Venerable Fr. Varghese Payapilly



Life History

 Varghese’s Birth and Baptism and Conformation

Venerable Fr. Varghese Payapilly was born on 8 August 1876 as the fourth son of Lonan and Kunju- mariam (Kattithara, Palarivattom) in the noble and rather rich family of Payapilly - Palackappilly at Konthuruthy, a small village near Thevara in the Archdiocese of Ernakulam. On the seventh day after his birth he was baptized in the parish church of St. John Nepumsian’s Konthuruthy by Fr. Chacko Ezanikkatt, the parish priest and he received Conformation in 1885 in the church of St. Peter and St. Paul, Venduruthy from the Most Rev. Prelate Leonard de San Louis, Archbishop of Verapoly.


Early Education and His Vocation

 Fr. Varghese Payapilly’s primary schooling had been at Perumanoor K.P.L.P. (Kizhavana Parambu Lower Primary) parish school. He grew up under the love and care of God fearing parents in a good Christian family atmosphere. Frequent reception of the sacraments and a life of prayer enabled him to listen to the divine call to the priesthood at a tender age itself. He began his priestly training in the seminary at Puthanpally near Alangad while he was in Class IX itself. After two years of Latin there, he was sent for theological studies in the Papal Seminary in Kandy, Sri Lanka by Bishop Louis Pazheparambil, the Vicar Apostolate


Priestly Ordination and Return from Kandy

On Saturday 21st  December 1907 Varghese Payapilly was ordained as a priest at the Papal Seminary, Kandy by the then Bishop of Kandy, Msgr. Clemens Pagnani OSB and he offered his first Holy Mass there. After arriving in his mother Eparchy Fr. Varghese and the other newly ordained priests of this batch from Ernakulam Vicariate were sent to St. Joseph’s Bungalow for priests at Chengal in February 1908, to learn Syriac language and the East Syrian liturgy under Fr. Joseph Kariapurayidathu VC.

Pastoral Ministry

After his ordination Fr. Varghese Payapilly was sent first for pastoral ministry in 1909 to St. Augustine’s Church, Kadamakudy as parish priest and he restored the Parish Church and Presbytery.







             From 1910-1913 he had been the parish priest at St. Mary’s Church, Alangad where he worked for the total development of the Parish Church and Kunnel filial church.








      In 1913 Fr. Varghese Payapilly was transferred to St Mary’s High School, Aluva as the manager of the school. He surrendered himself totally to the will of God revealed through the bishop. To be the manager of that school was considered by all as an extraordinary honour. When Fr. Varghese Payapilly became the manager, the existence of the school itself was in jeopardy. In 1912 Dr. Mitchel, the Director of the Education of the time, had withdrawn the recognition of the school. The report of the Silver Jubilee of St. Mary’s High School speaks of the manner in which he dealt with the critical situation: “He faced calmly the insuperable problems. All his endeavours with firmness of mind and determination of purpose met with success.” An examination of the records of St. Mary’s Parish, Alangad shows that from 1916 to 1918 Fr. Varghese Payapilly had been the Manager of St. Mary’s High School, Aluva and the Parish Priest of St. Mary’s Parish, Alangad at the same time and served both places heroically. In 1918 he took leave from St. Mary’s High School and concentrated fully his attention on St. Mary’s Parish, Alangad and worked hard for its growth till 1920.


        In 1920 Fr. Varghese Payapilly was transferred from Aluva to St. Mary’s Forane Church, Arakuzha as parish priest (1920-1922). He founded there a primary school for boys. He invited priests to the parish to conduct retreats in order to solve the long-standing family problems of the people. In 1921 he bought almost 12 acres of land facing the M.C. Road to construct a new church at Meenkunnam. He was  appointed as the Chaplain of Arakuzha St. Tresa’s Carmelite Convent and the Manager  of St. Joseph’s Convent School for girls at Arakuzha.  Fr. George Kochuparambil, who had been his assistant at the Arakuzha parish, recalls: “Our life there then had been in a way really heaven on earth.”  He also added: “Although it is many years since he passed away, I cannot pass a single day without remembering him.”

