Bro.Joseph Thamby SERVANT OF GOD
Early life of Bro.Joseph Thamby
Though thamby means younger brother in Tamil, here it is exclusively used as a surname or rather as a family name. In fact, Thamby has been a well-known family at Karaikal in Pondicherry. Pondicherry was a French colony, and a few members of this family held government offices at home as well as abroad. Father P.S. Sebastian wrote to us some time back: “I would like to inform you that I am a relative of Brother Joseph Thamby working in the diocese of Kumbakonam. Before Joseph Thamby left our place for Peddavutapally, he was with me for some time .... As there is no other priest related to Brother Joseph, I was invited to bless the marriage of his nephews, Victor Thamby and Robert Thamby at Pondicherry during the time of Archbishop Colas. Now both of them work, one in France and the other in Africa. There is only one sister, Gabrielle Marie Therese, O.C.D. (Carmelite Order) as Novice Mistress in Pondicherry.” She was the daughter of his younger brother, Michael Dhayirian Thamby, and Victor Thamby and Robert Thamby were her brothers.
When Gabrielle Marie Therese made her profession in the Carmelite Order on 14th October 1932, Joseph Thamby attended the service. He came from his mission field, most likely in Tanjore diocese. Then he was respected as a man of penance; he was wearing a hair shirt, and living the life of a mendicant. He was very frugal in his meals. Some people believed that Thamby could perform miracles like curing sick people and casting out demons. We mention these facts in order show that he, though forced to run away from home because of some particular circumstances, had no ill will against his family, which he visited occasionally.
Joseph Thamby was born in September 1883 in Pondicherry. He had an younger brother, and their mother Annamalle died when Joseph was seven years and his brother two years. Their father Savarimuthu Thamby married a second time, and had one daughter by name Mary. When Thamby was twelve years old he joined the group of children being prepared for First Communion and Confirmation. But just before the Holy Eucharist in the Church during which the sacraments were to be administered, quite surprisingly, his stepmother forbade him to receive the sacraments. She conveyed her objection to the parish priest, but Thamby was administered both the sacraments, which infuriated her all the more. When he returned home after receiving the sacraments his stepmother was indignant, and as a punishment refused to give him meals. Since the stepmother was persecuting them, Joseph left the house stealthily, leaving his younger brother at home because he was too small to be taken along. Joseph Thamby reached Kerala where he was taken care of and educated by a pious lady. After some years Thamby came to his native place, where he was taken care of and educated by a pious lady. After some years Thamby came to his native place, where he begged for alms, but nobody could recognize him including his own father who gave him one anna (about 10 paise).
His younger brother Dhayirian Thamby in course of time went to Indo-China where he got a job, and married Mary Theresa by whom he had four children, three boys and one girl. Later he returned to India and the only girl joined the convent and took the religious name, Sr. Gabriele Thamby. One of the brothers, Albert, married and became bed-ridden on the day of marriage itself and died after twenty two days. His wife Philomina went to her parental home and later joined the convent and received the name Sr. Angel Mary. Joseph Thamby was present for the wedding and he had objected to the marriage saying that some danger would take place; but his word was not heeded to. Later on, the other brothers Victor and Robert also got married.
Victor died after a few years. Robert took up his residence in France, and his wife, Martha, visited the tomb of Br. Joseph Thamby at Avutapally in 1984. Dhayirian Thamby who was employed in Indo-China (Saigon) lost his wife, Mary Theresa, and he himself went to his eternal aboard in 1935. Though Joseph Thamby used to visit Pondicherry occasionally, he was not recognized by anyone until 1928 when his grandmother identified him while attending a funeral service of a relative. He used to wear the Third Order habit, and on one of his visits, he participated in the profession ceremony of his niece Sr. Gabrielle (October 14, 1932). He would never reveal to which monastery he belonged, but when asked he used to say that he return to his monastery at Quilon in Kerala.
He used to collect money and clothes for the poor. On Fridays he was seen in agony by many, and at times in ecstasy, which means he might have been participating in the passion of Jesus Christ. He used to heal people of their various illnesses and perform the ministry of exorcism when called upon to do so. It is reported that he visited Saigon in a miraculous manner. Within three days the family members in Pondicherry received letter communicating the message that Thamby had visited them and conveyed their greetings. They wondered as how this could happen as the flights were not common in those days. This is considered to be a case of bi-location. He had a workable knowledge of Telugu, Tamil, Malayalam, French and English. It is said he was in the habit of reciting the divine office in Latin as it was the official language of the Church.
During the World War II Aloysius Gonzaga Sisters from Burma came to Pondicherry in 1942 by trekking for more than 40 days. Br.Thamby seems to have accompanied them without their knowledge, and on reaching Pondicherry he showed the Mother House near the Cathedral. When asked who he was, he evaded the answer.