Fr. M.C. Anthony - Apostle of Love
Fr. M. C. Anthony - a fragrant flower in the garden of sanctity, an assiduous religious of the Salesian Congregation, was indeed a true son of Don Bosco, who lived and worked to win many souls for God.
Fr. M.C. Anthony was born on 15th of November, 1926, atKerala one of the most beautiful states of Indiain a small island called Alva. He was the sixth son of Mr. Cherian and Mrs. Theresa. He was baptizedon the seventh day after his birth in St. Dominic's Church.Domi, Mathew, Annamma, Thandamma and Elizabeth were the elder siblings of M.C. Anthony.
As it happened in the life of St. John Bosco, this loving family was struck by a great tragedy. M.C. Anthony too lost his
father when he was just two years old.
The love of his dear motherTheresa was a great consolation for the little boy Anthony, who made up also for the affection and care of his father. His mother took great care to raise the boy on the right path. The family members showed great love towards the little Anthony and the poverty of the family was replaced by wealth of love and affection of the family members. The eldest brother, Domi, took the burden of the family upon his shoulders and provided for the education of M.C. Anthony. Though a little playful and mischievous outwardly, yet everyone could easily make out his inner qualities of courage and competence.
When he was fourteen years old, M.C. Anthony was brought to the house of his eldest sister, Annamma at Broadway in Chennai and joined St. Gabriel's Higher Secondary School. The schooling in St. Gabriel's was filled with lots of sufferings for the little lad. He had to adapt himself to the new place, culture and language. The poverty in his sister's house deprived him of his lunch on many days. On such days, his Tamil teacher, Mr. Iyyangar shared his food with him. With the help of such benevolent persons M.C. Anthony completed his 10th standard in St. Gabriels, Chennai.
Anthony had the habit of praying everyday at night before retiring to bed, a custom that was practiced in the pious family from which he hailed. His mother, Theresa would tell the lives of Saints to little Anthony. As a little boy, he served as an altar boy during the Eucharistic celebrations which sowed in him the seed of religious calling. To respond positively, to this inner desire, M.C. Anthony prayed unceasingly to our Blessed Mother.
MC Anthony's elder sister, Elizabeth led the way for him, to offer his life for God, as she joined the Congregation of the Sisters of Fatima. Her example served as a great boost to Anthony. Moreover his mother's prayers helped him to a great extent torealizethe incipient seed of God's call and guided him in his discernment. What was once a desire slowly began to be an option, as Anthony slowly developed a deep attraction towards the father and friend of youth and orphans, St. John Bosco. About whom he learnt a lot during his schooling at St. Gabriel's. The life of Don Bosco has inspired him to follow Don Bosco with the deep thirst to engage him in the religious service of youth and children by joining the Congregation of Salesians of Don Bosco. Knowing his intentions, his mother blessed him to become a good priest, who would later work as the loving father for many abandoned children. The blessing of the mother became a reality in the life of Fr. M.C. Anthony.
Placing himself in the loving embrace of our Blessed Mother, MC Anthony joined the Sacred Heart Seminary at Tirupattur in June 1947, to start the formative part of his religious life. From that momenthe steadily progressed in faith and in his devotion to Mary Help of Christians. He was praised by all his formators and professors for his devotion and piety. Whenever Anthony came home for holidays, he would gather the little children around him to teach prayers and games. He would speak to them the words of Jesus and explain the miracles from the gospels. He would help them to have a filial devotion to Mary Help of Christians, and also shared with the young, the life of Don Bosco.
On 2nd May 1950, M.C. Anthony's mother Theresa departed to receive her eternal reward. Anthony was immensely grieved by the news of the death of his loving mother. During this moment of great sorrow, his Novice Master, Fr. Mantovanistood by him as a strong support and consolation.
As he was nearing the completion of his novitiate formation, Anthony submitted his application for the first profession on 15th of March 1951. In his application, he had stated his motto as ‘to work for the salvation of the souls, especially the souls of the poor youth.' Fr. Joseph Carreno, the then provincial of the Salesian Province of Madras, seeing the interest of young Anthony's involvement in community living and his growth in spirituality, accepted his application for the first profession. In the same year, on 5th May 1951, Anthony made his first profession at Kotagiri.From there he was sent to Sacred Heart College, Tirupattur to study Philosophy. He completed his three years of philosophical studies in 1953 with the merit.
On 24th May 1954, Bro. Anthony came to St. Francis Xavier's Parish in Broadway, for his ministry and animated the oratory at St. Gabriel's School where he did his schooling. He then, took charge as the assistant of boys at St. Bede's Anglo Indian Higher Secondary School at Santhome, where he showed immense love and care for the orphans at the boarding. After three years of his service, on 24th May 1957, he made his perpetual Profession at Yercaud, after which he left for Shillong to do his Theologial studies.
During the fourth year of his theological studies at Shillong, the Salesian community went for an outing to a foothill nearby. While crossing a river near the hill, Bro. Anthony slipped and fell into the river. Bro. Fabian, shocked by this mishap jumped into the river in order to save his friend, knowing well that Anthony knew swimming. After a few moments of struggle Bro. Anthony managed to climb the shore. But his companion, Bro. Fabian did not reach the shore. The next day they recovered his body and found dead. In the later years of his life, Fr. M.C.Anthony always remembered his friend's sacrifice and thank him, and pondered that God has saved his life to carry out the mission that he has planned for him.
