St. Gregorios Indian Orthodox Church, Philadelphia, celebrated the 40th sacerdotal ordination anniversary of their founder Vicar and spiritual leader, Very Rev. K. Mathai Cor-Episcopa on 25th December, the Christmas day of 2015 with befitting solemnity. The ceremonial congregational meeting was convened in the Parish worship hall after the Nativity Service. The auspicious celebration was presided over by H.G. Zacharias Mar Nicholovos, Diocesan Metropolitan of North East American Diocese.
Very Rev. Kaleeckal Mathai Cor-Episcopa is a very esteemed and distinguished name among the Orthodox priests of American dioceses. History of our Parish, St. Gregorios Church, Philadelphia and priestly history of Mathai Achen are closely interlinked. Out of his priestly service of forty years, Achen had served our Parish for 36 years and Mathai Achen is the only Vicar of our parish from its inception till year 2011, until he went on a break to serve in native state of Kerala. Now Achen rejoined the parish as a senior shepherd of the Parish which he had nurtured during the majority of his life.
The celebration meeting was commenced with the introductory speech of Rev. Fr. Shibu Venad Mathai, the current Vicar of the Parish. Fr. Shibu had emphasized the fervency of Mathai Achen in strict observance of sacraments and his concern for charity mission work. In his presidential address, H. G. Nicholovos Thirumeni felicitated Achen highlighting on the quality of the services he had given to the parish. In recognition of his esteemed services a Plaque and a Shawl was presented to Mathai Achen by Nicholovos Thirumeni as a token of affection of the parishioners towards beloved Mathai Achen. Mathai Achen spoke in reply humiliating himself before God, saying that whatever achieved by him in his life is not by his merits but only by the grace of God. Children of Mathai Achen shared their emotions to compliment their parents, as family members. Parish Secretary Shiju Poovathoor and Joint Secretary Shainey Jacob compered the entire proceedings.
Mathai Achen is born on July 3, 1942 as second son to Ninan Daniel and Rachel Daniel of Kollanteth family in Prakanam, Pathanamthitta District, Kerala. In Childhood he was fondly called as Kochu Mathai. From his childhood Kochu Mathai fervently desired to lead a ministerial life in service of Lord. Very Rev. Mathews Ramban of Attachakkal was a great influence for young Mathai for his desire for the ecclesiastical ministry.
As a first step to accomplish his desire to become a priest, young Mathai joined the ‘Servants of Cross’, in the year 1961, as a Missionary worker [Sleeba-Dasan]. H.G. Pathros Mar Osthathios Metropolitan who had been an Apostle of Dalits in Malankara was the pioneer organizer of the Servant of Cross. While serving for the Servants of Cross, Sleeba-Dasan Mathai joined Bishop Moor College, Mavelikara for his higher education. Further, he continued his college education at Catholicate College Pathanamthitta and graduated as Bachelor of Arts [B.A.] majoring Economics from Kerala University. His theological studies were done in Orthodox Theological College, Kottayam where from he earned GST diploma and a Bachelor of Divinity [B.D.] from the affiliated Serampore University.
His Holiness Basalios Mar Thoma Mathews I had ordained Sleeba-Dasan Mathai as a Sub-Deacon and later he got ordained as a Full-Deacon by H.G. Daniel Mar Philaxenos Metropolitan. On April 28, 1975, Dn. Mathai was ordained as a priest by H.H. Basalios Mar Thoma Mathews I. In the same year of 1975, Fr. Mathai and family migrated to USA. Fr. Mathai served first in St. Thomas Orthodox Church, Yonkers in New York before he moved to Philadelphia. H.G. Thomas Mar Makarios Metropolitan had appointed Fr. Mathai as the Vicar of St. Thomas Orthodox Church, which is later, renamed as St. Gregorios Church in 1986. Further Rev. Fr. K. Mathai is part and parcel of our Parish. Achen also served as the secretary of Clergy Association, Chairman of the Ecumenical Fellowship of Indian Churches in Philadelphia, Chairman of MOCF etc.
His Grace Mathews Mar Barnabas Metropolitan of Blessed Memory, then diocesan Metropolitan of American Diocese, had elevated Rev. Fr. K. Mathai to the title of Cor-Episcopa on June 22, 1996. Achen is married to Mariamma and is blessed with son Justin and twin daughters Sheeba and Sheena. Achen had worked as a Pennsylvania State Auditor and retired from service in 2007.
Cor-Episcopa Achen is a truly faithful witness upholding the spiritual tenets of the training he received in Servants of Cross, along with it, his strong faith, devotion and deep humility coupled together caused to instill in our Parish, a high standard of spiritual fellowship in the Gospel.
Dr. Rajan Mathew
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