Fr Kuruvila Cherian SJ, former Principal of Loyola School, died in British Guyana yesterday, confirmed a source at the headquarters of Kerala Jesuits.
Born on 18 July 1941, Fr Cherian taught in various Jesuit schools in Kerala for three decades, and was Principal of AKJM (Kanjirappally), and later Loyola School (Trivandrum). In May 2000, he left Loyola and joined the Jesuit Refugee Service in Nepal. He served there as the Assistant Project Director of the educational programme, in camps set up for refugees from southern Bhutan, who had been expelled from their country in 1991 for being of Nepalese origin.
After a stint in East Africa in the Jesuit Refugee Service, Fr Cherian moved to British Guyana, the English-speaking country in South America. There, among other things, he worked in Berbice on the east coast, at the Human Development Center, a Jesuit training centre for children, young adults, and women.
Towards the end of February 2010, Fr Cherian suffered a stroke and was admitted to St Joseph Mercy Hospital in Georgetown. While in hospital he also suffered from a lung infection, but recovered and was discharged on 5 March. According to a news flash from the Jesuit residence in Georgetown, announced via Facebook, “his night was not too restful so he was left dozing until after 9.30am [on 6 March]… and then he was sitting up and having something simple to eat to take down the tablets. Although he was responding to people, his responses were somewhat dazed and sleepy.” Around 10.20 in the morning on Saturday (1820 hrs IST on 6 March), Fr Cherian collapsed again. He was rushed to the hospital but did not recover.
At Loyola, for many years in the 1970s and 1980s, Fr Kuruvila Cherian was Vice-Principal. He was “a great support to all of us in this venture,” acknowledged Fr C.P. Varkey, reminiscing on the new approach to students adopted in those years. Fr Cherian had worked with Giles Francis on the design of logos of houses. In his last years in Loyola, he encouraged student representatives like the School Leader to get involved in decision-making about the school. But he was also perceived among the staff, as a priest who pushed Christ and Christianity in Loyola. That might not be entirely unfounded; as reported earlier on this blog, Vice-Principal Kuruvilla commissioned a series of paintings on Jesus Christ (Jesus as a toddler, a young boy, and so on), one to be hung in each classroom, .
In 1982, Fr Cherian took a break, left for the US and successfully completed a two-year Masters programme in School Administration. Although he came back in 1984 to Loyola, he spent much of the late 1980s and 1990s in AKJM. In 1998, he returned to Loyola, this time as Principal. Alas! School and society had changed. Swimming against the tide, he tried to place emphasis on students’ extra-curricular activities, rather than academics. After an unusually brief tenure, he left Loyola (and Kerala) for good in 2000, amidst rumours over difference of opinion with the then Jesuit Provincial, and against the backdrop weeks ahead of the announcement of a poor academic result in Loyola. [Readers are advised to see the comments section of this blog, especially Fr Toby’s clarification.]
Since starting this blog, I’ve repeatedly tried to contact Fr Kuruvila Cherian by e-mail. He replied with silence. Perhaps he did not wish to take credit for his work in Loyola, or share his views in public about the changing face of Loyola in the 1990s. I should not have expected a bull in the china shop; after all, he was our karadi.
Hat tip: Fr Toby e-mailed to me the news of Fr Kuruvila Cherian’s death.