World, 25 April 2021 -- "In two days two great Salesians (Fr Jose Carbonell and Fr Thomas Panakezham) have left us to enter into the glory of God. They have contributed immensely to the Salesian mission, of Asia and Oceania. May the Lord reward them for their commitment and may they continue to be an inspiration to all the Salesians of 'our' Region". (Archbishop emeritus Francesco Panfilo, SDB)
Our beloved confrere Fr Thomas Panakezham (called Fr 'PC Thomas' in India) SDB, the first Asian Salesian who served in the General Council (1978-1996) went to the Salesian garden on 24 April, in Bengaluru, India, at the age of 91. He lived Salesian consecrated life for 71 years and served asa Salesian priest for 61 years. We give thanks for this life-long shining witness and leadership that impacted on all provinces in Asia and the first missions in East Africa and also in Oceania over 18 years of his service. May his soul rest in peace!
After his term as the first Indian provincial of Chennai (Madras) he was elected 3 times (GC21-22-23) as the General Councilor for the 'Asia Region'. During his term no fewer than 8 new provinces were born: FIS, KOR and VIE in the present EAO region and 5 new provinces in India: INB, IND, INH, INN and INK. In that period of history AUL was still part of the 'Anglophone region' and all provinces in South and East Asia were part of one single 'Asia' Region.
During his term as Asian regional councillor, Fr PC Thomas also witnessed and accompanied the new mission frontiers in Eastern Africa (Kenya, Sudan and Tanzania), in East Asia (Cambodia, Indonesia), in the Pacific (Papua New Guinea and Solomon Islands) and in South Asia (Nepal and Yemen). Also duringthe first 12 years of his ministry in the General Council he accompanied Fr Vigano on some historical visits, like to Burma (1979) or to Beijing (1987).
Fr Thomas is remembered around the EAO region as a man of vision who was close to much important decision-making in the development of the Salesian charism and very welcome due to his family spirit and jokes. He also wrote a number of publications - like on Mamma Margaret and Salesian Priesthood.
After returning to his native India in 1996, after 3 terms as General Councillor, he spent most of the time in formation houses (Aluva postnovitiate in Kerala and then many years in Bangalore as formator, retreat preacher and spiritual director especially for priests and religious. He also animated various groups of the Salesian Family. With his death, the Congregation has lost a great soul, true son of Don Bosco, visionary for Salesian India and charismatic leader.
The funeral of Fr. Thomas will be held on Monday, 26 April in Bengaluru. You can follow it on the YouTube streaming: Funeral Service of Rev. Fr. Thomas Panakezham SDB | 26th April 2021 | 10:00 am - YouTube
- 2010: Reminiscence of first Indian Salesian General Councilor SDB - Fr. PC Thomas
- AustraLasia 1383: Producing a 'fair copy' in the future (2006 - 100 years of DB in India)