St. Mary’s Malankara Major Seminary
A Brief Historical Profile
St. Mary’s Malankara Seminary is the Major Seminary of the Syro-Malankara Catholic Church. The Seminary is subject to the authority of the Major Archbishop-Catholicos and the Synod of Bishops of the Syro-Malankara Church. At present, Most Rev. Dr. Vincent Mar Paulos is the Chairman of the Seminary Commission; Most Rev. Dr. Samuel Mar Irenios and Most Rev. Yoohanon Mar Chrysostom serve as the members of the Synodal Commission for the Seminary.
In the providence of God, St. Mary’s Malankara Seminary was formally inaugurated on June 29, 1983. The Seminary is located on a small scenic hilltop with a sprawling campus area of hundreds of acres in Mar Ivanios Vidya Nagar, Nalanchira, Trivandrum, the capital city of Kerala. Mar Ivanios was deeply aware of the need of a Seminary of her own for Syro-Malankara Catholic Church, which is specially called to preserve her liturgical tradition and patrimony. The establishment of a Major Seminary for the training of the Syro-Malankara Catholic clergy was clearly envisaged by the Holy See at the time of the Reunion of the Archbishop Mar Ivanios and Bishop Mar Theophilos in 1930 (Cfr. Letter of the Apostolic Delegation, no. 2035/130, Bangalore, August 20, 1930; Christo Pastorum Principi, June 11, 1932).
The unfulfilled desire of Mar Ivanios to set up a Major Seminary, a desire which had been echoed from several quarters in the Church in the 1970’s and 80’s, gathered momentum at the Golden Jubilee Celebrations of the Reunion Movement in December 1980. The Papal Legate to the celebrations, Wladyslaw Cardinal Rubin, the then Prefect of the Congregation for the Oriental Churches, encouraged the starting of a Major Seminary for the Syro-Malankara Catholic Church. This was along the lines of the recommendation of the Second Vatican Council: “In each nation or particular Rite, ‘a program of priestly formation’ should be undertaken” (Optatam Totius, 1).
With the directive of Cardinal Rubin, the Syro-Malankara Hierarchy decided to start a Major Seminary. It was cheerfully accepted as the reunited Church was feeling the lack of an arrangement for the formation of her clergy in accordance with her own traditions. The Malankara Catholic Bishops met in council on January 24, 1981 at Marygiri Bishop’s House, Tiruvalla and decided to take immediate steps. A series of extensive consultations were held in the following days in which many priest-educationists especially those already involved in seminary formation participated. The main thrust of the discussion was that the proposed Major Seminary should be a unique one upholding the traditions of the Syro-Malankara Catholic Church and set to develop a Malankara theology.
As a temporary arrangement, the Seminary started functioning in the buildings of the St. Aloysius’ Minor Seminary at Pattom, Trivandrum, offering a three-year Philosophy Course. The philosophy course was inaugurated on June 29, 1983. Attention was focused on evolving an academic program characteristically of the ‘Malankara’ Church drawing abundantly on the Indian and oriental lore of wisdom and spirituality. In his inaugural address Archbishop Benedict Mar Gregorios spoke to the first batch of 34 students: “you are the pioneers. Behind you come the glory and splendor.” To the request of the Syro-Malankara Catholic hierarchy for ‘an autonomous, self-sufficient Seminary, offering the entire curriculum of clerical studies, theology as well as philosophy,’ the Holy See granted formal approval and recognition to the Seminary by its letter (Prot. no. 87/83) on September 8, 1984.
His Holiness Pope John Paul II, on the occasion of his visit to Trivandrum, blessed the foundation stone for the new buildings of the Seminary on February 8, 1986. In his homily at Trivandrum, the Holy Father addressing the Malankara Catholic Church said: “The establishment of the Major Seminary dedicated to Mary, Mother of the Church, is a sign of your vitality. It offers great hope of further strength and consolidation” (L’Osservatore Romano, Feb 17, 1986). His Eminence Simon Cardinal Lourdsamy, the then Prefect of the Congregation for the Oriental Churches visited this Seminary on August 19, 1987 and that visit gave a new impetus to the development of the Seminary.
The construction of the first phase of the Seminary building was completed in May 1989. The clergy, religious congregations, institutions and the laity of the Syro-Malankara Catholic Church were all involved in this work. Most Rev. Benedict Mar Gregorios, the then Archbishop of Trivandrum in the presence of the other Bishops blessed the newly constructed building on May 25, 1989. The Seminary started functioning in the new quarters from June 12, 1989. Archbishop Benedict Mar Gregorios laid the foundation stone for the theology quarters on December 8, 1990.
