A Brief History of the Pastoral Orientation Centre
The Pastoral Orientation Centre (POC) is the I¬†¬†¬† Secretariat of the Kerala Catholic Bishops' I¬†¬† Council (KCBC) and the regional pastoral centre of the Catholic Church in Kerala. The POC under the auspices of the Kerala Catholic Bishops'Council is a sign and source of the dynamism and unity of the Catholic Church of Kerala. It is the common abode of the three ritual Churches - the Latin, the Syro-Malabar and the Syro-Malankara and its mission is to be at the service of all the people of Kerala. The POC was inaugurated on 19 February 1968 in order to realize the spirit of the Second Vatican Council, which was a clarion call for renewal within the Church and dialogue with all sections of human society.
The Pastoral Orientation Centre is the fruit of a strenuous and sincere effort from the part of the Church of Kerala to orient and co-ordinate the various pastoral activities of the different dioceses, parishes, institutions and individuals in view of a total pastoral mission of the Church in Kerala.
The mission of the POC is to empower the Church in Kerala for a renewed and committed Christian life and witness. It is realized through proper conscientisation and co-ordination of activities of various commissions and departments through pastoral assessment, communication and formation in leadership, evangelization, ecumenism, and interfaith dialogue, and social commitment, with special emphasis on publication of texts for value based education, the Bible and regional translation of the official documents of the Apostolic See, etc. The POC strives to provide proper orientation to the different catholic organizations, by promoting initiatives and providing appropriate guidance based on the Gospel of Jesus, relevantly restated by the Second Vatican Council.
The KCBC Commission for the Pastoral Orientation Centre has the function of coordinating the various apostolic activities of the commissions and departments, which have their central offices at the POC.
The beginning of the POC was in a humble and unassuming mode. The renewal spirit of the Second Vatican Council moved the minds and hearts of the leaders of the Church in Kerala. The idea of a regional pastoral centre for Kerala was by no means new. The need to orient and coordinate the various pastoral activities of the different dioceses, parishes, institutions and individuals in view of the total pastoral mission of the Church in Kerala was keenly felt by many. However, for various reasons the move to realize this vitally urgent need was made only relatively late.
An inter diocesan consultation held at St. Joseph's Pontifical Seminary Mangalapuzha under the presidentship of Fr. Michael Angel OCD, the then
Rector of¬† the seminary, marked the beginning of a series of discussions towards the establishment of a regional pastoral centre. In pursuance of the consultation meeting Rev. Fr. Joseph Kannath from the Archdiocese of Trichur was deputed to carry out the project. Fr. Joseph Kannath together with Rev. Fr. Michael Angel OCD the Rector of St. Joseph Pontifical Seminary Mangalapuzha and Rt. Rev. Dr. George Alappatt the bishop of Trichur Diocese made the preliminary planning to start a Centre. For this purpose Rev. Fr. Michael Angel OCD on 3 December 1966 and Rt. Rev. Dr. George Alappatt on 6 December 1966 wrote letters to all bishops in Kerala.
Inter Diocesan Meetings
Later Fr. Michael Angel OCD and Fr. Joseph Kannath convened another consultative meeting of the diocesan representatives. The delegates felt Alwaye to be an ideal place for the centre both on account of its unique geographical position and the proximity to the Pontifical Seminary and other religious institutions. A temporary advisory body was formed from among the delegates with Very Rev. Fr. Michael OCD as President, and Fr. Paul Kattissery (Cochin), Fr. Sebastian Mankuzhikari (Ernakulam), Fr. John Vallamattam (Kothamangalam), Fr. Sebastian Eerathara (Calicut) and Fr. Joseph Kannath (Trichur) as members.
An executive committee consisting of Very Rev. Fr. Michael Angel OCD, Fr. Paul Kattissery and Fr. Joseph Kannath was set up to seek ways and means for the realization of the project. The committee was also entrusted with the task of contacting the ordinaries who were not represented in the meeting and to seek their approbation and collaboration. Fr. Joseph Kannath personally contacted nine more Bishops of Kerala.
As the proposal was favourably received, again the meeting of the diocesan representatives was convened on 28 March 1967 at the Pontifical Seminary, Alwaye with Very Rev. Fr. Michael Angel OCD in the chair.The Archdioceses of Verapoly, Ernakulam and Changanacherry and the dioceses of Alleppey, Quilon and Trichur were also represented in the meeting. The advisory body was reconstituted with Very Rev. Fr. Michael OCD as President, and Very Rev. Msgr. Emmanuel Lopez (Verapoly), Very Rev. Msgr. Reynolds Purackal (Alleppey), Fr. Sebastian Mankuzhikari, Fr. Mathew Nadakal (Changanacherry), Fr. S. Eerathara, Fr. Paul Kattissery, Fr. John Vallamattam, Fr. Alphonse Thundil (Quilon), Fr. Joseph Kannath and Fr. Augustine Xavier (Trivandrum) as members.
