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Strict Discipline Is Not For Discipline’s Sake: Fr. Dr. Bijesh Philip, Principal, STOTS

The Opening Address delivered at STOTS for the Academic Year 2010 by the Principal, STOTS Nagapur, Fr. Dr. Bijesh Philip

Wish you all a blessed feast day of our Patron Saint. As usual we begin the academic year of the Seminary this year also on St. Thomas Day. There are people who question the relevance of celebrating the feast of St. Thomas on July 3rd. For the Persian Church it might have been a celebration of reception of the relics of St. Thomas from India and its dedication in Edessa. However, the Indian Church shall not need to lose any opportunity to remember the apostle, who was instrumental in laying the foundation of our Church. On July 3rd we can proclaim the indisputable fact, namely the founding of our Church through the most venturing Apostle of Jesus Christ in spite of any strong mortal remains in India, we cherish a powerful memory of St. Thomas.

Our Seminary has been named after St. Thomas. H.G. Dr. Sthephanos Mar Theodosius who had a remarkable devotion to St. Thomas, used to remind the Seminary community about the sacrificial missionary commitment of St. Thomas. He exhorted us to emulate the deep commitment of St. Thomas to our Lord and the consequent missionary zeal of him. Once Theodosius Thirumeni highlighted a positive reasoning for the absence of St. Thomas when our Lord appeared to the disciples: While other apostles were frightened to go out, St. Thomas was able to move around boldly without fearing persecution for being a disciple of Christ. May the intercession and example of St. Thomas be an inspiration and support to our Seminary.

Special priestly formation in the context of Outer Kerala Region(OKR) for some of the future leaders of our church was the dream of many laymen, priests and a couple of bishops. H.G. Dr. Sthephanos Mar Theodosius was an ardent supporter of this dream. Specially catering to the needs of the Diaspora and also a deep concern for the poor and marginalized of the society were the basic ingredients of the original vision of Seminary and the Seminary has been trying to uphold the vision from its inception onwards. However honestly speaking, the seminary cannot claim that it is completely successful in imparting such training. It is also doubtful whether some of the students who pass out from here uphold this dream in their ministry.

The Seminary, which started in Bhilai in 1995, was shifted to Nagpur, the Centre of India in 1999. From 99 onwards our beloved and respected Dr. Reji Mathew Achan was serving as the Principal of the Seminary. As per his request the Holy Episcopal Synod permitted him to be relieved from STOTS and serve at OTS Kottayam. Achan`s dedicated service to the Seminary contributed to the manifold developments and progress in the Seminary. We can further remember with gratitude his services when we arrange a farewell meeting to him on 30th of this month.

It is a matter of great joy that our bursar Fr. Dr. George Pulikkottil has been consecrated as Metropolitan with the name Geevarghese Mar Yulios. When H.G. Mar Yulios comes to the seminary on July 5th, seminary community as a whole can communicate directly our greetings and congratulations to him. Our former Bursar also has become a bishop. As you know H.G. Alexios Mar Eusebius is imparting effective leadership to the Diocese of South West America. His greeting has been posted on the notice board. We do not know what will happen to our next Bursar.

Rev. Fr. Dr. Reji K Geevarghese, NT Professor of our seminary has been appointed as the new Director of Sunday School, Outer Kerala Region of which the office is in the seminary. Let us extend our wholehearted support for a meaningful functioning of Sunday school, OKR. OVBS office of OKR is also functioning in the seminary. Thus seminary is serving as a center not merely for the training of the future priests and missionaries but also for various spiritual organizations to facilitate an overall growth of the Church and its mission. Another pending duty of the seminary is the organization and coordination of the Divyabodhanam program for the OKR.

The seminary training is in such a way thought so as to fulfill the being of students spiritually, mentally and physically. Maximum use of the opportunities in the Chapel, Class rooms and library, games and community work etc will help this holistic development. A deep academic pursuit need to be accompanied by the dedication to the spiritual growth. The Church is looking for priests who radiate Christ with their love, holiness and Wisdom.

Practice of community living is an integral part of the Seminary training. By staying in an isolated island forever it is difficult to follow Christ. It is by facing the challenges in the community that we have to practice the teachings of Christ on love, forgiveness and concern for the weak. In a Kingdom-of-God-atmosphere it is essential to encourage not merely the fittest but even the weakest also so that all could grow for the glory of God.

There are some who do not imbibe the message of the Cross of our Lord even after long Seminary training and they try just to be successful by hook or by crook. They may achieve success in a worldly perspective but Christ and his Gospel fail in them. We wish that you all will be ready to lose certain temporary achievements for the success of Christ.

Hope that none of you will expect any compromise regarding strict discipline in academic matters, spiritual life and all aspects of Community Life. Strict discipline is not for discipline’s sake but for helping you to have an atmosphere to grow in sanctification, and to acquire wisdom earnestly and thus to be fully equipped to be effective ministers in our Church. However without certain rules and external disciplines the faculty will never be able to ensure a loving relationship with Christ, the warmth of the fellowship in the community and a deep social commitment. For these your sincere initiative and dedication is inevitable.

Since I was out of country, I could not attend the ordination of our final year students. Joining the Seminary community as a whole I extend hearty congratulations to all our deacons. I wish that you could be perfect examples to your junior students. We are happy to welcome all of you and especially the first year students to the Seminary. We wish you a fruitful and blessed New Year here. It is historical that this year we have an ordained priest as a student. Rev. Fr. K. V. Paul, a member of the Pathanapuram Ashram, the Principal of a secular college, joins STOTS as a B.D student.

After having general orientation for three days and retreat for two days, formal classes will begin on coming Thursday after Holy Qurbana. A Schedule for these days has been posted on the notice board.

The retreat leader of this year is our beloved Vice Principal Rev. Fr. Ninan. K. George. Since the inception of this Seminary he has been serving dedicatedly in various capacities. It is a blessing that he has kindly agreed to lead us in meditation.

I wish that the seminary training be a joyous experience for all of you. The secret of true happiness is not positions, possessions or sensual pleasures but it is an ardent love towards God and submission to His will. Blaise Pascal, the famous philosopher says: “True happiness is not found outside or even inside of us. It is found only in God. When we find God, happiness is everywhere.” When St. Paul asks us “to bring every thought into captivity to the obedience of Christ” (2 Cor 10.5), he was guiding us to experience true happiness.

We have a healthy relationship with our Old Seminary, Kottayam and send our students there for one semester. Hope that a day will come soon, when Old seminary will also send one full batch of students to STOTS too.

H.G. Geevarghese Mar Coorilose was not able to be with us due to various reasons. So H.G has sent us a very encouraging Kalpana, which is posted on the notice board. Added to that, he will visit us on 29th of this month and stay with us for a couple of days. We are grateful to him for his concern towards the seminary.

Learning and light are closely associated in all cultures especially in the Indian culture. While coming for kissing the hand, you will be given a lighted candle indirectly telling you to be lighted through the seminary training. You are not to be channels of darkness from outside to the seminary community or to the core of your being but you are supposed to take light from this seminary at the centre of this nation to other parts of the country and to the rest of the world.

Seeking the intercessions of St. Thomas, St. Gregorios and St. Dionysius and visionary bishops like H. G. Philipose Mar Theophilos, H.G Paulos Mar Gregorios, H.G. Stephanos Mar Theodosius who supported the formation of this seminary with a glorious dream, and requesting the prayerful support of all of you for a graceful functioning g of the seminary, I close this opening address.
May God bless us all.