The Bethany Ashram
Bethany Ashram Logo
|Order||Order of the Imitation of Christ|
|Established||15 August 1919|
|Founder(s)||Geevarghese Mar Ivanios|
|Other information||Bethany Ashram website|
History of the Founder
The late Archbishop Geevarghese Mar Ivanios OIC, the founder of Bethany Ashram was born on 21 September 1882 at Mavelikara. Born in the famous 'Mallitta' Panikar family, belonging to the Malankara Syrian Orthodox Church, he assumed the baptismal name Geevarghese. Young Geevarghese, a brilliant student in his early school days, of the age of 15 joined M.D.Seminary School for high school studies. On 20 April 1898 he received minor orders and was sent to Madras Christian College for higher studies. There he obtained his Master degree. On Sept.15th 1908 Geevarghese was ordained priest by His Grace Vattasseril Mar Dinoysius. Just after the ordination, Fr.P.T.Geevarghese was appointed Principal of M.D.Seminary, Kottayam. Later the young principal moved to Calcutta, accepting an invitation to teach in the Searmpore College.During his stay at Calcutta Fr.P.T.Geevarghese concentrated his attention to the foundation of a monstic community as an instrument of spiritual renewal within the Syrian Orthodox Church. In his attempt he was very well inspired by the Christian and Hindu monastic traditions.
Foundation of the Ashram
On his return from Calcutta, Fr.P.T.Geevarghese looked for a location to establish an ashram. One of his friends E. John Vakeel donated 100 acres (400,000 m2) of land at Mundanmala, Ranni-Perunadu, Kerala at the meeting place of the rivers Pampa and Kakkatt. The place was thickly filled with thorny bushes and herbs. Fr.P.T.Geevarghese and his followers built a small thatched hut made out of the branches of trees and bamboo. This turned to be the first Ashram in Malankara on 15 August 1919. He prayerfully searched for a name for the Ashram and opened the Bible and he got the word "Bethany". He meditated upon it and came to the conclusion that it is an apt name for a religious order which upholds both contemplation and action. Eventually the Bethany Ashram became a place of pilgrimage and spiritual experience. Spiritual retreats and discourses were given by Fr.P.T.Geevarghese especially in the Passion Week. Fr.P.T.Geevarghese envisioned the Ashram also being a shelter for the poor and the marginalised. Along with the Ashram he started a house for the orphans.
While at Serampore Fr.P.T.Geevarghese was thinking of the empowerment of the Syrian Christian women through education. To realize this ideal he took initiative to give education and training to the selected group of young girls with the help of the Epiphany Sisters of England working at Serampore. He founded the Bethany Madhom (convent) for the women religious in 1925.
Bishop of Bethany
It was decided by the Malankara Synod to ordain Geevarghese as the bishop of Bethany. He was ordained a bishop of the Malankara Orthodox Syrian Church by Catholicos Beselios Geevarghese I on 1 May 1925. He received the name Geevarghese Mar Ivanios. After the consecration there was a meeting to felicitate Mar Ivanios. In this meeting Mar Ivanios expressed his desire that the church might become one flock under one shepherd.
His relentless search for truth in the ascetical atmosphere of Bethany Ashram led him to the firm conviction to reunite with the Catholic Church. On Sept.20, 1930 Mar Ivanios together with Mar Theophilos O.I.C. and most of the members of Bethany Ashram embraced the Catholic Church. As later history reveals the Reunion Movement gained rapid momentum under the leadership of Mar Ivanios O.I.C., giving birth to Malankara Catholic Church. An eminent Scholar, a man of great vision, a spiritual leader, Mar Ivanios O.I.C. rightfully earned the title 'Newman of the East' even before his demise on 15 July 1953. By realizing the unpaprallel sanctity of Mar Ivanios, the Canonization process to beatify him has started.
- "Bethany Ashram History". Syro-Malankara Catholic Church. Retrieved 1 November 2013.
- Fr. Thomas Inchakkalody, Archbishop Mar Ivanios (Vol.1), pp. 152-171
- Rajan, Matthew (2004). "H.H. Baselios Geevarghese I - Second Catholicose". The Christian Light of Life 3 (12): 221–225.
- "Glimpses of History". Syro-Malankara Catholic Church. Retrieved 1 November 2013.