In 1922 Fr. Varghese Payapilly was again appointed as the Manager of St. Mary’s High School, Aluva. His Eminence Cardinal Joseph Parecattil describes the personal greatness of Fr. Varghese Payapilly who had been the Manager of St. Mary’s High School, Aluva in his autobiography: “A noble person with a lean body, sunken eyes and a serious look! I do not think that I have met in my life another man with such will power. The training he gave on the observance of rules and spiritual life was valuable. If I am a bishop and cardinal today I cannot but say that the main cause for it is my boarding life.”

Providence of God

Fr. Varghese Payapilly used to go to Trivandrum often for school and other matters. One evening in 1924 he reached the Quilon boat jetty on his return journey. Seeing the unusually crowded ‘Redeemer’ boat, Fr. Varghese Payapilly did not board it, though it was to start first. The famous poet Kumaranashan and others travelled in it. That boat was drowned in the depths of the backwater. The colleagues of Fr. Varghese Payapilly see it as God specially protecting him for the great task of founding the Congregation of the Sisters of the Destitute.

Huge Flood of 1924

Only when Fr. Varghese Payapilly became the Manager of St. Mary’s, Aluva for the second time, it was possible to know better, the proper nature of his personality and love for the poor. The unprecedented flood in Aluva and surrounding places in 1924 caused great destruction of people and property. Fr. Varghese Payapilly opened St. Mary’s High School for people who lost houses and huts to stay. The people in the high ranges were isolated as a result of the torrential rains and the ensuing flood. With the co-operation of the leading citizens of Aluva, Fr. Varghese Payapilly hired a country craft filled it with rice and tapioca and rendered to them help and solace. Besides he gave shelter to the priests and Brothers of St. Antony’s Monastery, Aluva for a month on the second floor of St. Mary’s High School.

Manifold Services in the Arch eparchy

Fr. Varghese Payapilly had served as a Consultant of Archbishop Augustine Kandathil, member of the Archdiocesan Council, Director of the Apostolic Union and Director of the Priests’ Provident Fund.  He was a Benefactor and Chaplain of Carmelite Convents, Spiritual Director and Extra Ordinary Confessor and Special Benefactor of CMI Monasteries. Although he was a diocesan priest, the chronicle of the St. Antony’s Carmelite Monastery, Aluva has put on record that his lifestyle had been ascetic, befitting a religious and the Carmelites held him in high esteem.

Purchase of 75 Acres of Land at Chunangamvely

In the same year 1924 Fr. Varghese Payapilly bought a large and extensive plot of 75 acres of land on the Perumbavoor Road in Chunangamvely near Aluva with the permission of the Archbishop of Ernakulam Mar Augustine Kandathil.


Foundation of SD Congregation

We could say that the origin of the Congregation of the Sisters of the Destitute was really divine and ecclesial. In order to continue the special charism and spiritual mission of Fr. Varghese Payapilly, God called five young virgins, giving them the same spirit and vision. The Archbishop Mar Augustine Kandathil was approached by the same virgins repeatedly to speak of their earnest desire of dedicating themselves to the Lord in the service of the poor. The archbishop who knew and was convinced of the God-infused insights of Fr. Varghese Payapilly sent them to him. The young virgins, inspired by God, shared the joy and vision of Fr. Payapilly who was filled with the experience of Jesus the compassionate. And the dedicated life of the “Little Sisters of the Poor” was commenced informally on 2 February 1926.  As a shelter for the destitute and abandoned, a ‘Home for the Aged’ was established simultaneously in accordance with the God-inspired desire of Fr. Payapilly. Thus the Congregation of the ‘Little Sisters of the Poor’ was officially begun on 19 March 1927. And the watchman’s house with three rooms in the property of the archdiocese bought at Chunangamvely became the first convent and the ‘Home for the Aged’. In one of its rooms two old people were admitted that day itself and served. According to the decree of Mar Augustine Kandathil, the Archbishop, two Carmelite Sisters (at present CMC) Anna and Mariam from Chengal and Koonammavu convents respectively arrived on the same day to initiate the first members into the customs and practices of religious life.

The compassionate Jesus is the centre of life of Fr. Varghese. Payapilly and the congregation he founded. As there existed already another religious congregation with the name of ‘the Little Sisters of the Poor’, following the direction of the then Apostolic Delegate Most Rev. Peter Kierkels the name of the congregation was changed in 1933 to that of the ‘Sisters of the Destitute.’






Awakening of the Social Conscience towards the Needs of the Poor

In the appeal to the public prepared by Fr. Varghese Payapilly on 6 October 1927 his love for the poor and attitude embracing all regardless of caste and creed is very evident.  After consulting the leading persons of the locality Fr. Varghese Payapilly, with the permission of His Grace Mar Augustine Kandathil, the Archbishop convened a general meeting on 1 April 1927 for the welfare of the ‘Home for the Aged’ which was begun without any resources, relying solely on the providence of God. In accordance with the decision of the meeting Fr. Varghese Payapilly, M. K. Khadar Pillai, former Municipal Chairman of Aluva, Advocate Joseph Naduvathussery and others with four Sisters went the next day itself to the market in Aluva for begging alms for the poor. Fr. Varghese Payapilly taught the Sisters to accept joyfully anything they got.

Vestition of the Pioneer Members

Fr. Varghese Payapilly prepared the Sisters to receive the religious habit as a sign of putting off the old nature and manner of life and putting on the new nature and manner of life. In order to make the Sisters ready for this great event (Servant of God) Fr. Joseph Panjikaran conducted a seven-day retreat. And on 19 March 1929 six first Sisters of the new congregation received the religious habit from His Grace Mar Augustine Kandathil at St Mary’s School Hall, Aluva. Thus the long-cherished dream of the founder Fr. Varghese Payapilly was realized.


Preparation of the Last Will

On 8 September 1929 the founder himself admitted Sr. Regina and Sr. Metilda to the Congregation after the veiling ceremony. The founder Fr. V. Payapilly fell ill on 9 September 1929. Though his illness began as a cold, the doctor at the Government Hospital, Aluva diagnosed it as typhoid. Resigning to the will of God Fr. Payapilly called the Registrar, Govindan Kartha, from Alangad and prepared his last will and signed it.  His condition deteriorated.

Last Words of the Founder to the Pioneers

 When Fr. Varghese Payapilly saw the tears of the Sisters who visited him, he said affectionately: “whatever happens we have to submit to the will of God. Do not pray for anything other than this.  Pray that the will of God be done.” These last words of the founder spoken to his daughters are the holy words that bear out his sanctity and communion with God.


Final Days of Fr. Varghese Payapilly in the General Hospital, Ernakulam

On 24 September 1929 Fr. Varghese Payapilly was taken to the General Hospital Ernakulam in the car of Dr. Dasan Achari who had been his intimate friend. The young man, Porinchu, a peon of St. Mary’s School, was sent with him to help and nurse him.  The teachers remember with gratitude that, though Fr. Payapilly was seriously ill, he made arrangements for paying their salary. Even in this deadly condition, the spiritual father that he was did not fail to remember his deacons preparing for the ordination on the 28th, for on the eve his lips whispered: “Ordination tomorrow”. Only a contemplative, who experiences constantly the boundless love of God in the depths of his soul, could offer this sort of love to others through self-gift. On the 4th of October his condition deteriorated further.

A relative of Fr. Varghese Payapilly told one of the Sisters that he got convinced of the Father’s love for the poor and sanctity even at the time of his death. This is the incident that happened in the General Hospital, Ernakulam. A poor patient in the same ward was crying desperately with severe pain. Fr. Payapilly asked to take him to that patient, and the nurses carried him with the cot to that patient, The Father prayed over him and he was relieved of his pain. And he passed away that evening itself.

