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|Blessed Thevarparampil Kunjachan|
1 April 1891|
Ramapuram, Kerala, India
|Died||16 October 1973
Ramapuram, Kerala, India
|Honored in||Catholic Church|
|Beatified||30 April 2006, Ramapuram by Mar Varkey Vithayathil|
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Blessed Thevarparampil Kunjachan was a priest who dedicated himself to the spiritual and temporal welfare of a marginalised set of people who were poor and exploited for generations.
Blessed Kunjachan (Fr. Augustine), son of Mani and Elizabeth Thevarparampil, was born on 1 April 1891, at Ramapuram in the Syro-Malabar Catholic Diocese of Palai, Kerala, India. He was ordained priest on 17 December 1921.
Fr. Augustine was short of stature and that was the origin of his pet name `Kunjachan' (Little Priest) in the local language, Malayalam. He was just an ordinary priest who could not claim eminence in any field of human activity. But he was humble, kind, service-minded and charitably disposed to the poor and the downtrodden people. He stayed in his own parish, St. Augustine's church Ramapuram as one among the three assistant parish priests for more than 40 years, working specially for the uplift of the Dalits (suppressed people) - the untouchables.
It is the singular achievement of Kunjachan that he had been able to baptise by himself no less than 5000 Dalits (earlier the term `Harijan' was used). He is to be counted as one of the foremost missionaries among the Dalits in India. In fact, he neither made use of eloquent sermons nor of any human techniques in order to give them the " Christ" of whom he was the herald. He preached with his works, practising charity, and always sublime and more dedicated.
Kunjachan led a very simple life for the poor and wished to be with them even after death. He spent everything he had for the poor. The Blessed who was a priest for more than 50 years, wrote in his Testament: "I do not possess anything either as landed property or as cash account.... After my death, my funeral must be conducted in the most simple way. Ever since 1926, I had been staying with the Harijan (Dalit) Christians. Even after death, I would like to be with them. Therefore my dead body should be buried where the Harijan Christians are buried".
After a brief period of serious illness Kunjachan died on 16 October 1973 at the age of 82. At his death the children and others told that `a saint has passed away'. At his funeral the priest who preached the panegyric, spoke well of his holiness in life, apostolic zeal, kindness of heart, love for the poor and other outstanding virtues. And towards the end of the speech he said to the surprise of all, "we are participating in the funeral of a saint. We have one more mediator in heaven."
Kunjachan had the reputation of a holy man even while he was alive. People irrespective of caste and religion, used to approach him in their manifold needs and they got favours through his prayers and blessings. Within a few days after his death his tomb at Ramapuram became a centre of pilgrimage for people from far and wide.
Beatification and canonization
The process of Beatification and Canonization started on 11 August 1987 at Ramapuram, bestowing upon him the title, `Servant of God'. The `Positio super vita et virtutibus' was completed after ten years and was submitted at the Congregation for the Causes of Saints on 12 February 1997. The `Positio' on the heroic practice of virtues of the saintly priest was approved by Pope John Paul II on 22 June 2004 and he was declared `Venerable'.
Meanwhile the process of the miraculous cure of the clubfoot of a boy was undertaken, and the findings were sent to Rome for consideration. After a thorough investigation of the miraculous nature of the cure, made by competent personnel in Rome, Pope Benedict XVI approved it, opening the way for Beatification. Venerable Kunjachan was Beatified Card. Varkey Vithayathil, Major Arch bishop of the Syro-Malabar Church on 30 April 2006 at the very same village Ramapuram where he was born, worked, died and buried.
The Papal Nuncio to India Archbishop Pedro Lopez Quintana, Cardinal Telesphore Toppo, President of the Catholic Bishops Conference of India (CBCI), and other Bishops and priests participated in the ceremony.
The Feast of Blessed Kunjachan is celebrated on 16 October every year.
Blessed Kunjachan had his last times at family house Thervarparampil Ramapuram.