The Bethany Ashram
|Order||Order of the Imitation of Christ|
|Established||15 August 1919|
|Controlled churches||Syro-Malankara Catholic Church|
|Founder(s)||Geevarghese Mar Ivanios|
Bethany Ashram is a monastic order in the Syro-Malankara Catholic Church. It was established by Archbishop Geevarghese Mar Ivanios. The Ashram follows the religious order called Order of the Imitation of Christ (O.I.C.), which is derived from the Catholic devotional book The Imitation of Christ by Thomas à Kempis.
History of the founder
Geevarghese Panickeruveetil (21 September 1882 – 15 July 1953) was born at Mavelikkara to the Mylitta Panicker family as a member of the Malankara Orthodox Syrian Church. Geevarghese was his baptismal name. At the age of 15, he joined M.D Seminary in Kottayam for high school studies. On 20 April 1898, he received minor orders and was sent to Madras Christian College for higher studies, where he obtained his master's degree. On 15 September 1908, Geevarghese was ordained priest by Vattasseril Mar Dionysius. Just after the ordination, Fr. P.T. Geevarghese was appointed Principal of M.D Seminary. He moved to Calcutta in the year 1913, accepting an invitation from Dr. George Howells, the principal of Serampore College to teach there. He made use of this opportunity to educate the Malankara Youth. About 20 young people from Kerala reached Calcutta for higher education.
Foundation of the ashram
At Serampore, Fr. P.T. Geevarghese got more time for prayer and contemplation. He came across the writings of St. Basil on monasticism. The Basilian monastic vision had a great influence on him. Besides the visits to the Sabarmati Ashram of Mahatma Gandhi and Santiniketan of Rabindranath Tagore gave him a new vision of Indian Sannyasa (monasticism). These experiences made him reflect upon starting an order of missionaries to carry out the task of evangelization in India. Slowly the residence of P.T. Geevarghese and his followers at Serampore became an Ashram (monastery), and they began to live a sort of religious life according to the monastic rules of St. Basil, adapting them to Indian culture. As he accepted this as his way of life, he resigned from the Serampore College.
On his return from Calcutta, Fr. Geevarghese looked for a location to establish an ashram. One of his friends, Advocate E. J. John, donated 100 acres (400,000 m2) of land at Mundanmala, Ranni-Perunadu, Kerala at the meeting place of the rivers Pampa and Kakkatt. The adjacent area of 300 acres (1,200,000 m2) was bought from the Government of Travancore at a rate of 5 rupees per acre using a fund of about 2000 rupees received from his father. The place was thickly filled with thorny bushes and herbs. P.T. Geevarghese and his followers built a small thatched hut made out of the branches of trees and bamboo. On 15 August 1919, he established with this ashram the first indigenous religious congregation in the Malankara Orthodox Syrian Church, not yet in communion with the Catholic Church. He prayerfully searched for a name for the ashram and opened the Bible and he got the word "Bethany". He meditated upon it and concluded that it was 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. Geevarghese especially in the Passion Week. 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.
Bishop of Bethany
The Malankara Synod decided to ordain Fr. P.T. Geevarghese bishop of Bethany. He was ordained by Catholicos Baselios Geevarghese I on 1 May 1925. He received the name Mar Ivanios. After the consecration there was a meeting to felicitate Mar Ivanios. In this meeting, he expressed his desire that the church might become one flock under one shepherd.
On 20 September 1930, Mar Ivanios along with Mar Theophilos, the suffragan bishop of Bethany, Fr. John Kuzhinapurath OIC, Deacon Alexander Attupurath OIC, Chacko Kiliyileth, and most of the members of both the Bethany orders reunited with the Catholic Church establishing the Eastern Catholic sui iuris Syro-Malankara Catholic Church in India. The reunion movement gained rapid momentum under the leadership of Mar Ivanios.
- "Bethany Ashram History". Syro-Malankara Catholic Church. Retrieved 1 November 2013.
- Fr. Thomas Inchakkalody, Archbishop Mar Ivanios Vol. 1, (2006), pp. 146-147
- L. Moolaveettil, The Spiritual Life of Mar Ivanios, Kottayam, 1977, p.74
- Fr. Thomas Kuzhinapurath, "Mar Ivanios: Bharata Christava Sanyasathinte Pravachakan", Deepika, 15 July 1997.
- 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.
- Fr. Thomas Inchyakkalody, Archbishop Mar Ivanios, Vol. 1, Kottayam, 2006, pp. 470-480.
- "Glimpses of History". Syro-Malankara Catholic Church. Retrieved 1 November 2013.