In 1991 Brother Thomas Rathappillil originally from India, joined Ushaw College in Durham to pursue his studies there to become a Priest of the diocese of Leeds.
Mrs Myrtle Watkins, who was a missionary companion of Brother Thomas, decided to buy a bungalow in St. Aelred’s parish (Harrogate), where he used to come down every weekend from Ushaw.
From 1994 when he became a Priest of the diocese of Leeds, he used to go to Myrtle’s house in Harrogate for his days off when he met and became friendly with several Catholic parishioners from the Harrogate area such as Mrs Mary Philomena Patton and John Winterburn (late).
As they say, “only God can write straight on crooked lines”. Fr Thomas was Parish Priest in Chapeltown (Leeds) when he had to undergo a quadruple bypass operation for his heart in 1994 and subsequently found the cold climate of the UK not conducive to his health. On advice from his Physician and the permission of the Bishop of Leeds, he went back to Tamil Nadu in South India, hoping that the warmer climate there would do him good and, at the same time, he could do some good service there.
On arrival, he started a Hospice for the dying destitute in Dindigul (Tamil Nadu). Unfortunately, due to a shortage of funds, he could not complete the construction of the Hospice. So he contacted Rev. Fr.Lawrence (Lawrie) Lister in 2005 when he was the Parish Priest at St. Robert’s Catholic Church, Robert Street, Harrogate. He agreed to help him and requested his friends in Harrogate the parish to help.
Mrs Mary Philomena Patton and Mr John Winterburn took the lead and raised over £30,000 that Lenten Season! With that Fr. Thomas was able to complete the construction of the first Hospice for 250 dying destitute in Dindigul.
Ever since Fr. Thomas, who is originally from India has established 6 such Hospices for the dying destitute there, where he helps over 800 such patients to have a dignified death. For the last 18 years, Fr. Thomas and his team have given 7500 such patients a dignified death, but for which, they all would have died in the streets unwanted, uncared, and unloved.
A Hospice is a place for palliative care for the dying. There is no scope for investigative treatment. To give dignity in death is all their aim. If you google ‘St Joseph’s Hospices in India’, you can read all about Fr. Thomas’s tremendous work. He is now in the Harrogate area, raising awareness and badly needed funds to start up a 7th Hospice in Tanjore in Tamil Nadu.
He is also seeking new Trustees for his charitable organisation in the UK called “Light for the Blind” as two of its Trustees have recently retired due to age and ailments.
Find out more about the Light for The Blind hospices here. Further support is gratefully received through the donation page where you can also contact Father Thomas and the other trustees directly here.
Here is a short video showing Fr. Thomas’s work in the Hospices: