KOONAMMAVU: Where lies the mortal remains of Fr Kuriakose Elias Chavara - Is it at Koonammavu or Mannanam? The controversy that erupted many years ago is still afresh. But, that does not deter the faithful from visiting the St Philomena’s Church, where the tomb of Fr Chavara could be seen on the right side of the altar.
In front of the ‘Ashram’ inside the St Philomena’s Church, there stands two mango trees planted by him. Every year, it comes to full bloom. His room at the Ashram, where he spent the last seven years of his life, has been preserved well. Fr Antony Cheriyakkadavil, vicar of the St Philomena’s Church, narrates the story that explains the reason behind the room being kept intact, even after the other parts of Ashram were renovated.
“In 1949, the then Archbishop of Verapoly Joseph Attippetti issued an order to renovate the age-old ashram. A contractor named Anthikkattu Thommi was entrusted with the task. Workers started dismantling the Ashram from one side. When they were about to pull down Fr Chavara’s room, they felt lethargy invading them all of a sudden. Subsequently, the work was put on hold for the day. In the night on the same day, the then vicar of the church Fr Joseph Pallathusseri had a dream, wherein he received a message not to pull down the room of Fr Chavara. When the vicar was about to run an errand to the Archbishop, a messenge from the latter reached the church not to demolish the room. In 1950, a man named Thommi Kunjappu frequented his tomb to pray with his nephew Rocky, whose inner thighs were grossly infected. Miraculously, the boy was cured completely. In 1958, Fr Kuriakose Elias Chavara was declared a ‘servant of God’,” he said.
Fr Chavara came to Koonammavu as the Vicar General in 1864. “He was appointed in-charge of the Ashram in the parish. It could not have been possible without the staunch support of the then Archbishop Bernard Becchinelli, vicar Fr Leopold and brother Rocky,” said Fr Varghese Edathel, former assistant parish priest of the St Philomena’s Church.
On the controversy surrounding Fr Chavara’s tomb, they said, “the CMI priests left no stone unturned to give him the best treatment. But, when the illness aggravated, he was shifted to Ambalakkad. When that did not work, the CMI priests asked him to return to Mannanam as Ambalakkad was closer to Mannanam. But, he insisted on going back to Koonammavu. Hence, we strongly believe that he was buried here.”