CSI Cochin diocese is one of the newly born dioceses of CSI in Kerala and also it stands as the former CSI North Kerala Diocese. Geographically the Cochin Diocese is included the four revenue districts of Kerala- they are Palakkad, Trichur, Ernakulam and Munnar area of Idukki. The culture and the living style are varying according to the nature of the Geography. The Diocese has mixed language groups – Malayalam and Tamil. Today women members are well educated in various capacities and working in the various sectors. They are very actively participating in the church programmes and social activities. When we discuss the history of women’s Fellowship of CSI Cochin Diocese, we need to look at the history of the CSI North Kerala Diocese. Because the Cochin Diocese is existed as the former North Kerala Diocese.
A BRIEF HISTORY
History form North Kerala Diocese:
The North Kerala Diocese came into existence with the formation of the Church of South India on 27th September 1947. It was one of the largest dioceses geographically extending from Kochi to Kasargod and Munnar to Sultan Bathery.
Rt. Rev. Stuart Smith became the first Bishop in the Diocese. The Women’s Fellowship of the CSI was formed in 1948. Miss Karuna Jacob who was a teacher in the BEM Girl’s High School in Calicut was invited to take charge of the women’s work in the Diocese by the Bishop. In June 1949, she left her job as teacher for 16 years, and joined the CSV in Madras for missionary Training as a preparation before joining the women’s work. Miss Karuna Joined the CSI order of Sisterhood in 1952 and she along with Miss. Annie Paul were commissioned as full sisters of the CSI by the Bishop Stuart Smith during a service conducted at the CSI Cathedral Calicut on June 7th 1953. She travelled through the Diocese visiting and organising women. It was her strong will power, sincere efforts and hard work that enabled her to lay the foundation of the women’s fellowship activities in the Diocese. She was given a small allowance with which she carried out her responsibilities as women worker.
Women’s homes were built in different parts of the diocese. These were missionary women who supported Sr. Karuna in the work. Sr. Hannah Fry was placed in Kannur Bathanya and Miss. Freeda Ricker was taking care of Chombala house. Old age homes, Girls homes and orphanages were started. Sr. Karuna visited churches with co-oparation and support of the pastors these ‘Bible Ammas’ were appointed the women’s activities in Madai, Mattul, and nearby places. Tailoring and stitching and home science courses were conducted for young girls. Technical institutes were established in Bathanya and Chombala. The CSI hostel in Ernakulam Broadway was started by the sisters initially. Sr. Annie Paul served as in charge for many years.
Rev. Lipp was the next Bishop and Sr. Karuna, with train of women whom she has prepared to work with her, carried out the women’s fellowship activities efficiently. In 1966 April, diocesan women’s board took a decision to appoint thee regional secretaries to assist Sister Karuna for the smooth functioning. They are Sister Martha Widman (S. Bathery) in Wayanad, Mss. Chittayagam (Nettoor) in North Malabar and Miss. Mandodi (Palakkad) in South Malabar. They took a decision to conduct the Diocesan Conferences as the regional conferences from this year (1966 April) onwards. And the board decided that Nettur will be centre of the north Malabar (from Farok to northern side), Palakka will be the centre of south Malabar (Parappanagadi to Melparamba), S. Bathery will be centre of the Wayanad and Trichur and Munnar as it is.
During the sixties, CSI decided that the September 27 will birth day of CSI women’s fellowship and Sister Karuna informed that all the churches should celebrate this day as the Birth Day of W.F. In 1968, June, the women’s fellowship general secretory of the Church of South India, sister Grace Aaron visited our diocese and attended various meetings. The women’s board decided to start a one year “Christian Home Training” course at Bathel Ashramam, Trichur in June 1972. In 1973, Miss. Thankam B.A., appointed as the assistant women’s worker.
Bishop Benjamin was appointed as Bishop in January 1977. Mrs. Grace Benjamin fully supported the work. Many women delegates started attending various meetings arranged by the CSI synod Sr. Karuna retired as women’s worker in 1977. Bethel Ashram in Thrissur started as the branch of Bathel Ashram in Thiruvalla. Sr. Saramma Thomas was the mother of the Ashram. She organised and visited Churches during her long period as mother in the Bethel Ashram. Her simple lifestyle and witnessing created a spiritual revival among women. We had other Sisters like Sr. Leela Masilamony, Sr. Baby (Sosamma John), Sr. Edith Joshua, Sr. Saramma Cherian and Sr. Leela John served in the Bethel Ashram Thrissur and helped the women’s fellowship activities in the Diocese. Sr. Thankam Mathew was appointed as the Secretary of the Women’s Fellowship when Sr. Karuna retired. She was a graduate from Brannen College, Thalassery and a graduate from Banglore. She also tried her best to organise women in the vast diocese visiting the churches.
