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Sad Demise of Brother Mathew Thaiparambil SDB

By Johny Nedungatt SDB
Brothee Mathew Thaiparmabil SDB surrounded by his beloved confreres before his final journey
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Kolkata, Feb. 7. The funeral  rites of Brother Mathew Thaiparambil SDB took place in the Basilica of Our Lady of Bandel on 6 February with over 80 priests joining the Eucharistic Celebration presided over by Father Jose Thaiparambil S.J, the younger brother of the deceased Salesians  and attended by hundreds of well-wishers, students, past pupils and religious.  
Apart from other family members, Brother Mathew is survived by two Salesians - Father Anthony Thaiparambil, the eldest in the family,  in New Delhi province and Brother Johny Thaiparambil, the youngest  in the province of Kolkata.

Brother Mathew, an outstanding Salesian Brother in India, who passed away on 1  February after battling with a weak heart since a bypass heart surgery in 2000,  was a consultant to Central and State government of the country.
The funeral which took place at 2.15 in the afternoon was preceded by a fitting farewell by a huge crowd from the neighbourhood and past pupils in Don Bosco Mirpara, Kolkata, where Brother Mathew spent the last 29 years of his life.  ''We never had the fortune of seeing Don Bosco but in you Brother Mathew we met him'' were the words of  an alumnus giving a fitting final tribute to him.

Born in 1941 in Kerala Br. Mathew joined the  Salesians - Bandel - in 1957 with his mind already made up to become a lay brother. After completing his studies, he was appointed to Don Bosco Technical School, Liluah, and for the next 20 years he plunged into action in imparting technical education to young people in Liluah, Kolkata.

Mr. Dominic Lee, a retired staff of the technical school  at Liluah recalled his days with Brother Mathew, ''My association with Brother is for the last 49 years, from the time I joined the school as a student of class five.   On completion of my technical studies he took me in as a staff. He was a calm and composed person, a true son of Don Bosco.''

''Bro. Mathew Thaiparambil was a well-known figure both in the religious and secular circles in India and abroad, for his unique and spectacular contribution by blazing a trail in imparting non-formal technical education to the school dropouts to find employment for them and thus wean them away from a life of vagrancy and crime'' said Fr. Nirmol Gomes, the Provincial in his funeral oration. He added further, ''He was nominated as a member of the National Council for Vocational Training (NCVT), Government of India, Ministry of Labour and Employment in the capacity of an expert in Vocational Training; nominated as member of the committee of examinations by ICSE Board; nominated as member of the advisory board of the National Council for Education Research and Training (NCERT); appointed as the Visitor Nominee of the President of India for the Ambedkar Central University Lucknow in 1999; nominated as the member of the Education Wing of the of the Planning Commission, Government of India; nominated as the member of board of Indian Institute of Hand loom Technology; member of the National Council for Jute Diversification; member of the steering committee of the Society for Rural Industrialization, Jharkhand; member of the Board of Studies, West Bengal State Council for Technical Education; member of the Indo-Australian Education Exchange programme of the Government of India; member of the Provincial Council; member of the Pastoral Council of the Archdiocese of Calcutta.''

Brother Mathew has come into many public fora, witnessing truly to the  love of Jesus while engaged in typical secular affairs, thus living fully the originality of the vocation of a Salesian Brother  as Don Bosco desired and designed for Salesians across the globe.

Along with the family members present at the funeral was one of the first beneficiaries of Brother Mathew's pioneering work in Mirpara, Mr. Lonappan Kuncheria, Managing Director of Up and Up Elevators, Kerala.  He claims, ''I was one of the first inmates of Mirpara which in those days (1988) had only three abandoned factory sheds.  I found a guru in him.  During my training period he insisted that I learn English and it helped me to build up a career in life.  Today I  own an elevator manufacturing company back in Kerala.  His life was truly an inspiration for me. Had it not been for his timely guidance and persisting encouragement I would not have reached where I am today''.

Mr. B.K Boral who was the closest associate of Br. Mathew in all his enterprises for the past 30 years shared, ''He has helped so many poor people in the neighbourhood with health-related matters and otherwise.  Unfortunately, many have not been grateful to him for the assistance they received.  He is like my god.''

In launching non-formal vocational training to employable young people in 1978 Brother Mathew entered into a neglected social scenario - poor, vagrant and marginalized youth, the only reason for Salesian existence. This gave birth in 1988 to  Don Bosco Self Employment Research Institute (DBSERI) Complex in Mirpara where Bro. Mathew toiled and moiled uninterruptedly for the next 30 years imparting skill training in some 15 non-formal and 3 formal trades.

Love for poor youth was in his DNA, so claims Fr. N. T. Scaria, a novitiate batch-mate of Brother Mathew. ''The efforts he made to alleviate their  suffering is seen in Mirpara.  Hundreds of young people deprived of  a decent  standard of living  managed to get  a respectful  place in society through his  kindness, efforts and encouragement''.

Representing the province of New Delhi and more particularly Father Antony Thaiparambil SDB, the elder brother of Br. Mathew, unable to travel due to age related sicknesses, Fr. K.U Mathew shared, ''Twenty three years back I had the privilege of working with him.  Though there are more than hundred Salesian brothers working for young people in India, rarely you  find a Brother who has trained and settled in life so many young  people as Br. Mathew has done.  I think he is the only Salesian Brother whom the Central Government and Planning Commission has consulted and sought advice on planning at the National level in the field of Self-employment.''

FatherJose Thaiparambil S.J, his younger brother, recalling the early years spent at home as inseparable friends more than brothers, shared how during the interview to join Salesian missions in the North his brother was selected while he was not.  Before leaving for the aspirantate in Bandel he confided in his younger brother, ''Do not tell anyone.  I am going to become a brother.  I am not worthy to become a priest''.   This probably must have been the secret of his happy life as a lay brother in a clerical congregation.

Social transformation was a prominent motivating factor that made Brother Mathew launch out into creative enterprises and be another Don Bosco in the streets of Mirpara, says Mr Benny Paul, one  of the early students of Br. Mathew and currently works as Engineer at Tata Metaliks, Kharagpur. He observed,  ''He has changed the lives of many social misfits into good entrepreneurs who gave job to others and prevented them from  pursuing  the same way of life.  This is the unique quality we all admire in him and that is why he is in the heart of every one of us.''

Referring to the grand farewell organized for Br. Mathew in Mirpara on 21 July last year as he was  transferred, Fr. K.T Thomas, his then Rector  said,  ''It was a very touching moment where so many bore witness to what they had seen and experienced in brother - his kindness and his great love... This morning we had even a more  touching farewell; so many were sobbing through the two and a half of hours of paying our tribute to Brother.  One of them said, ''God, we have never seen. But in him we have seen God. He is god alive for us.''

Before the mortal remains were taken to the final resting place in the Salesian cemetery, Father P.K. Joy, the Rector of Don Bosco Park Circus where Br. Mathew spent the last eight months of his life thanked everyone for chipping in their mite to make this final journey so heart touching and meaningful.


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