Fr Augustine Kallunkal was born in Gothuruth near Ernakulam on 07 November, 1948. His parents were late Mr. Thomas and Mrs. Elsy, belonging to the diocese of Varapuzha. After doing pre-novitiate at West Hill, Kozhikode in 1964, Fr Augustine entered the Jesuit Novitiate at Christ Hall, Kozhikode on June 15, 1965 and took his first vows in 1967. He completed his B.Sc. in St. Joseph’s College, Devagiri, Kozhikode and went to Shembaganur to study Philosophy at Sacred Heart College. After doing his theological studies at Vidyajyoti College, Delhi, he was ordained a priest on April 26, 1982 at Gothuruthu, his home parish. Later, he did tertianship at Sacred Heart College, Shembaganur and took his final vows in 1988 at Loyola, Sreekaryam.
Fr Augustine’s first assignment was to Loyola School, Sreekaryam in 1977 as teacher and boarding prefect. The next year he joined St.Xavier’s College, Thiruvananthapuram as lecturer and hostel warden. After his ordination he rejoined the college and served there as lecturer in Botany, Vice-Principal, Manger and Rector at different periods of time till his retirement in 2002. He completed his Ph. D in “Floristic Study of the Flowering Plants of Coromandel Coast” at St Joseph’s College, Tiruchirapally, Tamil Nadu. He also served as teacher in AKJM HSS School, Kanjirapally for a while. Later he went to Arunachal Pradesh (under Kohima Jesuit Region) and taught in Palizi School for four years. He also served as administrator of the Jesuit Community and was in charge of pastoral ministry in the school campus. He returned to Kerala in 2012 and was appointed teacher and Principal-in-charge in AKJM HSS,Kanjirapally. In 2014 he moved to Attappadi and served as Director of ERA (Eco-Reserve Attappadi), and in 2016 he returned to St. Xavier’s College, Thiruvananthapuram. He continued to be actively involved in teaching Botany, in Spiritual Ministry and serving as Minister of the Jesuit community. On 1st February 2019 he suffered a stroke while on a study tour to Kodaikanal with the Jesuit Juniors of Vidyaniketan, Thiruvananthapuram which left him paralyzed and unconscious till his death on February 17. He was buried at St Xavier’s College, Thumba on February 19 in the presence of a large gathering of students, teachers, friends, relatives, priests and religious.
Fr Augustine was known for regularity and orderliness. He did not suffer from any major ailments. So his death was most unexpected and untimely.Augustine was a gentle, loving and caring person. He lived a selfless life of love, friendship and fraternity. Those who have known him and have shared life with him would testify that he lived a holy life worthy of his call and commitment. He evoked such spontaneous affection and warmth from all those who came in contact with him. Augustine was liked and loved for his unassuming personality, absolute simplicity and ‘straight from the heart’ ways and approaches. He was a man with no pretentions and simplicity was his trade mark. He was just and fair with anything and everything he did and was very honest with himself and others. He will put things ruthlessly and bluntly when it comes to matters of justice and fairness. Though a man of personal convictions and values he would never impose his ways and views on others even when he could afford to do that.
Augustine was not a glamorous priest in the popular understanding of the word. Yet he had a glamour and charm of his own. People, especially his students and co-workers and collaborators, loved and admired him and they would flock around him in an enviable way to converse and spent time with him. They did this because he had a childlike charm and grace of his own and they loved and admired it immensely. Being a botanist and a lover of nature, Augustine had such passion for plants, trees, birds and animals and for all simple and beautiful things of life. He loved good music, movies and songs and had a lyrical and poetic heart and mind for all sacred and finer things of life. He had a great sense of fun and humor too.
Augustine loved and cherished his Jesuit vocation and priestly life. He loved the Society and felt proud to belong to it and he knew well its constitutions and rules, its ways and traditions of doing things. He would never tolerate unfair and unjust things done to its members within or outside. For the same reason he would speak up for people who he felt are unjustly and unfairly treated or ignored. As administrator, organizer and teacher Augustine is known for his meticulous planning. That was his understanding of Ignatian ‘Magis’, ‘Excellence’, ‘Greater glory of God’ and he wouldn’t easily make any compromise on these matters.
Fr Augustine will certainly live forever through his many gentle, genuine acts of love and service rendered to thousands of people in and through the Society of Jesus. Now that he has gone for his eternal reward, may the Good Lord reward him for all his goodness, simplicity and magnanimity, for his faith and commitment as a genuine Jesuit.
Fr Sunny Jose