HIS GRACE MOST REV. MAR IVANIOS OIC
The late Archbishop, His Grace Mar Ivanios OIC, the founder of the Bethany Ashram was born on September 21, 1882 at Mavelikara. Born in the famous ‘Mallitta’ Panicker 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 received minor orders and was sent to Madras Christian College for higher studies. There he obtained his Master Degree. On 15 September 1908 Geevarghese was ordained priest by his Grace Vattasseril Mar Dionysius. Just after the ordination, Fr. P.T. Geevarghese was appointed Principal of M.D. Seminary, Kottayam. Later the young principal moved to Calcutta, accepting an invitation to teach in the Serampoore College. During his stay at Calcutta Fr. P.T. Geevarghese 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 the Christian and Hindu monastic traditions. After making the necessary arrangements to begin such a form life he resigned his professorship at Serampoore and started the community on August 15th 1919 at Mundanmala, Ranni, to which he gave the name Bethany Ashram which is officially known as the Order of the Imitation of Christ (OIC).
Within no time Bethany Ashram and its beloved founder came to the lime light of Malankara Orthodox Church and Abo Geevarghese OIC was consecrated Bishop of Bethany of May 1st 1925 and he received the new name Mar Ivanios OIC. His relentless search for truth in the ascetic atmosphere of Bethany Ashram led him to the firm conviction to reunite with the Catholic Church. On 20th Septemper, 1930 Mar Ivanios together with Mar Theophilos OIC and most of the members of Bethany Ashram embraced the Catholic Church. As later history reveals the reunion movement gained rapid momentum under the leadership of Mar Ivanios OIC, an eminent scholar, a man of great vision, a spiritual leader, Mar Ivanios OIC, rightfully earned the title of ‘Newman of the East’ even before his demise on July 15th 1953.