The founder and the first superior of the Bethany Ashram, Abo. Geevarghese Panickerveettil, established his headquarters at Pattom, as the Archbishop of Trivandrum. He longed to have an Ashram and Convent very near to his residence and found out a suitable location at Nalanchira, just two kilometers from his location.
Nalanchira, though a suburb of the capital city and adjacent to the main road, was an undeveloped village at that time. Envisaging the developmental potential and bright future of Nalanchira, His Grace purchased a large area of fallow land on both sides of the main road. There he constructed simple but safe abode suitable for monastic life on both sides of the road, Ashram on one side and Convent on the other. Adjacent to the path from the Ashram to the Convent, he made a small thatched shed very near to the main road. Thus it became the place of worship for the progeny of the faithful of the Nalanchira mission. On the other side of the Church was a small but cute shrine which had the statue of St.Anthony holding Child Jesus.
Proximity of Nalanchira to the residence of the Archbishop of Trivandrum, Bethany Ashram and Bethany Convent made it the centre of Malankara mission. There were no Christians at this place some eighty five years back. But now Christians have become. a majority in this locality. People from north and south started to migrate to this place. They grew in faith and Christian fraternity, under the loving care of the Bethany fathers and Bethany sisters.
Establishing the first church at Nalanchira (1933)
The first church established at Nalanchira in 1933, was situated at the southern side of the present church adjacent to the main road. It was a thatched shed with earthen floor, simple but holy, which reminded of the manger at Bethlehem. The consecration and first mass was celebrated by none other than His Grace Archbishop Mar Ivanios.
Second Church at Parottukonam
After seven years, Nalanchira mission was relocated, a little south, adjacent to the road from Pananvila to Parottukonam. It was an unfinished building, but the roof was tiled. It didn’t have the appearance of a church but the roofing was an improvement. Sunday mass and other activities progressed unhindered for a period of seven more years.
Third church and renaissance of Nalanchira
Along with the construction of the first buildings of Mar Ivanios College and its hostel in the Bethany Hills, new buildings were made for the Bethany Ashram and its Church. Roads and surroundings became modern, new shops started coming up. The new and beautiful Church of the Ashram was opened up for the parish also. The Superior of the Ashram became the Vicar of the parish and this gave a lot of freedom to the parishioners. But the parishioners were very careful not to cause anything hindering the serenity of the Ashram. The spiritual life of the members of the Ashram was a model for the parishioners.
The Ashramam church was dedicated in the name of St. Benedict and hence the Nalanchira parish came to be known as the St. Benedict parish. For thirty three years the people of Nalanchira got an opportunity for a spiritual formation under the loving care of the Bethany fathers.
As the educational facilities increased here, more and more families migrated to Nalanchira. The membership of the parish increased multifold and it became difficult to accommodate all the people in this small church. Many deliberations were made to make the church big, especially by making a horizontal arm like a cross. But these ideas did not fructify.
Many places around the Bethany Hills were suggested to make a big church for the developing parish, but none of it became acceptable. There was an island towards the south of the shrine. Though it was convenient, the idea didn’t materialize. Finally His Grace Archbishop Benedict Mar Gregorios took the initiative.
Guided by the Holy Spirit, Archbishop Benedict Mar Gregorios came to the same spot were his predecessor Archbishop Mar Ivanios stood, to fix the position of the first church. God revealed to him the most suited place for the church. Immediately His Grace spoke to the Mother Superior, who most graciously agreed and informed her willingness to give the land. Thus an agreement was arrived at.
Fourth Church – St. Thomas Valiyapally
The dome shaped concrete church was the plan of Archbishop Mar Gregorios. The then Vicar, Rev.Fr. Chrysostom Kuttamperoor was very enthusiastic and immediately formed the construction committee. Half of the total cost was met by the Archbishop’s house and the other half by the parishioners. It took eight years to complete the construction and was consecrated on 3rd July 1984. After an interval, during a period of four years, parish hall, office room, bell tower, shrine etc. were constructed. For twelve years, a team of dedicated members visited houses and collected their contributions and supervised the work. Let God almighty reward them in their heavenly abode.
Nalanchira parish can be considered as a cross section of the Malankara Catholic Church. Most of the people of Nalanchira parish hail from different areas of the various dioceses and Archdioceses of the Malankara Church. Natives of Nalanchira are also active members of the parish. There are around seven hundred families in the parish and is considered as Valiyapally, the biggest parish of the Major Archdiocese of Trivandrum. Eventhough the members are from varied cultural backgrounds and different traditions, all are leading a good spiritual life in unity, fraternity, mutual respect and love.