It was probably these words of the Lord Jesus that motivated the Apostle Thomas to bring the good news to our land of Malabar as early as in 52 AD. Over the centuries, the members of the Syro- Malabar Church in their quest for following the example of their founder, the apostle Thomas, have been exploring new ways and means of sharing the good news with all of God’s people, taking into account their needs and the signs of the times.
In the last century, in the 50’s and 60’s as the number of wandering lepers increased in and around the town of Thrichur, and as hardly as anyone was willing to care for these people, Rt. Rev. Msgr. Paul Chittilapilly (1909 – 1981) a priest of the Syro - Malabar diocese of Thrissur, came on the scene as the saviour of these destitute people.
Avittathur of Irinjalakuda was the land that was graced to give birth to Msgr. Paul Chittilapilly. He was born on 1st July 1909 as the second child of Thommana Lonappan and Mechery Thressia, and ordained as a priest on 17th December 1939. Filled with the compassionate love of Jesus and wanting to bring the good news also to these derelicted leprosy patients, he did not only minister to them personally but also opened for them a shelter under the name “Damien Leprosy Institute” in 1953 in the suburbs of Thrissur.
In the initial stage three sisters from the Congregation of Sisters of charity; Sr. Ignatia, Sr. Cyril and Sr. Berchumans came forward for the service at Damien Leprosy Institute. As the number of leprosy patients increased and volunteers to care for them were few, Msgr. Paul Chittilapilly thought of starting a new congregation of sisters for socio medical apostolate in general and for ministering to the leprosy patients in particular. With the canonical permission of the Sacred Congregation for Oriental churches, the new missionary congregation of Samaritan Sisters, under the syro – Malabar diocese of Thrissur, was officially established on 25th January 1961.
In founding the new congregation, Msgr. Paul Chittilapilly was particularly paying heed to the Lord’s command, “Go and Do likewise” (Luke 10: 37) in the parable of the Good Samaritan. This is the motto of the congregation. He realized also that the good news in his time and place had to be more urgently proclaimed through the merciful and compassionate love and care of the deserted leprosy patients as well as of others in similar need or situation.
At the same time Msgr. Paul Chittilapilly envisaged that the Samaritan Sisters has to be a missionary congregation, constantly expanding the field of service to those in need in general, both inside as well as outside the country, in different areas of medical care and social service, without neglecting the original mission. Congregation of Samaritan Sisters is a major archiepiscopal congregation belonging to the Syro - Malabar Church, which has the unique honour of being founded by St. Thomas, the Apostle of Jesus Christ.
History of the Congregation
The Congregation of the Samaritan Sisters (CSS) is a religious congregation of the Syro- Malabar church dedicated to Christ and the Church through the evangelical counsels of chastity, poverty and obedience. They find fulfilment in their life through dedicated service to the poor and the sick. The lifestyle of the CSS is one that integrates prayer and practice.
A vision born on these words of Jesus to establish the kingdom of God on earth through the ministry to the poor and marginalized especially those afflicted by leprosy.
Trichur town being a business centre experienced a steady flow of leprosy patients, even from neighbouring states. Fr. Paul who was a lecturer in Chemistry at St. Thomas College, Thrichur was touched by the misery of these people. His heart went out in compassion and love for these patients and he ministered to them in great measure and that led him to the foundation of Damien Leprosy Institute at Mulayam. Three nuns from the Sisters of charity namely Sr. Cyril, Sr. Berchumans, Sr. Ignatia came to help him when he started the institute. The number of patients increased. He needed more helpers.
Congregation of Samaritan Sisters
Fr. Paul felt the need of a new religious Congregation who would take care of the lepers. With the permission and support of Mar George Alappatt he began to initiate the formation of a congregation. Many young women heard the challenging clarion call and responded positively. Fr. Paul continued his efforts to get the Canonical permission to start the new congregation. On December 23 rd, 1960 the Sacred oriental Congregation gave the ‘Nihil Obstat’. On 25th January 1961, the feast of the conversion of St. Paul, the apostle of the gentiles the Congregation of Samaritan of Sisters was officially instituted as a missionary religious Congregation of the Syro- Malabar Church. On 14th December 2001 the Congregation was raised to Major Archiepiscopal status by His eminence Mar. Varkey Cadinal Vithayathil, Major Archbishop of the Syro - Malabar Church.