The Technical Training centres were started in the Ashram for women. The sisters gave strong support and leadership to these projects and women’s Hostel in Shoranur as a grand from the govt. was started. Area-wise meetings for women’s fellowship members were introduced during this time. Mrs Thankamma Seth gave a very good leadership to the Women’s Fellowship in the Diocese even though she was very busy in here Teaching Profession.
The women’s board members during 1988s are diocesan treasurer, Sister Thankam Mathew (Secratory), Sister. Rachel John (Bathel Trichur), Sister. C.V. Thankamma (Bathel, Bathery),Miss. Santhamma David (Bathery), Miss. Doris George (Kannur), Miss. Marry Kurian (Aluva), Miss. Santha Kunmary Ebanezar (Kozhikkod), Miss. Aliyamma Thomas (Trichur). The diocese divided as the 9 areas for smooth functioning. They are Kannur, Kozhikkod, Malappuram, Palakkad, Trichur, Wayanad, Iratty-Vallithod, Grater Cochin and Munnar.
In 1989 Sister Rachel John selected as the secretory of sisters. According to the report of the former women’s fellowship president, Mrs. Thankamma Seth points that North Kerala Diocese had 110 fellowship groups in 1989s.
Rev. Rt. P.G. Kuruvilla was the Bishop from 1990 December. Mrs Violo Kuruvilla organised women very efficiently which strengthened the Women’s Fellowship activities in the Diocese. Many Synod Projects got introduced in the Diocese Pre Primary School and Tailoring Schools were started in the areas where poor parents could leave their children from age 2½ – 4 years in this school they are at work. Many young women got training in the Tailoring units and rehabilitated with sewing machines and formed their livelihood. The teachers were selected from the local CSI churches and girls who passed 10th std. could course out help these schools as teachers. Typewriting Institutes were given new machines during this time. Malayalam type writing in Bethaniya had a very good Institute which helped many girls.
Sr. Thankam left for Vellore to work as chaplain in the Christian Madical College & Hospital Vellore in 1993. Bishop P.G. Kuruvilla Appointed Mrs. Sosamma Gilbert with both the responsibilities as Secretary and as Women’s worker Later Mrs. Santhamma David was appointed as Secretary till 2001.
Sr. Thankam was called back and appointed as ‘Mother’ of Bethel Ashram, Thrissur in June by Bishop J.W. Gladstone, who was the Bishops’ commissary of the North Kerala Diocese in 1999. Rev. Dr. George Issac was appointed as the Bishop by the Synod of the Church of South India on July 8th 1999. The Women’s Board was represented by representation from all the 8 Areas of the Diocese. Miss Reena Christable was appointed as woman worker in the Diocese as soon as she completed her Post Graduation (M.Th.) in Theology. Women’s Fellowship activities has new dimension by her able leadership in conducting Bible Studies & Classes.
The Diocesan Women’s fellowship organised a ‘Kalamela’ involving delegates from all over the parts of the Diocese in 2003. 10 members including one ‘sister’ participated in the Quadrennial conference held in Madras. The leadership Training Programme organised by the synod women’s fellowship was attended by 10 members in the East Kerala Diocese. In the Regional Leadership Training Programme organised in the South Kerala Diocese also 10 delegates the Participated. The Women’s Board under the Chairmanship of the Bishop the Diocesan Office Bearers, W.F. Leaders and representatives from the 8 respective Areas major decisions.
A one -year course in Missionary Nursing course was conducted for young women 6 of them got trained in taking care of patients and elderly. A school of Missionary course for women’s was started under the women’s fellowship on the Diocese. Young women who were willing to spare time for work with women were invited to join. 6 girls completed in the Batch. They were given certificate after they completed during a meeting held in the Bethel Ashram Thrissur. There were 6 more joined in the next course Sr. Lissy Snehalatha is one of the women did School of Ministry Programme in the 2nd batch. After training Mary were given appointment as Assistant to the superintendents in the various hostels, Houses, as staff. A young women’s conference was held in Thrissur. Many girls attended and it was a new experience to the young girl in the Diocese. 10 delegates attended and participated in the Regional Leadership Programme held at the Retreat Centre, South Kerala Diocese.
The Pre-Marital Counselling started in 2004; women’s fellowship gave whole hearted support the programme 3 women missionaries are in the Marayoor area servicing the tribal areas. Due to ill heath Bishop George Issac Stepped down from his episcopal responsibilities and Rev. K.P. Kuruvilla became the Bishop in the North Kerala Diocese in 15th May 2007. In 1091, Dr. Sowmini Jayan from CSI North Kerala Diocese elected as the vice President of women’s fellowship of CSI Synod. The last women’s Conference of CSI North Kerala Diocese was conducted at CSI St. Pauls Church Shoranur in May 2015.
