Rev. Dr. Abraham Mulamoottil was born as the fifth of six children to Mariamma Varughese and M. V. Varughese—on November 24, 1954 and was baptised on 16 December 1954. It was usual at that time the admissions to schools were done sans papiers. So, official documents like passport, etc. carry his birthday as 15th May 1954. Even as a young boy his active and inquisitive mind was naturally drawn towards the various facets of science and technology. This fascination with science, developed through the years, has played a key role in the formation of his ideas and principles. These ideas have been the driving force of his tireless efforts to work for the advancement of his fellow Indians.
Joining the Seminary
Dr. Mulamoottil’s then parish priest, Fr. Alexander Arakkapadavil, played an important role in his life, particularly during his formative years. Fr. Arakkapadavil through his words and deeds inspired the young lad to emulate him by embracing the vocation of priesthood. So, after completing his schooling at M.G.M. High School, Tiruvalla, the young Abraham joined the I.M.M minor seminary, Tiruvalla in 1970 to pursue his chosen vocation. His good marks in science subjects in school helped him to acquire admission in S. B. College, Changanacherry in first group (Maths, Physics, Chemistry) for pre-degree.
His career as a priest started as an assistant parish priest in 1981 and later became the vicar of St. George, Chakundu, Palakkad District, St. Marys Kombazha, Trichur Dist., St. Marys, Pandankary, Alleppey Dist., St. Josephs, Niranam, St. Marys, Mannar East, St. Catherine, Mannar West, St. Marys, Thalavady North & South and St. Antony’s Church Pullad, Pathanamthitta Dist.
He was appointed Director of Family Apostolate of the Diocese of Tiruvalla in 1984 and started a unit of the Council for Catholic Women of India (CCWI) at Tiruvalla. In 1986, he was made the Director, Malankara Catholic Youth Movement (MCYM) and later in 1987, started Catholic Study Circle (CSC), the for-runner of the Malankara Catholic Association (MCA). He founded Jesus Camp, a summer vacation camp (1987) for children and eventually, he was appointed as the Director, Department of Catechesis in 1989 and the Rector, Tiruvalla Pastoral and Catechetical Centre (Shanthi Nilayam). During his tenure he constructed a new building for Shanthi Nilayam (Mar Theophilos Block) which was inaugurated in 1991. He was an elected member of the Senate of Priests and Member of the Diocesan Eparchial Council for several terms.
After returning from Leuven, Belgium in 1998, he was appointed Chancellor of the Catholic Diocese of Tiruvalla. He was a Visiting Professor of St Mary’s Malankara Major Seminary, Trivandrum was a Member, Theology Commission, Kerala Bishops’ Conference, Coordinator, Kristu Jayanthi (Jubilee 2000), First Secretary to the Commission for Catechesis, Malankara Catholic Bishops’ Council and Director, Higher & Technical Education, Catholic Diocese of Tiruvalla. He served at Pushpagiri Hospital as Administrator in 1999 and re-joined as Chairman and Chief Executive in 2011. In 2000, was appointed as the Executive Director of St. John’s Cathedral Reconstruction. He founded MACFAST College in 2001.
At the minor seminary as well as at the major seminary thereafter, his love for music and his mellifluous voice made him well known as a singer. His immense talent resulted in the authorities entrusting him with several key positions in the music ministry including the Choir Master of the Apostolic Major Seminary at Vadavathoor, Kottayam from 1973 to 1980.
