A tiny parish loses a beloved vicar
The Rev. Thomas P. Mundukuzhy, an India native, died Friday
By MARC PARRY, Staff writer
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First published: Wednesday, April 4, 2007
GUILDERLAND -- Holy Week has become a period of mourning this year
for a little-known Christian faith community whose priest died on Friday.
The Rev. Thomas P. Mundukuzhy served as vicar for St. Paul's Indian
Orthodox Church. The congregation of about a dozen families, most
from the southern Indian state of Kerala, worships Sunday evenings in
a rented Protestant church off Central Avenue in Colonie.
Their leader was 74 when he died of a heart attack after a routine
dialysis at Albany Medical Center Hospital. About 500 people gathered
Monday at St. Peter Armenian Apostolic Church in Watervliet to mourn
an influential priest who had regularly led services in Colonie,
Syracuse and the Canadian cities of Toronto and Kingston.
"We are kind of orphaned for the time being," said St. Paul's
worshipper Mathew Samuel, 31, a software developer who lives in Colonie.
The Indian Orthodox Church traces its religious tradition to the
arrival of one of Jesus' disciples, St. Thomas, at the southern tip
of India in A.D. 52. It belongs to a family of Oriental Orthodox
churches that includes the Armenian Orthodox and the Coptic Orthodox churches.
Mundukuzhy was born in Kerala, and came to the United States to
pursue a master's degree in journalism at Syracuse University. He
made his home in Syracuse until failing health brought him to
Guilderland in 2001 to live with relatives.
He had worked for the Syracuse NBC affiliate, but his main career was
nurturing the Indian Orthodox Church in his adopted homeland. He
created English translations of prayer books and Sunday school books.
Many of today's priests grew up reading the books he wrote about the
traditions and history of their faith.
"Virtually everything he did you could say was targeted toward making
sure the children would grow up as Indian Orthodox Christians," said
his son, Anil Thomas, 37, of Guilderland. "I would say without any
jealousy that he loved the church more than his own family."
The Indian Orthodox Church, relatively new to America when he
arrived, now has about 75 parishes and 100 priests. Worldwide, the
Kerala-headquartered church has more than 20 dioceses. Mundukuzhy
worked as Sunday school director of the American Diocese for more
than 20 years.
Friends described the white-bearded priest as a disciplined leader,
strict about when to pray and how to do it. He sometimes chastised
followers for tardiness or shabby work. He responded promptly to e-mails.
"He was 74 years old, yet he was more active on the Internet than
people half his age," Samuel said.
Last Thursday night, he had responded to Samuel's query about a
prayer Samuel was researching for a book project. It was the last
e-mail he ever sent.
"I'm so happy to know it was sent to me," Samuel said. Parry can be
reached at 454-5057 or by e-mail at mparry@...