User:Spoozhikala/ P. J. Thomas (missionary)
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Very Rev. P.J. Thomas
Late Very Rev. P.J. Thomas, Founder of the Christa Mitra Ashram, Ankola,Uttara Kannada, Karnataka, India
Known as one of the pioneers in instituting Marthoma Church beyond Kerala and specifically its evangelistic organization, the Very Rev. P.J. Thomas (born October 16, 1904), was a visionary and a practical evangelist. Very Rev P.J. Thomas is best known for establishing missionary and medical infrastructure for the poor as well as for the broader Ankola community during mid 1900s. He is credited for creating first fully equipped hospital in Ankola, his ability to recruit some of the best doctors and staff during his period and for establishing a permanent mission at Ankola that still thrives today by helping the poor and the needy. Mr. Ammembal Anand, a renowned journalist of Ankola describes Very Rev. P.J. Thomas as "One of the Great Stalwards of Ankola" , while Mr. V.S. Prabhu, one of the most prominent business icons of Ankola says of the Very Rev. P.J. Thomas, "Success comes to those who dare and act".
Very Rev. P.J. Thomas was the son of Mr. Mammen Thomas of Parumoottil lineage and Sosamma. Mr. Mammen Thomas was a dealer in coconut and dried coconuts. P.J. Thomas lost his father when he was 2 years old and was brought up by his paternal uncles. After completing his early education in Karakkal and in Thalavady, he went on to complete his Bachelors degree from Thiruvanthapuram. Thomas recieved his spiritual guidance from his family as well by attending the spiritual congregations of Bishop Pakenham-Walsh and Dr.Sherwood Eddy. During his stay at Children's Special Service Mission (CCSM) in Tiruvalla, Thomas got his first spirtitual connection with Jesus Christ. In his own words, this is what he said " I obtained a sense of the unique reality of Christ, the genuine leadership of Christ in individual, socia, and cosmic life and the consciousness of the the all-sufficiency of the grace of Christ". Thomas credits this connetion to Rev. George John of Tiruvantapuram, who guided him towards the spiritual realm of Jesus Christ. Thus, driven towards his mission to be a full time solodier for Jesu Chirst, Thomas enrolled into United Theological Seminary at Bangalore and completed his B.D (Bachelor of Divinity) to become a pastor in Mar Thoma Church. He was ordained as a deacon on 20th Septemeber , 1930, at the age of 26.
The Very Rev. P.J. Thomas started his ecumenical career in 1931 as the Assistant Pastor of Marthoma Church of Maramon. He married Ms. Chachy Samuel, from the Mangalasseril family of Haripad. She was fully committed the Lord and His ministry. Later on Very Rev. P.J. Thomas started teaching at the Kottayam Seminary, along with official duties. He had a habit of visiting Manganam Ashram's Retreat home once a month to spend time in spiritual reading, prayer, and meditation. And this is where his calling came!
The Call of Ankola
On a day in 1940 (exact date , unknown), as usual, Very Rev. P.J. Thomas was having is spiritual time at the Manganam Ashram. In the adjacent room, three senior pastors, Very Rev. K.E. Oommen, Rev. P.J. Mathai and, Rev. M.P. Phillip where deliberating on methods to reinvograte the mission activities in North Kanara (now know as Uttara Kannada) distirict of Karnataka. He might have overheard these discussions and he heard a voice saying "Why can't you go there"?. He went home and shared this divine experience with his life partner, Chachy and she was fully supportive of this calling. Remember, at this time, they had two children, Shanti (7 years old) and Rajan (4 years old)! The couple were not perturbed by such worldly issues and Very Rev. P.J. Thomas volunteered to go to Uttara Kannada. The Mar Thomas church asked two more additional members, Mr. Philip Oommen (Now Philipose Mar Chrysostom Mar Thoma Metropolitan and Mr. P. John Thomas to accompany the family of Very Rev. P. J. Thomas. After a journey that spanned multiple train, bus and boat travels, the warrior missionary team reached Ankola on 28th Septemeber, 1940. Very Rev. P.J. Thomas and Mrs. Chachy Samuel had two more children while at Ankola, Dr. Gracy Mathew (now the Head of Gynecology at the Lourdes Hospital, Ernakulam) and Mr. P.S.S (Sundar) Thomas, now a retired IAS officer. Ms. Shanthi Thomas went on to become the Head of Biology Department at the Gokhale Centenary College, Ankola and Mr. Mammen Thomas (Rajan) retired as VP of Marketing at Corromandel Fertilisers.