Visit of the Archbishop Mar Augustine Kandathil

Archbishop Kandathil visited Fr. Varghese Payapilly twice in the hospital on 27th September and 4th October, 1929. On his first visit to his beloved friend, Fr. Varghese Payapilly entrusted to the Archbishop the new born convent and the Home for the Aged. He was assured by the Archbishop that the convent and old age home will not be stopped. The Archbishop visited him again on October 4th, and he was in a sinking stage and thus the Archbishop gave the departing soul the anointing the sick sacrament and Holy Viaticum.

Peaceful Death and the Funeral Service

On 5 October 1929 Fr. Varghese Payapilly bid farewell to this world after accomplishing all the work entrusted to him by the heavenly Father. The funeral service took place the next day with His Grace Mar Augustine Kandathil as the main celebrant and 40 priests as co-celebrants in the presence of a large gathering of people at St. John Nepomucenus Church, Konthuruthy, where the mortal remains of the Father are preserved. Rev. Fr. Berchmans T.O.C.D., the former Prior General of the Carmelites, who had known Fr. Varghese Payapilly personally, gave a very touching and heart-felt homily.

Initiation of the Cause of Venerable Varghese Payapilly

 (Elevation of Servant of God to Venerable)

After 80 years of his demise, the Cause for the canonization of Fr. Varghese was started on 25 August 2009. The diocesan Tribunal finished its work and sent all the documents to Rome on 12 November 2012. The Roman phase of the Cause was started on 24 April 2013. At the completion of the Positio, on 17 May 2016 the Historical Consulters discussed the Cause and unanimously voted it positive. On 24 October 2017 the Theological Consulters and on 10 April 2018 the Ordinary Session of Cardinals and Bishops also discussed the Cause and voted it positive unanimously. Pope Francis elevated Fr. Varghese to the status of Venerable on 14 April 2018, by putting his official sign on the document presented by the Prefect of the Congregation of the Causes of Saints. The Public declaration of the same was done at Konthuruthy in St. Nepumsian’s Church by Major Archbishop Mar George Cardinal Alencherry in the presence of 6 other distinguished bishops and an august audience on 26 April 2018.