The executive committee was formed with Very Rev. Fr. Michael OCD as President, Fr. Paul Kattissery and Fr. Joseph Kannath as conveners and Very Rev. Msgr. Emmanuel Lopez and Fr. Sebastian Mankuzhikari as members. A committee consisting of Fr. Joseph Kannath, Very Rev. Msgr. Emmanuel Lopez and Fr. Sebastian Mankuzhikari was entrusted with the task of locating a suitable site
Another great landmark in the history for POC took place during the meeting of the diocesan directors and professors of Catechetics, and the members of CBCI Catechetical Commission held at the National Centre, Bangalore from 25 to 27 November, 1967, in which the representatives from Kerala participated. The delegates from Kerala unanimously decided to make a definite step towards the
establishment of a regional pastoral centre, and to submit a formal appeal to the president and members of Kerala Catholic Bishops' Council for the approval.
The endeavours leaped into a new phase with a catechetical seminar organized by the executive committee from 25 to 28 of October, 1967.130 persons including priests and religious from 16 dioceses and 12 religious congregations participated n the seminar. Rev. Fr. Johannes Hofinger SJ of the East Asian Pastoral Institute, Manila, the principal [lecturer in the seminar, highlighted the salient features of modern catechesis and elucidated the I relevance of a pastoral orientation centre in Kerala.
A special meeting of the diocesan catechetical [directors, religious representatives and group leaders
Of¬† the seminar held on 27 October 1967, warmly (endorsed the move for a pastoral centre. Very Rev. Fr. [Dominic OCD was elected as the new President in [place of Very Rev. Fr. Michael Angel OCD, who had
been elected as the Superior General of the Carmelite I Order.
The decisions made in the meeting were the following: a two year course to be conducted for catechists, to prepare textbooks and teachers' guides based on a syllabus common to all the dioceses in Kerala and to procure audio-visual aids for catechetical needs, preparing an up-to-date Malayalam version for the Bible, setting up of a marriage counselling bureau, establishing a full-fledged library and documentation centre at POC and to engage in socio-religious research for acquiring scientific information to aid the pastoral activities in Kerala. Fr. Kannath was entrusted with the task of obtaining the approbation of Kerala Catholic Bishops' Council (KCBC) for the regional pastoral centre.
Another great landmark in the history for POC took place during the meeting of the diocesan directors and professors of Catechetics, and the members of CBCI Catechetical Commission held at the National Centre, Bangalore from 25 to 27 November, 1967, in which the representatives from Kerala participated. The delegates from Kerala unanimously decided to make a definite step towards the establishment of a regional pastoral centre, and to submit a formal appeal to the president and members of Kerala Catholic Bishops' Council for the approval.
As directed by the meeting at Bangalore, the convener submitted a formal request to the KCBC regarding the setting up of the Pastoral Orientation Centre, along with an outline of its objectives and working. The KCBC meeting held at Verapoly Archbishop's House, Ernakulam on 11 January 1968, considered the request and adopted the momentous decision to set up a regional Pastoral Orientation Centre for Kerala.
On 2 February 1968 the President of the KCBC His Grace Mot Rev. Dr. Joseph Attipetty, then the Metropolitan Archbishop of Verapoly signed the resolution of the Kerala Catholic Bishops'Council meeting to start the Pastoral Orientation Centre. The KCBC decided the centre to be governed by the statutes to be drawn up and approved by the hierarchy, and set up a commission to start the centre and draw up the statutes. The Council also appointed a Commission to implement the project. His Grace Most Rev. Dr. Benedict Mar Gregorios the Metropolitan Archbishop of Trivandrum Malankara Archdiocese was appointed the first Chairman of the POC Commission.
Inauguration of the POC
The long cherished dream of Church in Kerala was fulfilled when His Eminence Macmillan Cardinal de Furstenberg of the Congregation for the Oriental Churches inaugurated the POC on 19 February 1968. This event took place at a solemn and colourful function held in Fr. Zacharias Memorial Hall of the St. Joseph's Pontifical Seminary, Mangalapuzha. His Grace Most Rev. Dr. Joseph Caprio, Apostolic Nuncio to India, His Grace Most Rev. Dr. Joseph Attipetty, the President of the KCBC and seven bishops and other distinguished dignitaries were present for the inaugural function of the POC.
