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The Vincentian Congregation hails from Kerala, India, and is a clerical society of pontifical right belonging to the Syro-Malabar Archiepiscopal Church, consisting of priests and brothers who are primarily committed to the cause of evangelisation. Since the congregation draws its spirit and distinctive character from the life and rules of St. Vincent de Paul, it is called Vincentian Congregation and St. Vincent de Paul is chosen as the father and patron of the congregation.
The spirit of this Congregation is the participation in the spirit of Christ, ever active in the church, lived and recommended by St. Vincent – an intimate, personal love of the Father, docility to the divine providence and an ardent, compassionate love of the poor. “The Spirit of the Lord is on me, because He has anointed me to preach the good news to the poor” (Lk 4:18) was the motto taken by St. Vincent for his own ministry and that of the society of priests that he founded. The Vincentian Congregation was started in India in 1904 and took its shape by looking at St Vincent de Paul. As visualised by St. Vincent, the Vincentians strive to give expression to the spirit of Christ, transcendent in the five virtues of simplicity, humility, meekness, mortification, and zeal for the salvation of souls. The ardent and compassionate love of the poor inspires the Vincentians to work hard and to do their best to improve the conditions of the poor, and to live a life of humility & simplicity.
St Vincent De Paul
St. Vincent De Paul was conceived in a poor family in the town of Pouy in Gascony, France, around 1580. St Vincent finished his first schooling under the Franciscan Fathers at Dax. Such had been his advancement in four years that a respectable man picked him as sub preceptor to his youngsters, and he was accordingly empowered to proceed with his studies without being a burden to his parents. In 1596, he went to the University of Toulouse for religious studies, and there he was appointed cleric in 1600.
In 1605, on a voyage via ocean from Marseilles to Narbonne, he fell under the control of African privateers and was taken as a captive to Tunis. His imprisoned for around two years, until Divine Providence empowered him to influence his getaway. After a concise visit to Rome, he came back to France, where he moved toward becoming preceptor in the group of Emmanuel de Gondy, Count of Goigny, and General of the galleys of France. In 1617, he started to lecture missions, and in 1625, he established the frameworks of a Congregation which a short time later turned into the Congregation of the Mission or Lazarists, so named because of the Priory of St. Lazarus, which the Fathers started to involve in 1633.
It is difficult to count everyone crafted by this worker of God. Charity was his dominating ideal. It reached out to all classes of people, from neglected youth to seniority. The Sisters of Charity likewise owe the establishment of their Congregation to St. Vincent. In the midst of the most diverting occupations his spirit was in every case personally united with God. Although respected by the affluent and important people of the world, he remained profoundly humble and rooted in simplicity. The Apostle of Charity breathed his last in Paris at the age of eighty. His feast day is commemorated on 27th September. He is the patron of charitable societies.
The Vincentian Congregation is a clerical society in the Syro-Malabar Church with its Generalate at Edappally in the Archdiocese of Ernakulam-Angamaly. It comes under the category of the Societies of Common Life according to the manner of religious. It is of Pontifical Right.
The Congregation was founded on 20 November 1904 as a Koventha at Thottakom by Fr. Varkey Kattarath with three diocesan priests, with the approval and encouragement of Mar Louis Pazheparampil, the first Vicar Apostolic of Ernakulam. The Koventha was based on the Common Rules of St. Vincent de Paul and on the model of the Congregation of the Mission, founded by him in 1625. However, due to various reasons beyond their control, all of them, including the founder Fr. Kattarath, were forced to disperse by 1915.
After some years, Rev. Frs. George Mannara, Antony Pauvathil and George Vattamkandathil expressed their desire to lead a religious life to Mar Augustine Kandathil, the then Archbishop of Ernakulam who directed them to revive the religious community once founded at Thottakom. Accordingly they revived it and began the community life at Thottakom on 19 July 1927. Fr. Varkey Kattarath joined them at Thottakom in October 1927. The Koventha at Thottakom was officially called the Vincentian Congregation in 1938.
Spirit and Charism
The spirit of the Congregation is the participation in the spirit of Chirst, ever active in the church, lived and recommended by St. Vincent – an intimate, personal love of the Father, docility to the divine providence and an ardent, compassionate love of the poor. The Congregation draws its spirit and distinctive character from the life and works, and the Common Rules of St. Vincent de Paul who is chosen as the Father and Patron of the Vincentian Congregation. “To preach the Good News to the poor” (Lk.4: 18) is the motto of the Congregation. As visualized by St. Vincent, we strive to give expression to the spirit of Christ, resplendent in the five virtues of simplicity, humility, meekness, mortification and zeal for the salvation of souls. The ardent and compassionate love of the poor inspires the Vincentians to work hard and to do their best to improve the conditions of the poor, and to share their lot by adopting a humble and simple life style. A whole-hearted commitment to the evangelization of the poor and their human and Christian advancement is the identifying mark and charism of the congregation.
