|Life Sketch of Our Founder
Servant of Joseph Panjikaran was born on September 10, 1888 in the village of
Uzhuva near Cherthala town. After having taken post graduation from the reputed St. Joseph’s College Thiruchirappilly, Joseph joined the minor seminary of Ernakulam in 1913. He was then sent to the prestigious central seminary at Kandy in Sri Lanka for his clerical studies and training. Ordained priest on December 21, 1981, Fr. Joseph returned to Kerala as an expert in sacred sciences, artistic talents, qualities of leadership, eloquence, service-mindedness and universal love and brotherhood. He came to Kerala as an accomplished academician and spiritual animator. He started his ministry as a teacher at the highly reputed St. Mary’s High School of Aluva, run by the Archdiocese of Ernakulam. As an educationist his advice was sought after by government and other educational agencies. In
1925 he represented India in the world mission exhibition held in Rome. His contributions were appreciated by Pope Pius XI with a bene merendi award. He stayed in Rome and secured doctorate in Philosophy, Theology and Canon Law from Angelicum.
Fr. Panjikaran occupied very important positions in the Archdiocese of Ernakulam. In 1921 he was appointed the Director of Propagation of Faith in the archdiocese and he remained to be so until his death. Whenever the need arose in the archdiocese for intellectually and culturally quality service there was always Fr. Panjikaran to handle it. When the archdiocese started the religious-cultural weekly paper Satyadeepam in 1927 Fr. Panjikaran had to be its editor. So too when in 1936 the archdiocese decided to publish a daily newspaper, Malabar Mail, Panjikaran had to serve it as managing editor. Fr. Panjikaran, whose life motto was ‘through body to soul’ crowned his life and activities with the foundation of Dharmagiri (Charity Mount) Hospital, the first hospital of the Catholic Church in Kerala in 1934 and the Congregation of Dharmagiri Sisters, Medical Sisters of St. Joseph in 1944. In 1936 Pope Pius XI awarded him with the honor of Papal Chamberlain for his outstanding charitable works. In 1936 he started Little Flower Hospital at Angamaly.
Mgr. Panjikaran was a Dhyanayogi and Karmayogi who combined prayer and work in a balanced way. He was a man who walked ahead of time. The motto of his life was “Thy Will be done” (Lk 22: 42). “As long as you did it to the least of my brethren you did it to me” (Mt 25:50) was the inspiration behind all his charitable works.
Mgr. Panjikaran led a life of holiness in its entirety. He writes in his diary, “God in his love called me in order that I may do His will most perfectly”. “To be a religious is something more than name, I must leave the world and I must learn to hate its spirit”. One who goes through his spiritual notes will be convinced of his deep prayer life and practice of Christian virtues. He was a man of intense prayer, constant mortification and ardent charity.
As the Director of the propagation of faith, Mgr. Panjikaran traveled all throughout the Vicariate preaching the good news to the poor and helping them. The down trodden and the untouchables had a preeminent place in his apostolate. Satyavedashramam which he founded at Uzhuva facilitated many eezhavas (low caste) to accept Catholic faith. Later, he chose Kothamangalam and its suburbs for his apostolate. He visited the huts of the pulayas and parayas (low caste) and helped them in all ways possible. He was leading a revolution of fraternity and charity in a period of time in which low caste people were considered as untouchables.
His heart was touched by the misery and suffering of the poor sick among the depressed and low caste people. He witnessed to the tragic death of many poor people whose life could have been saved if there was some medical assistance. He himself undertook the task of nursing such people. People looked at him with awe when he himself cleansed their wounds and applied medicine. But he was convinced of the fact that medical care of those people could be effectively undertaken only through organized means. That was the inspiration to start a hospital and found a congregation of sisters. He wrote, “Nursing is the noblest of all professions except that of the doctor and of the priest because nurses minister to Christ in the sick. It is the most suitable means for the people to embrace Christian faith”.
He used to stay at Ernakulam Bishop’s House and Dharmagiri Kothamangalam. During his last days he was staying at Dharamgiri. On November 4, 1949 he passed away due to a massive heart attack. His mortal remains rest in the Dharmagiri cemetery at Thankalam, Kothamangalam. Faithful visit his tomb and pray his intercession.