The POC started its functioning in one of the buildings in the seminary campus. Fr. Joseph Kannath was
appointed its first Director. Thence, the growth of POC was remarkable. POC was entrusted with the task of conducting the Kerala Regional Seminar, which took place at Alwaye from 26 to 31 December 1968.
The POC Shifted to Manjummel
Ever since its inception the POC had been carrying on its activities in St. Joseph's Pontifical Seminary, Mangalapuzha, Alwaye. The staff and students of the seminary helped the growth of the Pastoral Orientation Centre with great solicitude. The tempo and the volume of its activities had grown to such an extent that it was
obliged to look for an independent habitat of its own. Meanwhile the Carmelite Fathers of Manjummel generously offered to put at the disposal of POC a specious building, for one year. On 22 March 1969, POC was shifted from Alwaye Seminary to Manjummel.
The KCBC Commission for the POC held its second meeting at Manjummel on 21 June 1969 under the presidentship of His Grace Benedict Mar Gregorios, the Chairman. The commission meeting made an important decision that the POC must have its own site and building situated in the central Kerala and at easily accessible place for all. The meeting also decided to realise immediately the said decision.
On 15 August 1969 the POC officially launched its residential theology course. His Eminence Joseph Cardinal Parecattil inaugurated the course. His Grace Most Rev. Dr. Joseph Kelanthara, the Archbishop of Verapoly presided over the meeting. Rev. Dr. Amalorpavadas, the Director of the NBCLC gave the keynote address. The third POC Commission meeting held on 16 February
1970 at St. Teresa's College decided to register the POC
as a society.
The POC Shifted to Kaloor
According to the previous agreement the POC had to vacate the house at Manjummel by the end of March 1970.The POC was shifted to a rented building at Kaloor on31 March 1970. The participants of the theology course were accommodated in the school building attached to the convent of St. Francis Xavier belonging to the Franciscan Missionaries Mary (FMM).
Meanwhile negotiations for the purchase of a site within the Cochin Corporation limits were making satisfactory progress. Finally a plot of nearly 2.11 acres at Palarivattom was purchased as the permanent site for the POC. Later some adjacent plots were added bringing the total area to 3 acres 94 cents.
The POC at Palarivattom
The hand of God is at work in the POC is a beacon of hope for an illustrious future for the Church in Kerala. The foundation stone of the permanent building of the POC was blessed by the His Eminence Maximilian Cardinal de Fiirstenberg on the occasion of the inauguration of the POC at Mangalapuzha Seminary Alwaye. His Grace Most Rev. Dr. Benedict Mar Gregorios ceremonially laid it at the new site at Dalarivattom on 5 June 1970.
The construction work of the permanent buildings of the POC commenced soon after the laying of foundation stone.Through sunshine and rain the work made steady progress and within a space of six months three storeyed hostels and a large single storeyed block for kitchen and dining hall were completed. 12 December 1970 was a red letter day in the annals of the POC, making successful termination of a long and anxious search for a home of its own.
His Eminence Joseph Cardinal Parecattil, Archbishop of Ernakulam-Angamalyformally inaugurated the permanent establishment of the POC on 12 December 1970. His Excellency Jerome Fernandez bishop of Quilon solemnly blessed the buildings. The liturgical service and other ceremonies were befitting the occasion and at the same time had a traditional touch of the native Church.
Even though the inauguration of the permanent quarters was held on 12 December 1970 the POC establishmentwras shifted to it only on 29 December. Everyone fert a sense of satisfaction and joy in having found a safe anchorage after a long period of wandering, life on the new campus began with an annual retreat centred on the theme of charity.
Palarivattom Community Development Trust (PCDT)
Palarivattom Community Development Trust (PCDT) is the social welfare centre of the POC established in the year 1978.The POC bought 12. acres of land in 1978 for the purpose of the social activities of the PCDT. The PCDT meant an overall development of poor people residing in and around Palarivattom.The PCDT is a registered society and the society is working with the sincere co-operation of some well-wishers. The Director of the POC is the President of the PCDT.
It was established to promote the economic, social, educational, moral and cultural advancement of the people of Palarivattom and adjoining areas. The centre aims at fostering social consciousness, cooperative spirit and sense of civic duty among the people of the area by encouraging the habit of self-help and thrift among the people.
