Fr Kurien Kunnumpuram is no more physically present with us. We are unable to comprehend the loss to the Jesuit family and to the Indian Church. He was very active till recently continuing his theological writings staying at Christ Hall, Kozhikode. He had a mild stroke in November last year, and he was recovering gradually. On September 25, 2018 he was diagnosed with cerebral bleeding which kept him unconscious despite an emergency surgery. After remaining in coma for three weeks he breathed his last on October 23, 2018.
Born in 1931 at Teekoy in Kerala, Fr Kurien completed his Pre-Degree from Sacred Heart College, Thevara, and joined the Jesuit Novitiate in 1950 at Christ Hall, Kozhikode. He did his philosophy at Sacred Heart College, Shembaganur and his theology at De Nobili College, Pune, and was ordained a priest in 1963 in Pune. He was sent to Münster, Germany for his tertianship. He completed his PhD on Vatican II at the University of Innsbruck 1968 – just three years after the Council. The same year he joined the teaching faculty of Jnana-Deepa Vidyapeth, Pune, and remained there for 44 years. He served as Dean of the faculty from 1974 to 1977 and as Rector of JDV from 1988 to 1997. In 2013 he returned to his mother province, and continued his creative writing staying at Christ Hall Kozhikode.
Fr Kurien was an enthusiastic, creative and intelligent person. He, along with Francis D’Sa and George Soares-Prabhu, belonged to the second generation of theology professors at JDV, who brought about a culture of freedom and Indian orientation to the campus. As an eminent thinker and creative theologian, he was instrumental in publishing Jnanadeepa: Pune Journal of Religious Studies in 1998. He served as editor of Asian journal for Religious Studies for over ten years. He was
the first editor of Encyclopedia of Christianity published by JDV, Pune. Author of more than 20 books in areas of Church (Ecclesiology), Anthropology and Spirituality, he has contributed significantly to theologizing in the Indian context. A national seminar was organized on October 17-18 in Kozhikode to acknowledge Kurien’s contribution to Indian theologizing; it brought together nearly 40 scholars who presented 18 papers on themes dear to Kurien’s heart.
Kurien’s last book is aptly titled “Freedom and Joy” as it signifies his own life. He was quite convinced that freedom and joy are essential characteristics of Christian existence. The experience of joy of the first Christians inspired Kurien to find the deep joy of his Christian life. Kurien reminds us of Pope Francis who invites Christians everywhere “to a renewed encounter with Jesus Christ”. For “with Christ joy is constantly born anew.” The freedom and joy Kurien experienced and radiated made him an enabling, encouraging and empowering presence among us. He could accept and affirm everyone with their differences and unique qualities. He had a warm and personal message to everyone who met him. He tried to reach out to people in a friendly and meaningful manner. Inspired by him, may we all become free and loving persons: enabling, encouraging and empowering each other.
Kuruvilla Pandikattu S.J.