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In Memory of a Missionary Giant: Celebrating the Life and Legacy of Bishop Lawrence Mar Ephraem

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As the Malankara Syrian Catholic Church commemorates the impactful life of Lawrence Mar Ephraem Thirumeni, the reverberations of his legacy continue to resonate within the community. The life of Bishop Lawrence Mar Ephraem, one of the Church’s most lauded missionaries, was marked by an unwavering dedication to service and the spread of the Christian faith.

Born into the Kakathottam family in 1928, his early life saw a transition from the CSI Church to the Malankara Syrian Catholic Church, a pivotal move during the reformation movement. After receiving his primary education at an English medium school in Kanjiramkulam, his potential was recognised by Fr. Mathew Pothanamoozhy, leading to an introduction to Mar Ivanios Thirumeni and the beginning of his religious education, which culminated in his ordination in 1953.

His priesthood was defined by an earnest passion for education and mission work, particularly in the areas surrounding Thiruvananthapuram. His relentless missionary work and the establishment of over 30 mission centres paved the way for his higher studies in Rome and subsequent accolades in sociology and missiology.

The return of Bishop Lawrence marked a transformative period in his vocation. He embraced the mission of caring for lepers, an endeavour that many shunned. His role as the vice president of the Catholic Hospital Association of India and the founder of Health for One Million underscores his vision of healthcare as a fundamental right.

Bishop Lawrence’s work in the Kanyakumari district continued his mission legacy, where he erected numerous mission centres and charitable institutions. The escalation to the episcopacy at the age of 52 as Auxiliary Bishop brought his profound influence into the hierarchical structure of the church.

His elevation to the position of Administrator of the Thiruvananthapuram Archdiocese and then as the inaugural Bishop of the Marthandom Diocese was a testament to his leadership and ecclesiastical acumen. Although his tenure as a bishop was curtailed by illness, the impact of his brief period in office was indelible.

Those who knew Bishop Lawrence Mar Ephraem remember him not only for his ecclesiastical accomplishments but for his personal touch in shaping the lives of those around him. His commitment to the correction and education of seminarians in their linguistic skills is a fond memory for many, including Fr. Dr. Thomas Kuzhinapurath, whose narrative forms the basis of this tribute.

Bishop Lawrence’s enduring image as a ‘Selfless Missionary’ is enshrined in the hearts of the community he served. As we reflect upon his vast contributions, his life stands as a paragon of selfless service and missionary zeal.

As reported by Fr. Dr. Thomas Kuzhinapurath for the April 2024 issue of Manivilakku, we look back on the Bishop’s life with profound respect and gratitude. On December 26, 1994, he bestowed priesthood with a mission directive that continues to inspire to this day.

We extend our deepest respects to Bishop Lawrence Mar Ephraem Thirumeni and remember him with reverence and affection as we continue the mission he so passionately cultivated.

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