Tuesday, April 24, 2007

Death of a Priest Turned Layman.

This evening my brother Joseph phoned from Cochin to say that Dr. Kuriakose Changadakkary died three days back at the age of 97. He belonged to one of the last batches of Indian priests from Kandy Seminary of Ceylon (now Sri Lanka). According to the obituary, he had published articles in Readers Digest, Catholic Digest and other eminent journals.

The news of Dr. Changadakkary’s death brought back several memories. He was the chaplain of Velliara Church, the Parayil Family’s Private Oratory (see ‘A Kerala Tharavad’ http://parayilat.blogspot.com/2007/04/kerala-tharavad.html)
during the World War II years. Subsequently, he was the vicar of a parish near Vayalar where the Communists organized an armed uprising in 1946. (See ‘Morning after the storm’

Dr. Changadakkary was, I think, the first young priest posted at Velliara. Normally retired priests were sent to the place and they were looked after by the family. Then came this well-groomed young man, full of zest and ideas. He wanted company. A club hall was built next to the church where the priest and the Parayil family members would meet in the evenings. The main activities were Bridge and a new game (those days) called ‘ping pong’ (table tennis).

Probably the priest had seen the game in Colombo. It became very popular in the club. Then there was a problem. The ping pong balls became scarce because of the war. The first question any member returning to the club after a trip to Cochin or Trivandrum faced was whether he managed to get the balls. If I remember right, the popular brand was ‘Diamond’.

In the early 1950s Dr. Changadakkary fell out with the Church hierarchy. In 1956 he left priesthood and married. I think he was under what is known as ipso facto excommunication. But he corresponded with Rome and finally got an indult from the Pope. He was the first priest in Kerala to obtain this dispensation.

The priest used to tech us youngsters Syriac. I think, with some effort, I can still recite the Lord’s Prayer in Aramaic, ‘Abun de beshmi…’

May Dr. Kuriakose Changadakkary’s soul rest in peace.


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