September 29th– October 1st 2006 The 13 Branch Conference of CHAI, Southern Branch was held at Vailankanni-Tranquebar from September 29th to October 1st 2006. The Conference was well attended by scholars. Accommodation for the Delegates was arranged in the St. Francis Assisi Pilgrims’ Quarters, Vailankanni. The inaugural session and other sessions were held at the Arogyamatha Higher Secondary School. The inaugural session was held at 5pm. After a short prayer by Rev. Fr. Francis Thonippara CMI, Secretary cum Treasurer, Prof. Maria Lazar, organizing Secretary of the Conference, welcomed the gathering. The Conference was formally inaugurated by Prof. Arul Marianathan, former Principal of T.B.M.L. College, Porayar. In his inaugural address, Prof. Arul Marianathan lauded the contributions of the Christian missionaries in nation building and also requested the CHAI authorities to launch a CHAI website. Rev. Dr. Arthur Jeyakumar in his presidential address stressed the need to promote Christian Scholars and requested the Church Historians to disseminate knowledge. Dr. Jothipakiam, one of the organizing committee members, thanked the chief guest and the CHAI Delegates. The inaugural session concluded with a short prayer.
On 30th morning, after breakfast, the Delegates proceeded to Tranquebar. On the way, a few moments were spent in silence while visiting the mass burial ground of the Tsunami victims. More than 4000 people are buried there, and a memorial is being erected. The whole day was spent in Tranquebar. Rev. V. Gunalan Packiaraj, Pastor, New Jerusalem Church, welcomed the Delegates. One-hour prayer service was held in the church and the pastor preached the sermon. The melodious voice of the T.B.M.L. College Choir took all the Delegates to a heavenly experience. Rev. Dr. Arthur Jeyakumar shared his experiences in Tranquebar and congratulated the pastor and the Christians for having done a marvelous job by restoring and beautifying the New Jerusalem Church. The prayer service was concluded with a prayer and benediction by Rev. Dr. Arthur Jeyakumar. Fr. Francis Thonippara thanked the pastor and the T.B.M.L. College Choir for the melodious hymns and inspiring prayer service. All paid glorious tributes to the veteran missionary Rev. Bartholomaeus Ziegenbalg, who is buried inside the New Jerusalem Church. CHAI Delegates also found time to go around and enjoy the beauty of the church.
After a short tea break, the academic session began. Since the main thrust of the Conference was to commemorate the 3rd centenary of the arrival of Rev. Ziegenbalg and Rev. Heinrich Pleutschau, the 5th centenary of the birth of St. Francis Xavier and the 4th centenary of the de Nobili Mission in Madurai, papers were mainly on these topics. Prof. Charles Dias, Mrs. Anto Florence, Dr. K.N. John, Prof. George Menachery, Rev. Dr. Sammuel Jayakumar, Dr. Mathew Thomas, Rev. Dr. Arthur Jeyakumar, Dr. P. Jothipackiam and Prof. P. Maria Lazar presented papers during the Conference days of Septermber 30th and October 1st.
After tea break all proceeded to the statue of Rev. Bartholomaeus Ziegenbalg for a group photo. Delegates also had time to visit the Danish Fort and Museum, the Zion Church and the Danish burial ground, the residence of Rev. Ziegenbalg and his pioneering field of activities.
Then the Delegates proceeded to Porayar, Gnanapoo Illam, a home for the orphan and destitute girls. The Manager of Gnanapoo Illam, Prof. Kumudavalli Peter welcomed the Delegates. The inmates of the Illam presented cultural programmes for the CHAI Delegates. Dinner was sponsored by Gnanapoo Illam. A video show on the life and activities of Rev. Ziegenbalg was shown, which was both informative and inspiring. Rev. D. Jeremiah thanked the Gnanapoo Illam authorities and inmates for the sumptuous dinner and for the cultural evening. By 11.30 pm all reached Vailankanni for night rest.
On 1st October the Session began at 9.30 am and two more papers were presented. After the papers, the Delegates were given time to evaluate the Conference and few representatives spoke on the occasion.
At 10.30 am the Business Session of the Southern Branch was chaired by the Secretary-Treasurer as the President Dr. Vincent Kumaradoss was absent due to personal indisposition. The Secretary-Treasurer presented a brief report. The new office-bearers of CHAI, Southern Branch were elected unanimously after the names were presented by Prof. George Menachery, the head of the Nomination Committee made up of himself, Dr. Jothipackiam, and Rev. Jeremiah. The new office– bearers thus elected are the following:
President: Dr. P. Manasseh
Secretary cum Treasurer: Rev. Dr. Francis Thonippara, cmi
Associate Secretary: Prof. Maria Lazar
Executive Body Members:
Rev. Dr. Samuel Jayakumar
Dr. Charles Dias
Rev. Gladson Jathanna
The new office-bearers were then presented to the Assembly and congratulated.
I would like to place on record my special thanks and appreciation to Dr. Vincent Kumaradoss, our former President, who could not be present for the Conference due to ill health. I remember with gratitude our dynamic Associate Secretary, Rev. Jeremiah and all the Executive Body members.
. All the Delegates were greatly appreciative of the arrangements and full of praise for the Organizing Committee: Prof. P. Maria Lazar (convener), Dr. P. Jothipackiam, Rev. Fr. A. Stephen Raj, Prof. B. Jeyaraj Ponnaiah, Prof R. Sekaran and Prof. D. Julius Vijayakumar (members). On behalf of the Southern Branch, I register my sincere appreciation and thanks to all the members of the various committees and sub-committees for their role in making the Conference a great event.
Special thanks to Vailankanni Shrine authorities for allowing us to make use of the Shrine Campus for our Conference. With deep sentiments of gratitude I appreciate the generous services of staff, students and choir members of TBML College, Porayar and the Manager of Gnanapoo Illam, Porayar.
I cannot complete this report without thanking all our benefactors and sponsors. I remember with deep gratitude CHAI Andhra Pradesh, the Provincial of the Jesuit Madurai Province, Tamil Nadu, Christ College Bangalore and Local organizing committee whose meticulous way of functioning could find excess income for the smooth conduct of the Conference. The Local Organizing Committee could collect a total amount of Rs. 48360/-including Registration fees, out of which Rs. 10,000 was contributed to the Central Fund. Secretary-Treasurer could raise Rs. 25,000, including Rs. 10,000 contribution from CHAI, Andhra Pradesh. From the Central Fund only Rs. 11250 was spent for the Conference. Rest of the expenses were met by the Local Organizing Committee either by way of sponsorship or by donations. I am happy to conclude this report with a positive note by saying that financially the Southern Branch is in a good position.
I thank each member of CHAI Southern Branch for the trust you placed on me. I expect your valuable coöperation and let us make our Branch the most vibrant one.
With warm regards,
Fr. Francis Thonippara, CMI,
Secretary– Treasurer, CHAI Southern Branch