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Stewardship and Trusteesh
  By A.J. Philip  
  I ACCOMPANIED Prime Minister Manmohan Singh on his visit to South Africa on the occasi  
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  DEVOTIONAL  
 
   
Letter to Metropolitan
  By Rev A.P. Jacob and five other priests  
  Most Rev. Dr. Joseph Mar Thoma Metropolitan Most Rev. Dr. Philipose Mar Chrysostom Mar  
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  COUNSELING
 
Back to infancy -- they n
 
  By Shaheen Chander  
  ENJOYING a relaxed weekend, I was checking updates on the Facebook page. I came across a b  
     
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  ARTICLE  
     
  Rev Mathew Thomas  
  Nipped in the bud  
   
 
WE were on a flying visit to New Delhi when we attended the worship service at the St. James Marthoma Church, Dwarka, in May 2008. That was the first Sunday of Rev Mathew Thomas as Vicar of the parish. Immediately after the service, a special meeting was organised to welcome him.

From the speakers at the function, I learnt many things about the young priest. That he had lost his father at a young age and that he was fresh from Marthoma Vaidika Seminary, Kottayam, after doing his M.Th.

A few months later, I left Chandigarh to settle down in Dwarka and began attending the church regularly. Gradually, we became friends. And when I became a member of the faculty of Dharma Jyoti Vidyapeeth, we became colleagues.

His specialisation was in the Old Testament and he had authored two books -- one on the book of Judges and the other, a study of the Biblical character Ruth. His sermons always bore witness to his scholarship.

One day I happened to see him keying a text into his computer. I was struck by his typing skill. "Did you learn typewriting?" I asked him. Then he told me that his mother used to run a typewriting institute and he had learnt typing on a regular Remington typewriter. He learnt typing the proper way and that explained the speed and neatness of his typing. "I never depended on others for typing my dissertations and other documents".

While he took pride in his typing ability, he did not mention to me that he was a brilliant student. One of the priests who taught him at the Seminary described him as the best student he ever taught. He was a keen listener and spoke only when it was a must.

Unlike many of the priests I know, he had an abiding interest in Malayalam literature. Once while I described a scene in O.V. Vijayan's 'Kazakkinte Itihasam' (The Saga of Kazak), he listened patiently to my rendering and when I fumbled, he corrected me. At my prompting, he recited the opening lines in the book. I felt humbled.

On another occasion, when I mentioned Nagavally R.S. Kurup's novel on the scavengers and narrated the story, he pointed out that the story I was narrating was from Thakazhy Sivasankara Pillai's book. What a coincidence he had read both the books!

He had read more stories of N.S. Madhavan, my friend, than I had. And when I forwarded to him one of Madhavan's stories I had translated for 'The Little Magazine', he told me that he had read the original in Malayalam.

Our discussions that day meandered to Karen Armstrong, a prolific writer on religious issues. When I described her as one of my favourite writers, he wanted to read her. I offered to buy her latest book for him provided he was willing to review it for The Herald of India.

He readily accepted the offer and gave a good review of the book in less than a week. I did not have to remind him, let alone chase him. His review did not need any editing worth the name. That was how I realized that he had an excellent command of the English language.

He would occasionally give me feedback on the contents of www.heraldofindia.com. Once he disagreed with the stand we took on the issue of gay rights. But what I found agreeable in him was his willingness to debate the issue, though we had taken contrarian views.

A voracious reader, his interest, of late, had been in civil engineering. Ever since the foundation stone for the Dwarka church was laid, he was always supervising the work. While many members like this writer seldom visited the site, he was a permanent fixture there. It showed his sincerity and dedication to any assignment that he took up.

Fund collection was never his cup of tea. But he took it up with a challenge and raised a considerable sum for the church. The culmination of his fund-raising programme would have been the Arts Feast that was to be staged on Oct 31. Alas, that was not to be.

He practiced what he preached. On receipt of his salary every month, he would, without fail, give his tithe. How many Christians can claim to give tithe regularly? Umpteen have been the occasions when church members enjoyed his hospitality. His wife, Leena, was his constant companion, always smiling and at his bidding.

I do not know how Kochamma, as she was affectionately called, would bear the loss of her husband in a road accident on Friday. On that fateful day, too, she was with him on the pillion of his motorcycle. One can only pray that she will have the fortitude to bear the loss. As for him, he believed that there was a life beyond this world. There is a saying "God calls back first the one whom He loves most". This is indeed true in the case of Rev Mathew Thomas.
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Photo caption: Rev Mathew Thomas with Bishop Abraham Mar Poulos
 
  By  A.J. Philip  
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