Msgr. Reynolds Purackal : 1910-1988
The Catholics of Alleppey, who knew Msgr. Reynolds and has personal contact with him, he was a legend. His pastoral care, concern for the poor, and commitment to the cause of the orphan boys had endeared him to all. His contacts and interactions with ordinary people cut across the barriers of caste and creed. An eloquent preacher and a convincing speaker, he could reach out to almost everyone in and around Alleppey. His weekly exhortations at the Novena at St. Antony’s Shrine, Alleppey and the annual homilies at the Good Friday Way of the Cross through the streets of Alleppey were always looked forward to by people. These discourses used to draw people from all parts of the District and even from farther places.
When young Fr. Reynolds joined St. Antony’s orphanage as an assistant to Fr. Trinidad, the then director of St. Antony’s Orphanage in 1937 little did he know that his life was destined to be interwoven with that of the Orphanage; that he was going to be almost identified with the Orphanage. Though Alleppey, as the industrial centre of the erstwhile Travancore state, was a flourishing town at that time, the hinterland was very poor and those who lived in conditions of abject poverty were many. Many found solace in finding a place for their children along with those in the Orphanage. The second world war which broke out soon impoverished the town and the suburbs further and the demands on the Orphanage increased heavily. For Fr. Reynolds who had by then taken over as the Director of the Orphanage, it was a big challenge. He never refused admission to anyone: he simply could not. But when there was an increase in numbers there was a bursting at the seams and Fr. Reynolds had to struggle hard running from house to house of philanthropists to keep the pot boiling.
In spite of all the difficulties, he had to encounter he used to lay great stress on the formation of character as well as educational advancement of the inmates. The atmosphere of prayer and religious fervour which he always maintained had a salutary effect on the formation of the young boys entrusted to his care. The result is that today St. Antony’s orphanage is able to reckon among its alumni a former Bishop, numerous priests, successful businessmen, administrators and professionals of varied hues, working in different parts of the world. To all of them Msgr. Reynolds had been the light and hope in their younger days.
Msgr. Reynolds was born in Chethy, near Arthunkal on 28th December 1910 as the eldest son of Joseph and Mariakutty of Purackal family. Purackal family is a branch of the ancient Kurisinkal family of Arthunkal. The young Reynolds, Vavachan as he was called then, had his primary education in Pollethai where his parents had settled. He then went over to St.Ephrem’s High School, Mannanam which has been rightly called the Harrow of Kerala Catholics.
From his early childhood, Reynolds nourished a desire to serve Our Lord. It was also his father’s last wish that he go for priesthood. He was very regular in all church services and church-linked activities. As a fulfilment of all this, young Reynolds joined the Sacred Heart Seminary at Alappuzha in June 1928. Completing his seminary studies at Mangalapuzha, he was ordained in July 1937. He was immediately posted as assistant to the Director of St. Antony’s Orphanage. He became Director in 1940. He held that post till his demise in 1988.
But for a short stint of pastoral assignment and a brief period as Director of the Pastoral Orientation Centre, Palarivattom, his entire priestly life was spent in St. Antony’s Orphanage looking after the young boys who needed his care and love. And, this care and love Msgr. Reynolds gave abundantly and helped many a young boy go up the echelons of life. All of them, though scattered in different parts of the world, remember him with gratitude and are vying with each other to make the Centenary Celebrations a success.
His Piety, devotion to the Blessed Sacrament and the Blessed Virgin, faith in the powers of intercession, of St. Antony; all made him a central figure in the Catholic Public Life of Alleppey. He was a sought-after retreat preacher too. As the manager and editor of ‘Catholic Life’ a Socio-religious magazine which was also the official organ of the Diocese of Cochin and later that of the Diocese of Alleppey, he had a brief link with the journalistic field also. In recognition of his services to the church and the society, Pope Pius XII made him a Papal Chamberlain in 1955. Later Pope John Paul II elevated him to the position of Domestic Prelate in 1982.
Since his demise, his tomb always stands flooded with lighted candles and kneeling faithful around seeking favours through his intercession. It is in the context of such constant prayers and requests from a large number of people that the Church is declared him a SERVANT OF GOD on 28th December 2010 during the Pontifical Eucharistic Celebration which was presided over by His Excellency Rt. Rev. Dr Stephen Athipozhiyil, the Bishop of Alleppey.
"Monsignor Reynolds who in his lifetime, was thought by many as Saint will now be a saint even more powerful".
His Excellency Rt. Rev. Dr Jerome Fernadez Bishop of Quilon.. 14th October 1988