|MARCH 2005||THOSE WHO LED US||
Metropolitan Titus II was the youngest son of the youngest brother, Joseph, of the Metropolitan Mathews Mar Athanasios. His mother hailed from Mavelikara Vadakeythalackal family. Born on 6th May 1866 as the youngest of eight children, he had two elder brothers and five sisters. His uncle, Metropolitan Mathews Mar Athanasios, baptized and he was christened Titus (Dethtose). After his elementary education at Maramon, he became a student at the old seminary Kottayam with his nephew, Cherukara C.P. Philipose. They then moved to Trivandrum for further education at St. Joseph High School. Titus continued his education in Syriac under Cherukara Philipose Malpan staying at his family home, Palakunnathu, at Maramon.
He was ordained a priest in 1889 at Maramon Church by Metropolitan Thomas Mar Athanasios and was consecrated a bishop on 9th December 1898 at the age of 32 at Puthenkavu Church by Metropolitan Titus I and the Thozhiyur Metropolitan Geevarghese Mar Kurilose. For the next eleven years he worked as the Suffragan Metropolitan and helped Metropolitan Titus I.
Metropolitan Titus I having passed away on 20th October 1909, Titus II was consecrated as the Marthoma Metropolitan on 5th November 1909 at Kozhenchery Church. For the next eight years Mar Thoma Church had only one Bishop, its Metropolitan, to build the Church and guide its manifold activities. It was a period of rapid expansion. Metropolitan Titus II was ably assisted by a group of legendary senior priests like Vicar general Kovoor Iype Thomas Kathanar, Pattamuckil Jacob Kathanar, Kizhekeythalackal Mathan Kathanar, Aviote Joseph Kathanar, and Punnathara Chandapillay Kathanar.
Titus II remained the Metropolitan of the Mar Thoma Church for thirty five years and was its longest serving Metropolitan of the Church till then. In his first circular as Metropolitan, he stressed the importance of Sunday worship and daily family prayers. He concluded his circular: "Obedience is the key of success of any administration, but the Metropolitan has neither civil nor criminal jurisdiction over the people under his pastoral care. Therefore, it is your ultimate responsibility to respect the religious authority with charity and love."
Metropolitan's stewardship of the Church falls into three distinct periods:
The first period of his leadership was a very testing period for the Mar Thoma Church in consolidating its independent identity. Within the first three months of his consecration as the Mar Thoma Metropolitan, Titus II was able to inaugurate two important educational institutions for the Mar Thoma Church: the new building of the MT Seminary at Kottayam and Nicholson School for Girls at Tiruvalla. The income of the Church was meager even by the standards at that time. Despite being burdened by a deficit budget, he pursued the expansion agenda with determination and the steadfast faith that the Lord was with him in building His Church. By the end of his administration, the income of the central funds increased from meager Rs 5585 in 1912 to more than Rs. 100, 000 in 1944: a hefty twenty fold increase. He was very strict in financial matters. During this period of the church building, he reminded the parishioners of the need to keep good accounting. He reminded his people of their moral obligations and the need to honour their commitments and obligations on time. The authors have in their collection a letter from Metropolitan Titus II written to Dr. Zac Varghese's father, Kanisseril Geevarghese Varghese, in 1933 expressing his sadness that the Mar Thoma community at Kalayapuram still owed Mr. Varghese Rs. 190 for building a beautiful Church by the side of MC Road at Kalayapuram. He goes to say that he did not think that it was right and proper to continue to worship in this church building without repaying the loan. This but an example of the determination, involvement and fine attention to details with which he laboured in building churches, schools, and other institutions throughout Travancore and Cochin.
The Metropolitan discouraged membership fees and fixed fees for marriage, baptism and burials. He introduced the idea of voluntary giving for various functions. He stopped the practice of remunerating clergy from fees levied through sacraments and, instead, introduced a salary system for the clergy in 1911. Some of his reforms in the administration of his Church government were very far-sighted and very effective. For example, he removed the clergy from the responsibility of handling money in parishes and instead this was given to a lay trustee, elected by the parishioners and approved by the Metropolitan. These reforms were made effective in 1915; Rev. C.P. Philipose and Rev. V. P. Mammen took responsibilities in implementing these reforms. In 1927 Metropolitan introduced the idea of thanksgiving offertories at birthdays. Compulsory giving was abolished through a decision taken at Maramon Mandalam meeting of 1931 and established a Church Income board. It is all the more remarkable that he gave effect to some of these revolutionary changes in the financial management of the Church during the world depression os '30s because it is a proof of his total faith in his people and their generosity in giving for the causes of the Church. People had implicit faith in his leadership and he trusted limitlessly. Generous voluntary giving has been integral to the culture of Mar Thoma Church members till date, and it owes a great deal to Metropolitan Titus II.
