Archbishop Geevarghese Mar Ivanios Panickaruveetil OIC (P.T Geevarghese Panickaruveetil OIC)

The late Archbishop His Grace Mar Ivanios OIC, the founder of Bethany Ashram was born on 21st September 1882 in Mavelikkara. Born in the famous ’Mallitta’ Panikkar family, belonging to the Malankara Syrian Orthodox Church, he assumed the baptismal name Geevarghese. Young Geevarghese, a brilliant student in his early school days, at the age of 15 joined M.D Seminary School for high school studies on April 20, 1898. He received Minor Orders and was sent to Madras Christian College for higher studies. There he obtained his Master's degree and thereafter he was known as “M.A Achen”. On Sept.15, 1908, Geevarghese was ordained a priest by His Grace Vattasseril Mar Divannsios  (Dionysius). Just after the ordination, Fr. P.T Geevargese was appointed principal of M.D. Seminary, Kottayam. Later the young principal moved to Calcutta, accepting an invitation to teach in the Serampore college.

During his stay at Kolkatta Fr. P.T Geevargese, concentrated on the foundation of the monastic community as an instrument of spiritual renewal within the Syrian Orthodox Church. In his attempt he was very well inspired by both the Christian and Hindu monastic traditions, He lived for a while in ‘Sabarmathi’ with Mahatma Gandhi and in ‘Shanthinikethan’ with Rabindranath Tagore and was so much taken up with the Indian spirituality that these great ones practiced. After making the necessary arrangements to begin such an austere life, he resigned his professorship at Serampore and started the first Christian religious community in the Malankara Church on August 15, 1919, at Mundanmala, Perunnad-Ranni, Kerala to which he gave the name Bethany Ashram, which is officially known as Order of the Imitation of Christ (OIC).

Within no time Bethany Ashram and its beloved founder came to the limelight of Malankara Syrian Orthodox Church and Abo Geevarghese OIC was consecrated Bishop of Bethany on May 01, 1925, and he received the new name mar Ivanios OIC. His relentless search for truth in the ascetical atmosphere of Bethany Ashram led him to the firm conviction to reunite with the Catholic Church. And thus, on September 20, 1930, Mar Ivanios OIC together with Mar Theophilos OIC, the first Guru of Bethany Ashram, came into the Catholic Communion.

As later history reveals, the Reunion Movement gained momentum under the leadership of Mar Ivanios OIC and he rightfully earned the title ‘Newman of the East’ even before his demise on July 15, 1953. His mortal remains were entombed at St, Mary’s Cathedral in Thiruvananthapuram. Bethany Ashram is now at the threshold of celebrating the Centenary Year (August 15, 1918- August 15, 2019. At this juncture, we pray and hope that Mar Ivanios OIC will be elevated to the status of Sainthood soon.