About the Bishop


Rt. Rev. Dr.Issac Mar Philoxenos Episcopa

Mar Philoxenos’s schooling began at Bishop Hodge’s High School. He has fond memories of the time he spent playing games like kabadi, thallapanthu kali, football and ball badminton. He made many friends while playing these games and he is still in contact with them. He was also an active member of the school scouts. In school, bishops academic interest was mathematics and he used to help other students in this subject.

His family was highly influential  in his decisions to join the ministry. The bishop vaguely remembers the funeral of his great uncle, A M Lukose Kassisham, a Mar Thoma priest , which he attended when he was three years old. There was an unspoken desire in the family for another preist from the next generation to serve the church and society. Mar Philoxenos believes that it was his grandfather Mr A M Mathan's life and witness that influenced him greatly. His grandfather was a retired headmaster when the bishop was a child and he would encourage his grandchildren to participate actively in the church and in community life.

Though it was always on the bishop's mind to go for the ministry, he faced a dilemma, whether he should choose some other prefession. The first step in his decision to go into the ministry was when he opted for the humanities group in college, though he excelled in mathematics. He remembers how Rev. K C Mathew, principal, bishop Moore college, asked him why he took this decision, though his marks pointed in a different directions. He shared with Rev. K C Mathew the desire to entre the ministry , and rev. Mathew agreed that an undergraduate course in humanities was a good choice.

Mar Philoxenos also regularly participated in Mar Thoma students conference during his college days and these conferences were significant in guiding him toward the ministry. He developed a passion for a life of service to God and humanity. As soon as he compelled his B A in E onomis his vicar Rev. A C Zachariah told mar philoxenos that should apply for church sponsorship to pursue theological studies. He was called to appear before the selection board, which consisted of Dr. Yuhananon Mar Thoma Metropolitan, Rev. K I Oommen, Rev. V M Mathen, Rev. C G David and Retired Judge C M Mathew. He was selected to join Bishops college, Kolkatta, for doing the Bachelor of Divinity programme.

Theological studies at Bishop's college was a turning point in his life. The three years he spent at the college strengthened his commitment and gave more focus and purpose to his calling. His academic interest developed during this time under the able guidance of an eminent faculty, which included Rev. Richard Bowie, bishop Sadique  ( principals), Rev.Ian Clarke, Rev. W. Westall, Ms. McGregor and Rev. Dr. YesuDas tiwari whose conversion experience, stong faith and religious background along with his caring nature , encouraged and inspired Mar Philoxenos to pursue religious studies. It was at Bishop's college that Mar Philoxenos got his first ecumenical and inter - cultural exposure. He studied along with students from other denominations and regions and was able to appreciate and respect their points of view.

Later he joined Benares Hindu University, Varanasi to pursue a post graduate and then a doctorate in philosophy. He ranked in the university for his MA in Religion and Philosophy. During this period, he also got the opportunity to pursue his Th. M and Princeton theological seminary, USA. The topic of his doctoral thesis was “The doctrine of grace in Vaishnavism and Christianity. It was not just academic interest that influenced him to take up the subject of ‘grace’. When he was studying for his pre degree, a friend, seeing a wall – hanging in the bishop’s house that read “My Grace is sufficient for yu”, asked him, with a hint of irony. “bishop replied, “it will speak for itself.” But the question did not end there for Mar Philoxenos. He took time to think over his friend’s question and this inspired him to take up this topic for his doctoral thesis. Mar Philoxenos recounts that the concept of grace is not an abstraction but a passionate conviction for him, because he has had abundant personal experience of grace at every turning point of his life. He recognizes that he has experienced the all- encompassing grace of God in all things big and small.

 

Mar Philoxenos was ordained as a priest of the Mar Thoma Church in 1976 by the present Metropolitan, Dr. Joseph Mar Thoma. Rev. A. I. Isaac, as he was called then, was appointed to serve as Vicar of Mar Thoma Churchs in Rajhara, Bilaspur and Nandini and Assistant Vicar of Bhilai Mar Thoma Church. It was Most Rev. Dr. Yuhanon Mar Thoma Metropolitan who sent him off with prayers and gave him crucial advice because two of the churches that Rev. Isaac was to be in charge of were facing some issues. Yuhanon Mar Thoma Said, “don’t take hasty decisions. Listen to people. God will guide you.” Rev. Isaac held strongly to this advice throughout his first tenure in Madhya Pradesh and saw all problems fade away. Held the advice of the late Metropolitan cloes tohis heart and made it a part of his ministerial style. The guidance and motivation of the then diocesan bishop Dr. Philipose Mar Chrusostom were a support and a source of strength during those early days.

His first parish posting is one that the Bishop looks back at with fond memories.. rather than limiting his ministry to the parish level, he tried to relate it maninfully with the needs of society. Many of the activities that Rev. Isaac initiated in his first posting reflect the areas that he is passionate about, like Ecumenical programs, sports to reach out to youth and participation in the concerns of the community.

After three years, he was transferred to Allahabad, where he was in charge of both the parish and Allahabad Agricultural Institute. It was while serving here that he pursued his Masters in Religion at BHU, Varanasi. During this time, he was in close association with Father Ignatius Puthiyidam of the Roman Catholic Church andthey together started an inter-religious fellowship, which culminated in inter-religious dialogues at many places..

After completing his M.A and Ph.D, he was appointed as Vicar, St. Thomas Mar Thoma Church, Santa Cruz, Mumbai, one of the largest parishes of that time. During the five years of his ministry there, he worked closely with ecumenical organizations like CASA and YMCA, which addressed issues of social relevance. He also gave leadership in the formation of Malad and Basien Road parishes.