Deacon M.C. Anthony was ordained as priest at the Sacred Heart College, Tirupattur by Msgr. David Marianayagam, Bishop of Vellore on 1st of June 1961. The next day he celebrated his first thanksgiving Eucharist at St. Andrew's Church, Choolai.
The first assignment of Fr. M.C. Anthony soon after his ordination was to be the administrator at Don Bosco, Egmore. There he was diligent at his work and showed affection to all the workers under his care.
As there was a need for a chaplain for Tamil families in Goa, Fr. M.C. Anthony opted for the mission and expressed his willingness to the then Salesian provincial Fr...... The Provincial pleased with the zeal of Fr. Anthony and sent him to Goa as the chaplain of the Tamil community.
After serving for three years in Goa, he was transferred to Don Bosco, Tirupattur and served efficiently as the Vice Rector and warden of the school hostel.
Then from 1974 to 1977, he served as the assistant Parish Priest at Our Lady of Consolation Church, Vyasarpadi. It was here in Vyasarpadi that Fr. M.C. Anthony started his mission with the Burmese repatriates. He started 'The Pious Association of Mary' for the refugee women. Slowly, the women of this group, because of their fervor and spirituality opted to become the volunteers of Don Bosco.
On a particular night, Fr. M.C. Anthony had a dream in which he saw on the one side uncared and suffering children and on the other side few afflicted women and then there arose a group of women to care for them. He shared his dream with the women of the association. They consented to work for the suffering children and in the very same year, they began their formation to religious life. Later on 13th May, 1976the Congregation of Sisters of Maria Auxiliatrix was announced, with the objective to serve the poor and the underprivileged of the society.
At the invitation of the Archbishop of Madras Mylapore, Msgr. Arulappa,Fr. M.C. Anthony accepted to be the spiritual director of the Franciscan sisters and confessor to the novices of different congregations. He also involved himself in taking classes to deepen their spirituality.
Fr. M.C. Anthony's life was an edifying example, filled with many positive qualities. He radiated happiness and serenity of inner self even though he experienced physical pain. He used to spend hours together daily in front of the Blessed Sacrament to understand the will of God.
Fr. M.C. Anthony used to say often with conviction that, to do the mission that our Lady had entrusted to them, they should learn to cultivate sacrifice and obedience, and observe the holy silence and sustained by this faith live this call to sanctity. He had a great devotion to our Lady. He used to insist with his sisters to celebrate the Marian feasts, especially,that of the ImmaculateConception which falls on 8thDecember and the feast of Annunciation on the 25thof March. He had a great and boundless devotion to Don Bosco. Like Don Bosco, Fr. M.C. Anthony propagated devotion to the Eucharist, Our Blessed Mother and the Holy Father. He not only practiced but also insisted others to practice these three devotions.
He was a hard worker and was humble in spirit. He had a firm footing in the providence of God and trusted God more than to trust people or things. Though he suffered greatly due to cancer, not a word of complaint escaped his lips. He had the habit of thanking God after every work.
It was enough that he saw a rag picker boy on the street, he would take the first step to approach him with loving words and slowly welcome him into the AnbuIllam as a new member and would see to all his material and spiritual needs. When he was working at Vyasarpadi, Fr. M.C.Anthony would pray the rosary and the litany of Mary together with the elderly people in the Home for the Aged. With a constant smile on his face, he would patiently listen to their sorrows. He disliked seeing the elderly sorrowful and he would always try to keep them smiling and joyful. His celebration of the Eucharist was always lively and full of devotion.
Fr. M.C. Anthony used to often repeat the words of our blessed Mother Mary at the Visitation "My soul glorifies the Lord'. He was a living testimony of the perfect love enshrined in the 13thChapter of Letter to the Corinthians and through his life he invited everyone to live this love concretely and meaningfully.He used to insist with his sisters to have the SalesianSpirit; never to acquire a comfortable life and to care specially for the women and orphans who were sick. He used to say and resolve that we should live like the poor, live among the poor and be one among the people.
The selfless life of this saintly visionary was approached an end.... In 1987, Fr. Anthony was diagnosed of Cancer and was admitted in the hospital. Though he suffered greatly because of the illness, he was willing to work for a few more years for the congregation he founded. The Lord had his own plans for him. After three years of prolonged battle with cancer, on the night of 23rd January 1990, Fr. M.C. Anthony with the sufferings and unbearable pain blessed the sisters of his congregation who gathered around him with wishes for dedicated service. In the early hours of the next morning at 3.30 am, he breathed his last. The sisters were inconsolable, having lost their inspiring and saintly founder.
By the providential care of our Lord, and the loving embrace of our Blessed Mother and the constant presence of St. John Bosco, the congregation of the Sisters of Maria Auxiliatrix which was planted as a small seed by Fr. M.C. Anthony, has today grown into a mighty tree spreading its roots in different states of our country and in other countries, sheltering the poor orphans, women and the elderly. The legacy left behind by Fr. M.C. Anthony, is joyfully and carefully treasured, nurtured and is bearing fruit in the life and mission of the Sisters of Maria Auxiliatrix.