Malankara World Journal - Christian Spirituality from a Jacobite and Orthodox Perspective
Malankara World Journal
Themes: New Year Special, Circumcision of Jesus
Volume 8 No. 454 January 1, 2018
 
Theethose Thirumeni
14th Anniversary of Consecration as Bishop
(January 4, 2018)

by Dr. Jacob Mathew
Chief Editor, Malankara World

On January 4, 2018, our beloved Theethose Thirumeni (His Eminence Yeldho Mor Theethose, Archbishop and Patriarchal Vicar of Malankara Archdiocese of Syriac Orthodox Church in North America) completes his 14th year of consecration as a Bishop and enters into an year we celebrate as the 15th year anniversary that will complete on January 4, 2019.

When our Malankara Church, as a whole, is going through trials, scandals, and tribulations, Theethose Thirumeni provided a "safe harbor" for the faithful in North America. Surely, we have seen our share of the tribulations a few years back that had rocked the church to its foundation. But Thirumeni has stood steadfast. Like our Jesus did, when Peter was sinking in the middle of the rising waves all around him, Jesus offered His hand and pulled Peter out of danger, Theethose Thirumeni protected the sheep that was entrusted to him to protect, by guarding them like a mother hen who protects her broods from outside danger. He protected the Archdiocese with everything he got. As a result, those of us who are in North America enjoy a period of relative calm, peace and growth for the archdiocese. The church is expanding rapidly everywhere, especially in Canada. Many youth came forward and accepted ordination as Deacon and now many have became priests. The clergy meeting and family and youth conference are well attended and new churches are being built all over the archdiocese. A provident fund was started to take care of old, ailing, retired clergy who have served the archdiocese during their lifetime. The spiritual organizations are thriving. Thirumeni is active in Oriental Orthodox Fellowship, ecumenical programs, and other social activities.

The state of the Archdiocese is very good under our beloved Thirumeni. This is possible due to Thirumeni's humility, hard work, and going out of the way to become "accessible to his sheep."

In one of the earlier Malankara World Journals, I wrote how lucky we are that two of our top primates in the church in North America are so humble. I was referring to our Patriarch HH Ignatius Aphrem II and Theethose Thirumeni. During the family conference of the Malankara Archdiocese in North America held in Lancaster, Pennsylvania, His Holiness blessed us with his presence a few months after Moran's consecration as the Patriarch. Moran was coming from the Patriarchal Residence in Paramus, New Jersey to Lancaster, Pennsylvania - a distance of perhaps 100 miles. Bava's assistant was not sure about the route; he was not good in driving on busy rural routes. So, moran told him that He will drive, instead. So, the assistant moved to the back seat and Patriarchese Bava moved to the Drivers seat in the front!! It reminded me of Jesus coming to Jerusalem on Palm Sunday riding on a donkey.

Theethose Thirumeni is legendary in conserving money. I do not know what his secret is in finding cheap tickets on aircraft. His Eminence visited our church last November. HE was coming from Canada after dedicating a church there on Friday-Saturday. Our Church feast was on Sunday. We have two airports nearby, Cleveland International Airport (CLE) and Akron Canton Airport (CAK) - a smaller airport that has feeder flights to all hubs like Chicago, Dallas, New York, Charlotte, Detroit, Atlanta, etc. Thirumeni called me and asked me if Akron airport is OK. Actually, Akron is closer to my home and, being smaller, it is more accessible (like your car does not get towed, if you stop for more than a minute like in Cleveland for security reasons. (The joke is that if you are late in unloading your luggage from the trunk of the car, your car may be towed while you are still unloading the luggage!! (It is not as bad in CLE, but it can happen in New York, Chicago, Atlanta and other major airports.)

I misplaced the time of Thirumeni's arrival and thought I can check the flights from Toronto, Canada to Akron via Chicago. Actually, I found that all major carriers, American, Delta, United and Air Canada have flights. And Air Canada had a direct flight to Cleveland that would have saved Thirumeni at least 2 hours, plus. Later, I asked Thirumeni why he decided to fly via Chicago rather than taking the direct flight. His Eminence said, "Air Canada flight was more expensive!" And why fly to Akron? "That was cheaper than going to Cleveland!!" Can you imagine an Archbishop shopping for cheap flights to save his sheep the money!! When Archdiocese HQ was in Pomona, NY, it was quite far off from New York La Guardia airport or JFK. Thirumeni will drive to someone's house 'near' the airport; park the car there and get ride to the airport. Many times he will have to adjust his flights based on the availability of the host to pick him up or wait in airport. There are long-term parking available in airports; but it costs lot of money and Thirumeni knows the value of money. So, while hierarchs in Malankara compete with each other as to who has the latest model chauffer driven Mercedes Benz Cars (with flags), our hierarchs in Syria/Lebanon and USA drive their own modest cars. Jesus said, "I came to serve, not to be served" and used a donkey to ride to Jerusalem on Palm Sunday. Other times, Jesus walked with His disciples. He told his disciples, "whoever want to be the chief, must serve others (as Jesus did by washing the feet of His disciples).