The second phase in the growth of the Seminary is marked by the inauguration of the Theology course. A joint pastoral letter of the Syro-Malankara Catholic Bishops (dated June 5, 1992) announced the news that the theology course would be inaugurated on June 29, 1992: “so becomes fulfilled a long-cherished dream of Mar Ivanios, the Father of the Malankara Church…” The newly constructed theology block was blessed by Archbishop Benedict Mar Gregorios on June 19, 1993. The seminary chapel was consecrated on February 9, 1996 and the staff quarters was inaugurated on June 22, 1998.
On April 4, 2005, the Congregation for the Catholic Education granted the Seminary affiliation to the Faculty of Theology of the Pontifical Urban University, Rome. The Theology Course of the Seminary is open also to the Religious and the Lay faithful with prescribed qualifications to obtain Bachelor’s degree in Theology. Further, the Seminary organizes a two-year diploma course in Theology for the Religious and Laity.
The first batch of 19 students successfully completed their formation and were ordained priests in 1996. Since then, every year new batches of priests have passed out to carry on the mission of Jesus in various Dioceses and Religious Congregations. Since its inception to the present time, the St. Mary’s Seminary has been providing the Church with zealous ministers to administer the Sacraments, Spirit-filled pastors to tend the Lord’s flock. St. Mary’s Seminary takes pride in noting that during the past thirty years, this institution has formed 495 Syro-Malankara priests, including one bishop (current Chairman of Seminary Commission), one religious sister and 17 Syro-Malabar priests. The Silver Jubilee of the establishment of the Seminary was celebrated from 29th June 2007 to 29th June 2008.
From 2002, Aikya Sameeksha (Vision of Unity), a bi-annual Philosophico-Theological journal intended to enhance the research potentials of both teachers and students, is being published from the Seminary. Vachanavirunnu (Banquet of the Word), a pastoral- homiletic monthly publication from the Seminary, helps the clergy and the people of God deepen their understanding of the Word of God. The Seminary publishes an annual, Nuhro (Light), encasing the riches of meditation, study, dialogue and human encounter happening within its premises. The Seminary also publishes a liturgical diary every year.
To help the seminarians grow in direct contact with the challenges in the pastoral field, they are given various chances to encounter the People of God, especially by assisting in parishes during weekends. The Apostolate of Social Action (ASA) with its various wings of activity help them involve in active charity, giving a helping hand where it is needed most. The Seminary also hosts many ecumenical initiatives like FOST (Inter-Seminary Fellowship) and inter-religious dialogues.
Considering the exigency to give the future priests proper exposure to the multi-ritual and multi-linguistic ethos of the Indian Church, the Holy Episcopal Synod of the Syro- Malankara Church decided to send Philosophy Students of the Church to various Catholic Philosophates in India. Consequently, Philosophy formation in this Seminary has been phased out temporarily beginning from the academic year 2012-2013. At present there are 111 seminary students of philosophy, from 11 eparchies and one exarchate of Syro-Malankara Catholic Church, studying philosophy in various seminaries in India.
There are at present 126 theology students in the St. Mary’s Malankara Seminary (Fourth Year: 28; Third Year: 29; Second Year: 34; First Year: 35). The Seminary is blessed with renowned and dedicated staff members who are rendering selfless service to the future clergy in various capacities. We have twelve resident staff and twenty-eight vising professors at present. The community of formators continues to be “a significant example and a practical introduction to that ecclesial communion which is a fundamental value of Christian living and of pastoral ministry” (Pastores Dabo Vobis, n. 66).
The heavenly patroness of the Seminary is Blessed Virgin Mary, Mother of the Church. The motto of the Seminary is ‘to continue Jesus’ mission of love and service.’ The Seminary is primarily intended for the formation of candidates from all the Syro-Malankara eparchies and is open to the candidates of the religious institutes of the Syro-Malankara Catholic Church. It also welcomes students from eparchies and religious institutes of the other individual Churches.
The Seminary is in constant pursuit of imparting quality formation to the students for the mission of the Church and looks forward to explore new dimensions of a formative program relevant to our times, in view of enabling the future priests of the Church to continue Jesus’ mission of unity, love and service for the glory of God.