It would be an understatement to say that the missionary team started their work based on faith alone! In fact, it was based on just faith, and nothing else with the motto that "God will provide". They were in a place that was completely new from geographical and cultural perspective, with a majority of Hindu population, many disparate and tribal groups, and a totally different language. This team decided to institute an Ashram, living under one roof and surviving on what they could grow and eat. They never took any salary! One of their first mission was to learn the local language, Kannada. This is where Very Rev. P.J. Thomas excelled himself. While socializing with the local community to learn the language, he also evangelized the Word of Christ to the local people with no fear or apprehension. In the process, he became a master of Kannada and in fact translated the Mar Thoma Service from Malayalam to Kannada, wrote several religious and other books in Kannada! These were in addition to the books he wrote in Malayalam and English. After establishing the Ashram at Ankola, The next institution Very Rev. P.J. Thomas started in Ankola as the St. Paul's Mar Thoma Church. The church became a focal point for additional Ashram members we all as the new local believers to gather and pray on a regular basis. Having seen the lack of medical assistance within Ankola and nearby communities, he started the Medical Mission, called Christa Mithra Ashram Hospital. Now, think of recruiting qualified doctors to this remote place! He managed that too by recruiting and mentoring some of the best talents from CMC, Vellore and from other high profile medical colleges of India. He always made sure that the doctors and nurses who came to Ankola were spiritually committed to serve the local people in His name. The third initiative he took was to create a library in Ankola for common use by the community. Very Rev. P.J. Thomas, after a succesful 28 years in Ankola returned to Kerala in 1968.
The significant factors of his ministry in Ankola were his successful efforts to imbibe the local culture, participate in community development and through these actions convey the ministry of Jesus Christ, which resulted in many locals, especially from the backward community becoming members of the Ashram. Even today, local community leaders praise the vision and excitement he brought into the broader Ankola community. Quoting Mr. Ammembal Anand " As a Press Reporter in Ankola, I was a witness to their [local leaders' and Very Rev. P.J. Thomas'] mutual admiration". Additionally, Mr, Anand says "Rev. Father was like a Saint. I could see in him the JESUS, whose inspiration made everything possible for the upliftment of the downtrodden".
Being totally committed to missionary work, Very Rev. P.J. Thomas was multitasking while nourishing and growing the Ankola ministry. He served as the Vicar of Mumbai ministry in 1957. He was also the General Secretary of NMS (National Mission Socitey) in 1963. From 1968, until 1976, he served as the Vicar of many parishes in Kerala. In 1976, he was installed as the Vicar General of the Mar Thoma Church (hence the title of Very Rev. P.J. Thomas). While serving as the Vicar General, he continued his ministry as a trusted lieutenant of the Metropolitan Bishop of Mar Thomas Church, as well as visited Israel. As he grew older, his health was detoriating and he spent his later years with all his children, ultimately being called by the Lord in March, 1990.
Fast forward to 2011,the institutions set up by Very Rev. P.J. Thomas is a highly respected and active mission field for the Mar Thoma Church at Ankola.
There is very little information about Very Rev. P.J Thomas on the internet and hence this effort. This biography is mostly culled from a book called "Implicit Obedience" that was published by Rev. Dr. K.M. Samuel and Rev. Thomas Mathew, both serving at the Ankola Ashram even today. "Implicit Obedience" was written to honor Very Rev. P.J. Thomas on his birth centenary (2004) and no words can describe the efforts that were put in by the Ankola Ashram in bringing together experiences of many people who interacted with Very Rev. P.J. Thomas.