The Jerusalem Divyakarunya Ashram at Kalasa: A Refuge for the Destitute


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Report and Pictures by Dr. Eugene D’Souza, Moodubelle
Bellevision Media Network

Kalasa, 27 April 2010: Few days back, I received a phone call from Joseph Paul Mendonca of Pernal that he has been a well wisher and supporter of an Ashram in Kalasa being run for the last seventeen years by Jose K. Mathew which has been taking care of destitute of all categories right from old aged to mentally challenged and abandoned children. He requested me to do a report on this Ashram known as ‘Jerusalem Divyakarunya Prarthanalaya (Ashram) for Bellevision. I agreed to visit the Ashram at Kalasa along with Joseph Mendonca so that i would have an opportunity to see personally the Ashram and interact with Jose Mathew.

On Friday, 23rd April 2010, at 8.45 am, Joseph Mendonca and myself  boarded the bus at Belman to Kalasa via Karkala which took a left turn at Bajagoli towards the Kudremukh Ghats and crossed the beautiful ghat range through thick forests and slopes. As the bus moved on higher slopes of the Kudremukh Ghat, i experienced pleasant cool breeze compared to the hot humid weather down below. During the two hour journey from Bajagoli,  i could see the pristine mountains with patches of greenery and clouds hovering over the peaks. The well trimmed tea gardens were a treat to the eyes.  After crossing the Western Ghats, through the route to Kalasa i could observe paddy fields, areca nut groves, water streams, flowering trees and other gifts of nature.

As we alighted from the bus at around three kilometres prior to Kalasa, one lean middle aged person with saffron lungi and cream coloured kurta and a rosary with wooden beads around his neck greeted us, and Joseph Mendonca introduced him as Jose K. Mathew the founder of the Ashram. For a moment i was taken back with his attire and appearance. However, once i reached his Ashram climbing the steep edge of the hillock, i could understand the simplicity and dedicated work of Jose Mathew and his family.

As we entered the small old shelter of the Ashram, small children welcomed us with a broad smile. In small adjacent rooms i could see an old man trying to get up with great difficulty and being helped by the wife of Jose, Shiney. In another room some of the mentally challenged elderly persons were just seated after having their lunch. Though the physical condition of the shelter was miserable, the inmates are being taken care of with love and compassion by the family of Jose Mathew.

Being inquisitive to know about the person and his mission of taking care of the destitute, the task that requires a lot of courage and perseverance, i probed into the background of Jose Mathew and how he got the divine call to start the ‘Jerusalem Divyakarunya Prarthanalaya (Ashram)’. This is the story of Jose K. Mathew.


Jose K. mathew

Born on 4th March 1955 at Trichur in Kerala, Jose was the third among seven children, five sons and two daughters of Mathew and Mariam. He had his education in Trichur and eventually acquired a Bachelor of Engineering (Mechanical) degree in 1976. His attempts to find a decent job in line with his qualification in Mumbai ended in a failure and after six months went to Bangalore where he did some odd jobs for survival. After around two years, while he was working for a private company known as Southern Structures, Jose was offered a contract by the Hindustan Steel Construction Limited (HSCL)  in fabrication and erection for the Kudremukh Iron Ore Company Limited (KIOCL). With a hope that he could start his own business in fabrication and erection, Jose started J and J Enterprises and shifted his base to Kudremukh where he worked for ten years supplying the necessary fabricated structures for the KIOCL.

With the end of the KIOCL project, HSCL deputed Jose to Vishakapattanam where he worked on a project for Steel Authority of India (SAIL). However, within few years Jose found that he could not continue his contract with SAIL due to financial strain and recurring health problems and returned home at Trichur where he soon became a unwelcomed family member as he was considered to be a failure in life. As he had worked for nearly ten years in Kudremukh and had certain acquaintances, Jose went back to Kudremukh in 1989. As he was desperately in need of a job to sustain himself and his family, P.S. Sebastian who was a contractor at Kalasa offered Jose a job as the manager of his operations. Meanwhile, the KIOCL also allotted him certain maintenance work. Along with his family, Jose stayed in a small rented place at Kalasa.

Jose Mathew says that when he was struggling to find feet in the job market and even later while he was working on failed contracts he was quite sceptical about God and spirituality. The step by step turnabout in his life started in 1991 when he accompanied a group of three persons to Potta in Kerala as he was promised some money for his service.

In 1991, Mrs. Savita Shetty of Kalasa who had certain problems wanted to go to Potta in Kerala as she had heard that those who would visit the  place could get their problems, health or otherwise solved. As she did not know how to go Potta asked Jose to accompany her and two others and offered him some amount for acting as a guide. Jose grabbed this opportunity as he was in need of money. Though, Jose accompanied Mrs. Savita Shetty, he said that he himself was a passive spectator of the proceedings at Potta.

