A TRIBUTE TO THE LATE REV. FR. JOSEPH K. BILL
"Jesus suffered for us and He died on the cross for us. So this love must be repaid. That is why we have decided to follow Jesus Christ.” Father Bill was so convinced of this that he was working day and night to fulfil the same in his own life. He used to say that in 1976 God recreated his heart damaged by two heart attacks, so that he could spread the love and forgiveness of Jesus to every nook and corner of this world. The Almighty called him back to take rest in His presence after 50 years of sincere and faithful service as a priest."
Fr. Joseph Kuruppamparambil, Fr. J. K. Bill for short, was born on February 23, 1928 as the forth son of the couple Xavier-Anna at Thottakam, Vaikom, Kerala, India. He joined the Vincentian Congregation, a Catholic Religious Organization founded in Kerala, South India, made his first profession on May 22, 1952, final profession on January 5, 1956 and was ordained a priest on October 12, 1958 by His Eminence, the late Joseph Cardinal Parekkattil, the then archbishop of Ernakulam Archdiocese.
Fr. Joseph Kuruppamparambil VC joined St. Vincent’s minor seminary in 1948. He was one of the 10 seminarians of the first batch. Even before he was admitted into the seminary, while he was in high school classes, he started a project of spreading anti-Communist literature called INTEC, which indeed was very effective in the long run. In the seminary, a group of Brothers joined together under the leadership of Bro. Joseph with the idea of spreading certain devotional practices so as to foster genuine piety among the seminarians, especially devotion to the Blessed Virgin Mary.
Soon after his Ordination, he involved himself head-long in various activities such as parish works, and the procuratorship of our Generalate. He initiated many social activities wherever he worked. Total involvement was his characteristic note. Throughout his life he was very optimistic, always cheerful, never depressed, even in very trying circumstances.
He was responsible for starting schools under the auspices of the Vincentian Congregation especially English Medium Schools, the type of which was very rare in the state at that time. He was never discouraged or lost hope. Fr. Joseph was very adventurous and such a spirit was visible wherever he was appointed and whatever he did. His initiative, imagination, originality, his capacity to captivate hearts and minds, his ever smiling face and every diplomatic step he took revealed his colourful personality and unique leadership qualities. There are many orphanages and schools for the poor to his credit and initiative. It was not his nature to do things half-way. He used to be totally immersed in whatever he did. Dynamism in its most intense form had always been noted in him. Even when he had been attached to many offices in each house and was overly preoccupied, he was engrossed in preaching Popular Mission retreats and later Charismatic Retreats.
He was in the Novitiate when the first ever popular mission retreat of the Vincentian Congregation was conducted. It was in 1951. He was an active participant in it and settled some adventurous cases that disrupted the unity of families. Soon after his Ordination, he jumped headlong into organizing Popular Missions and effectively conducting various items of the Mission, which were all novel to the generality of the faithful. It was his originality and hard work that added new items and nuances to the customary practices that projected the great new Renewal Program, which was the Popular Mission. So we can say that he is one of the pioneers of the Popular Mission and to a great extent the one who paved the way to its growth and spread of it throughout the length and breadth of the country.
At 48 years of age, he suffered from two heart attacks, which left him bed-ridden over the next 45 days. His doctor warned him that he should not undertake any strenuous physical activity including climbing steps and above all not to preach any more. He was to take his medication regularly in order to control and stabilise his condition. During his convalescence period, he was invited to participate in a retreat organised by the Charismatic Movement in which 160 priests including two bishops were participants. At the end of the retreat, a bishop, the leader of the group, invited him to be prayed over and asked him to state his wish. It was during this particular function that he saw Jesus touching him in the same way as when Jesus lived, preached and healed people in Jerusalem. A major transformation occurred in him through that faith. Subsequent tests by his doctors proved beyond doubt that he had recovered. He was also able to demonstrate that he had fully recovered by climbing a nearby hill. He thereafter sought permission from his superiors to be relieved of his administrative duties and instead to concentrate his future activities on preaching the Word of God.
He also decided to study faith healing and travelled to Pittsburgh, USA, for this particular training. It was at the end of his training that the first healing miracle occurred when he prayed over a paralysed person in a wheel chair, who was immediately restored to full health and could walk. He then conducted six-day retreats and Healing Masses and popular missions all over the world.
Clarity, effectiveness and practicality marked his preaching always. His commanding personality, his musical tendencies always kept the attention of the audience in great numbers. He was always a crowd-puller, not only in India, but all over the world. So many reports of total cures of the personality kept coming to the Congregation every now and then.
Fr. J. K. Bill was one of the flag bearers of the Charismatic Movement back in India. "Go to the entire world and proclaim the Good News to the entire creation," (Mk 16,15). This is the final mandate to the disciples of Jesus. He was always straining his every nerve to be very faithful to the same. He has taken this divine command to the core of his being. Needless to say, it is this that moved Fr. J. K. Bill to take the Word of God to every nook and corner of the world sharing the same with millions.
He was effectively diplomatic in his relationship with others. He was always generous to others. He practiced the principle of St. Paul that charity covers a multitude of sins. There are occasions when persons duped him in view of his generosity. He never kept any grudge against anybody. Whenever he met even his bitterest enemies, he welcomed them as close friends smiling and in a considerate mood. That is why he used to say, "Unless we forgive from our hearts our Heavenly Father will not forgive the multitude of our sins. We will have to remain in purgatory until the very last bit of our sins has been removed. This is the importance of forgiveness in our lives. Do not forget it." We cannot forget his sterling qualities and what he did for the Vincentian Congregation especially for the African Mission and individuals in difficulties, spiritual, mental and material.
It was in 1992 that he joined the East African Mission of the Vincentian Congregation with lot of enthusiasm to preach the good news to the people in East Africa. His first attempt in Tanzania transformed many unbelievers into true apostles of Jesus. Very soon news about this zealous Vincentian Missionary spread far and wide in the whole of the African Continent. His retreats attracted people in large numbers. People, irrespective of faith, nationality and colour, flocked to his preaching sessions. Meanwhile, he started getting requests from all over the world to conduct healing services. Consequently, he became an international preacher of great reputation within a short time. The bundles of passports and the retreat schedule he always carried with him make one understand how busy he was as a true messenger of Jesus’ love and forgiveness.
With the intention of encouraging people in their spiritual life, he started many prayer homes in Tanzania, Kenya and Uganda and all over the world. Regular healing services and retreats are being conducted in these centers in line with the spirit and vision of the Rev. Fr. J. K. Bill and his world-wide preaching ministry is now carried out by his successors.
Father Bill could not see the 50th anniversary of his Priestly Ordination here on earth. A few months before his golden jubilee he was called Home by his Heavenly Father. It was only a few days after his 80th birthday.
Rev. Fr. Bill, pray for us!