Women religious
Our Lady of Mercy Convent, Theresa Bacq Novitiate House, Our Lady of Mercy Hospital, Aroor, Cherthala - 688 534


The Congregation of the Sisters of Our Lady is aimed at the glorification of Jesus' life in Mary and the exaltation of the Holy Mother through human and Christian education of the youth. The Congregation founded by Mother Teresa of Jesus Bacq in Nancy, France, in 1864 and officially aggregated as the Mercedarian Order on 4th April 1887 was granted Papal approval by His Holiness Pius XI in 1931. 

The Primary objective of the Congregation is to embrace all the work of mercy with the purpose of emancipating man from the social enslavement of various shades. Following the footsteps of Mother Theresa, the Sisters of Our Lady of Mercy show their mission in the Church ministry through their own witness. By means of their spirit of self sacrifice for the sake of everyone and in a special way for the little ones and the least ones, they evince God's merciful love towards them. 

With this in view, they engage themselves in running schools, hospitals and clinics, houses for the aged, organisations aimed at doing social work and various socio-religious activities in the missions. The Mercedarian Sisters have thus brought about tremendous influence on the social, educational and spiritual life of the people of St. Augustine's Church, Aroor. 

During the International Eucharistic Congress in Bombay in 1964, Very Rev. Mother Maria Cabras, the Mother General of the Mercedarian Sisters, met Rev. Fr. C. Mariasusay Nelapaty from the Sacred Heart's Church, Siluvepura, Chickbanayar, Bangalore. When Fr. Nelapaty once fell ill and was admitted to a clinic run by the Mercedarian Sisters at Via Tagliamento, Roma, Madre Maria Cabras requested Fr. Nelapaty to look for aspirants for their Congregation. Fr. Nelapaty sent one from Bangalore to Rome in February 1966 and thereafter some others followed.

On Fr. Nelapaty's enquiry on the possibilities of vocations from the Cochin Diocese, Rt. Rev. Msgr. Francis Figueiredo, the Vicar General of Cochin Diocese sent notice to all parishes in the Diocese. Four girls came forward and they were sent to Nemi, Rome, in 1968. Through one of them the Mother General came to know of the involvement of Rev. Dr. Joseph Kureethara, then Rector of the Petit Seminary, in activities promoting vocations.

When the Rector reached Rome again in December 1968, Mother Maria Cabras met Rev. Dr. Joseph Kureethara and sought his help to find aspirants for her Congregation. In August 1969 Madre Cabras herself wrote to Bishop Edezhath and expressed her wish to open a House in Cochin Diocese and the Bishop was pleased to grant the request. His Excellency entrusted the mission of finding candidates for the Congregation with the Rector.

With the help of Parish Priests of Cochin, ten girls were ultimately selected. With ten boys to join the same Order and five girls to join the Gleaners of the Church, the ten girls were prepared at special classes conducted at the petit seminary, Fort Cochin. Thus equipped, the whole group, altogether 25 (10 boys and 15 girls) left for Rome in September 1969 accompanied by Rev. Fr. Joseph Kureethara.

In February 1971 Madre Giacomina was elected Mother General and in the same year six more girls joined the Congregation. The novices in Nemi made their first Religious Profession on 24th September, 1972. That put in motion their efforts at establishing a House of their own in the Diocese of Cochin. With this in view Madre Giacomina landed in Cochin and was taken to visit a site belonging to the Aroor Parish. Mother liked the plot and the location very much. 

It had already been decided at the Parish Council earlier to donate the above property to start the convent. When the time came, the record which was proof to the decision to gift the property to the Congregation was found to have mysteriously disappeared from the parochial house. It appears that some council members were not quite in favour of the move. After much difficulty the earlier decision was confirmed and Bishop Edezhath appointed Rev. Dr. Joseph Kureethara as the Director of the Sisters of Our Lady of Mercy in December 1973. Rev. Fr. Paul Katticherry, then Vicar of St. Augustine's Parish, Aroor, was granted permission by His Excellency to execute a gift deed consisting of an acre and forty cents in the name of the Director of the Convent.

