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Father Thomas Punchekunnel SDB, a courageous missionary passes away in Eastern Africa

By Father Sebastian Koladiyil SDB
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Mumbai, Jan. 9. Father Thomas Punchekunnel SDB, a missionary in East Africa for 36 years, one of the pioneers who was part of the builders of Salesian East Africa went to his heavenly Father whom he served, on 4th January. The cause of his death was heart attack.
Father Thomas Punchekunnel was born in Pala, Kerala, India on 2nd November 1947. He was the youngest child of the late Joseph Varghese and Thresiamma Joseph.  He was baptized at
St. Thomas Cathedral, in the Pala Diocese. He has 5 brothers and 6 sisters and was fondly called as Thomachan.

His schooling was at St. Joseph Lower Primary School, Kannadiyurumbu and St. Thomas High School, Pala. After completing Class VI, in April 1960 he, along with some of his friends, joined the Salesian minor seminary on 5th April 1960 at Bandel, Kolkota. His inspiration was his own elder brother, the late Father Joseph Punchekunnel SDB who had joined the Salesians in 1951.

He made his novitiate at Sunny Side, Upper Shillong in the state of Meghalaya in India where he also made his first religious profession on 8th May 1967. He made his perpetual profession on 13th June 1974 in Bangalore India. From 1967 to 1970 he did his philosophy and BA at the Salesian College in Sonada. From 1970 to 1972 he did his regency at the apostolic school at Borivili where he was a teacher.  From 1972 to 1976 he studied Theology at Kristu Jyothi College in Bangalore. He was ordained as a priest on 22nd December 1975 in his home parish in Pala.

He worked in India as a priest for five years. During these five years he worked as assistant parish priest at the Catholic Church, Ranaghat, at the Catholic Church, Polsondamore, at the Catholic Church Azmiganj and finally he worked as Father in-charge of the Catholic Church, Monigram. In 1980 he was part of the first group of Salesians of Don Bosco who came as missionaries to East Africa.

In Kenya he worked in Don Bosco Upper Hill in the early days of the Salesian Mission in East Africa, Don Bosco Mission Korr, Marsabit, Don Bosco Boys' Town, Nairobi and Nzaikoni Parish, Machakos.  He was the pioneer of Nzaikoni parish. In Tanzania he worked in the Don Bosco Youth Training Centre, Iringa. He was the financial administrator of the AFE Province for six years. Finally he was re-appointed as the assistant Parish Priest of Nzaikoni parish from where he went to his heavenly Father on 4th January 2017.

For quite some time he was under medication for Hypertension and high cholesterol. But his condition seemed to be under control. Normally he enjoyed good health and there was nothing that prevented him from carrying out his pastoral activities. On 3rd of January 2017, he experienced some chest pain and he was rushed to Bishop Kioko hospital Machakos. He was treated and sent back to the parish. The pain had not subsided and that is why he was rushed to Nairobi West Hospital where he eventually died of Hemopericardium resulting from the rapture of aortic aneurysm.

May His Soul Rest in Peace.

Condolence Message of Cardinal George Alencherry, Major Archbishop of the Syro-Malabar Church

Condolence Message of Cardinal George Alencherry
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