Indian Christianity is almost as old as Christianity itself. From the time that Christianity came to India, the Church has substantially contributed to nation-building. Though there is no area that was left behind in the all-encompassing developmental works of the Church, education, health care, social uplift of the poor, the marginalized, women etc., were some of the most conspicuous areas in which the Church has been actively engaged in for the last 20 centuries in India. India’s past, present and future would have been very different, if not for the indelible contribution of the Catholic Church.
Among the many religious congregations that have uniquely contributed to the immense growth in India, the Carmelites have a very special place, starting from the beginning of the 17th century, in the person of Fr Joseph Sebastiani, ocd, in the Southern State of Kerala. It was Msgr Aloysius Maria Benziger, ocd, Bishop of Kollam from 1900 to 1931, who increased the Carmelite’s social involvements. He was very concerned and took special attention to education especially school education, care for the poor and the marginalized, health care of the sick. At the request of the King of Tranvancore, Bishop Benziger requested that the Holy Cross Sisters from Switzerland serve at the General Hospital of Trivandrum.
In 1931 Bishop Benziger retired and came to our Carmel Hill Monastery in Trivandrum which is the Mother House of the Malabar Province. He died in 1942 and is buried at the Monastery Church. He is now the Servant of God. Inspired by the life and example of Bishop Benziger, our Province has initiated a unique Project for the service of poor cancer patients named benziger home. This project of ocd Malabar Province, primarily meant to provide free accommodation to cancer patients who receive treatment at the Regional Cancer Centre (r.c.c.) Trivandrum, which is one of the most renowned cancer hospitals in India. There are hundreds of cancer patients who need daily accommodation outside the Regional Cancer Centre, while in treatment. For patients from ordinary and poor families, this is a challenge beyond their financial capacity. Having witnessed to this bleak and depressing predicament for the last many decades, our Malabar Province has decided to provide the most needed support to these patients and their families which will be their life-line in their journey forward.
Benziger Home will provide the patients with free and safe accommodation, free and healthy food and free ambulance service to and from the Hospital and Counselling by the priests of our Province. This customized construction, designed by a specialized architect, has a guaranteed uninterrupted supply of fresh air, plenty of sun light and exquisitely designed locations for indoor plants to provide a natural supply of oxygen, which is necessary for the patients. Each room also has all the necessary amenities and facilities.
Together with the funds taken by our Province, we have been supported by the generosity of local and overseas faithful. The Blessing and Inauguration of Benziger Home took place on Friday, 14 February. While it was blessed by His Grace Most Rev. Dr. Soosa Pakiam, the Archbishop of Trivandrum, it was inaugurated by Dr. Thomas Issac, the Finance Minister of Kerala in the presence of ecclesiastical, political and social dignitaries and faithful.
On Wednesday, 25 March, Feast of the Annunciation, the first patients will arrive. Patients will be selected among the hundreds of requests with the help of the Regional Cancer Centre each time.
Benziger Home, wishes to provide the most needed service to the suffering people as desired by Jesus and as incessantly advocated by Pope Francis. The Home stands as a public witness of Christian charity in the city of Trivandrum. Sustaining this project for the many decades to come is based on the words of Jesus, “Seek first God’s Kingdom and his righteousness and all these things will be given to you as well” (Mt 6:33). Our Province requests the prayerful support of the Church to continue effectively this service.
Fr. Sebastian Koodappattu, ocd Provincial, ocd Malabar Province