In spiritual mode

EIGHTYNINE, NOT out. That is the record that the Ponthifical Seminary at Mangalapuzha, Aluva has. The Laymen's spiritual retreat as it is commonly known, has a glorious history of 89 years.

A special retreat called laymen's spiritual retreat is conducted at this seminary, which starts on Wednesday of the Holy week, continuing for three days, Maundy Thursday, Good Friday and Holy Saturday.

The participants depart on Saturday evening well prepared for Easter.

It was a training centre from olden times for priests of Syrian, Latin and Malankara rites. Aspirants for priesthood came in thousands to be trained at the seminary under the guidance of foreign priests. In recent times the number has come down to hundreds and that too mainly for priestly life under Syrian rite.

It traces its origin to 1915 when Mr. Mariadass Pillai, the then Head master of St. Albert's High School Ernakulam, who conceived the idea of starting a retreat for Christians.

The first one was conducted on Maundy Thursday in 1915 at St. Albert's High School, Ernakulam.

Rev. Gambert, a Jesuit, was the preacher and 53 males attended it. The medium was in English, which it still is, and admission was permitted only to laymen. Usually the preachers are Jesuits.

Till 1931 the retreat continued at St.Albert's High School. Then, for two years, it was held at St. Mary's High School Aluva. In 1934 it was permanently shifted to St.Josheph's Apostolic Seminary, Mangalapuza, ie hardly one year after the seminary was transferred to its present site at Aluva from Varapuzha. Since then, the retreat is regularly conducted every year.

Fr.Zacharias and Fr. Aurelian, Spanish missionaries, became the spiritual directors of the retreat.

Fr.Zacharias, in collaboration with Joseph Pettah (now no more), compiled a manual of laymen's retreat, which is used as a prayer book and a guide to the participants. The manual served for years as the prayer book for the participants.

There are spiritual discourses and English songs are sung The salubrious atmosphere of the seminary on the hilltop surrounded by the tributary of Periyar river, Mangalapuza is a suitable place for prayer and meditation.

This annual retreat is the most suitable occasion to reflect on the realities of life and eternity.