Platinum Jubilee Celebration in Bharananganam, Kerala
On 17th August 2023, the management and staff invited many guests to join them in celebrating the Platinum Jubilee of the Immaculate Heart of Mary (known as Marygiri) in Bharananganam, Kerala. The hospital has helped to pioneer quality healthcare services in Kerala. His Beatitude Mar George Cardinal Alencherry, Major Archbishop of the Syro-Malabar Church, explained how MMS took a wise decision when it decided to keep it as a general hospital, instead of creating a super-specialised facility. This way, it has continued to bear witness, in simplicity, to the love and mercy proclaimed in the Gospels. Father Binu Kunnaku reminded everyone how, over 75 years, the local people have claimed it as their own, calling it ‘our’ hospital.
MMS’ Society Coordinator, Sister Agnes Lanfermann, in her address, expressed deep gratitude to all those who had helped to shape the hospital over the years and make it a healing presence. This includes the Syro-Malabar Church whose contribution permits what we do as a Society to become a mission of the whole Church. She thanked especially the late Father Sebastian Pinakkatt, a diocesan priest, who grew up in the village of Bharananganam, whose dream it was to establish a mission hospital in this locality. Hearing about the outstanding medical services being delivered by Dr Anna Dengel and her Sisters elsewhere in India, he contacted her and, after much dialogue, she took the daring step to create a hospital in Bharananganam. After years of preparation by Father Sebastian and the Medical Mission Sisters, who trusted deeply in the providence of God, a small 12 bedded hospital was opened in the village in 1948.
Sister Mini Thomas, the hospital’s Administrator, reminded everyone how at the beginning, the hospital was simple enough for the poor to feel at home in it, when they came to have their healthcare needs met. In those days, Bharananganam did not have many other facilities, such as running water, electricity, transportation or good roads, which led to many hardships for the Sisters, but despite these struggles, their days were filled with joy, as they found the ‘God of small things’. Soon, the hospital began to capture the interest of the people, the Church and the Indian Government, each of whom played a significant role in shaping its services. Each year brought new developments, either in the form of buildings or equipment. In 1951, for example, a general ward with 20 beds was built with the help of local people. In his speech, His Excellency Mar Joseph Kallarangatt, Bishop of Palai, said that when a person is taken to Marygiri, this means that the best possible care will be given - the type of care that has been received by 7,000,000 patients over 75 years and on which around 100,000 patients per year can still count today.
In 1957, a programme in Auxiliary Nursing Midwife training was established, enabling the training of nurses in Bharananganam, and by 1960, the hospital’s General Nursing and Midwifery School had been recognised by India’s Government. In those days, there was only one nurse for every 43,000 people and many local people had never had an opportunity to experience professional nursing care. The present nursing school building was donated in 1965 by ‘Misereor in West Germany’ - as it was known at the time. The Marygiri Sisters, as they continue to be called, and all those who worked in the hospital with them, have continued to honour human dignity, day after day, whether in caring for the sick and the dying or, from 1948 onwards, in the safe delivery of over 80,000 babies. In 1973, a delivery room, newborn nursery and paediatric ward were opened. Healing, as Sister Agnes pointed out, has built community in Bharananganam and makes the hospital what it is today.
Finally, Sister Agnes said how the Society is very grateful for every rupee that has been invested by so many in the hospital’s evolving healthcare services. This demonstrates our common love for the poor. The hospital itself has become part of the Kingdom of God. 75 years after its opening, it remains as much a witness of hope for people living locally, as on the day of its founding, and has become one of the Society’s treasures.