Sandesanilayam Catechetical Centre
Catechetical activity is the sure sign of the life of a church. But its means and methods vary from time to time. With the establishment of the Vicariate in 1887 the prelates were very eager and earnest in imparting true faith to the flock. Particular attention was shown for the faith formation of children and youngsters.
With the appointment of Mar Mathew Kavukattu as the bishop in 1950 the catechetical ministry acquired increased momentum. In 1958 Fr. Mathew Nadackal, a zelous priest was appointed full time director of the catechetical activities in the archdiocese. With this appointment the first diocesan catechetical centre in India came into existence. The centre was named Sadesanilayam in 1967 with a great vision to co-ordinate all the pastoral and catechetical activities in the archdiocese. It was the vision of Rev. Dr. George Vavanikunnel that made it possible. Rev. Fr. Joseph Powathil (later the Metropolitan Archbishop) and Rev. Dr. Antony Nirappel gave him active support and full co-operation. The active involvement of enlightened laymen in the ministry of faith formation is praise worthy. The first prominent figure to help Fr. Nadackal was Thomas Sebastian Valiaparampil as the catechetical secretary. Imbibing the spirit of Vatican II, Sandesanilayam concentrated on the liturgical formation of the people of God.
From 1969 onwards, Baby John Bhagavatar played a prominent role in the propagation of liturgical music. Though Sandesanilayam aimed also at adult catechesis in the early years, its attention gradually shifted to sunday school catechism for children as well as the training of catechists. The formulation of liturgical catechesis is the greatest achievement of this Catechetical Centre in the post – Vatican era. It is indeed the ideal form of Catechesis in the Oriental Church traditions. Archbishop Mar Joseph Powathil was the prime-mover of such an achievement. The present Archbishop Metropolitan Mar Joseph Perumthottam was the Director of the centre between 1979-83. During his stewardship, ecclesial and liturgical training for catechists was initiated, along with publication of books for teaching liturgy, history and spiritual patrimony of the Syro-Malabar Church. Those who followed him continued to develop the centre along these lines.
Sandesanilayam took a radical initiative at the dawn of the new millennium by implementing the scheme of Vishwasolsavam, a student centred and activity oriented faith formation programme for ten days during the mid summer vacation. As the text books for this scheme were prepared with the liturgical seasons as the background, it reinforced liturgical catechesis as the suitable and necessary form of faith formation. During its Golden Jubilee year (2008), this Centre has been making determined efforts towards a more effective process of faith formation to the students. As the minds and hearts of the youth are now being conquered by the electronic and digital media, Catechism also has to be updated to utilise the opportunities that it provides. Thus Sandesanilayam has opened a Media Centre with state- of-the-art equipments and have launched a one year course named Media of Communication and Catechetics (MCC) for catechists.