St. Joseph Pontifical Seminary, Mangalapuzha, Aluva, Kerala, India, is the largest major seminary of the Syro-Malabar Church of the St. Thomas Christians and one of the largest major seminaries in the world. It has a history of more than five hundred years and could be considered as the continuation of several seminaries. The present seminary started to function at Mangalapuzha in 1932 as an inter-ritual seminary. It gave formation for the priest candidates of all the dioceses of Kerala and from many different religious congregations. From 1996 onwards the seminary started functioning as the Syro-Malabar Major Seminary.
St. Joseph’s Pontifical Seminary, Mangalapuzha (സെന്റ് ജോസഫ് പൊന്റിഫിക്കല് സെമിനാരി, മംഗലപ്പുഴ) is a Major Seminary of the Syro-Malabar Church of the St. Thomas Christians. It is the continuation of several Seminaries and the outcome of the centralization of the priestly formation in Kerala. It has a long history of untiring service and selfless sacrifice of several missionaries, native clergy and laity.
In 1964 the seminary was raised to Pontifical status by the Holy See. His Excellency Most Rev. Dr. James Robert Knox read the Papal Brief at a public meeting in the seminary on 14 June 1964.The Kerala Catholic Bishops Conference (K.C.B.C.) was entrusted with the direction and administration of the Seminary On 12 June 1976. On 27 October 1973, a formal request was made by the Superior General of the Carmelite Order for the transfer of the direction and administration from the Superior General of the Order to the Catholic Hierarchy of Kerala. On 12 June 1976 the Congregation for the Oriental Churches communicated to the Kerala Catholic Bishop’s Conference the decision of the Congregation for the Oriental churches and the Congregation for the Evangelization of the Peoples to transfer the direction of the seminary to the K.C.B.C. The letters of the Congregations recall the concern of the two Congregations for the well-being and progress of the Pontifical Seminary and its continuance as a model of inter-ritual cooperation. The statutes of the Seminary approved by the two Congregations state ‘St. Joseph’s Pontifical is a pluriritual institution, common to the three Rites, namely the Syro-Malabar, the Latin and the Syro-Malankara. The seminary belongs to the Holy See and its direction and administration is entrusted to the Conference of Bishops of the three Rites of Kerala, subject to the high authority of the Congregation for the Oriental Churches and the Congregation for the Evangelization of the Peoples’.
The request of the KCBC to reorganize the seminary on the basis of the Rites was approved by the Holy See in 1996. Concrete steps for the implementation of the project were taken at the end of the academic year 1996-1997. With academic year 1997-1998 Mangalapuzha section started to function as the Major Seminary of the Syro-Malabar Church. Now the seminary is subject to the Holy See under the Congregation for the Oriental Churches and its direction and administration are entrusted to the Syro-Malabar Major Archiepiscopal Synod.
The objective of the seminary is to provide priestly formation to the seminarians of the Syro-Malabar Eparchies. Members of Religious Institutes and Societies of Apostolic life who are preparing themselves for priestly ministry as well as seminarians of other Eastern Churches may also be admitted according to the availability of accommodation.
The programme of formation given here aims at the development of a fully integrated priestly personality taking into account the human, spiritual, intellectual, pastoral and missionary dimensions of priestly formation. While giving this formation the seminary also gives particular emphasis to the study of traditions and heritages of the Church of St. Thomas Christians and of other Eastern Churches taking into consideration the religious and cultural context of India. The seminary also gives importance to inter religious dialogue particularly with the religions of India. There are also con-curricular activities as part of the seminary formation such as cultural academies to train the students in the art of public speaking, social work in order to create in them concern for the poor, the pastoral work for the Theology students to give them pastoral experience.
Mangalapuzha seminary (മംഗലപ്പുഴ സെമിനാരി) has been blessed with the presence of about 22 resident members of the staff and almost an equal number of visiting staff. Regular staff meetings, prayer sessions and an exclusive annual retreat help to motivate and mobilize them in the desired direction of seminary life and formation.
