St. Thomas Benedictine Abbey belongs to the Benedictine Congregation of the Annunciation of the Blessed Virgin Mary, originally known as the Belgian Congregation. Our Abbey is founded within the Syro-Malabar rite in Kerala. The new Monastery in Kappadu was founded by three monks from Asirvanam Benedictine Monastery, Bangalore, which was a foundation of St. Andrew’s Abbey, Brugges, Belgium. The three monks were Fr. Bede Maniyankary, Fr. Anselm Maniyakkupara and Fr. John Kurichianil. In the year 1985 the three monks were authorized to explore the possibilities of a foundation in the Syro-Malabar church by Rt. Rev. Ambroise Watelet, who was at the time the Abbot President of the Congregation. The Abbot President himself accompanied the founders to Kerala to meet a few of the Syro-Malabar Bishops. The outcome was very encouraging. The monks were welcomed by Archbishop Joseph Powathil of Changanacherry diocese and they were settled in a house put at their disposal by a Catholic family in Changanacherry. They were allowed not only to live in the house free of charges, but also to cultivate the six acres of land around the house and to take its produce.
The three monks lived in Changanacherry for one and a half years. Meanwhile they kept looking for a site for the new monastery. The present site at Kappadu was finally found. Ten acres of land along with a house was purchased. The little community moved to Kappadu in October 1987. On January 20, 1988 the new monastery was canonically established as a priory depending on the Abbot President and his Council. Fr. John Kurichianil who was the leader of the group so far was appointed the Prior. This Priory was allowed not only to recruit new candidates but also to have our own Novitiate. For several years the monks and the candidates lived in the original private house on the property that had been purchased. Later four temporary sheds were built with bricks with asbestos roof. They served one as the chapel, another as the study hall, a third as the refectory and the fourth as a dormitory. That condition went on for over ten years. Gradually the community could acquire more land at Kappadu and to start building the new Monastery. First four small dormitories were built for the students. That was followed by a novitiate house. Then there came up a house for the finally professed monks. The present church was completed in 2000 and was consecrated on December 31, 2000. The same day five of our monks were ordained priests in the new church. A guest house with 33 self contained rooms and a spacious refectory were completed almost simultaneously. Kappadu was raised to the rank of a Conventual Priory on the occasion of the General Chapter of the Congregation in 2004, Within a couple of days the same General Chapter raised Kappadu to the rank of an Abbey. Prior John Kurichianil was consecrated its first Abbot on January 20, 2005, on the 17th anniversary of its foundation. He was re-elected the Abbot on January 20th 2013.
A History of Providence
It is thanks to the help and support of many people that the new monastery came up. Of course first of all it is a work of the Divine Providence, which has been evident from the moment the new project was launched till today. Immense gratitude is due to the two senior monks of Asirvanam, the late Fr. Bede Maniyankary and Fr. Anselm Maniyakupara, who threw in their lot with the new foundation and served it with all their heart, with all their soul and with all their strength. From a canonical point of view, it was thanks to the late Abbot Ambroise Watelet OSB that the new foundation became a reality; he accompanied it with paternal care and affection during its earlier years. The same must be said also about Rt. Rev. Abbot Celestine Cullen, who succeeded Abbot Ambroise Watelet as the Abbot President of the Congregation. He adopted a very liberal and encouraging attitude towards Kappadu. He was always generous when it came to allowing Kappadu freedom in taking initiatives in view of further development and growth. The present Abbot President, Rt. Rev. Abbot Ansgar Schmidt, still continues to encourage and promote the growth of Kappadu. Many thanks are also due to many friends and benefactors whose generous contributions made it possible for Kappadu to make progress on the material front as well. Many monasteries in Europe contributed generously for buying the original property, for putting up the new buildings and for several developmental projects. Much help came also from several funding agencies and foundations in Europe.