History of St. Thomas province, Changanacherry
The history of the SABS begins with the meeting of the Founder and the Co- Foundress at St. Mary’s church, Champakulam in 1901. The sermon of Rev. Fr. Thomas Kurialacherry on the devotion to the Sacred Heart of Jesus and the reparation to be made for the disgrace shown to Jesus in the holy Eucharist, had great impact on Philomina who had always cherished the dream of becoming a nun. She had a dream in which she was helped by a priest to lead a religious life. When she saw Fr.Thomas Kurialacherry, she was surprised that it was the same priest she had seen in her dream. In the confessional they shared their spiritual visions and he ended the conversation with these words: “You have come to me as St. Chantal to St. Francis de Sales and St. Clare to St. Francis of Assisi”. He found in Philomina the first member of the Congregation he cherished long for the Adoration of the Blessed Sacrament.
Fr.Thomas Kurialacherry gave Philomina spiritual guidance and instructions for religious life for two years while she was at her home. In 1903 Fr. Kurialacherry sent her to the Clarist convent at Changanacherry and in 1904 to the Carmelite convent at Mutholy for the secular studies and religious formation. Since no girls’ school was there at Champakulam or near by, Philomina brought more girls with her to Mutholy to give them education and training in spiritual life. After three years of study at Mutholy, in January 1908 Philomina and the other girls were admitted in a school at Edathua under the management of Fr. Kurialacherry who was then the Vicar of the Edathua parish church. Thus the first aspirants of the Adoration Congregation started community life in a cow-shed of Shri. Thommachan Puthenparampil of saintlymemory on 29 January 1908. Since the residence was too small, after twelve days they were shifted to a boat-shed of Shri. Kurian Varkey Peedieckal near the parish church.
When one year of probation was over, with the permission of Mar Mathew Makil, Fr. Thomas Kurialacherry gave Philomina and the five aspirants religious veil and new names on 8 December 1908.
Philomina Mathew Vallayil – Chantal
Anna Job Neriyamparampil – Scholastica
Rosa Kurian Kallupurackal – Tresa
Rosa Varkey Valiyaveettil – Catherine
Anna Mathew Koolipurackal – Clara
Bridgit Varkey Kandathiparampil – Mariam Magdelene de Passi
Since Fr.Thomas Kurialacherry desired that the Mother house of the Adoration congregation should be at his native place – Champakulam, the residence of the postulants and the aspirants was shifted from Edathua to a temporary shed built at Thonipurackal in Champakulam on 10 December 1908. He appointed Postulant Chantal as the Superior of the community. On 20 Feb. 1909 he started a new middle school for girls, attached to their residence in the name of St. Thomas. He considered education, especially women’s education as a means for the development of family, society, nation and the entire world.
Fr.Kurialacherry built the first Adoration chapel (St. Peter’s Oresalem church) in his family property at Karackal in Champakulam which was blessed by Bishop Mar Mathew Makil on 29 September 1909. Buildings for St. Thomas U.P. School and St. Chantal’s Adoration convent were built near this Oresalem church. Thus the school and the residence of the postulants, aspirants and boarders were shifted from the temporary shed at Thonipurackal to the new buildings at Karackal in 1910.
By the Divine providence, Fr.Kurialacherry became the Vicar Apostolic of Changanacherry and the consecration was on 3 December 1911 at Kandy in Sri Lanka. By this time 12 postulants were ready for vestition. On 10 December 1911, the vestition ceremony of the five Postulants was held at Oresalemchurch with Mar Thomas Kurialacherry as the main Celebrant. The first five members of the Congregation were:
Philomina Mathew Vallayil – Sr.Mary Francisca de Chantal
Anna Mathew Koolipurackal – Sr.Mary Clara
Bridgit Varkey Kandathilparampil – Sr.Mariam Magdelene de Passi
Rosa Kurian Kallupurackal – Sr.Mary Tresa
Thresia Varkey Kandathiparampil – Sr.Mary Angela
From the beginning, Mar Thomas Kurialacherry personally took care of the spiritual and material growth of the SABS. He gave them a formation centered on Holy Eucharist. He compiled the prayers and the book of divine office adapted to the nature and scope of the congregation, for the daily recital. Just before his departure for Changanacherry to take charge of the diocese on 15 Dec. 1911, he entrusted the sisters to Our Lady of Immaculate Conception at the Mother house in Champakulam. Even after becoming the Bishop, he gave them necessary instructions from time to time through circulars and conferences.
After five years of formation, the first five members of the Congregation made their religious profession in 1916.
Growth & Development
The tiny seed of Adoration Congregation sown at Champakulam began to branch out to the other parts of the diocese. With the permission and blessings of Mar Thomas Kurialacherry and the co-operation of the benevolent people of the locality, Mother Chantal started girls’ schools and convents at Thuruthy and Vazhappally in 1916 and at Mallapally in 1917. Mar Thomas Kurialacherry took initiative in starting Adoration convents at Athirampuzha (1919), Mutholapuram (1919), Edathua (1920), Kanjiramattam (1923) and Kadanadu (1925). The fast growth of the congregation came to a halt with the sudden death of its Founder, Mar Thomas Kurialacherry on 2nd June 1925, while he was in Rome. When he joined the heavenly choirs for the eternal adoration, in his Vicariate, there were 9 Adoration convents with 121 professed sisters, 13novices and 35 postulants as a visual sign of the accomplishment of his long cherished dream to have a group of nuns to adore the Holy Eucharist, singing Holy, Holy, Holy like the nine choirs of angels before the heavenly throne. The unexpected demise of the Founder was a great mishap to the young Adoration Congregation. The timely intervention and leadership of Rev. Fr. Joseph Kandathilparampil, the personal secretary of Mar Thomas Kurialacherry and Rt. Rev. Dr. James Kalacherry, his successor relieved the Congregation of that pain and shock. Under their paternal protection and care, the Adoration Congregation regained its vigour. For the administration of the Congregation, Mother General was elected from among the sisters and thus in April 1930, Sr.Philomina Punnappadathu became the first Mother General of the Congregation and Vazhappally became the Generalate.
At the request of Mar Augustin Kandathil the Archbishop of Ernakulam, five of our sisters were sent to Koratty from Vazhappally to start a convent there. On 7 May 1930 the first adoration convent in the archdiocese of Eranakulam was blessed by the Archbishop and in course of time, it became the mother house of the new branch of the Adoration Congregation in the Archdiocese. As years passed by, more convents were established in different parishes and the Archbishop appointed Mother Cruz as the Superior General of the convents in Ernakulam in 1948. Thus Ernakulam became an independent unit with 4 convents and at that time there were 14 convents in Changanacherry diocese.
In 1950 Changanacherry diocese was bifurcated into Changanacherry and Pala. The Adoration convents in the Pala diocese formed an independent unit in 1952 with Mother Regina as the Mother General. There were 14 convents with 269 sisters in Changanacherry and 9 convents with 150 sisters in Pala. In 1978 St.John’s Province Kanjirappally was formed with 12 convents when Changanacherry Archdiocese was bifurcated into Changanacherry and Kanjirappally. At that time Changanacherry province had 28 convents in Kerala and 6 convents in North India.