A Brief History of Vincentian Congregation
Mar Louis Pazheparambil, Vicar Apostolic of Ernakulam, during his visit to Europe in 1895, happened to stay at the Mother House of the Congregation of the Mission in Paris. He was deeply moved and impressed by the life and activities of this Religious community founded by St. Vincent de Paul, so much so that he desired to start a similar Congregation in his own diocese. With this in mind, he took along with him the Rules of the Congregations of the Mission.
Being aware of this desire of the Vicar Apostolic, Fr. Varkey Kattarath, the then Parish Priest of Vaikom, burning with the zeal to serve the Lord more intimately, approached the Bishop who was more than happy and offered him his whole-hearted support. Along with his paternal blessings the Bishop gave him the copy of the Common Rules (Regulae Communis) drafted by St. Vincent de Paul for the Congregation of the Mission.
Fr. Varkey Kattarath, who was so much loved and venerated by the people of Vaikom parish, had no difficulty in finding a place for realizing his long-cherished ideal. Some land was purchased for this purpose at Thottakom within the parish boundary of Vaikom and a new chapel along a small residence for priests was constructed there. Bishop Mar Louis blessed the same on the 20th of November 1904. This event marks the foundation of the Vincentian Congregation.
Shortly afterwards being relieved from the parish responsibilities at Vaikom, Fr. Varkey began to stay at this new facility at Thottakom. At this stage three more priests joined him with similar intentions. They lived together for some years there but later we see that those three early associates of Fr. Varkey leave Thottakom one after another for various reasons. Advanced in age and not seeing any possibility of continuing there meaningfully Fr. Varkey too had to bid farewell to Vaikom, a place he loved serving for many years.
God’s providence works in ways that are inscrutable. In 1927 three young priests of Ernakulam diocese, Fathers George Mannara, Antony Powathil and George Vattamkandathil approached Bishop Mar Augustine Kandathil, the successor of Bishop Mar Louis and expressed their desire to strive for greater perfection by leading a consecrated life. He directed them to go to Thottakom and revive the community founded by Fr. Varkey in 1904. Accordingly these three priests entrusting them to the Divine providence moved to Thottakom on 19th July 1927 and began to lead a community life at Thottakom on 19th July 1927. They also were given the same copy of the rules of the Congregation of the Mission. Later, Fr. Varkey Kattarath, in his old age, joined the new community, took vows, and became its first member.
From this stage, the Congregation began to grow steadily and the members of the Congregation began working for the people of Kerala for their spiritual as well as material advancement by undertaking programmes of spiritual renewal (preaching retreat) and development works. Today the members of this congregation are working in different parts of Kerala, Tamil Nadu, Andhra Pradesh, Karnataka, Maharashtra, Madhya Pradesh, Jharkhand, Uttar Pradesh, Haryana, W. Bengal and Union Territory of Delhi. The Congregation is mainly involved in Pastoral, educational and social work programmes. The main and specific thrust of its programmes is to work among the poor. Many of our programmes are rural based. Besides preaching the Word of God through Popular Mission Retreats, retreat centres and electronic and print media, we are conducting educational institutions, technical training centres, orphanages, village development programmes etc. The rules and regulations of the Congregation give special emphasis on the obligation of the members towards the poor. Since a few years Vincentian Fathers have been working also in East Africa, U.S.A, Canada, West Indies, England, Germany and Italy.