The charism of the Congregation is realized by the preaching of the Word of God, missionary works among non-Christians as well as in the educational, social and charitable apostolate in order to help the poor in their integral development.
1. Popular Mission is the specific form of preaching the Word of God undertaken by the Vincentians. It is a special type of retreat aimed at the thorough renewal of parishes. Such parish retreats are appreciated and welcomed by the bishops, parish priests and faithful. For this retreat, we have two teams of preachers for Kerala, one for Tamil Nadu, one for Andhra Pradesh and another team for the Hindi speaking area. In addition to Popular Missions and as a follow-up for this, the Vincentian priests organize other forms of preaching such as Bible conventions, residential retreats etc. We have 51 prayer and retreat centers, including the well-known Potta-Divine Retreat Center. We are expanding such programs to foreign countries also, including some African countries.
2. In places where the Gospel has not yet been preached or the Church is not yet well established, the Vincentians share the missionary responsibility to preach the message of Christ and to implant the seeds of faith. We engage in two-fold mission work: namely mission ‘ad gentes’ and re-evangelization. The Congregation began its ministries outside Kerala first in Tamil Nadu. Gradually it was extended to most of the other states in India. At present Vincentian Missionaries are active also in Africa and South America. All the three provinces of the Congregation undertake mission work in these places.
3. Upholding the charism of St. Vincent, the Congregation is organizing several programs and institutions for the benefit of the most abandoned. The fundamental principle of our social and charitable activities is the social message of Jesus revealed in the sacred scriptures and following the example of our heavenly patron St. Vincent de Paul. The words of our Lord in the description of the last judgment, “Truly, I say to you, as you did it to one of the least of my brethren you did it to me” (Mt.25:40), inspires each Vincentian in this regard. As part of our social and charitable activities, we run three De Paul care centers to accommodate the poor cancer patients, one center (SSSMILE Village) to rehabilitate the akasaparavakal, another one for the poor and chronically mentally ill, one for the aids patients and several houses for the aged as well as poor children.
4. The educational institutions run by the Congregation maintain a Vincentian touch, making them affordable for the poor and ordinary people. Through this, we are fulfilling the duty of forming worthy children for the church and responsible citizens for the country. Therefore, our educational institutions distinguish themselves by their spiritual, intellectual and cultural excellence. The Congregation is running many schools and educational institutions all over India both in rural as well as urban areas and one in Africa. These institutions give special attention to the character formation of the new generation, by inculcating in them the spirit of love, service and fraternity.
5. Another important ministry that comes from the Vincentian charism is helping the diocesan clergy. This is actualized by conducting renewal programs, ongoing formation for the diocesan clergy as well as by assisting in the parishes where there is shortage of priests. Some of our priests are rendering service in different parishes in India as well as in Europe, Africa, America and Australia.
Fr. George Mannara, Msgr. Thomas Nedumkallel, Fr. Jacob Kallarackal, Fr. George Kammattil, Fr. George Manalel, Fr. Paul Kariamadam, Fr. Antony Plackal, Fr. George Arackal, Fr. Varghese Puthussery, Fr. Varghese Parappuram and Fr. Sebastian Thundathikunnel served as Superiors General of the Congregation for different periods of time. At present the Congregation is led by Fr. John Kandathinkara, elected Superior General on 14 April 2021.
Active in His Service
At present the Congregation has three provinces, three dependent regions and six missions and altogether there are 1 bishop, 572 priests, and 184 professed seminarians.
The three provinces are the following:
The dependent Regions are:
The Missions are:
The members of the Congregation are serving today in India in the states of Arunachal Pradesh, Assam, Bengal, Chhattisgarh, Delhi, Goa, Haryana, Jharkhand, Karnataka, Kerala, Madhya Pradesh, Maharashtra, Meghalaya, Nagaland, Seemandhara, Tamil Nadu, Telangana, Tripura, and Uttar Pradesh. The members are active abroad also; Vincentians are working in Australia, Austria, Canada, England, Germany, Italy, Kenya, Liechtenstein, New Zealand, Peru, Scotland, Switzerland, Tanzania, Uganda and United States of America.