Formal request from V. Rev. Mother Giacomina Medda, the Mother General to open a house - their first in India, in the Diocese of Cochin - was submitted to Bishop Alexander Edezhath in December 1974 and His Excellency by his Decree dated January 24, 1975, granted permission. On September 24, 1975, feast of Our Lady of Mercy, the foundation stone was jointly laid by Bishop Alexander Edezhath and the then Bishop-elect, Rt. Rev. Dr. Joseph Kureethara. Mother Giacomina Medda, her secretary, Sr. Lucina Uda and an Indian Sister who was in Belgium, Sr. Philomina Thannikot arrived in Cochin and they moved into the unfinished building at Aroor in February 1977.

On special request from His Excellency, Rt. Rev. Dr. Joseph Kureethara, the solemn blessing and Inauguration of the convent building was done by His Grace, Dr. Joseph Kelanthara, the Archbishop of Verapoly on 19th June 1977. As soon as the Convent was inaugurated, a small nursery school was started and later on a three storeyed building was added. Through the Cochin Social Service Society under the Directorship of Rev. Fr. Mathew Valiaparambil, the Diocese approached the "Misereor", West Germany, for a hospital, which was sanctioned. The foundation stone for the hospital was laid in January 1980. The long cherished dream of a proper place for medi-care thus found its manifestation when the "Mercy Hospital", entrusted to the charge of the Sisters of Our Lady of Mercy, was solemnly blessed and then duly inaugurated on December 19, 1983.

This brief sketch thus far on the establishment of the "Mercy Hospital" at Aroor shows it but as a simple, easy and natural development. In fact, a glance through the annals at the Bishop's House, especially the Bishop's personal records, reveal how His Excellency Rt. Rev. Dr. Joseph Kureethara was instrumental in bringing the Congregation to the Diocese. Nay, the very setting up of the hospital at Aroor owes so much to him.

Any treatise overlooking the several tests, trials and tribulations His Excellency had been subjected to would be an insult to history. Neglecting, nay ignoring the courage of conviction the prelate had in the goodness of his intentions will be an injustice and an insult to that noble mind. Above all, disregarding the tremendous faith the bishop had in the infinite beneficence of the Divine Providence, will only be grossly sinful to the venerable memory of that great soul!

The Diocese of Cochin from its very inception in the year 1557 had many institutions involved in medical apostolate but such institutions were all in the urban area of Cochin. The conquest by the Dutch Calvinists in the year 1663 left all the institutions run by the Catholics, even medical establishments, devastated and desolate. Since then, even after centuries, the Diocese of Cochin hadn't been able to institute any establishment rendering medical service except a small mental hospital at Thankey, set up in 1958.

Several sumers passed by. Bishop Alexander Edezhath did his best to start a hospital at Aroor and got in touch with the Misereor in Germany. Agreeing to the proposal, they sent experts through Rev. Fr. Tony S.J., the Director of the Indian Social Institute (I.S.I.) in Delhi. Fr. Tony examined the site and complied with the Bishop's project but insisted the proposed hospital should be run by a Community of Religious Sisters.

Bishop Edezhath approached the Carmelite Sisters (C.T.C.) but their Congregation being contemplative, they couldn't take up hospital work. The Bishop then approached the Holy Cross Sisters of Menzingen who run a Hospital at Kottiyam, Quilon. Full of hope he approached the Community at Kottiyam but the Sisters said they could assume the assignment of a mission only if their Generalate in Menzingen, Switzerland, permitted it.

During his first Ad-Limina Visit in 1960, Bishop Alexander Edezhath had visited the Generalate of the Holy Cross Sisters in Menzingen. As the Mother General was not favourably inclined, the project for a hospital at Aroor had to be dropped. As Prefect and then Rector at the Seminary, Rev. Fr. Joseph Kureethara had shared many a table with His Excellency at the Bishop's house and so too had shared many an aspiration the Bishop held close to his chest. 

Several winters passed and in the fullness of time the Mercedarian Sisters started their first Community in India. It was in June, 1977 that their Convent was erected at Aroor on a plot of land donated by the parish of St. Augustine's there. Meanwhile on the head of the former Rector had been placed the Mitre and in his hand the crosier of the Diocese. Thus having become the chosen instrument, Rt. Rev. Dr. Joseph Kureethara resolved that his predecessor's dreams should be made a reality.