Theethose Thirumeni obeys that commandment of Jesus in everything His Eminence does. We are truly blessed!

I can go on and on. But we will keep it for next year for Thirumeni's 15th anniversary of consecration special. Rumor is that something big is being planned by the Archdiocesan Council and other spiritual organizations to make this event memorable.

Bio Summary

Born:

- July 22, 1970

Family:

- Parents: P. M. Kuriakose and Sosamma, Pathickal Family, Perumbavoor, Kerala, India
- Home Parish: Bethel Suloko Cathedral, Perumbavoor, Ankamaly Diocese, Kerala

Education:

- Bachelors and Masters in Mathematics from the U.C. College, Alwaye, Kerala, India;
- Bachelors in Education (B.Ed) from Mahatma Gandhi University, Kerala, India


Theological Studies:

- Theological Seminary at Damascus, Syria;
- Malankara Syrian Orthodox Theological Seminary, Udaygiri, Kerala, India;
- Masterís of Divinity from the St. Vladmir's Orthodox Theological Seminary, New York, USA

Ordinations/Consecrations:

Deacon:

- Ordained as Reader (Qoruyo) on October 28, 1982 by the late His Grace Mor Athanasius Paulose (Kadavil)
- Ordained as Sub-Deacon (Apodyaqno) on March 20, 1998 by His Holiness Moran Mor Ignatius Zakka I Iwas
- Ordained as Full Deacon (Mísmshono) on December 6, 1998 by His Holiness Moran Mor Ignatius Zakka I Iwas

Ramban (Monk):

- Ordained on September 26, 1998 by His Holiness Moran Mor Ignatius Zakka I Iwas

Kassiso (Priest):

- Ordained on September 5, 1999 by His Holiness Moran Mor Ignatius Zakka I Iwas

Metropolitan (Bishop):

- Consecrated on January 4, 2004 by His Holiness Moran Mor Ignatius Zakka I Iwas as the Archbishop and Patriarchal Vicar of the Malankara Archdiocese of the Syrian Orthodox Church in North America

Theethose Thirumeni is the only bishop from India in our church who received FIVE of his ordinations/consecrations from the Late Lamented Patriarch His Holiness Moran Mor Ignatius Zakka I Iwas!!! No one else from Malankara can claim that honor.

Pope John Paul II, in his book, 'Rise, Let us Be On Our Way' described the important role played by a diocesan bishop in the Universal Church:

The bishop is the sign of Christ's presence in the world, going out to meet men and women where they are: calling them by name, helping them to rise, consoling them with the Good News and gathering them into one around the Lord's Table. For this reason, the bishop, while belonging to the whole world and to the universal Church, lives out his vocation physically removed from the other members of the Episcopal College, so as to be close to the people, whom, in Christ's name, he calls together in his particular Church. At the same time, he becomes for those very people a sign that their isolation is ended, because he brings them into fellowship with Christ, and, in Him, with all those whom God chose beforehand since the world began, with those whom He calls together today throughout the world, and with those whom He will call into His Church in the future, until the very last of the elect. All are present in the local church through the ministry and the sign of the bishop.
- [Bl. Pope John Paul II, 'Rise, Let us Be On Our Way', Warner Books, 2004]

It is a Big Task. No wonder why a bishop wears 12 crosses on His head, symbolizing the sufferings and sacrifices that come in the way as a bishop. It is not a crown, but a cross.

Shepherding and Leading
[Pictures Taken During The Recent Visit of Thirumeni to
St. Basil's Syriac Orthodox Church, Cleveland, Ohio.]

Shepherding is a big task undertaken by Theethose Thirumeni. In order to meet the demand from churches under His Eminence's care, Thirumeni often splits his schedule and visit one church on Saturday and then travel to another church late Saturday and conduct services on Sunday. It is a very tiring task with long hours spent on airplanes and airports and for local transportation. Thirumeni considers these visits very important. They allow him to get close to the pulse of the Archdiocese and learn, first hand, what is happening. Here are some pictures from Thirumeni's recent visit to our church.

Theethose Thirumeni in St. Basil's Syriac Orthodox Church, Cleveland, November 2017
Children from the church presenting to Thirumeni, their "special gift". Vishin Robin Roy organized the event with children preparing for this, months in advance.

Theethose Thirumeni in St. Basil's Syriac Orthodox Church, Cleveland, November 2017
Inauguration of St. Mary's League - Thirumeni with the Leaders of the Chapter.

