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Mar Theodosius: A Man of Dreams and Acts Beyond the Borders Fr. Dr. Bijesh Philip

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Published: Monday, 07 November 2016

H.G. Stephanos Mar Theodosius came to Baselios College, Kottayam in 1986 to give a talk in an MGOCSM meeting when I was a degree student there. He spoke about the Christian vocation by quoting Jesus’ saying ‘You are the salt of the earth’. It was a simple meditative talk by a very unassuming bishop. After one decade, when I came to Bhilai in 1996 to serve under him, I came to know that he was a man who spoke more through deeds than words. Of course Mar Theodosius Thirumeni was serving as the salt and light of North India. Those who were associated with H.G. Late Stephanos Mar Theodosius, the former Metropolitan of Calcutta Diocese knew that Thirumeni upheld glorious values and virtues without any compromise. Simple life, meekness, dedication to the welfare of the Church, special concern for the empowerment of the marginalized, boldness to face any challenge for the mission, hardworking, deep listening and just judgement are only a few of those virtues. Thirumeni was free from the temptation of show off or pomp and pomposity. A secret of his success was the strict practise of the Divine instruction to “be quick to listen and slow to speak” (St. James 1:19). He had no reluctance to give up personal comforts and pleasures. Until he moved to a new house in the campus of St. Thomas Mission Centre towards the end of his life, he had lived for many decades in a very simple room. His train journeys in the second class as well as having very simple food habits further affirm this attitude. The saying that great person’s mind is like a mountain which cannot be moved even by mighty tempests is true concerning Mar Theodosius Thirumeni. After certain disciplinary actions taken by him for the purification of the Church, he had to go through tough trials and tribulations. As Bhilai is famous for steel, this meek man of Bhilai had a steel mind with regard to discipline and values. The last visit of Thirumeni to the Nagpur Seminary was for the inauguration and blessing of a new wing of the hostel of Prerana Special School for the mentally challenged. Even if those who were concerned about his health forced him to cancel his travel from Bhilai to Nagpur for this programme, he refused to yield to that temptation because of his concern for mission to the marginalized. Mar Theodosius Thirumeni used to cherish and uphold his dream about mission unceasingly till his last breath. Empowerment of the poor and the Church in outside Kerala region were his major dreams. The dream project of Abdul Kalam to Provide Urban Amenities in Rural Areas (PURA) was introduced mainly in the 21st century to ensure the development of 625000 villages of India. Much before that, this visionary bishop of Bhilai had a similar dream with special emphasis on education and healthcare of villagers. Thirumeni says, “By the development in the outside Kerala Dioceses, Churches and worship have been established in major cities of India. Now we have to move to the villages where lakhs of people live. We need to have workers who will be trained in Bhilai mission centre and will go to each village for identifying with the poor and to show them the love of Christ through their service. We need to have not only the monastics but the married also as workers to serve them by identifying with them by living with them.” This translation of a few sentences from Thirumeni’s Malayalam article- Bhilayiyude Makkadoniyan Vily published in February issue of Malankara Sabha 1975 gives a taste of His dream about the village mission. It was this dream that inspired him to establish St. Thomas Mission, Bhilai, a mission training centre there, later on a seminary, Makkodiya mission etc. We may be seeing the shining side of the globalized India more. Majority of the SC families (around 4.5 Crore) do not have even a single room to live and other basic facilities (Frontline, August 7, 2015). Thousands of farmers commit suicide in Indian villages due to debt trap and drought. The miseries of their widows and children are countless. Mar Theodosius Thirumeni was always sensitive to the sufferings of the poor in Indian villages. He had no intention to increase the membership of the Church through mission. His thought and work was inspired primarily by the genuine empathy as taught by Lord Jesus Christ. His mission was a meek one not tainted by the colonial attitude of empire building. The last saying of our Lord just before His ascension was to go beyond all boundaries to be His witnesses (Acts 1:8). A true disciple of Christ is always courageous and willing to go beyond the geographical, cultural and religious borders to witness Christ by serving the needy. Thirumeni used to say that when the frightened disciples locked themselves in a room after Christ’s Crucifixion, only St. Thomas was bold enough to go out without fear. That was the reason why he missed Jesus’ first appearance to other disciples in the room where they locked themselves. It is noticeable that it was St. Thomas who went to the most distant place among the disciples of Christ to witness Him. Mar Theodosius Thirumeni used to highlight this aspect of the heritage of St. Thomas inherited by the Malankara Church in almost all his talks to enlighten the Church about its mission. Mar Theodosius himself left the borders of the comforts of Kerala to embrace North India and work there by facing all hardships for more than half a century. His mission was with the Church and through the Church. Our calling as the body of Christ is to make Him visible in each locality by continuing His ministry. In almost all Holy Episcopal Synods, he used to share his views about mission and in almost all conferences of the Church he used to repeat the same views with the hope that the Church would own this mission. Was he happy at the end of his life by seeing the progress towards the fulfilment of his dreams regarding the mission? The last Outside Kerala Region’s Biennial Priests Conference of Malankara Orthodox Church held in Bangalore in August 2016 put forward a strong suggestion to establish a mission department under the auspices of all dioceses and to appoint newly ordained priests for one or two terms for alternative ministries. Fulfilment of these kind of things will be very much comforting to Mar Theodosius Thirumeni in his afterlife. "What man actually needs is not a tensionless state but the striving and struggle for a worthwhile goal- a freely chosen goal" The meaningful life of Mar Theodosius substantiate this view of the famous psychiatrist Victor Frankyl as mentioned in his book Man's Search For Meaning. Now it is our turn to strive and struggle for the fulfilment of the dreams and goals upheld by Mar Theodosius. May God bless the endeavours of all especially that of St. Thomas Mission, Bhilai to uphold and continue the legacy of this great visionary and Missionary bishop.

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