His aptitude and love for music continued to flourish after his ordination inspiring him, among other things, to release a Christian devotional songs cassette and improvise the songs of the Malankara Liturgy in particular the “Oxios” song of the consecration of a Bishop. He made new music for the Holy Mass of Malankara Catholic Church and conducted several Choirs of the Diocesan Programmes, Anthem of MCYM, Jesus Camp etc. In 1981 he started Wings Orchestra, Tiruvalla, and associated with the Madhurima Music School Tiruvalla and other Orchestras in Kerala. In 1988 he produced a Malayalam Devotional Music Album – Divya Prakasam. In 1998, he had the opportunity to use his musical talent to conduct the joint Malayalam choir of Malankara and Malabar Church during a Holy Mass for the closing of the Special Assembly of the Synod of Bishops of Asia held at St. Peter’s Basilica in the Vatican. The (late) Pope John Paul II was the main celebrant at this Eucharistic Celebration. http://www.ucanews.com/story-archive/?post_name=/1998/05/18/pope-john-paul-closes-synod-for-asia-with-solemn-mass-and-farewell-lunch&post_id=11436 Eventually, he used to conduct along with Tiruvalla Gopalakrishnan (Violinist) “Hundred Member orchestra” in Tiruvalla as part of National Integration Day programmes, Onam Celebrations, Tiruvalla Public Stadium Promotion Programmes, etc. His interest in music also affected his decision in the establishment of Radio Macfast 90. 4. FM in 2009.
Back to “God’s Own Country”
His initial interactions with the Europeans in Belgium increased his awareness of their perception of India. He realized that they looked upon India as a country that fell from pre-colonization glory to post colonization misery. During his seven year stay in Europe, however, he began noticing a gradual change in this outlook in the 1990s. As India advanced in the field of information technology (IT), the Europeans realized that India was going to be an IT powerhouse.
Prompted by India’s emergence on the global IT scene and inspired by Teilhard’s idea of self worth and Levinas’ philosophy of responsibility towards the Other, he returned to India in 1998 with a vision to help further India’s global standing. This vision sowed the seeds of the MACFAST (Mar Athanasios College for Advanced Studies Tiruvalla) college. Although a college with any of the routine pure science disciplines such as Physics or Chemistry would have helped further scientific knowledge among his fellow Indians, it would not make them competitive globally. Knowing this he decided to offer unconventional disciplines such as Bioinformatics, Food Science and Technology, Plant Biotechnology, and Phytomedical Science and Technology, at MACFAST. In his decision to start a college offering courses in modern disciplines, he was guided by an idea he has followed most of his life, “marginal hermeneutics” (interpreting tradition from the margins). In keeping with tradition he decided to start a college but at the same time he broke away from tradition by choosing to offer non-traditional courses. Upon returning to India, he set to work earnestly to make the MACFAST idea a reality. He also renewed his active involvement in the Diocese of Tiruvalla after a seven year hiatus by taking up the positions of Diocesan Chancellor and vicar of St. Anthony’s parish, Pullad.
St. John’s Cathedral
It was during this time that the Bishop of Tiruvalla, Geevarghese Mar Timotheos and his auxiliary Bishop Thomas Mar Koorilos entrusted him with the task of overseeing the rebuilding of St. John’s Cathedral at Tiruvalla. It was a case of history repeating itself for the Mulamoottil family because it was his father who oversaw the construction of the earlier St. John’s Cathedral. He therefore regarded it as highly providential that he was entrusted with this task and accepted it wholeheartedly.
Administrator of the Pushpagiri and the Idea of Medical College
The process of making MACFAST a reality and rebuilding the St. John’s Cathedral were interrupted when he became the Administrator of the Pushpagiri Hospital in 1999. While at Pushpagiri, he began negotiations with the then Health Minister Mr. V. C. Kabir to develop the hospital into a Medical College, an initiative that became a reality when Pushpagiri gained recognition as a Medical College in 2002.
In 2001, ill health prompted him to resign as Administrator of Pushpagiri Hospital. However, as the saying goes, “Every cloud has a silver lining” and the cloud of ill health brought with it the opportunity for him to take up two projects close to his heart. Pushpagiri’s loss was MACFAST’s and St. John’s Cathedral’s gain: MACFAST opened its doors to the first batch of students in 2001 and St. John’s Cathedral was consecrated on September 21, 2004.