(1) Tailoring Centre, (2) Lourdes Health Clinic run by the support of Lourdes Hospital Ernakulum, (3) ARDSI dementia day care centre. (4) Geriatric training programme for six months by Central Government of India hosted by ARDSI, (5) A National helpline for dementia by ARDSI, newly started and functioning in the centre, (6) The PCDT also concentrates on home visits, (7) Organic Farming, (8) Ornaments Making, (9) Screen Printing and (10) Fabric Printing are functioning in the PCDT campus of the POC.
One of the important concerns of the POC from its inception has been to initiate steps towards a renewal of catechetics in the Church in Kerala.Tothis end the POC undertook the publication of catechism textbooks and training of catechism teachers according to modern trends. In 1969 the POC published its first series of catechism textbooks and teachers'guides for the first seven grades. The guides for the following grades were published subsequently. In the same year the POC started a bulletin with the same purpose.This bulletin later became a magazine and in 1979Talenthu the adult catechetical magazine was originated.
In 1972 the POC published a moral science textbook series for schools. In order to coordinates the catechetical ministries of the Centre the KCBC established the Catechetical Commission and it started its functioning in the POC from 1978 onwards. Later in 1999 the KCBC decided to establish the catechetical commission for each of the individual Churches and the Catechetical Commission of the POC ceased to exist.
The POC as the Secretariat of the KCBC
The POC started its functioning in 1968 as the common Pastoral Centre of the regional Church in Kerala but from the very inception of the POC the Centre has been assisting the KCBC with secretarial and administrative functions. Whenever the KCBC initiated Commissions and Departments for the Bishops'Council, all were started their operations from the POC.
In 1972 the POC started the Bible translation work and the initial project of the Bible translation was to prepare and ecumenical bible for entire Christians in Kerala. Later due some reasons the POC limited the translation to Catholics. Meanwhile the POC got permission from the Bishops'Council to translate the Bible into Malayalam and to prepare a Catholic version of the holy Bible. In order to carry on with the Bible
translation project and to accelerate the Bible apostolate of¬† the Church in Kerala, the KCBC established the Bible Commission on 23 October 1976 and it has also been operating from the POC.
On 13 December 1977 His Eminence Joseph Cardinal Parecattil handed over the first copy of the Malayalam translation of the POC Bible New Testament to the renowned writer Shri. K P Kesawa Menon. In 1981 on December 28 the POC in collaboration with the KCBC Bible Commission published the Malayalam translation of the complete Bible. From 1976 January 21 onwards the Media Commission of the KCBC started its functioning from the POC.
From 1980 onwards when the His Eminence George Cardinal Alencherry, the Major Archbishop of the Syro-Malabar Church was the Director of the POC the secretarial section of the KCBC became more organised and the KCBC meetings were shifted to the POC. In 1973 the Church in Kerala initiated a youth organisation and in 1978 it came to known as Kerala Catholic Youth Movement (KCYM). Even though the KCBC Youth Commission has its own office from 2001 onwards its office started functioning in the POC buildings.
In 1983 the KCBC coordinated the family apostolate in the dioceses and in 1990 established the Family Commission and started its functioning in the POC in 2005. When the KCBC meetings were shifted to the POC from 1980 onwards the POC was facing constrains in accommodation due to the lack of sufficient rooms. In 1993 when Bishop Joseph Kariyil of Cochin was the Director, the POC started the construction of Santhome Bhavan and it was completed on 31 May 1994.
From 2001 September 25 onwards the central office of the Jesus Fraternity of the Justice Peace Development Commission of the KCBC started functioning in the POC. The Health Commission office and Catholic Health Association of India office (CHAI) started its functioning from 2004 onwards. The KCBC initiated Social Harmony and Vigilance Commission on 15 January 2007 and started its functioning in the POC. The Education Commission of the KCBC has a long history but it started its central office in the POC building on 6 April 2006. The Kerala Catholic Students League (KCSL) had its office from 1989 onwards. The Religious Commission of the KCBC and Kerala Catholic Major Superiors' association (KCMS) shifted their central office to the POC on 1 December 2010.
Now as the secretariat of the KCBC the POC coordinates the 21 Commissions and 24 Departments of the KCBC The dual functions of the POC as the Secretariat of the Kerala Catholic Bishops' Council and the common pastoral centre of the regional Church echo the contemporary history of the Kerala Catholic Church. The numerous and valuable programmes organised by the POC manifest the incontrovertible importance and role of the POC in unifying the three ritual Churches in Kerala. The history of the POC as the Secretariat of the KCBC and the common Pastoral Centre of the Church is the history of the Kerala Catholic Church.