History form CSI Cochin Diocese:
CSI Cochin Diocese was stared from the year 2014 onwards. The first women’s conference conducted at CSI retreat centre at Kanyakuamari in May, 2017. Presently Mrs. Sakhi Mary Fenn is the president of Women’s Fellowship and Nimmy Mathew handling the charge of vice President. Cochin diocese divided as four areas-Palakad area, Trichur Area, Ernakulam Area and Munnar Area. Area secretaries were arranged area programmes and retreat to encourage the women in this new diocese.
CSIWF OFFICE BEARERS FROM 1948
- 1947-1954 (Rt. Rev. Stuvart Smith)
- 1954-1959(Rt. Rev. Richard Lipp )
Mrs. Grace Benjamin – President
Sister Karuna Jacob- Women worker
Mrs. Thankamma Sath – President
Sister Karuna Jacob-Women Worker
Miss. Thankam Mathew –Women Worker
Mrs. Viola Kuruvilla
Mrs. Sosamma Gilbert – Secretory & Worker
Mrs. Santhamma David- Worker
Mrs. Lilly George – President
Miss Reena Christable – Worker
Mrs. Elizabeth Kuruvilla – Presidant
Mrs. Chinnamma Michal – General Secratory
Mrs. Lizzy Snehalath-Women Worker
- 1913-till date
Mrs. Sakhi Mary Fenn – President
Mrs. Nimmy Mathew-Vic-President
Present diocesan women’s board members
Rt. Rev. B.N. Fenn (Bishop)
Rev. Jacob John (Clergy Secretary)
Rev. P.J. Jacob (Diocesan Treasurer) (Ex-Officers)
Mr. Abraham Simon (Lay Secretary)
Mr. Sakhi Mary Fenn (President )
Mrs. Lilly George (Vice President)
Mrs. Nimmy Mathew (General Secretary)
Mrs. Jolly Ninan (Treasurer)
Mrs. Mary Jacob & Mrs. Betsy Sunil – Ernakulam Area
Mrs. Jessy Thomson & Mrs. Sally Jacob – Thrissur Area
Mrs. Jessy Thambi, Mrs. Santha Sigamani & Mrs. Regina Selvin – Munnar Area
Mrs. Sheena Shibu – Palakkad Area
Sr. Lissy Snehalatha
SCHOOLS & COLLEGES
Womens Fellowship conducting tuition classes for the children in the remote areas like Marayoor and Attappadi. At present we have no schools under the supervision of women’s fellowships
- Day Care Centre, Vaniyamkulam:
Children from age 1 to 4 years are taken care of in this Centre. A teacher and an assistant look after the children.
- Tailoring Unit, Vaniyamkulam :
This unit has functioning as training Centre for the past many years. Young girls
and housewives are benefited by this Centre.
- Book Making unit :
This unit which is functioning at Bathel Ashram makes note books for various uses.
- Tuition Centres :
We have started Tuition Centres for the Children in the Mission Field at Marayoor.
Now there are four Centres, each of which is supported by one Women’s Fellowship Area.
- Upliftment of Girl Children :
We have one Girls Home in Thrissur, supported by the KNH. Women’s Fellowship member’s visit the Homes on Special Occasions and provide the Children with things they need for their personal and educational needs. Doctors who are members of our Church come forward to offer counselling and medical classes for the girls.
- KALAMELA :
In order to nourish the talents of the Women, a Talent Festival was conducted for Women’s Fellowship Memebrs. In September, competitions were held in the Area level. There were competitions in Solo Song, Group Song, Speech, Story Writing, Fancy Dress and Pencil Drawing. The Competitions were held in three different age groups – 18-35, 36-55, and above 55. Those who secured first and second places in the Area level, participated in the Diocesan Competitions. It was a very good time for the women to bring out their God-given talents.
- Bible Quiz Competition :
A Bible Quiz Competition is also arranged for the Women’s Fellowship memebers at the Diocesan Level in the month of February.
As we have 41 pastorates in the Cochin diocese and 72 out stations. All the pastorates and the outstations have women’s fellowship groups. They are participating in the various activities of the church and enthusiastic in the mission of the church.
We have no Bible women at present. But the members of the women were visiting the houses and distributing the Bible during the Onam season as the part of the outreach programme.
At present we have three Women Missionaries working in Marayoor Area. Miss Vijaya and Miss Swarnamary are working at Thankaswamy Puram Mission field at Marayoor. Miss Indira is working as the assistant warden at Trichur Bathel Ashram. Mss. Indira and Vijaya are attending in the school of ministry programme of the Diocese.
We have three Women’s Hostels in Ernakulam, Thrissur & Palakkad. These hostels stand as the shelter for the women who were working nearby.
Pasterammas contributes major role along with the pastors at congregations to build the women’s gatherings.