Like MACFAST, St John’s Cathedral is a testimony to his application of marginal hermeneutics. He broke from tradition by constructing a Church that has a temple-like exterior but conformed to tradition with a conventional Church interior. Some of the traditional aspects (albeit not traditional for a Church) that were integrated with Christian theology to construct the present day St. John’s Cathedral are Kerala Vastuvidya and Vaidika Vastu (i.e. Kerala architecture and temple architecture) and Eastern (Syrian) Christian tradition. At this point it would only be apt to digress and delve into some of the key facets of the St. John’s Cathedral.
Since the construction of the first Malankara Catholic Church in 1930, the structure has undergone five iterations. The current St. John’s Cathedral is the 5th version constructed to rectify some of the drawbacks of the 1972 structure such as a leaking roof, potentially unsafe wooden structure, and construction defects leading to high maintenance costs. Even though the primary purpose of reconstructing the Cathedral was to overcome the drawbacks mentioned above, the new structure has emerged as a building of monumental value on Kerala’s landscape. It has a more beautiful architectural design, is cost effective, and environment friendly.
God in search of man, man in search of God, and man in search of the Other
A major attraction in the Church’s interior is the depiction of biblical themes in stained glass. Three key premises that are shown through these biblical themes are: God in search of man, man in search of God, and man in search of the Other. His objective in choosing such a structure was to provide a place of leisure, ecumenism, and prayer that facilitates inter-generational and inter-faith interaction.
An Agent for Social Change
He started social service projects early in 1980 after his first appointment as an assistant parish priest in Chakkundu, Plaght District, and Kombazha, Trichur District. In Kombazha and Chakkundu, he was engaging himself with social issues like alcoholism, abuse and social inequality. Social awareness programmes were conducted in small gatherings, so he bought an Ahuja public addressing system which was not available in the area at that time. He started the campaign for making electricity available in Kombazha. His priestly ministry was transferred to Tiruvalla, Niranam, Pandakary in 1983. In 1984, he started at Niranam Panchayath and Pandankery village housing for the poor and encouraged people to start cow farming to earn extra income for families. He started a Cooperative Milk Society at Niranam, Tiruvalla, now it is the biggest Milk Society in Pathanamthitta District. To increase rice cultivation having second and third crops and to connect two towns, Edathua, Alleppey District and Ninaram, Pathanamthitta District, he started in 1988 the construction of Dyke (bund) from Vattadi to Edathua in Pandankary Village by receiving funds from CEBEMO, The Netherland, and now, it has become main rural road connecting the people to these towns.
The Involvement in Social Organisation
He joined YMCA as a Member, and later became the Vice-President of YMCA, Tiruvalla. During his tenure, VIKAS School for Diiferntly Abled Children was established. He was selected as the President of Central Travancore Maholsov which conducts Cultural Programmes during Onam Season. Later he became the Founder President, Central Travancore Development Society, Tiruvalla and conducted Tiruvalla Pooram, for 5 years. He was nominated as the Treasurer of the Landless and Homeless Project by Most Rev. Dr. Philipose Mar Chrysostom under whose leadership rehabilitation of 34 families who were evicted by the Railways were given land and house. He became the President of the Central Travancore Development Society - Registered (P. 332/2006- July, 6th, 2006). He is still a Member, Y’s Men Club, Tiruvalla. He was elected as the President, All Kerala Management Schools’ Association and Treasurer, All Kerala Association of the Self-Financing (MCA) Colleges. He started an agency called MACFAST Films to bring the famous film “The Passion of Christ” to Kerala. He initiated the Clean and Green Tiruvalla – An initiative to promote Clean and Green awareness – From NIMBY (Not In My Backyard) to IMBY (In My Backyard) - Segregation of Resources and Greening in a Decentralized Method at the Micro Level. A Joint Venture of Tiruvalla Municipality and MACFAST.