During His Excellency's first visit to Europe as Bishop of Cochin, Rt. Rev. Dr. Joseph Kureethara, together with Rev. Fr. John Thattumkal, who was in a parish at Rannungen, Germany, visited the head office of Misereor in Aachen. The Bishop presented to the Miseror a request for a package project of small sized hospitals in the islands and village areas of Cochin and a referral hospital at Aroor in the Diocese. Proposing Aroor, Kumbalam, Paanaavally, Perumpalam, Ezhupunna, Chellaanam and Edacochin as needful places in the project, His Excellency returned, hopefully anticipaiting a positive response. Again, the Misereor entrusted the Indian Social Institute in Delhi to inspect the places cited.

A young man, one Mr. Babu from Koratty, was designated by the Institute to visit the locations and the Bishop himself took him personally from Fort Cochin up to Kuthiathode. During the long ride His Excellency showed him the only hospital at Karuvelipady and Mr. Babu was seen dutifully and diligently scribbling in his pocket diary. What ever be the shape, size and substance of the little monster that metamorphosed from the scribbled stuff in the diminutive diary, the end result of the Diocesan attempts was sort of an anticlimax.

The Germans who obviously smelt a rat on the report had real doubts because the urgent request was not from any one ordinary but a Local Ordinary. And a plea from a prelate just could not be turned down that easily. Quite naturally it could not have been any surprise to the Social Institute when they received a second despatch from Miseror instructing the Institute to commission Rev. Sr. Hildegard to examine again and submit a second report.

It was when Sr. Hildegard reached the Bishop's House that the cat wearing the skin of a pocket diary was out of the bag. It came to light that the personification of social service at the Indian Social Institute had submitted a report stuffed with imaginary medical establishments making the Diocese of Cochin very rich in medical facilities. The request thus being unreasonable, he had categorically stated the he just could not recommend the project. The Misereor, on the otherhand, had second thoughts on the report against a Bishop's request. Hence why they asked the assistance of Sr. Hildegard to personally inspect the area, assess the situation and then submit a fresh report. 

Sr. Hildegard spent about a week in the Diocese and prepared a very detailed report showing the necessity for mini hospitals in the Diocese of Cochin. She had given the Bishop a hint on the possibility of her report being rejected by the same officer at the Social Institute in Delhi. Therefore the Rev. Sister advised the bishop that if the Misereor asked for further explanation, His Excellency was to get in touch with Sr. Hildegard forthwith.

Exactly as Sr. Hildegard had anticipated and hinted, the project report prepared by her was rejected from Delhi, thanks to the ' noble and magnanimous mind stirred by that true social and Christian spirit'. And it so chanced that the Misereor asked the Bishop of Cochin for further explanations on the project report. On His Excellency's intimation Sr. Hildegard came to Cochin again and an entirely new report was prepared and despatched. In the last report, however, the Rev. Sister deleted one or two items, for example, the mini hospitals at Edacochin and Ezhupunna and the recommendation, instead, was for the purchase of two ambulances. These were to be used as mobile-clinics, one at Ezhupunna and the other at Aroor, where a larger hospital was necessary. At last, with the final approval of the project by the Miseror, the snake and ladder game on the medical facilities for the Diocese that made an optimistic and enthusiastic commencement but ran through a curiously covetous course, came to a happy conclusion .

Similar episodes had pained His Excellency Rt. Rev. Dr. Joseph Kureethara in his earlier attempts at introducing and establishing pro-people institutions. Thus, though part of a pattern, this dog in the manger attitude and performance of one, that too a faithful attached to the social service section of the Church, just because the gains were to be garnered by the flock of a different rite, in no way mitigated His Excellency's heart aches. What in the world did the particular official from Koratty at the Indian Social Institute at Delhi aspired to achieve or accomplish by jeopardizing the project for the poor people of Cochin Diocese will always remain unfathomable to all save such 'noble and magnanimous' minds similarly bent. However, after heart rending tests and trials the good God granted the wish and thus rewarded His Excellency for his unflinching firm faith in Divine Providence.

Rev. Fr. Mathew Valiaparambil, who was the Director of the Cochin Social Service Society, was entrusted with the construction work and before long small size hospitals with four or five beds each at Kumbalam, Perumbalam, Paanaavally and a twelve-bed hospital at Aroor, were built and two Ambulances bought. Thus at last the Mercy Hospital at Aroor was blessed on December 19, 1983.

Written by His Excellency, (Late) Rt. Rev. Dr. Joseph Kureethara