Farewell Faithful Servant

On April 14th Sister Elsy sent me an email advising me of the death of His Excellency Bishop Stephen Athipozhiyil. She wrote “We are at the eve of celebrating the feast of Passover. To love one another is the greatest commandment of Jesus. Our dear Bishop is already in heaven to celebrate it with Jesus Christ.The great shepherd of Alleppey diocese is there to represent . all of us. A loving and caring person indeed. He had a very solemn funeral service. Bishops and priests and people from all parts of Kerala came to say goodbye to him. Then only we realized how much he was known and accepted. We really lost a great, good shepherd. Bishop James (present bishop) has lost his one wing. He was very much sad about the sudden departure of Bishop Stephen. As Easter is coming within a few days I wish all of you peace and joy of the season. May you be filled with His strength and power to do more good to others is my prayer.”

I have been privileged to work with four bishops of Alleppey these last fifty years. Bishop Michael, Bishop Peter, Bishop Stephen and now, Bishop James. All have been a wonderful experience for me. I have never had an unpleasant moment with any of them. I recall my first meeting with Bishop Stephen. He appeared very shy and off-putting concerning any attention to himself. His origins was among the poor so he certainly knew the problems of his people; in the seminary he majored in philosophy leading to a successful teaching ministry and eventually rector of the major seminary in Alwaye. He had never been to the States prior to becoming bishop. For that matter I doubt if he had ever traveled outside of India unlike his predecessor, Bishop Peter. On his first trip to the States after he became Bishop he was really a fish out of water I think due to culture shock. But then he gradually came to understand the idiosyncratic American. He was a kind soul open to anyone with silent confidence in his own sense of presence and the presence of others. During my last visit to India in October 2019, just prior to the Covid crisis, I was his guest at the Bishop’s House. As was our want we always talked philosophy each trying to set a trap for the other and laughing it off in the end. I will miss him as I am sure will all the people of Alleppey. God bless you Bishop Stephen…

May the angels lead you into paradise; may the martyrs receive you at your arrival and lead you to the holy city Jerusalem. May choirs of angels receive you and with Lazarus, once a poor man, may you have eternal rest.

Alan J Ouimet, O.F.S.

If you wish to see the funeral service for Bishop Stephen please click here. It is a beautiful service and gives one the taste of the Mass in Malayalam..