Theethose Thirumeni in St. Basil's Syriac Orthodox Church, Cleveland, November 2017
Thirumeni recognizing and thanking Fr. Haren, Parish Priest of St. Monica Church that provides their facilities to St. Basil's Church. (Thirumeni has captured the heart of Fr. Haren. He asks me all the time, "When is your archbishop coming next?" We thought we will surprise Fr. Haren when the archbishop came, with a rare keepsake and a ponnada.)

Theethose Thirumeni in St. Basil's Syriac Orthodox Church, Cleveland, November 2017
A Special Presentation to Thirumeni: Malankara World Founder and Chief Editor Dr. Jacob Mathew presenting a 'priceless collection' of "Ancient Mosaics From Holy Land" to Thirumeni, the Patron of Malankara World. Fr. Binu Joseph, Vicar of St. Basil's Church and Dr. Shila Mathew, Food Editor of Malankara World, joined the ceremony.

Theethose Thirumeni in St. Basil's Syriac Orthodox Church, Cleveland, November 2017
Theethose Thirumeni with the members of St. Basil's Church.

Theethose Thirumeni had a busy calendar when he visited Ohio. He had also gone to Columbus, Ohio - home of Ohio State University- and had a tour of OSU, including its research facilities. Prof. Jacob Naduparambil provided a personal tour of the Cancer research facilities including the OSU Medical Center. At one point, Prof Jacob was showing Thirumeni a special research mouse; the mouse took a look at Thirumeni and peed on Prof. Jacob! (I wonder if the mouse was scared or was showing his joy in seeing a man of God. One of the ways the animals show affection is by peeing, for example, dogs.) Unfortunately, I could not take a photo of that scene as it is prohibited to take pictures in that area. I can still see the mouse with its shiny eyes looking at Thirumeni and peeing!!

Theethose Thirumeni touring Ohio State University, Columbus, Ohio - November 2017
Prof. Nilendu Gupta, Chief Physicist and Associate Professor of Radiation Oncology at Ohio State University, taking Thirumeni on a tour, showing a radiation treatment room at the James Cancer Hospital. Rev. Fr. Binu Joseph, Vicar of St. Basil's Church, Cleveland and Prof. Jacob Naduparambil, host, look on.

Theethose Thirumeni touring Ohio State University, Columbus, Ohio - November 2017
Thirumeni examining a tissue culture flask to distinguish between a patient derived brain cancer clone and a normal sample.

After a daylong tour of Ohio State University hosted by Prof. Jacob Naduparambil, we rushed to the evening prayer service. A good crowd, that included people from neighboring cities, was eagerly waiting to meet and greet the Archbishop. Especially noteworthy was Soumya and family, a neighbor of Thirumeni's ancestral home in Perumbavoor. Thirumeni was her "good achachan" and Tuition Master. She wondered if Thirumeni will recognize her. But Thirumeni immediately did. (Thirumeni never forgets his roots even after rising to new highs.) and they had a great "reunion."  Soumya later told me that Thirumeni was the favorite of her mother. During his childhood days in Perumbavoor, he was the "ideal boy." They are all so proud of their "local son" reaching such heights in the church. Here is, directly quoting Soumya Elizabeth:

"Thirumeni was our ideal Achachen...whenever I see him reaching new heights, I always remember his mother- a strong and confident lady yet one of the sweetest and kindest person I met... and an amazing cook too."

Theethose Thirumeni with the faithful at Columbus, Ohio - November 2017
Theethose Thirumeni with the faithful at Columbus, Ohio. People from neighboring areas such as Cincinnati, Ohio, also attended the event.

After the long day, we reached back to my home in Hudson, Ohio at about 2 AM Tuesday. One day in the life of a shepherd!

On Tuesday, we toured the local attractions in Cleveland including the campus of Cleveland Clinic, the world famous Cleveland institution. Cleveland Clinic is ranked as #1 in heart care for over 35 years in a row! It is a favorite destination for the rulers of Gulf countries and their families for health care. This year, the clinic is ranked as #1 hospital in Ohio and #2 overall in the US (second only to Mayo Clinic) with a huge list of specialties ranked #1. We also saw University Hospital System, also ranked high, but overshadowed by its famous neighbor in the backyard.

Next, we visited Cleveland Museum of Art with its extensive collection of Indian art and sculpture. An exhibition of Christian Art was in progress. Included in this was the Jonah marbles, believed to be the oldest Christian antiquities known to mankind. Normally, when I take someone to tour the museum, people look at the object and move on. Thirumeni would analyze the art, explain the significance of it to us (Fr. Binu and myself) and take his own time before moving on. Understandably, we haven't even covered 10% of the museum in the limited time we had.

Thirumeni returned to New York on Wednesday morning. I understand he inspected a facility for holding the Christmas program this year. Next day, he was off to Canada again to another church. The cycle repeats!! A weekend in the life of a busy shepherd.

We are proud of our Thirumeni and wish His Eminence  many, many years of service to the Universal Church. Barekmore.

[Photos by Dr. Jacob Mathew and friends, Malankara World.]

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