Before we embark upon a real historiography, we shall dedicate a few lines to speak about the founder himself. Though we have several founder members, we have only one founder: the late Bishop of Pala His Excellency Mar Sebastian Vayalil. He was a real visionary with a historical mission. He was well aware of the great missionary mandate that the Syro-Malabar Church had inherited. At a time when it was hard for the western missionaries to come to India and when there was a surge in the missionary interest among the St Thomas Christians, Mar Vayalil thought of an association of missionaries of the Church of St Thomas Christians. It is not difficult for anyone who goes through the annals of the history of the beginning of MST to see that MST was the result of the farsightedness and missionary vision of Mar Sebastian Vayalil. Fr Joseph Maliparampil writes, “St Thomas Missionary Society is the fruition of a long cherished vision of the ‘missionary Bishop’, Mar Sebastian Vayalil that the Syro-Malabar Church should have an association of missionaries”. A founder is one who gives birth to a new ideology or an institute or establishment. Similar thoughts and ideas may have been well in circulation, but it is the one who gives concrete form to them who is regarded as the founder. There could have been several people who had nurtured the idea of forming a missionary institute. But it was Bishop Vayalil who visualized it as an institute of the Church and gave concrete form to it, of course with the help of his priests. In the words of Cardinal Lourdsamy, it was in 1962 “that the Missionary Society of St Thomas the Apostle began to take shape in the vision of late Mar Sebastian Vayalil, then Bishop of Palai”. The initiatives taken by him and the co-operation and support extended by other prelates of the Church really paved the way for the foundation of the Society. In the report of the Director General presented at the General Assembly of 1973 we read, “… it is the Bishop of Palai who took initiatives on his own accord and on behalf of the Hierarchy to give shape to this missionary project, encouraged as he was by the Holy Father himself and the Cardinal Prefects of the Sacred Congregations of the Oriental Churches and Propaganda Fide”.
Mar Sebastian Vayalil
Bishop Vayalil began to think about the possibility of the formation of a missionary institute of the Syro-Malabar Church while preparing for the Ad Limina visit of 1960. During the visit, Bishop met the Holy Father John XXIII and apprised him of the plan to begin an association to canalize the vocations of the Syro-Malabar Church. He then consulted the matter with the Cardinals of the Oriental Congregation and Propaganda Fide. Back home, he put forward his plan in the Syro-Malabar Bishop’s Conference. The Conference extended its support and encouraged him to go forward with the idea. The Bishop was in Rome again in 1961 and 1962 and received expert advice from the Congregations about the nature of the Society. The next stage was the consultation with the priests of the diocese. He held different meetings with the likeminded priests of the diocese and discussed with them the future of the Society that he had in mind. A pious union was formed with likeminded priests on 22 January 1965. The Bishop canonically erected the MST on 22 February at Melampara. Fr Maliparampil acknowledged the great role of Bishop Vayalil in these words, “Our Gratitude to His Excellency Bishop Sebastian Vayalil knows no bounds. He was our first superior. He is our founder. …. The forming of the Missionary Society will be hailed as the greatest event of the episcopate of Bishop Sebastian Vayalil by the future historians.”