After returning from Potta, Mrs. Savita Shetty felt that her problems have been solved and she gave the witness in the Christ the King (Jagadishwara) Church at Kalasa about her trip to Potta and how her problems have been solved. Hearing her, others too wanted to go to Potta and Jose became their regular guide. He would accept whatever amount the pilgrims paid for his service.

Though Jose had taken as many as ten trips, sometimes two to three batches per month, he was indifferent to the goings on in Potta. He was still sceptical of the spirituality or the so called ‘miracles’ and claim of the pilgrims about the benefits that they received by attending the spiritual sessions at Potta. Meanwhile, in 1993, along with some friends, Jose went to a retreat at St. Joseph’s Boys School Ground at Chikmagalur, as they had heard that Fr. Kuriakose from Kerala was to conduct the retreat.  Though the initial days of the retreat did not affect Jose as he was still a sceptic, on the last day, Jose said that he was touched by the divine grace as Fr. Kuriakose addressed him and got his ailments cured.

This was the turning point in the life of Jose. Gradually, he began to take interest in prayer meetings, reading Bible and spirituality. Thereafter too he accompanied a number of batches to Potta. According to his account he might have taken around 80 such batches and gradually became convinced about the power of prayer and began to grow spiritually. He began to organise prayer meetings and Bible reading sessions in his small hut-like shelter at Kalasa. Gradually, as more and more people, Christians as well as belonging other faiths began to attend his prayer meetings, he found the place too congested. Fortunately for Jose, one generous person donated a piece of land at a place known as Devaragudde, around three kilometres from Kalasa where he built a small place and called it ‘Jerusalem Divyakarunya Prarthanalaya (Ashram)’. As the place was on the slopes of a steep hill and was not easily accessible, a generous Bhat family donated three and half acres of adjoining land where Jose presently runs his Ashram.


Vidyajyothi

In answer to my inquisitive query as to how and when he started the Ashram where a number of destitute found their way, Jose narrated the background of his extraordinary challenge in life that he faced seventeen years ago.

Jose said that it was in 1993, when he had accompanied a batch of devotees to Potta, on the last day, K.C. Abraham, the leader of the Kannada section of the retreat told Jose that God will give him a ‘gift’. Jose thought that he may get from some generous persons some kind of material help. However, as Jose recalled, the gift of God was quite something else.

A mother and her daughter named Yashoda had come to Potta from Sakleshpur with the hope that Yashoda who was 28 years old paralysed down the waist would get cured after undergoing the healing session at Potta. Following the end of the session, as the mother was seeking someone to help her daughter to board the train to Mangalore, she approached Jose who obliged her. After reaching Mangalore station, leaving the mother and daughter to find their way back to Sakleshpur, Jose along with some other companions went for snacks near the Milagres Church. Later, as he was curious to find out what had happened to the mother and daughter, Jose returned to the railway station where he found both the daughter and mother crying. When asked about the reason, the mother said that being a non-Christian, her family had strictly warned that the daughter should never return to Sakleshpur as she would be visiting a Christian spiritual place like Potta.

Taking pity on the plight of both mother and daughter, Jose offered to take Yashoda to his humble residence at Kalasa to which the mother agreed and thanked Jose for his generosity and left for Sakleshpur. Jose along with Yashoda came to Kalasa and in retrospect, Jose says that, Yashoda was the ‘gift’ from God that C.K. Abraham had spoken of. Thus, Yashoda became the first inmate of ‘Jerusalem Divyakarunya Prarthanalaya’ to which Jose added the word ‘Ashram’ as thereafter a number of destitute persons became its inmates.

As his original shed at Devaragudde was too small to accommodate the destitute that he began to take care of, providentially he got a second place where presently Jose and his family take care of  27 inmates. Jose and his family consider the inmates of their Ashram as an extended family and are concerned about their welfare. They help these hapless people not only in finding a shelter after being rejected by their own families, but also help them mentally and physically to regain their strength and self confidence.  

According to Jose, during the last 17 years, his Ashram has taken care of as many as 1500 persons of different categories of physical and mental ailments at different stages and abandoned old as well as young children. Many of them have left the Ashram and returned to their families after being recovered from various ailments, whereas nearly 75 of them passed away in the Ashram itself due to old age or severe illness. Jose also informed me that 6 of the children go to school at Kalasa and one of them, Divyjayothi will be receiving First Holy Communion on 2nd May 2010.

Jose had his own share of troubles since he had started the Ashram from fundamentalists and those who have been opposed to his work of giving shelter to the destitute. He was accused of carrying on conversion and was even physically attacked a number of times and once was even detained at the police station at Karkala for a day. However, Jose says that he has surrendered himself to God and has been doing the work in accordance with the path shown by Jesus Christ. 

Looking after the inmates of the Ashram for the last 17 years has been a Herculean task for Jose, his wife Shiney, whom he had married in 1979, and son Bibin. Of his two children, elder daughter, Josey Maria has joined Order of Sisters of St. Francis of Assisi (OSF) and is presently doing second year BA in literature at Koratty in Ernakulum District.

