St. Joseph Benedict Cottolengo initiated this religious Congregation. He was born on 3rd May, 1786 at Piamonte, Italy. After his seminary studies, he was ordained a priest on 8th June 1811.
A French woman, Mrs. Maria Gonnet, while expecting a baby was on her way from Milan to Paris. She, with her husband and three children, was travelling by train. Since her time had come, they had to stop at Turin on the way but she could get admitted to no hospital. In the absence of proper care, Maria breathed her last. The incident shook St. Joseph Cottolengo and it became a turning point in his life. St. Joseph Cottolengo knew that God in His goodness had a plan for him.
He realised that his mission was among the poor homeless and so he started his first hospital on 17th January 1828. The "Volta Rossa", a building near the Corpus Domini church in Turin, thus became a hospital. St. Joseph Cottolengo well realised he would need sisterly soft and motherly warm hands to help him in this special mission and so he started a convent. The good God had prepared Madre Marianna Nasi to stretch her willing hands to help the founder at this his endeavour. The new convent was in the name of St. Vincent de Paul. This Congregation established in 1830 later came to be known as Cottolengo Sisters. Subsequently, the Little House of Divine Providence, "Piccola Casa" was started on 27th January 1832.
The first members were Caterina Piolato from Virle Biamonte and Caterine Bergero from Airasce, Fr. Virle, Piomonte. Later, in 1833, he organised a group of lay brothers, now known as 'Cottolengo Brothers'. Still later, in 1841, was established a Community of priests. And in the same year a Community of cloistered nuns was constituted. He died on 30th April 1842 at Cherri at the age of 56. Pope Benedict XV beatified Joseph Benedict Cottolengo on 29th April 1917 and Pope Pious XI canonised him as a saint on 19th March, 1934.
The Cottolengo Sisters were attending to the needs of mentally retarded women. A Brothers' Congregation to attend to the needs of retarded men was found necessary. The visionary in the Shepherd had never suffered dearth in dreams about and plans for his flock and with ease things were set in motion. St. Joseph Cottolengo while alive used to say that he would like to go to India. He had heard a lot about the poor and the abandoned here. God in his providence has made this his wish a reality. We now have all the divisions of the Congregation in the Diocese. Deo Gratias!
His excellency Rt. Rev. Dr. Joseph Kureethara had a request on 16th June, 1978. It was from the Brother General of the Cottolengo Brothers Congregation - Domenico Carena. The request was to send young men to join the Cottolengo Brothers. His Excellency was looking for someone proper. There was one Bro. Joseph Thaickalamury at the seminary who had discontinued his studies. He had expressed his desire to join some Religious Congregation for brothers. Well, Br. Joseph came to see the Bishop on 31st June 1978. His Excellency felt immensely elated. Br. Joseph was informed of the request from Br. Domenico Carena. He was happy to join and was sent to the Cottolengo Congregation at Turin, Italy, on 20th January 1979. Later Bro. Henry Paredath, Bro. Joseph Vengassery from Arthinkal and Bro. Joseph Eresseril followed him to Turin.
In 1982 Fratello Domenico Carena together with Bro. Joseph Thaickalamury visited Cochin. They were exploring the possibilities of establishing a Community of Cottolengo Brothers in the Diocese. Perhaps the time had not reached its fullness. The attempts were unsuccessful. Two years later, Br. Dominic Carena, Bro. Joseph Thaikalamury and Bro. Henry Paredath came visiting again on 25th April 1984. They stayed together in the old convent building of Cottolengo Sisters at Fort Cochin.
Fratello Domenico presented the official request to His Excellency Dr. Joseph Kureethara on 7th July 1984. It was in the name of the Brother General, Fratello Matteo Frezzati. The request was to establish a House of Cottolengo Brothers. Permission was granted on 8th July 1984. The building on the western side of the Bishop's House, Fort Cochin, was assigned to them.
The blessing and inauguration of the House of Cottolengo Brothers was on October 6, 1984. Ont the same day Bro. Joseph Thaikalamury made his final Profession. The Community of the Brothers of St. Joseph Cottolengo was canonically erected on 7th October 1984. Bro. Joseph Thaikalamury was placed in charge as its first local Superior. The Community started admitting disabled destitutes. On 16th July 1989 they shifted to their new House at Palluruthy. The new building at Palluruthy had been blessed and inaugurated ten days earlier.
Bro. N.X. George Nadeeparambil had joined the Mount Carmel Petit Seminary, Fort Cochin as a Lay Brother in 1960. His intention was to initiate a Religious Congregation of Brothers but even after 24 years, his dream had not materialised. His Excellency Dr. Joseph Kureethara asked him if he would like to join the Community of Cottolengo Brothers. He was very happy. He was sent to Turin, Italy, on 7th July, 1984. There he made his novitiate. Br. George made his Religious Profession on October 5, 1985.
Rev. Fr. John Thattumkal who was the diocesan Procurator (later on, a member of Cottolengo Fathers) purchased about five acres of land near the erstwhile 'Madura Company', Palluruthy. There was an ice plant on the property. Repairing and adapting an old building there, a monastery for the Community was set up. Blessing and inauguration of the monastery in the new building were accomplished on 6th May 1990. Rev. Fr. Ignatius Kavalakal was appointed Chaplain of the Brothers from July 2, 1990.
They began to admit the mentally retarded people. Bro. Joseph Vengassery returned from Ecuador and started working at Palluruthy. Many candidates started to join the Congregation. After the death of Rev. Fr. Ignatius Kavalakal on 25th March 1994, Fr. Paul Punnakattuchery took over as Chaplain. Fr. John Thattumkal built a monastery at Parur for the seminarians who were to attend classes at Alwaye. The Brothers also built a large house close to the House of Cottolengo Fathers. Both these Houses were blessed on 15th February, 1998.
The objectives of the Congregation are the realisation of the glory of God and sanctification of the Brothers and the evangelical promotion of the poor. The Congregation tries to make the love of the provident Father visible in the context and life of the inmates of the Little House of Divine Providence.
The Brothers of St. Joseph Cottolengo at Palluruthy take care of 40 inmates. Most of them are mentally handicapped. Some are physically disabled and some are senile. The monastery at Palluruthy is also the Formation House, having Aspirancy, Postulancy and Noviciate. One brother is engaged in teaching catechism at the near by chapel.
Written by His Excellency, (Late) Rt. Rev. Dr. Joseph Kureethara