John Palocaren

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Mgr. John Palocaren (1886–1948) was the founding principal of St. Thomas College, Thrissur. Palocaren was born on 8 September 1886 in the Nadathara Palocaren family, an ancient Syrian Christian family of Kerala State, India.[1] He was ordained as a minister in 1915, served at the St Thomas High School in Thrissur for three years, and was appointed the principal of St Thomas College when it was founded in April 1919.[1] Soon after, he obtained MA in English Literature with distinction from the University of Edinburgh.[1] In 1924 he returned as principal of St Thomas College, a status he retained until 1948. In 1937, he was awarded the status of Monsignor (Domestic Prelate).[1] Palocaren died on 19 August 1948.[2] The 125th anniversary of his birth was celebrated at the college on 8 September 2011.[1][3][4][5]

Among Palocaren's former students are internationally respected spiritual teacher Eknath Easwaran,[6] former Kerala Chief Minister E.M.S. Namboodiripad, former Bishop George Alappatt, and former Chief Justice M.S. Menon.[3]

Palocaren was an editor of Keralam.[7]

Historian George Menachery stated that Palocaren played a key role in the construction of the Basilica of Our Lady of Dolours, the largest church in India and the tallest in Asia.[4]


Eknath Easwaran (1910–1999), whose writings on the spiritual life have been translated into more than 20 languages,[8] recalled that Palocaren "taught only one class, Shakespeare. I sat right in front, my eyes riveted, not missing a word ... Father John was a true Christian. He taught me more about Christianity than all the books I have read.[9]:111 Easwaran stated that

During the four years I spent at college, without calling attention to what he was doing, Father John managed to work a great transformation in me. He helped me find confidence, but detachment as well. I was so grateful that I kept a picture of him in my room.[10]:11

Raised a Hindu, Easwaran stated that "it wasn't a creed or religion I was drawn to, but the sheer nobility of the man himself. I never considered converting, and nothing in my relationship to Father John ever made me think he expected me to ... [it was] through the lives of individuals like Father John that the message of Christ first reached me."[10]:11

M. A. Thomas, founder of the Ecumenical Christian Centre (Bangalore), recalled organizing an inter-religious conference for students in 1936. Father Palocaren "encouraged students to participate in the conference even though he had some misapprehension about the prospects of an Inter-religious conference. He told me that though it was not pure milk, some milk with water would be good for the students."[11]:19

E.M.S. Namboodiripad (1909–1998), former Kerala Chief Minister,[12] recalled that during his student days at St. Thomas College,

There were many teachers who had endeared themselves to us ... One among them deserving special mention was Principal Fr. Poulokaran [sic]. His subject was English. But in those days when English was compulsorily the medium of teaching even in high school classes, Fr. Poulokaran taught English with the help of Malayalam so as to make the students understand and enjoy the beauty of the English language.[13]:88

Similarly, another former Kerala Chief Minister, C. Achutha Menon (1913–1991), recalled that "When Fr John Palocaren began his speech in Malayalam, all of us in the audience were surprised – since he was considered a brilliant scholar in English. He spoke such chaste Malayalam, fluent enough to engage us all."[1]

Works (selected)[edit]

  • Palocaren, John (trans.) (1917). The Syriac Mass. Trichinopoly, Tamil Nadu, India: St Joseph's Industrial School Press. OCLC 752448888.  OCLC 315980812
  • Palocaren, John (1925). The College and its Founders. The St. Thomas College Magazine, Vol. I, nos. 1 & 2 (June–September), pp. 4–11.[14]


  1. ^ a b c d e f St Thomas College remembers Palocaren, its first principal, City Journal, Thursday 8 September (accessed 19 September 2011)
  2. ^ Analecta (of Saint Thomas College, Trissur) Archived 7 September 2011 at the Wayback Machine., timeline (accessed 19 September 2011)
  3. ^ a b Palocaren Remembrance, The Hindu, Thursday 8 September 2011 (accessed 19 September 2011
  4. ^ a b ‘John Palocaren was a visionary educationist', The Hindu, Friday 9 September 2011 (accessed 19 September 2011)
  5. ^ Birth anniversary of Monsieur John Palocaren celebrated, City Journal, Friday 9 September 2011 (accessed 19 September 2011)
  6. ^ "The headmaster of my college was Father John Palakaran [sic], a Catholic priest from a distinguished Kerala Christian family who had taken his degrees at Edinburgh University", quotation from page 6 of Easwaran, Eknath (1996). Seeing with the eyes of love: Eknath Easwaran on the imitation of Christ. Tomales, CA, USA: Nilgiri Press. ISBN 0-915132-87-7. Retrieved 19 December 2010. 
  7. ^ "Facets of History" (St. Thomas College Manual, 2011–2012, pp. 12–29) Archived 29 March 2012 at the Wayback Machine. (ALTERNATE LINK TO TEXT Archived 7 September 2011 at the Wayback Machine. (accessed 19 September 2011). Page 16 states that the journal Keralam, though it "did not survive long, it did attain reputation among scholars, men of letters and the reading public of the time for the standards it set for itself and the contributions that it made to the spread of ideas and values that were so essential for the growth of a democratized society and secular culture in this part of India."
  8. ^ Non-US editions of Nilgiri Press Books, by Language, accessed 21 Sep 2011.
  9. ^ Flinders, Tim; Carol Flinders (1989). The making of a teacher: Conversations with Eknath Easwaran. Petaluma, CA, USA: Nilgiri Press. ISBN 978-0-915132-54-6. 
  10. ^ a b Easwaran, Eknath (1996). Seeing with the eyes of love: Eknath Easwaran on the Imitation of Christ. Tomales, CA, USA: Nilgiri Press. ISBN 0-915132-88-5. 
  11. ^ M. A. Thomas (1977), "Keithahn, the Amos of Our Time" (pp. 17–24) in Keithahn, Ralph Richard; K. Arunachalam; K.M. Natarajan (1977). Integrated rural development: Rev. Dr. R. R. Keithahn felicitation volume. Koodal Publishers for the R. R. Keithahn Felicitation Committee. 
  12. ^ Namboodiripad was the first chief minister of the world's first freely elected communist government. See Olle Törnquist (1991). "Communists and democracy: Two Indian cases and one debate" (PDF). Bulletin of Concerned Asian Scholars. Committee of Concerned Asian Scholars. 23 (2): 63–76. ISSN 0007-4810. doi:10.1080/14672715.1991.10413152. . Page 63 states: "The first democratically elected communist-led government in the world actually came to power in 1957 in the southwest-Indian state of Kerala. Two years later this government was undemocratically toppled-by the union government and the Congress-I party with Indira Gandhi in the forefront. But the communists were reelected and led several of the following state governments." Page 65 describes E.M.S. Namboodiripad as "the fIrst and second communist chief minister" of Kerala.
  13. ^ Namboodiripad, E.M.S. (1976). How I became a communist. P. K. Nair (trans.). Trivandrum: Chinta. 
  14. ^ Cited by N. J. Francis (2008), Interrogating the Received Notions: Prof. George Menacherry and the History of the St. Thomas’ College, Trichur in A. M. Francis & Louis Manjaly (eds.), EZHUPATHU VASANTHANGAL: Souvenir of the SAPTHATHI OF Chev. Prof. GEORGE MENACHERY (pp. 50–55). The Sapthathi Samithi. (accessed 19 September 2011)