Very Rev. Msgr. Joseph K.W. Thomas the founder of Assisi Sisters of Mary Immaculate was born on October 27th 1904 as the third child of Mr. Varkey Thomas Kandathil and Mrs. Claramma Thomas. He belonged to an ancient and devoted family of Kandathil at Chempu, Vaikom. His father was the eldest brother of late Archbishop Mar Augustine Kadathil of the Arch Diocese of Ernakulam. His mother belonged to an ancient and devoted family of Thottungal. As she had no brothers and being the youngest daughter of the family she stayed in the family of Vechoor after her Marriage and her husband Mr Thomas Kandthil stayed with her in Vechoor. So Msgr. Joseph K.W.Thomas was born in Vechoor and was baptized on 3rd November by the Domestic prelate Msgr. Jacob Kallarakal as he was the parish priest Vechoor. Rev. Msgr. Joseph K.W. Thomas had an elder brother, two younger brothers and two sisters. The elder sister joined to the missionary Congregation of St Francis de Sales took the name as Sr Gonsaga and the youngest sister Annie joined the medical sisters of St Joseph, Darmagiri and could not continue religious life due to her sickness and she stayed in Greengardens and died there. His eldest brother Mr Thomas lived a happy family life and died in Vechoor. The second brother died at 17, as a student in middle school at Vaikom. His another brother Mr. Cyriac Kandathill a famous advocate, died in 1962 in Chempu, the youngest brother Mr Augustine Kandathil was a teacher and he died in Chempu after the retirement.
Childhood and Education
The parents of little Joseph, Mr Varkey Thomas was very honest and just, that he was known as ‘Sathyavan Thomas Mapila’ among the people. He had a taste for painting and his beautiful paintings can be seen on the walls of his house. Little Joseph learnt neatness and cleanliness from his father and kept this until death. And his mother Mrs Claramma Thomas was very much God fearing and deeply rooted in the Catholic faith, she was very generous and charitable to the needy ones. It is from his mother he inherited in loving and caring for the poor and needy ones. In fact his parents were able to give great importance in the faith formation in the entire growth of their children. Inherited from the parents all children especially our little Joseph grew in virtues such as; dutifulness, obedience, holiness, compassion etc. his father had a special love for our little Joseph and lovingly he called him ‘Josephy’. As a child his wisdom and knowledge was above his age. When he reached the school going age he joined the Government Primary School at Edayazham Vechoor. He joined to the Gov. School at Vikom for his middle schooling. He had to walk 7km. daily as there was mo bus service at that time. This was well planned by the Almighty that the little Joseph we being prepared to take greater career in the future. In many ways He was very different from his friends. He was not very talkative, highly disciplined serious minded beyond his age, deeply reflective and very devoted, instead of spending time with his friends in unnecessary talk he was interested and concentrated in his studies. He was loved by every one for His Cleanliness, Punctuality and Earnestness in studies. The God given goodness and attained goodness from his parents continue to shine out in his life and were an inspiration for many. As a child he was regular to the Holy mass and assisted for mass as an altar boy. As the angelus goes he gets in his room and used to pray the rosary.
While he was in the middle school he was seriously ill with typhoid and high fever, his elder brother, cousins and many others were also affected by the same. There was no proper medication at that time and our little Joseph was at the point of death. It is miraculously he got some medicine which was brought for his uncle who died in Trichy due to the same illness. The medicine was brought from a foreign country as it was no available in India. His relatives got the coffin ready, in order to bury him. He and his youngest uncle escaped from death while seven of his family members died. This amazing intervention of the loving and healing touch of the Lord to Joseph was only for the reason that, he was being chosen from all eternity to join in His redemptive work of Mercy and Kindness therefore extended his life span for a greater cause. Once he recovered from his sickness he was unable to walk such a distance as his health did not permit for that reason he was admitted to the St Mary’s H S and boarding at Alwaye. It was a real turning point in his life when he was sent to Alwaye, to join the third form.
The Personality of Joseph Kandathil
At that time, life in the boarding was very tough because the rules were strict and the students were forced to abide by it. But for Joseph, his boarding life helped him very much in the formation of his life. The disciplined life in the boarding with its punctuality and the spiritual exercises helped greatly in the character formation of Joseph. Mr Cletus of Arunthunkal who was the classmate of Joseph in the boarding remembers him as a quiet, very lean, minimum talking, serious boy with close cropped hair, not interfering in the affairs of others, regularity in his studies, very accurate in keeping the rules of the boarding and did sincerely all pious activities and that was Joseph. In the boarding he was a model for all. He was very much interested in foot – ball match. Once his leg was sprained while playing and that, swelling remained which became the cause of filarial later on. During his holidays he used to spend his time with his brothers and friends of his vicinity in discussing the matters concerning catholic faith and its teaching and competitions were conducted and prizes were distributed. As his house was in the bank of Lake Vembanattu he was familiar with the country boat and water. He was much interested in learning English and was able to use this language very efficiently, therefore his friends call him ‘Saippu’ (foreigner) and later on he used to be called as ‘Saippachan’ by his relatives. He was very strict with himself, well disciplined and attended to his study and duties diligently. He was a little hot tempered. As a result he used to get angry. Nevertheless he had the humility to apologize to those whom he offended.