Jose has been dependent on philanthropists and generous people to sustain his Ashram. He gratefully acknowledges the 50,000 rupees donation that was given by Shri Virendra Hegde of Dharmasthala. There had been help coming from some generous persons from Mangalore, Belman, Pernal,  Karkala and other few places who are aware of the good work that is being carried on by Jose.

As the present dwelling place for the inmates and the family of Jose is too small and dilapidated, on the promise of donations, Jose started the construction of a modest structure with ground and first floor by levelling the slop of the hillock above the present place. However, the structure still stands incomplete due to lack of funds. In spite of it, Jose has decided to inaugurate the new structure named ‘Our Strabbing Home’, named after a village in Germany from where he got some funds for the construction of the structure, on 2nd May 2010 at 12.15 pm.

The new building of the Ashram will be blessed and inaugurated by Most Rev. Dr. Thomasappa Antony Swamy, Bishop of Chikmagalur Diocese. Besides the Bishop, other prominent persons who have agreed to attend the inaugural function include: Sri Bhimeshwar Joshi, the chief priest of Shri Annapoorneshwari Temple, Horanadu, Shri M. Abudullaji Sadhi, Imam of Jumma Masjid, Kalasa, Rev. Fr. Marshal Pinto, parish priest of Christ the King (Jagadishwara) Church, Kalasa, Shri B.B. Ningayya, ex-Minister and Mrs. Motamma, leader of the opposition party, Karnataka.

When asked as to why he is in a hurry to inaugurate the new building that is still incomplete, Jose said that as the monsoon will arrive soon, the dilapidated existing shelter would leak and the inmates would be put to great inconvenience. Hence, for their safety he intends to use the ground floor of the new structure and would complete the remaining work as and when he would receive funds from generous people.

In the new building, provision is made for 8 rooms and one hall out of which 6 rooms would accommodate the elderly inmates. Jose has already installed the statue of Our Lady on the proposed altar at the end of the hall which he intends to use for prayer. The first floor would be reserved for the children with two halls and four rooms.


Jose mathew, Bibin and Shiney

To run an Ashram of this type since the past 17 years requires not only courage, dedication, sacrifice and perseverance on the part of Jose and his wife, Shiney and son, Bibin, but also financial and material assistance from the generous people in order to sustain the work that has been carried on by this self sacrificing family.   Through Bellevision, Jose has made an appeal for material and financial help so that he can get the new shelter of the Ashram completed and continue giving shelter and care for the destitute-old persons turned away from families, mentally challenged and abandoned children.

Those willing donors can contact  Jose Mathew  on  phone Nos: +08263 -214288 or cell phone: +94493 85143. E-Mail: josekmathewkalasa@gmail.com

Cheques, DD or money order can be sent payable to Jerusalem Divyakarunya Prarthanalaya Charitable Trust, Kalasa post, Chikmagalur district.

Account no: Canara Bank:  CNRB 0000864, A/C No: 11832


Comments on this Article
A. M., Belman Thu, April-29-2010, 12:14
I have visited this shelter for the destitutes. There is a baby which is may be 6 months old. Below waist she is motionless. She just moves her tiny hands a little. I was told that her mother had tried to abort her when she was in the womb by taking various medicines but failed. I thank Dr. Eugene D souza for visiting there and writing it in bellevision.com. I appreciate the hard work of jose, shiny and their son bipin May God bless them.
Victor D Souza, Moodubelle / Doha Wed, April-28-2010, 6:52
Great noble work by Mr. Jose K. Mathew and his family. Thanks to Dr. Eugene and Mr. Joseph Paul Mendonca for this report which is inspiring the human within us. Surely we can make a difference. He who is generous will be blessed, for he gives some of his food to the poor (Prov. 22:9).
Vincent, Mangalore Wed, April-28-2010, 3:05
Good work by Dr. Eugene. I know the trustee of the Ashram, Jose K. Mathew very well since one of my relative was in that ashram. Abandend children, abandend aged people, mentally challeged, destitutes, Jiska koi nahin usko Bhagawan hai. May Almighty Lord bless the Jose Mathews family.
Victor D almeida, Moodubelle/Bahrain Tue, April-27-2010, 1:31
Dear Eugene, really appreciate your hard work to reach Kalsa by bus may be you spent whole day it is not easy, for me you are true christian plus your faith in jesus christ and your article show the principles of christianity, I personally like Mr. Jose Mathew and his family how they taking care of those poor disabled old handicapped people really touched my heart, very sad he was physically attacked by ruthless religious fanatics i hate those disgusting fundamentalist, I saw some leaders form our community doesnt bother to condemn these acts nor support for this great man, good you appealed through B/V at list we know we can make our individual contribution for Jose Mathews charitable work, i am sure one day this man is awarded for his hard work, In bible Jesus says no matter how poor you are but i will bring you up from this world.
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