In 1992, he joined the faculty of the Mar Thoma Theological Seminary in the Department of Religious.

 

Rev. Dr. A.I. Isaac was consecrated bishop of Mar Thoma Syrian church on October 2, 1993, by Dr. Alexandxer Mar Thoma and took the Episcopal name “Isaac Mar Philoxenos”. Two other bishops – Joseph Mar Barnabas and Thomas Mar Timotheos – were consecrated along with him. He assumed charge of the Bombay – delhi diocese on Novemeber 1, 1993. His first major task was the rehabilitation of people affected by the Latur earthquake of September 30, 1993. This was a project carried out by the Mar Thoma charge along with CASA. Later, immediately after the 2001 Gujarat earthquake, Mar Philoxenos lead relief and rehabilitation works that culminated in the Mar Thoma village, Ghandidam.

Mar Philoxenos was very particular that every task or project tghat he took up was in response to the needs of the church and society. This need based approach aiming at the holistic developemt of society can be seen throughout his Episcopal ministry. Seeing the lack of educational facilities in rural north India, he started the chain of “Gram Jyoti Schools” at the primary level. The project consisted of more than hundred schools catering to the needs of the rural poor and socially backward classes of society. In urban areas lie Surat, where high donations and fees constituted a major problem for many, he initiated an English language school, which is now functioning at the higher Secondary level.

In Mumbai, Mar Philoxenos started the Navjeevan Centre for the rehabilitation of children from the red light area of Mumbai. This was one of the earliest initiatives of the Church in addressing the needs of the most marginalized.

With a vision to educate the evangelists and lay people of the churches in North India, the Bishop started the Dharma Jyoti Vidya Peeth at Faridabad. This theological institution aimed at orienting students to effective ministry by training them in the rural context and gave importance to mission and developmental studies. Now this institutions is affiliated to the Senate of Serampore University and offers Bachelor of Divinity programmes. The strength of Bishop Mar Philoxenos is not only that he has a far-seeing vision, but that he is able to inspire many to share in his vision so that it becomes a reality. The centres and projects that Mar Philixenos initiated are good examples of this.

In 2001, the Bishop took change as the Diocesan Bishop of the Kottayam – Kochi Diocese and one of his priorities was the development of parishes and mission fields in the high Range. With this aim, he started the Munnar Retreat home in 2006, bringing the resources of many people together. The income of this Retreat Centre is earmarked for development activities in the Ranges of the Diocese. The Peerumedu Youth Centre was another undertaking initiated by the Bishop of cater to the needs of the youth of the High Ranges. It provides boarding facilities for students studying in these areas. Balavadis, which gave free tuition classes to children of the High Rang areas, were started in several mission fields. In Ernakulam, the Mar Thoma Guidance Centre was started by Mar Philoxenos with the aim of providing hospital and career guidance.

Mar Philoxenos look charge of the Kunamkulam-Malabar diocese and the Chennai – Bangalore Diocese in 2009. He systematically managed both the dioceses along with other responsibilities. The main thrust was to make these diocese self- reliant and to focus on mission and developmental activities with committed participation and coorperation from the parishes. At present he continues to give able leadership to the Chennai Bangalore Diocese.

 

Mar Philoxenos has served as Chairperson of the NCCI unit for the mission and Evangelism and a President of the Kerala Council of Churches. He is Presdient of Holistic Child Development India and Chairperson of the Ecumenical Christian Centre, Bangalore. He served on the Board of the Ludhiana Medical college, Alahabad Agricultural Institute, and currently serves on the Council of the Chrisian Medical College, Vellore, the Board of Council of Churches for Caring Youth and Children (CCCYC) Bangalore, as well as Gurukul Lutheran Theological College Council, Chennai.

From 1996, he has been closely associagted with the Senate of Serampore College ( University) and served both on its board and in the Senate, he became Chiariperson of the Research committee in 2009, in 2011, he was selected to be President of the Senate of Serampore college ( University). Mar Philoxenos was greatly influenced by the late Thomas Mar Athanasius Suffragan Metropolitan in his theological outlook and focus on theological education. By working with the Senate of Serampre for so long, Mar Philoxenos was able to work with quite a few stalwarts in the theological field such as Dr. K Rajaratnam, Rev. Dr. K C Abraham, Bishop Dr. John Sadananda, Dr. Ravi Tiwari and others. He looks back at those times with much happiness.

The ecumenical exposures that influenced him include his participation in the Anglican Liturgical Consultation, the Societas Liturgica congress and the WCC General Assembly at Porto Alegre, Brazil in 2006. His association with Act Alliance (an international organization related to WCC that works towards a world community where all God’s creation live with dignity, justice, peace and full respect for human rights and the environment) from its inception gave him the opportunity to contribute at its various meetings.

He became Member of the Central Committee of the WCC in 2006 and this enabled him to work with many church leaders and theologians from across the world. He was also Member of Programme Committee and has been selected to serve as Member of Planning committee for the 10th General Assembly of WCC, to be held at Busan, South Korea, in 2013
Mar Philoxenos is a man of few works; he is a man of reflection and right action. He observes quietly, pays attention to detail and waits for the appropriate time to make his comments and responses. The management style is very evident in his leadership and involvement in these ecumenical bodies. His life and ministry epitomize his name Philoxenos, which means “a friend of Stanger” or “lover of others”