FAITH FORMATION IN THE EPARCHY OF KOTHAMANGALAM
The eparchy of Kothamangalam was established in 1956 by Pope Pius XII, bifurcating the eparchy of Ernakulam. The new eparchy included the foranes of Kothamangalam, Mailacombu and Arakuzha. Rt. Rev. Mgr. Mathew Pothanamuzhy was appointed the first bishop of the eparchy.
Among the various pastoral activities faith formation was given prime importance. Rev. Fr. Varghese Mothakunnel was in charge of the catechetical activities. He divided the whole diocese in to seven zones, viz., Kothamangalam, Arakuzha, Mailacombu, Muthalakodam, Karimannoor, Vazhakulam and Marika, to make the activities systematic and more effective. Faith education was given to students dividing them in to three groups, viz., Lower Primary, Upper Primary and High School. A centralized system of conducting examinations was also adopted.
Rev. Fr. John Vallamattam assumed the office of director in 1960. The office was given the name Vijnanabhavan. In 1973 Rev. Fr. Mathew Valiamattam was appointed as the director of Vijnanabhavan.
From 1977 onwards the catechetical activities in the diocese gathered new momentum under the patronage and guidance of the new Bishop Rt. Rev. Dr. George Punnakottil. Rev. Fr. Mathew Valiamattam (1973-1981), Rev. Fr. George Oliappuram (1981-1985) and Rev. Fr. George Kottoor (1985-1987) served as directors successively for a decade. Vijnanabhavan Book Stall was the initiative of Rev. Fr. Joseph Mulanjanani who assumed the office of director in 1987. Rev. Fr. Cherian Varikattu (1993-1994), and Rev. Fr. Jose Kizhakkel (1994-1997) served as directors in succession and contributed much to the catechetical formation of the students of the diocese. Rev. Fr. Stanley Kunnel, after his specialization in catechesis, assumed the office of director in 1997. The bifurcation of the diocese in 2002 necessitated a rearrangement of the zonal divisions. The whole faith formation was focused around seven regions, viz., Kothamangalam, Muvattupuzha, Vazhakulam, Thodupuzha, Muthalakkodam, Karimannoor and Paingottoor. Fr. Stanley also rendered exquisite service as the joint secretary of the Synodal Commission for Catechesis during the period from 2004 to 2011.
Rev. Fr. Jose Arackal was the director from 2006-2009. He successfully introduced the one week intensive program called Viswasolsav. The catechetical department of Changanacherry has been giving constant support and assistance in the introduction of the scheme and the preparation of the text books.
Rev. Fr. George Thekkekara is serving as the director of Vijnanabhavan from 2009 onwards. Now the forane system is given prominence and the catechetical activities are focused around twelve foranes. The whole Sunday schools are divided into A, B, and C sections, taking into account the number of students, and cash awards and trophies are given to the best three Sunday schools in each section. The efforts to rejuvenate the entire field of catechesis are going on with the help of forane directors. The catechetical committee was also reorganized making it a representative body of forane directors and forane representatives and other nominated and ex-officio members.
At present there are 117 Sunday school units and altogether 29940 students of which 14837 are boys and 15103 are girls. Of the 1763 teachers, 537 are nuns and 1226 are lay teachers (450 gent and 776 lady teachers), who render their selfless service to educate children in faith. The classes are held for 1 ½ hours every Sunday under the effective guidance of each parish priest.