Fr Joseph Puthenpurackal: The tell-it-all priest of Kerala

Fr Joseph Puthenpurackal.
Fr Joseph Puthenpurackal. Photo: Manorama

Now, this is a priest with a difference. Usually, you get to see priests inside churchyards, but this clergyman is mostly seen on YouTube. If Christians attend only 2 or 3 Christian discourses in a year, there are people who listen to his contemplative discourses daily on YouTube. His jokes are instant antidotes to those who are suffering from depression or to those who are feeling low. The new generation loves Fr Joseph Puthenpurackal who is often called ‘Chiri achan’ and ‘kappipodiyachan.’ He is so accessible that anyone can just approach him and ask him to crack a few jokes.

He was born in a small village called Thovala in Idukki. If boys are known to join the Seminary after the 10th, he joined only after college. Since he was the youngest of five children and since they lost their two elder sons at a very young age, his parents weren’t too keen on Joseph joining the seminary. They eventually told him to join the seminary after college, if that is still what he wanted to do. He loved storytelling (Kadha prasangam) back then. And also politics by the side. Then you had to walk kilometers to reach college. He was a regular presence during the struggle to bring down College which was situated on a hill at Kattappana. Kadha prasangam, politics, and such struggles ensured that he was the star of the college. The priest admits that the audacity he had back then has helped him to shine on YouTube.

Seeing his popularity in college, his parents thought he had given up the idea of joining the seminary. But there was no way he could ignore the call from God. That’s how he joined the Capuchin church. On December 26, 1993, he received the title of priest. During his seminary education, he also learned law. That helped in finding solutions to family issues. When the priest talks about a woman’s role not being restricted at home, cleaning, and cooking for the family, he gets overwhelming support from women. He also gets a million likes for punchlines he himself discovered like this line--“Koodumbol imbamullathu Kudumbam, koodathappol bhookambam.” (When you have unity it becomes a family otherwise it becomes an earthquake).

Looks like his real name which is Fr. Joseph Puthenpurackal has disappeared into his coffee-colored cassock. It was Mar Chrysostom Thirumeni who first nicknamed him Kappipodi achan. And then Malayalees welcomed it with open arms. He became our “laughing priest” by explaining grave issues with a lot of humour. When we met the Kappipodi Achan at Kottayam Uzhavoor’s Capuchin church, our first thought was to ask him to crack a few jokes. But when we started talking about many issues, suddenly he became very serious. He had the seriousness and maturity of a person who has seen social issues at close quarters. Joseph Puthanpurakkal asserts that if he had not become a priest, he would have become a politician. He shares his experiences with Manorama Online Premium for this Christmas.


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