The late Archbishop, His Grace Mar Ivanios OIC, the founder of Bethany Ashram was born on 21st Sept. 1882 at Mavelikara. 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, of the age of 15 joined M.D.Seminary School for high school studies. On 20th April1898 he received Minor Orders and was sent to Madras Christian Collage for higher studies. There he obtained his Master degree and thereafter he was known as “M.A. Achen”. On 15th Sept. 1908 Geevarghese was ordained a priest by His Grace Vattasseril Mar Dinoysius. Just after the ordination, Fr. P.T.Geevargis 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 Calcutta Fr.P.T.Geevargis, concentrated his attention on the foundation of a 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 with Mahatma Gandhi and 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 form of 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 (O.I.C)
Within no time Bethany Ashram and its beloved founder came to the limelight of Malankara Syrian Orthodox Church and Abbo Geevarghese O.I.C. was consecrated Bishop of Bethany on 1st May 1925, and he received the new name Mar Ivanios O.I.C. 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 20th Sept.20, 1930 Mar Ivanios together with Mar Theophilos O.I.C. and a few members of Bethany Ashram came into the Catholic Communion.
As later history reveals, the Reunion Movement gained rapid momentum under the leadership of Mar Ivanios O.I.C. and he rightfully earned the title ‘Newman of the East’ even before his demise on July 15th 1953. By realizing the unparalleled sanctity of Mar Ivanios, the Canonization process to beatify him has started.
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