ONE @ 50: Growing Strong — The Diocese of Trichur

In honor of ONE magazine’s 50th-anniversary year, the CNEWA blog series, ONE @ 50: From the Vault, aims to revive and explore the wealth of articles published in ONE magazine throughout its history. Read about how Christians in southwestern India found opportunity with a little help from “the Father of the Poor,” Bishop Joseph Kundukulam, originally published in Summer 1979.

Read an excerpt from “Growing Strong: The Diocese of Trichur” below, then read the full story.

Eight years ago, Bishop Joseph Kundukulam was appointed head of the largest Catholic diocese in India, the diocese of Trichur in the small coastal state of Kerala. Bishop Kundukulam has worked so hard and so devotedly to help the needy people of his diocese that today they refer to him affectionately as “the Father of the Poor.”

Kerala, located on the Malabar coast in southwestern India, is smaller in size than the state of New Jersey but contains a population of 25 million. Thirty percent of the inhabitants are Catholic, giving Kerala the largest Catholic population in the country. Saint Thomas the Apostle is said to have been the first to preach Christianity in the region in the first century, and most of Kerala’s Catholics follow the tradition that is attributed to him. Thanks to the efforts of Catholic clergy and religious, Kerala also has the most literate population in India, but the unemployment rate is high and many of the people are very poor. Their poverty was exploited by the Communist party in order to win elections, and India became the first country in the world to vote a Communist government into office. This political event came as a shock to the Catholic hierarchy, who learned a lesson from it: if they did not reach out to help the poor and the disadvantaged they would lose them.

Bishop Kundukulam was aware of this even when he was a young priest, and he has devoted his entire priestly career to caring for the poor and fighting for the disadvantaged. He has a special concern for the needs of orphans and the handicapped, and at one time ran two orphanages which sheltered more than a thousand children. After he had assumed leadership of the diocese of Trichur, Bishop Kundukulam found that with his larger territory came larger problems: violation of human rights, exploitation of laborers, unemployment and poor housing.

Read more.

Father Kizhoor came to the United States from his native Kerala to study at Iona College. He will soon return to the diocese of Trichur.

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