Ministry of Bro.Joseph Thamby at Manathidal
Br.Thamby was a zealous and committed member of the Third Order. In 1933 or 1934, Thamby came to Manathidal, now a parish in the diocese of Kumbakonam, and established a branch of the Third Order there. The newly-born “Capuchin Commissary Provincialate of India” as it was technically called, was under the governance of the French Capuchins. Fr. Armand of Vannes was the Commissary Provincial, who was a thorough follower of gentle Francis. Being imbued with simplicity, unbounded faith in God, possessing a fine personality and atone deep and sonorous was able to infuse into people his own courage and optimism.
He could hardly ignore the ardent fervour of Joseph Thamby of Pondicherry, then a French colony
Thamby came to Manathidal with two boys, and established the Third Order; then he began to take the people of this place to Michaelpetty to attend Mass because Manathidal was not a parish yet. Fr. Gnanadhikyam, the parish priest of Michaelpetty went to the bishop and on his request a priest was sent there for Mass, and Thamby stayed four years there, rendering service to the priest with the simplicity of an altar boy. A certain gentleman, Mr. Michael K.R. remarked: “Some. people at Manathidal thought that Joseph Thamby belonged to a low caste because he was dark, and they had a plan to beat him up, but gradually realizing that he was a sannyasin, they tolerated him. He told them that he had come there with the permission of his superior. He sought for accommodation in that place, which reluctantly they offered. He continued to do some pastoral works among them like establishing peace among people and preparing for the celebrations of the feasts of the locality. Thamby frankly told them that he came from the Archdiocese of Pondicherry and he belonged to the Vellala caste. When he succeeded to get Fr. Ignatius as temporary parish priest of Manathidal, he went away saying, “Now, since you have a Father to look after you, I must go elsewhere and people.” Their request to stay with them was in vain.
Thamby knew the art of making statues and he used to fashion the statues of saints Francis, Anthony and Sacred Heart and kept in the church for veneration but when they asked him to paint, he would break them saying that he would be remembered afterwards, which he did not want to. Because of his deep humility he was totally dependent on the people for his livelihood, and his social concern expressed itself by requesting the rich to share their wealth with the poor. He stayed in a tiny tin shed near the church and his efforts towards getting a priest for Manathidal are recorded by Fr. P.S. Ignatius and signed by the priest and himself on 1st September 1935. He himself built an altar to St. Stephen, which is still extant.
When Fr. Ignatius began to reside at Manathidal, Thamby moved to Pachamalai to do social and evangelical work among who were considered to be primitive. They were 8 kilometers away from Kothapalayam parish church, and Thamby stayed there in a hut for pretty long time doing social service especially providing clothes for the poor people living in a remote area. The sufferings of others touched his heart and he would make every effort to provide help irrespective of caste, creed, culture and place.
“The Spirit of the Lord is on me, for he has anointed me to bring the good news to the afflicted. He has sent me to proclaim liberty to captivesSight to the blind, to let the oppressed go free, to proclaim a year of favour from the Lord” (Is 61:1-2; Lk 4:18-19).
These words of Scripture were continually ringing in his heart. He would not be complacent about a work done; he would move for further service to other places. He went to Pondicherry to procure clothes, especially jackets for the poor aboriginals of Pachamalai. He would have collected money also to help them financially, but their chieftain dissuaded him from doing so because it was not their custom, as they used to throw away the cash.
Once the forest officer turned against Thamby and manhandled him because he had opposed the exploitation of the tribals by the officer. Hence the poor Brother informed the Parish Priest concerned who in turn contacted the higher officers who suspended the officer.