St. Kuriakose Elias Chavara
St. Kuriakose Elias Chavara was born on 10th Feb, 1805 of God fearing parents Iko (Kuriakose) Chavara and Mariam Thoppil of the Syro-Malabar Church, at
Kainakary, near Allappuzha, Kerala. According to the local custom the infant was baptized on the 8th day in Chennankari Parish Church, Alappuzha.
From the age 5 to 10, he attended the village school (Kalari) to study languages, different dialects, and elementary sciences under the guidance of a Hindu teacher
(Asan). Inspired by the desire to become a priest, he began the studies under the parish priest of the church of St. Joseph. At the age of 13 in 1818 he entered the
seminary at Pallipuram where Malpan Thomas Palackal was the Rector.
He was ordained priest on 29th November, 1829 at Arthunkal and celebrated his First Holy Mass at Chennankari Church. After the ordination he was engaged for some time in pastoral ministry; however he soon returned to the seminary to teach and also to officiate for the Malpan Thomas Palackal during his absence. Thus he joined Malpan Thomas Porukara and Malpan Thomas Palackal when they were planning to found a congregation. They founded an Indian religious congregation for men, now known as the "Carmelites of Mary Immaculate"(CMI). Later, with the help of an Italian missionary, Father Leopold Beccaro, he started an Indian religious congregation for women, the "Congregation of the Mother of Carmel"(CMC).
He was the Prior General of all the monasteries of the congregation from 1856 till his death in 1871. When, in 1861, a schism threatened the Church of Kerala with the arrival of Mar Thomas Rokos without proper credentials from the Pope, Blessed Chavara was appointed the Vicar-General of the Syro-Malabar Church by the Arch- Bishop of Verapolly. Blessed Chavara is gratefully remembered and acknowledged by the later leaders of the Church and by the Catholic community in general for his strenuous fight, strong stance , and effective leadership in thwarting `Thomas Rochos' intrusion and saving the church of Kerala from schism.
Fr. Kuriakose was also a social reformer and played a large role in educating the people of the lower ranks of Indian society. He started his school at Mannanam in 1846. He introduced the system called "A school along with every church" which was successful in making free education available for everyone. Thus schools in Kerala adjacent to churches were called pallikudam. He believed that intellectual development and the education of women was the first step towards overall social welfare. Hence, he founded the first religious congregation for women (CMC) in 1866. Fr. Kuriakose founded the first printing press of the Indian Catholic Church at Mannanam. From this printing press came the first Malayalam daily Nasrani Deepika.
In 1871, on January 3rd, Fr. Kuriakose Elias Chavara, with a painful illness, died at Koonammavu monastery in Kochi, preserving his baptismal innocence. His mortal remains were later transferred from Koonammavu to Mannanam in 1889 and are piously kept in the St. Joseph's Monastery church.
Scores of miraculous favours were reported by the intercession of Kuriakose Kathanar. Sister Alphonsa, who later became the first saint from Kerala, has testified in 1936 that Fr. Kuriakose had appeared to her twice during her illness and relieved her suffering. On April 7, 1984, Pope John Paul II approved Fr. Kuriakose Elias Chavara's practice of heroic virtues and declared him Venerable. Fr. Kuriakose was beatified at Kottayam on 8 February 1986 by Pope John Paul II in the course of a papal visit to India.
On 3 April 2014, Pope Francis authorised the Congregation for the Causes of Saints to promulgate the decrees concerning the miracle attributed to Fr. Kuriakose Elias Chavara's intercession. On 12 June 2014, Pope decreed that Fr. Kuriakose be inscribed in the roll call of Saints on 23 November 2014.