Bio Data of the Venerable Varghese Payapilly

  1. Varghese was born on 8 August 1876, as the fourth of five children of Lonan Payapilly and Kunjumariam.
  2. According to the available records, Varghese was baptized on 15th August in St. Nepumsian’s Church Konthuruthy from Fr. Chacko Ezhanikkatt and received the Sacrament of Confirmation on 27 November 1885 from Rt. Rev. Leonard de San Louis, the Vicar Apostolic of Verapoly in Venduruthy St. Peter and Paul’s Church.
  3. After two years of study and training in Puthenpally seminary, in view of his outstanding qualities of head and heart, Bishop Louis Pazheparambil, the first Vicar Apostolic of Ernakulam, selected him to be sent for theology studies in the Papal Seminary in Kandy, Sri Lanka.
  4. Varghese Payapilly was one among the three members of the fourth batch of students sent to Kandy from Ernakulam after it had been raised to the status of Vicariate on 11 August 1896.
  5. It was at the age of 21, that young seminarian Varghese was sent to Kandy. The group of three - Varghese Payapilly, Francis Chittethazhath and Kurian Payapilly - left to Kandy on 30 May 1897 with the letter of Vicar Apostolic Louis Pazheparambil to the Rector of Kandy Seminary. According to the admission register record of Kandy Seminary, the Venerable and the group arrived at the Seminary on 7 June 1897. He was enrolled in the seminary as the 54th student of it.
  6. Fr. Leonard Vossen reports that brother Varghese was assigned the responsibility of the farm of the seminary.
  7. After the preliminary formation, he received tonsure on 19 December 1903. In December 1904 he passed the first year of theology in first class with Magna cum Laude. He received minor orders on 17 December 1904 and sub-diaconate on 23 December 1905. From 14 December 1906, his batch made a retreat under the guidance of Fr. Augustine Berrewaerts at the eve of his reception of the diaconate order. On 22 December 1906 he was ordained a deacon. At Kandy, the seminarians maintained a very warm relationship with one another. “The spirit that reigned was such that the students often referred to the seminary as The Home of Love.”
  8. Varghese’s road to the priesthood at Kandy was tracked by thorns. His father did not live long to see his son become a priest in the vineyard of the Lord. He died in 1904 without even leaving a chance for his son to say good-bye.
  9. He made a retreat from 13 to 21 December 1907 an immediate preparation for the priestly ordination preached by Fr. J.B. Van der Aa. At the age of 31, with a happy and grateful heart, he approached the altar of God to commit himself to Jesus. He was ordained on Saturday 21 December 1907 at Papal Seminary Chapel, Kandy by the then Bishop of Kandy, Msgr. Clemens Pagnani OSB. Among the 17 deacons ordained along with him were the Venerable Fr. Augustine John Ukken from Trichur who founded the Congregation of the Sisters of Charity.
  10. On the very next day, on 22 December 1907, Fr. Varghese Payapilly celebrated his First Holy Mass at the Papal Seminary Chapel, Kandy, dedicating his entire life at the altar of God as a holocaust and never regretted it. Bishop Louis Pazheparambil, was then the Vicar Apostolic of Ernakulam.
  11. After arriving in his mother eparchy, Fr. Varghese and the other newly ordained priests of his batch from Ernakulam Vicariate were sent to St. Joseph’s Bungalow for priests at Chengal in February 1908, to learn Syriac language and the East Syrian liturgy under Fr. Joseph Kariapurayidathu.
  12. On completing fruitfully his Syriac study, Fr. Varghese was assigned to pastoral ministry at Kadamakudy as the parish priest (1909-1910). Later he served also as the Vicar of Alangad (1910-1913; 1916-1920), Manager of St. Mary’s School, Aluva (1913-1918; 1922-1929), and Vicar of Arakuzha (1920-1922). He ministered for 10 years in parishes. He was also the consultant of Mar Kandathil, the Director  of the diocesan council, Director of the Provident Fund for priests and Director of Apostolic Union.
  13. His generous service was always remembered with gratitude. As a result ten years after his transfer, in April 1920, the grateful parishioners of Kadamakkudy accredited and awarded his hard, meritorious and self-less service by inviting him to their parish and honouring him with the presentation of a gold cachet and Mangalapathram .
  14. While he was serving at Alangad, his beloved mother was called to her eternal reward on 17 November, 1912. Most probably the immediate cause of her death was smallpox which took her life at the age of 65.
  15. Animals and birds enjoyed special love and concern of Payapilly.Theanimalsrecognized his voice and longed for his caress. While he was in the parish of Alangad he began rearing a squirrel.
  16. He stood for the needs of his people and recommended to the bishop on every possible occasion to stretch a helping hand. One such petition is given below: In obedience to Your Lordship’s order Pallithazhathu Ulahannan Varkey was the first one to dispossess the land. But as it is known to everyone here that he has not gained any profit from the property like all other tenants, because the trees in his dispossessed land are too young to give yield. Besides he has toiled very hard in his property and has paid the land-rent regularly. … I request Your Lordship to have mercy on him and grant permission to give an amount from the church to Ulahannan Varkey.
  17. The scheduled castes like ‘Pulayas and Parayas’ were not allowed to enter public places. They were treated as ‘untouchables’ […]. They were like slaves. Fr. Payapilly converted Pulayas to Christianity. He baptized them, distributed clothes to these Dalit Christians and allowed them to enter the church. He loved them dearly.
  18. One of Fr. Payapilly’s outstanding achievements in this parish of Arakuzha was the establishment of a filial church at Meenkunnam
  1. Consultant of Archbishop Augustine Kandathil
  2. Benefactor and Chaplain of Carmelite Convents
  3. Director of St. Joseph’s Provident Fund for Priests
  4. Special Benefactor of CMI Monasteries
  5. Custodian of the Poor as Chosen Apostolate
  6.  Director of Apostolic Union
  7.  Spiritual Director and Extra Ordinary Confessor
  8.  Found Home for the Aged and Infirm
  9. Found the Congregation ‘Little Sisters of the Poor’
  10. Lay Collaboration with all faith people.