To be filled with your Spirit

Saturday, 30 April 2011

Bishop Symphorian Keeprath

Punjab the land of five rivers… with its bounty of fertile soil, abundance of water, and the exemplary hard work of the people, the state of Punjab is the bread basket of India. It is the birth place of bhangra that mixes exciting music and electrifying dance. Its soil nurtured wonderful Sufi poets, and its terrain has kept the secrets of Indus Valley civilizations along the River Indus.   It is also the land of five seasons, colorful panorama and exquisitely serene and clean atmosphere.

In the 1970s, to this land of prosperity, a shepherd with a dedicated will, illuminated by the love of Jesus Christ entered. Almost forty years have gone. Now Rt. Rev. Dr. Symphorian Keeprathu OFM Cap, the first bishop of Jalandhar looks back to the ever cherishing memories of the past, with a great sense of gratitude to the Almighty. His face tells the deep feelings of fulfillment of his ministry… his eyes reflects the joy of a fruitful harvest in the vineyard of Christ.  In this life of retirement, with immense happiness, he looks at the fruits of his missionary efforts as well as the zeal of his successors and followers to pursue his endeavours further.  Here is a glimpse of the life and contributions of Bishop Symphorian Keeprathu.

Rt. Rev. Dr. Symphorian Thomas Keeprathu OFM Cap was born on 22nd April 1931 as the son of Mr. Cherian and Mariam Keeprathu at Kadaplamattam, Palai. He had his middle school at St. Antony’s in his village and St. Antony’s School Monte de Guirim, Bardez, Goa.
After completing his matriculation from the Bombay University in 1950, he entered the Capuchin Minor Seminary in Goa. He Entered the Novitiate in 1951 at Mangalore. On 22nd May 1955, he became a perpetually professed Capuchin and he was ordained priest on 22nd March 1958.
Fr. Symphorian, who had the profound desire to be a missionary reached in Jalandhar Cantt on 21st July 1970 and installed as the superior of the Community at Dhariwal. With divine providence of God, even in the midst of manifold difficulties, he had a humble but enthusiastic beginning.  As recognition to his potentials and efforts, Fr. Symphorian was appointed as the first Bishop of Jalandhar on 6th December 1971.
Bishop Symphorian Keeprath has brought up the Diocese of Jalandhar from its inception and developed it to its present stature of self sufficiency with 106 parishes and mission stations. He built up excellent educational institutions, a very committed clergy, many religious communities including a new Diocesan Congregation, a strong group of catechists and thus a vibrant and growing catholic community.  He promoted the evangelization of the natives as well as the indigenous vocations. The diocese of Jhalandahar, under his leadership rendered a marvelous and creditable service in spreading education in Punjab.  His sterling life of faith and sacrifice and the heroic leadership that he gave to the church in Punjab remains a sure guide to his flock.

To realize his missionary goals effectively, Most Rev. Dr. Symphorian Keeprath, founded The Congregation of the Missionaries of Jesus (MJ) on 3rd July 1993.  For this venture, he was deeply inspired by the clarion call of His Holiness Late Pope John Paul II for “New Evangelization”.  The essence of the charism of the congregation is ‘Love Jesus’, ‘Surrender to Jesus’ and “Proclaim Jesus’, which an evangelical imperative for anyone who wishes to proclaim Jesus Christ to the world and follow him closely.  A group of young women came forward to dedicate themselves wholeheartedly to follow Christ and proclaim him to the world around, as demanded by the Holy Father and thus the Congregation began.
The members of the congregation enthusiastically accept and live the message, values and ideals of the ‘new evangelization’ through their life of prayer, firm commitment to the apostolate of education, family visits, caring for the sick and elderly, and other missionary activities.  Now the community of the Missionaries of Jesus (MJ) is spread throughout the diocese of Jalandhar, and in the arch diocese of Tellichery and the dioceses of Palai and Kannur in Kerala.
Our founder Most Rev. Symphorian Keeprath has taken keen interest to bring up this congregation to this height and being its mentor, guide and advisor he is closely watching its growth and encouraging us with his inspiring and prayerful presence. 
We the members of the congregation have imbibed the simplicity, spirituality, loyalty, faithfulness to our vocation from Bishop Symphorian Keeprath. He taught us the missionary approach that he envisioned for us.  With his life he instilled the qualities of selfless service, hospitality and readiness to accept God’s will in our lives.
The congregation has St. Francis of Assisi and St. Clare as the guiding lights.  Inspired by the lives of these giant saints in the Catholic Church, the members of the congregation march forward courageously, facing the challenges trials, tribulations and failures of every kind. 
In the initial stage of our congregation, Sisters of the Adoration of the Blessed Sacrament-SABS helped in the formation of sisters.  Bishop Symphorian, with his paternal love, took initiative to set up a fleet of formators helping the youngsters to make right decisions on their vocation and make them capable to serve the Lord.  They work strenuously to transform them into the likeness of Christ, who is our Lord, Master and Saviour.
The first batch of the congregation made the first profession on 22nd April 1998. Thereafter every year a batch of novices made their profession on this particular day of the year.
At present there are fourteen Communities in Jalandhar Diocese and three in Kerala. There are 75 professed sisters working vigorously and serving selflessly in various apostolates.   The thirteenth batch of novices made their first profession in the last year.  Now there are seven novices from Punjab and Kerala, four pre-novices and 35 candidates in different formation houses.
Bishop Symphorian Keeprathu retired from his official responsibilities in 2007, and Most Rev. Dr. Anil Jose Thomas Couto succeeded him as Bishop of Jalandhar.   On 30th March 2008, we celebrated the Sacerdotal Golden Jubilee our founder and during that occasion His Excellency Bishop Anil Couto erected the Missionaries of Jesus as a religious institute of the Diocesan Rite. 
Our founding father always valued the good will and commitment of the sisters.  His constant visits, encouragement and personal guidance inspired the sisters to dedicate themselves to the mission they opted for.
From the very beginning he had a fatherly love and concern for all of us. It is under his able guidance and valuable support that we have become what we are today. He is very systematic in planning in advance for the betterment of the congregation. He brought us up like little saplings by providing all spiritual nourishments and personal corrections. He taught us the values of humility and forgiveness through his own personal examples. 
His exemplary life of simplicity and approachability motivate us to be simple and humble as possible. As a man who practiced the dictum, “little things are little things, but faithfulness in little things is a great thing”, Bishop Symmphorian Keeprathu, always urged us to be so.

We are sure, God, who planted the seed through of Bishop Symphorian, cares, blesses and gives us the strength and courage in times of difficulties.  We feel his presence so close at every moment of our life-for it is in him that we move and live.
With immense gratitude we recall those who have been helping us in many respects. We gratefully acknowledge the contributions of sisters from the congregations SABS, FCC and DM who gave us initial formation and guidance.  We are also indebted to the diocese of Jhalandhar and the priests here who have been the first vocation promoters and spiritual directors.  The names of Reverend Fathers Xavier Thazhathuveettil, Jose Edakkunnathu and Kuriakose Kattuthara ae specially remembered. 

The spectacular life of Bishop Symphorian Keeprathu OFM cap, a visionary with a great missionary zeal, always inspires the flock of sheep, the clergy and the religious in the diocese of Jhalandhar and especially us the missionaries of Jesus. Waters still sing here, winds never forget to whisper and rains know how to dance in Monsoon. Still his life flows like a serine stream making the vineyards of Christ fertile.

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