India’s “gutter priest” passes away
By: Matters India Reporter
Ernakulam: Fr. George Koottickal, who founded a congregation to care for vagabonds and deranged people, died in the early hours of December 20. He was 64.
The founder director of the Friends of the Birds of the Air (FBA) was undergoing treatment for some time for liver disease at a private hospital in Ernakulam. He was discharged mid December, but his condition deteriorated while recovering at Marvallah Dayara Ashram in Malayattoor, Kerala.
Fr. Koottickal, a member of the Missionary Congregation of the Blessed Sacrament, was inspired to work for the poor after observing the meticulous care given by a group of naturalists who were closely studying Siberian birds at Bharatpur Bird Sanctuary at Rajasthan in 1983.
These naturalists showed such genuine love and concern for the birds by naming, numbering and maintaining medical reports which were sent to their Siberian counterparts before the birds would return to their motherland.
This gesture of love and concern expressed to these birds of the air was a great moment of divine inspiration to Fr. Koottickal. He was reminded of the thousands of human beings abandoned by everyone on the streets whom he considered to be created in God’s own likeness and image. Many of them die on the streets.
It is these forsaken human beings that inspired Fr. Koottickal to name his mission ” The Birds of the Air”
FBA works to reach out to people who are in crisis with depression, addiction to smoking, alcohol and drugs, those with behavioural problems or suicidal tendencies.
The first unit of FBA at Chennaippara (Thrissur, Kerala), functioning as a training and retreat centre was inaugurated by St Mother Teresa of Calcutta on July 19, 1994. Thereafter similar units of FBA have been formed at different states in India.