Missionary who took communication ministry to tribal villages dies

Father Mathew Poovanpuzha

By Matters India Reporter

New Delhi, September 2, 2019: The Indian Catholic Press Association has mourned the death of a Divine World missionary who brought the Church’s communication of ministry to interior tribal villages of Odisha, eastern India.

Hundreds of people attended the funeral services of Father Mathew Poovanpuzha on August 31 at St. Arnold’s Church in the Jharsuguda town of Odisha. His mortal remains were interred at the SVD Cemetery in Shanti Bhavan Campus , the SVD Provincial House in the same town.

Father Poovanpuzha died on August 29 due to cardio-respiratory problems at St Mary’s Hospital, Jharsuguda. He was 75.

“Confreres remember him as a good actor and a singer, who was studious, punctual and communitarian in his outlook,” says an obituary note from the provincial house.

Capuchin Father Suresh Mathew, editor of the Indian Currents weekly and secretary of the Indian Catholic Press Association, noted Father Poovanpuzha was active member of the association for several years. “Sad to inform you that Fr Mathew Poovanpuzha, SVD , a member of the ICPA, passed away on 29 August 2019,” he said in his condolence message sent to all members.

The SVDs credit him with the development of the communications ministry in its Eastern Indian province. He “developed the Communication Centre at Jharsuguda to the level of the Regional Communication Centre. He reached every parish the mission with his ‘mobile theater,” the obituary note says.

Father Poovanpuzha, who was fondly called Poovan, showed religious films to the villagers. He also prepared many audio-visual programs and conducted several training programs in journalism and communication. “He had prepared the ground for the present Arnold Vikas Sanchar at Jharsuguda, before he switched over to other ministries,” the note says.

Father Poovan has served all mission centers in the province. “A man for all jobs he has been provincial councilor, rector, parish priest, formator, spiritual director, teacher, and communicator.

He made a mark as a good formator of the local clergy for the Church of Odisha serving two terms as the rector of Khristo Jyoti Mohavidyaloyo (Regional Theologate) at Sason, Sambalpur. As the spiritual director and teacher of the novices at Asha Niketan for several years, he became “guru” to 14 batches of Handmaids of Mary Sisters, the SVD province note says.

Father Poovan was born on February 11, 1944, at Mattakkara in the diocese of Palai, Kerala. He was the eldest of two girls and six boys.

After completing the matric, he joined the SVD at Palda, in 1960, and by 1963 completed his Juniorate and Intermediate. From 1963 to 1965, he did his Novitiate at Khurda and professed his first vows in 1965.

He studied theology at Jnana Deepa Vidyapeeth, Pune, and professed his final vows in 1971. He was ordained a priest on October 26, 1973, at Changanacherry, Kerala.

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