St. Thomas Cathedral, Houston Celebrates 40 years of Priesthood of Very. Rev. Gheevarghis Aroopala Cor Episcopa
Life History of Aroopala Achen by MMVS and St. Thomas Seniors
Very Rev. Gheevarghis Aroopala Corepiscopa
Very Rev. Gheevarghis Aroopala Corepiscopa was born on November 25th, 1939 to Abraham and Sara Aroopala, a devout Orthodox Christian family in Ooramana , India (near Kadamattom, in Ernakulam District in Kerala. ) He was baptized at the St. John's Orthodox Church in Pampakuda, Kerala.
From his early childhood, Gheevarghis showed great appreciation and interest in the study of the bible and liturgy of the Church.. Because of his growing desire to serve God as a Priest, he joined the Orthodox Theological Seminary in Kottayam in 1959 after completing his schooling at the Pampakuda MTM High School. He was ordained as a deacon by His Grace Augen Mar Themotheos, Metropolitan of the Kandanadu Diocese, at St. Peter's and St. Paul's Orthodox Church, Kolencherry, on May 29th, 1963. In 1964, Gheevarghis graduated from the seminary and received the G.S.T (Graduate in Sacred Theology).
Upon completion of his studies, Gheevarghis was appointed as the Private Secretary to His Holiness Moran Mar Baselios Augen I, the Catholicos of the East and Malankara Metropolitan. He served the Catholicos from 1964 to 1967. During this period, he gained extensive knowledge and experience in church administration and liturgical services. Deacon Gheevarghis accompanied His Holiness, the Catholicos, to international meetings with world leaders such as the Head of the Catholic Church, Pope Paul VI; the Patriarch of Antioch, His Holiness Ignatius Yakub III; the Prime Minister of India, Smt. Indira Gandhi; the President of India, Dr. S. Radhakrishnan; and, the Patriarch of Romania, His Holiness Justinian.
In 1967, Deacon Gheevarghis joined the Bucharest University in Romania with a scholarship from the World Council of Churches (WCC). Here he obtained the Bachelor of Divinity (B.D.) degree and completed a Doctor of Theology (D.Th.) degree in 1971. During his stay in Romania, Deacon Gheevarghis was also recognized by the Patriarch of Romania, His Holiness Justinian, with special gifts of personal appreciation.
In 1971, Deacon Gheevarghis joined the McCormick Theological Seminary in Chicago with a scholarship from the United Presbyterian Church. In 1973, he was awarded the Master of Science in Theology (S.T.M.) degree with a specialization in Historical Theology. In 1974, he obtained the Master of Theology (M.Th.) degree with a specialization in Pastoral Care Counseling and Psychology from the Chicago Theological Seminary. During this time, Deacon Gheevarghis helped organize the St. Thomas Indian Orthodox Church in Chicago and was elected as its first Secretary.
Upon completing his education in Chicago, Deacon Gheevarghis returned to India and married Molly Cheruvellil, the daughter of Kuriakose and Annamma Cheruvellil from Maradi, near Muvattupuzha in Kerala on September 1, 1974. On September 6th, 1974, he was ordained as a full deacon by His Grace Paulose Mar Philexinos, the Metropolitan of the Kandanadu Diocese, and His Grace Mathews Mar Coorilos, the Metropolitan of the Kollam Diocese. On September 7th, 1974, Deacon Gheevarghis was ordained as a priest by His Grace Paulose Mar Philexinos at the St. Thomas Cathedral in Muvattupzha.
Returning to the United States, he initially served the Indian Orthodox families in Des Moines, Iowa. In 1978, Rev. Fr. Gheevarghis organized and started the St. Gregorios Indian Orthodox Church in Evanston, Illinois. In 1984, the St. Gregorios Church purchased a beautiful Church facility and parsonage in the neighborhood of Oak Park in Chicago, Illinois. Rev. Fr. Gheevarghis served as the Founding Vicar and President of the St. Gregorios Church from 1978 to 1985. In 1985, Rev. Fr. Gheevarghis relocated with his family to Dallas, Texas where he worked as a Substance Abuse Counselor until1988. During this time, he also offered his services at the St. Mary's Malankara Orthodox Church in Dallas.
On June 15th, 1988, Rev. Fr. Gheevarghis Aroopala was appointed as the Vicar of the St. Thomas Indian Orthodox Church in Houston, Texas. In 1992, the Church was able to purchase 12 acres of land in the neighborhood of Stafford , Texas and build an impressive Church and Auditorium facility. During the Silver Jubilee celebrations of the St. Thomas Church, as well as the Silver Jubilee of Rev. Fr. Gheevarghis's priesthood, His Holiness Moran Mar Baselios Marthoma Mathews II, the Malankara Metropolitan and Catholicos of the East, elevated Achen to the position of Corepiscopa on September 25, 1999.
Very Rev. Gheevarghis Aroopala Corepiscopa, currently resides in Stafford, Texas with Kochamma and their two daughters, Amy and Christy. Achen continues to lead the St. Thomas Indian Orthodox Church in Houston as the Vicar and President. Under his inspiring and fruitful leadership, the Church has truly flourished. Through Achen's guidance and continuous support, the parish has pioneered many of the progressive missions and activities that are now practiced throughout the American Diocese. We pray that Almighty God will continue to shower blessings on our beloved Achen and family and grant them the health and strength to lead us with their inherent faithfulness, gracefulness and humility that has been perfected in His service over the last 40 plus years.
Picture and Video Credit: Paulose K Mathai , Jyotin Joseph (St. Thomas Cathedral -Houston )