It was during the second period of his administration that a much needed, but a very modest, bishop's bungalow - old Pulatheen - and a Sabha office were built at Tiruvalla. In order to deal with the administrative burdens associated with his responsibilities, the office of a Sabha Secretary was established for the first time in 1911 and the first Sabha (Church) secretary was a very distinguished lay member of the Church, Retired Sirasthar (a court official) Sri. J. Varghese. He helped the Metropolitan to lay the foundation for the systematic central Church administration at Tiruvalla. Metropolitan was also very keen, during his visits to various parishes, to handpick young talented and educated men for theological training and higher education to provide adequate and able leadership for a rapidly growing Church. A born 'Fisher of men' he led the following, among others, into the pastoral service of the Church: Mr. N.M. Abraham (Metropolitan Abraham Marthoma), Mr. K.K. Kuruvilla, Mr. Pothen, Rev. V. P Mammen, Rev. K.E. Oommen, Rev. V.T. Chacko. All of them became devoted and distinguished leaders of the Church in later years. Metropolitan valued talents and excellence and encouraged achievements and insisted that every Christian had a duty to excel in his/her educational and professional calling. He did not patronize mediocrity. He was very proud of the lay members of the Mar Thoma Church, who held higher offices in various parts of India. He kept in touch with the so-called social elite and did not exclude them on account of pietistic or pharisaical bias, even as he had a special concern for the poor and the marginalized. Thus, Thirumeni not only acquired land, buildings, institutions, and administrative structures but also identified efficient and educated people to run them for the Church.
In those days students from well-to-do families used to go to Madras, Trichinopally and Tirnellvelly for higher education. The metropolitan was keenly interested in their progress and used to scan the graduation list of these colleges to congratulate them on their performance and career development. A keen commitment to the progress of the people under the pastoral care of the Church has remained a special characteristic of the Mar Thoma Church since then. This is certainly one of the important factors of the rapid expansion of the Mar Thoma Church as well as the development of the members. It is worth mentioning here that it was Metropolitan Titus II who started the Mar Thoma student's conference in 1911.
Metropolitan was also an effective communicator and traveler within and outside Kerala, in 1912 he attended the Serampore Conference of the Christian leaders at the special invitation of Dr. John R. Moat. He also used this time to visit The Mar Thoma Diaspora communities in Madras and Banglore. The first Mar Thoma Diaspora worshipping community was established in Madras city in 1915. Deacon C.K. Mathai who helped this congregation in Madras was an undergraduate student at the Madras Christian College at that time. Metropolitan Titus ordained Deacon Mathai as a priest at the Madras Anglican Church in the presence of an interdenominational gathering. During this visit Metropolitan also encouraged greater cooperation between members of various Christian denominations living and working in Madras. He addressed the 'Syrian Rapprochement Association' meeting and paved the way for the co-operation and reconciliation between various denominations. Thus the first parish of the Diaspora Mar Thoma Christians was established in Madras. This model was copied over and over again in many cities and towns in India, which was to become the forerunner of establishing overseas parishes in Malaysia, Singapore, England, Middle East, America, Canada, Australia and Africa.
The Metropolitan was deeply shaken at the death some of his very dear friends and close associates [Ullasserry Joseph Kathanar, Adangapurathu Jacob Kathanar, Kizhekethalackal Mathen Kathanar, and Aviote Joseph Kathanar] who worked with him over the difficult and turbulent early years. The death of the Vicar general Kovoor Iype Thoma Kathanar, on 25th February 1917, five moths before the consecration of Bishop Abraham, Suffragan Metropolitan, was a very big low to him. As some of these early clergy came from distinguished Syrian Christian families of Kerala they had both secular and religious standing in the land and they were all very accomplished personalities in their own right.
During this time, Sadhu Kochukunju Upadesi, a lay evangelist, started a spiritual revival in the Church. He had no formal theological education as such, but rose to prominence as a preacher by God's grace, devotion, and biblical understanding. Titus II, through an Episcopal letter, authorized him to preach in the parishes of the Church. Sadhu Kochukunju Upadesi was an acknowledged poet and a literary figure and wrote hundreds of hymns with great spiritual depth and power, eternally indebted to him, especially for the collection of evocative hymns known as 'Aswasa Geethangal' (Hymns for the comfort of the soul), which remain popular even today and are used regularly in the Church on all occasions. He traveled and preached in the Mar Thoma heartland and in South Travancore and the Tamil orphanage, Zion Hill, at Kalayapuram for the victims of a very severe cholera epidemic in South Travancore and Tamil Nadu in the forties of the last century. He was invited to join the Brethren (Baptist) Mission by his childhood friend and fellow youth worker in the Church, the great Malayalam poet Mahakavi K. V. Simon. But Upadesi made a firm decision to stay loyal to the Church of his forefathers and build the Church from within through evangelism and Christian mysticism. Sadhu Kochukunju Upadesi's evangelism was based on his concept of the worthlessness of human life in the absence of great sacrifices for spiritual concerns and the reconstruction of social life in the community. In his messages he emphasized apocalyptic eschatology and fostered a fervent expectation among the people concerning the Second Coming of Christ.
