metres. As he was about to enter the ashram he collapsed on a bench. He was taken to the nearest hospital and ordered to take a complete rest. He stayed two days in the ashram. As he was feeling better he decided to leave fcir Trichy on 8 June. He got up at 4 a.m. to attend the bible service and went back to bed at 5 a.m. He got up again 20 minutes later, went to the toilet and gave a cry. The door was forced open. Crumpled on the floor he was in his last agony. To die in an ashram on the feast of the Immaculate Heart of Mary: what lovely coincidences!