Welcome to Hospitaller Order of St. John of God St. Thomas Province, India

Hospitaller Order of
St. John of God


God, in his great plan, was preparing two persons to be his instruments in bringing the gift of Hospitality to India. They were Servant of God Mar Mathew Kavukatt (July 17, 1904 – October 9, 1969), the Archbishop of Changanacherry, and Servant of God Bro. Fortunatus Thanhäuser, the Vice-Provincial of the Hospitaller Order in Frankfurt, Germany.

Remote Preparation

While he was the Archbishop of Changanacherry, Mar Mathew Kavukatt visited the ‘Tiber Island Hospital’ of the Hospitaller Order in Rome. Impressed by the services of the Order, he met the Prior General and invited the Brothers to his Archdiocese. But the General informed him that a foundation in India would only be possible if a Province came forward to take responsibility for it. {{small photo of Kavukatt}} Bro. Fortunatus had a longstanding dream to plant the Order somewhere in the missions but most of the Brothers were not in favour of this plan. They thought that it was too early and too adventurous to venture into new lands because the Order in Germany was slowly coming out of the ravages caused by the Second World War. {{small photo of Bro. Fortunatus}}

Preparations by Bro. Fortunatus

In the meantime Bro. Fortunatus read much about the missions in India. He decided that if a mission were to be started, it must be in India. Convinced that the “Indian Mission” was the will of God, he courageously faced all opposition. He received the permission of the Provincial Council to start a house in India, and for that purpose to bring candidates from India to form them as Hospitaller Brothers. In order to send candidates from India, he contacted Fr. Thomas Asariparambil, who was in Germany. Fr. Thomas used to accompany Archbishop Mar Mathew Kavukatt in his foreign tours. He informed Bro. Fortunatus that he already knew the Hospitaller Order and that his Archbishop was longing to invite the Order to his diocese in Kerala. In the same year, 1964, Mar Mathew Kavukatt, visited the Provincial House of the Brothers in Frankfurt and discussed in detail the founding of a house in India. (He visited the Brothers again in 1965 & 1967). {{photo of Frankfurt House)) He agreed to send candidates to Frankfurt and invited Bro. Fortunatus to his archdiocese in Kerala. The first to join the Order in Frankfurt was Bro. Savio Padinjarekutte, in 1966.

Visit of Bro. Fortunatus to India

After accepting the invitation of the Archbishop, Bro. Fortunatus visited Kerala (India) in January 1967. On 1st of February 1967, in the Archbishop’s house at Changanacherry, it was agreed to start a house of the Hospitaller Order and a hospital in Kerala. Three places were proposed for the first foundation. Bro. Fortunatus also visited Kattappana.

Story of Kattappana

Kerala is the southern-most state of India. The eastern part of Kerala is a hilly area called ‘High-ranges’. Kattappana, which is 1,000 meters above sea level, belongs to this area. {{map of Kerala, highlighting High-ranges; also very small map of India}} The High-ranges were made up of natural forests. Since 1950 people had been going there in groups from the low ranges, like Pala. They cut bushes and trees and cultivated paddy, coffee, pepper, coconut, etc. Elephants and other wild animals used to come and destroy their crops. So, people made huts on treetops to protect themselves from the animals.

Kattappana of the 1960s

{old photos of Kattappana….}:More than three decades ago, when Bro. Fortunatus Thanhäuser was planning a foundation in India, the whole High-range was a very remote area. The nearest hospital was 110 kilometers away and patients could not be transported there in time due to lack of proper roads. Most of the seriously ill died on the way. Malaria also took the lives of many. There was no electricity or phone. Electricity did not come to Kattappana until 1973. The Vincent de Paul Society and the Franciscan Clarist Sisters of Kattappana were trying their best to start at least a small dispensary. The Archbishop of Changanacherry, Mar Mathew Kavukatt, knew this situation of Kattappana very well. After the visit of Bro. Fortunatus in 1967, Fr Thomas Asariparambil, seeing the possibility of starting a hospital wanted to have it in his native place, Edathwa, near Pala. The people there offered 25 acres of land for the project. But the then Vicar General, Fr. L. J. Chittoor, thought that the new foundation should be at Amboori, a place south of Trivandrum (the capital of Kerala), and some land was purchased for the purpose.

A Timely Intervention

Upon hearing this, Fr. Joseph Meprakarott, the parish priest of Kattappana, contacted the Archbishop and talked with Fr. Thomas Asariparambil and Fr. L.J. Chittoor. Finally all were convinced of the need to have the hospital at Kattappana itself. So, Kattappana was selected as the most suitable place for the new foundation. The Archbishop entrusted Fr. Joseph Meprakarott to take necessary steps for the construction of the hospital. Fr. Meprakarott bought land for the Brothers in 1967, at Kumbukkal (near the parish church) and where the present St. John’s Hospital is situated, and did everything for the construction of a hospital. Finally His Grace Mar Mathew Kavukatt laid the foundation stone for the hospital, on 27th June 1968.

Brothers Come to Kattappana

Bro. Fortunatus resigned his position as Vice-provincial and prepared himself to come to India. Two young Brothers, Alfonse M. Höring and Werenfried Diel, came forward and started preparations to come to Kerala. The first two Brothers, Bro. Fortunatus Thanhäuser and Bro. Prakash Madappally, reached Kattappana on 19th November 1969, and received a very warm welcome. The Community of St. John of God at Kattappana and the St. John's Hospital at Kattappana have had a steady growth over the years. (The story of the different communities and centres of the Order in India are dealt with elsewhere in separate articles).

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Provincial . Councillors . Commissions . Province (Policy) Directory-2012 . Statistics . Deshgaon St.Johns Health Centre,M.P . Kattappana . Pratheeksha Bhavan At Kattappana . Co-workers . On Brother Fortunatus . The Spirituality of the Order(Resume by Brother Brain) . Commission for Fund-raising . Prayers to Our Lady .