It was against this background that the third, and most brilliant, period of the Metropolitan's administration started. He was able to make one of his most far-sighted contributions to the Mar Thoma Church by encouraging the young Mr. N.M. Abraham to become a priest of the Mar Thoma Church and, consecrating him the Suffragan Metropolitan in 1917. They were a dynamic duo, Metropolitan Titus consecrating on building a stable base on the home front, and his Suffragan serving as an ambassador at large for the Church both at home and abroad. The dynamic Abraham Mar Thoma gave the church a new impetus with his vision and missionary zeal. It is sufficient for our purpose here to say that nurturing a successor of this caliber is an authentic proof of the Metropolitan's care and love for the Church. He appreciated the need to promote scholarship for the clergy and bishops and paid special attention for finding the right kind of people for these positions. In this context, we should remember with gratitude his identifying two more great bishops for the Church. In 1937 he consecrated Bishop Juhanon Mar Timotheos, who later became the Mar Thoma Metropolitan, and Bishop Mathews Mar Athanasius. Before the consecration of the two new bishops, the Church was divided into two zones of North and South. Rev. C.V. John and Rev. K.J. Philip took administrative responsibilities for these two divisions respectively and these two sectors later became North and south Diocese under the newly consecrated bishops.
Many of the educational institutions of the Mar Thoma Church expanded and others got started during the Metropolitan's stewardship. Notable among them were the M.T. Seminary School, Kottayam, S.C. seminary Schools at Tiruvalla, Nicholson School for Girls at Tiruvalla, English schools at Maramon and Kozhencherry, Keezhillam, Perumbavoor, Kuriyannoor, Vadasserikkara, Ayroor, Eraviperoor, Thalavady, Kottarakara and Chathanoor. These schools have made enormous contributions to the prosperity and progress of generations of people in Kerala since their inception. In order to coordinate educational activities, he established the Mar Thoma Education Board in 1932 and Mar Thoma Education Society in 1935. He even started planning for a college in Tiruvalla as early as 1919, which later became a blue print for establishing the Union Christian College at Alwaye: a product of inter-Church collaboration, and ecumenical enterprise.
The Mar Thoma Vaidika (Theological) Seminary was established in Kottayam in 1926, to provide theological education and pastoral training to its clergy. A Harward-trained lay theologian, Mr. K.K. Kuruvilla, was its first principal for twenty years. This seminary was raised to the B.D. level in 1974. Rev. C.V. John, under the guidance of Juhanon Mar Thoma Metropolitan, gave effective leadership in upgrading this college and improving theological education for the clergy.
The centenary celebration of the reformation of the ancient Church in January 1937 was another milestone in the tenure of the Metropolitan. Special functions were held throughout Travancore, Cochin and in other cities of India. The Anglican Metropolitan of India, Most Rev. Dr. Westcott, and other Anglican bishops and leaders of various foreign missionary society members attended these functions. This helped them to understand the importance of this ancient indigenous and independent Church and its missionary zeal as well as its standing in the subsequent development of Christianity in the Indian soil. It was a celebration to which the people of Kerala as a whole responded with enthusiasm. Christians and Non-Christians participated, and some of the Hindu poets wrote special poems to honour the Church and its involvement in the social developments in Kerala.
The Metropolitan was keen to establish a printing press to meet the liturgical and literary needs of the Church such as prayer books, hymns, and order of worship, magazines and various documents. This press was finally established in 1928 as Thomas Mar Athanasius Memorial (T.A.M) Press at Tiruvalla. He knew that communication was the heartbeat of any community and a community without an effective communication network was at a serious handicap.
The people of Kerala transcending all religious distinctions happily celebrated the silver jubilee of the consecration of Titus II as bishop of Mar Thoma Church in 1923. Thozhiyur Metropolitan Mar Coorilos, Anglican Bishop Dr. Gill, poet laureate Vallathol Narayana Menon, K.C. Mammen Mappilai and other dignitaries paid handsome tributes to Metropolitan Titus II for his great leadership in raising educational, spiritual and social life of the Malayalee community as a whole. Maharajahs of both Travancore and Cochin appreciated Metropolitan's leadership and sent congratulatory messages.
It is incredible how much happened to the Mar Thoma Church during the tenure of Metropolitan Titus II. He built on the sound foundations laid by his predecessors brick by brick, meticulously and with attention to detail. This imbued the nurture of the Church with order, thought, beauty and philosophy. Incessant and hectic activities, however, took their toll on his health. Despite his aggravating diabetes, which affected his eyesight and resulted in total blindness by 1941, he pursued his mission earnestly with the help of his other bishops, distinguished members of the clergy and lay leaders. He prepared himself and his Church well for his final journey and he wrote an amazing goodbye letter to parishes. He was inwardly assured of the reward waiting for him at the end of his well-run race and his deep spirituality and faith sustained him in this pilgrimage.
The Titus II Mar Thoma took leave of his people from this world on 16th July 1944. He was indeed the leader that our Lord used to stabilize the Church in the turbulent sea of the twentieth century. He steadied the ship, remained calm amidst storms, and piloted the Church to her appointed destination. For his inspiring leadership at the crucial time in the history of the Mar Thoma Church, we remain eternally grateful to our Lord. It is difficult to assess what the Mar Thoma Church would have been without this anointed servant of God.
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