On February 24, 1972, the congregation for Catholic Education issued a decree erecting a Theological Faculty in the Pontifical Seminary, Alwaye. The first step towards the realization of the plan for a Faculty had been taken on October 1959, when the Congregation issued a decree affiliating the theology department of the Seminary with the Lateran University. With this, the theology department of the Seminary became “Studium Theologicum” which was governed by norms given by the University and a convention between the Rector of the Lateran University and the Rector of the seminary. In April 1971, the Kerala Catholic Bishops’ Council sent a petition to the Congregation for the erection of an autonomous Faculty. On February 24, 1972, the Congregation for Catholic education issued the decree erecting the Theological Faculty in the Pontifical seminary. The decree granted the new Faculty all the rights and privileges which were enjoyed by Theological Faculties. It also empowered the Faculty to confer suitable degrees to students who are successful in their studies and research. The power of conferring the degrees of Bachelor and Master (Licentiate) in theology was explicitly granted. On 15th February 1973, the Pontifical Institute of Theology and Philosophy, Alwaye, was officially inaugurated by His Excellecy, the Most Rev.Dr.John Gordon, the then Apostolic Pro-Nuncio to India. On 25th April 1997, through a decree the congregation for Catholic Education separated the Pontifical Institute from the Pontifical Seminary. At present the Pontifical Institute functions at two separate campuses – Mangalapuzha and Carmelgiri, and offers simultaneously courses of theology and philosophy in both campuses.
At present the Institute is empowered to confer the following degrees. Bachelor of Philosophy; Bachelor of Theology; Master of theology; Doctor of theology. For the degree of Master of theology Spiritual theology, dogmatic theology, Pastoral theology and Counseling and Biblical theology are offered by the Institute as branches of specialization.
Though the St. Joseph’s Pontifical Seminary has been reorganized on the basis of rites(the Mangalapuzha section for the Syro Malabar Church and the Carmeligiri section for the Latins), the Pontifical Institute remains common and is autonomous It is governed by the Kerala Catholic Bishops’ Council.(K.C.B.C.).
The academic community of the seminary is composed of two categories, namely the resident students and the day scholars. The latter have their religious study houses around the seminary and come to the seminary only for class. The resident students are mainly from the Syro-Malabar dioceses in Kerala and outside. There are also a few students belonging to the Syro-Malankara dioceses and a handful from religious communities having no houses nearby. The number of resident students is 280 and of the day scholars is 144 in the academic year 2006-2007.
Mangalapuzha seminary (മംഗലപ്പുഴസെമിനാരി) has been maintaining a close collaboration with other seminaries. A common “Programme for Formators” for the staff of the Syro-Malabar seminaries was organized under the auspices of the Syro-Malabar synod of bishops. Informal meetings of the staff of the seminaries were also held with sharing sessions. Such gatherings help the staff to know each other, to share the problems of formation in each seminary and eventually to arrive at solutions. As far as the students of various seminaries are concerned there are inter-seminary matches in Volleyball and Basketball, inter-seminary Quiz Competition, debate Competition, Homily Competition etc.
Mangalapuzha seminary has a cemetery chapel, which is a place of pilgrimage. The bodies of Venerable Aurelian OCD and the Servant of God Zacharias OCD of blessed memory rested there for decades. Their mortal remains were solemnly transferred to the special tombs in the Carmelite Monastery Church at Manjummel.
As regards the finance of the seminary the various papal agencies, namely CNEWA, Opus Sancti Petri and MISSIO have been rendering wonderful service to the seminary. The Congregation for Oriental Churches, the Congregation for the Evangelization of Peoples and the Congregation for the Catholic Education render special care and support to the seminary and its activities.
The undivided St. Joseph’s Pontifical Seminary, Mangalapuzha, (സെന്റ് ജോസഫ് പൊന്റിഫിക്കല് സെമിനാരി, മംഗലപ്പുഴ) celebrated the Golden Jubilee of its transfer from Puthenpally to Mangalapuzha on 9th and 10th of March 1983. This year 2007 the seminary celebrates the Platinum Jubilee of its transfer to Mangalapuzha. On this occasion the seminary remembers with gratitude all benefactors and the zealous discalzed Carmelite missionaries for their outstanding contribution to the Church in Kerala especially in the field of priestly formation. The statement of Msgr. Martin Lucas SVD, the then Apostolic Internuncio, on the occasion of the inauguration of Carmelgiri seminary on 24 November 1955, is the best compliment for them. “If the Carmelite Fathers had done nothing else for the Church in Kerala,but build these two splendid and magnificent seminaries, India would never forget them”.