“Jesus suffered for us and He died on the cross for us. So this love must be repaid. That is why we have decided to follow Jesus Christ.” Father Bill was so convinced of this that he was working day and night to fulfil the same in his own life. He used to say that in 1976 God recreated his heart damaged by two heart attacks, so that he could spread the love and forgiveness of Jesus to every nook and corner of this world. The Almighty called him back to take rest in His presence after 50 years of sincere and faithful service as a priest.”

Fr. Joseph Kuruppamparambil, Fr. J. K. Bill for short, was born on February 23, 1928 as the forth son of the couple Xavier-Anna at Thottakam, Vaikom, Kerala, India. He joined the Vincentian Congregation, a Catholic Religious Organization founded in Kerala, South India, made his first profession on May 22, 1952, final profession on January 5, 1956 and was ordained a priest on October 12, 1958 by His Eminence, the late Joseph Cardinal Parekkattil, the then archbishop of Ernakulam Archdiocese.

Fr. Joseph Kuruppamparambil VC joined St. Vincent’s minor seminary in 1948. He was one of the 10 seminarians of the first batch. Even before he was admitted into the seminary, while he was in high school classes, he started a project of spreading anti-Communist literature called INTEC, which indeed was very effective in the long run. In the seminary, a group of Brothers joined together under the leadership of Bro. Joseph with the idea of spreading certain devotional practices so as to foster genuine piety among the seminarians, especially devotion to the Blessed Virgin Mary.

Soon after his Ordination, he involved himself head-long in various activities such as parish works, and the procuratorship of our Generalate. He initiated many social activities wherever he worked. Total involvement was his characteristic note. Throughout his life he was very optimistic, always cheerful, never depressed, even in very trying circumstances.

He was responsible for starting schools under the auspices of the Vincentian Congregation especially English Medium Schools, the type of which was very rare in the state at that time. He was never discouraged or lost hope. Fr. Joseph was very adventurous and such a spirit was visible wherever he was appointed and whatever he did. His initiative, imagination, originality, his capacity to captivate hearts and minds, his ever smiling face and every diplomatic step he took revealed his colourful personality and unique leadership qualities. There are many orphanages and schools for the poor to his credit and initiative. It was not his nature to do things half-way. He used to be totally immersed in whatever he did. Dynamism in its most intense form had always been noted in him. Even when he had been attached to many offices in each house and was overly preoccupied, he was engrossed in preaching Popular Mission retreats and later Charismatic Retreats.

He was in the Novitiate when the first ever popular mission retreat of the Vincentian Congregation was conducted. It was in 1951. He was an active participant in it and settled some adventurous cases that disrupted the unity of families. Soon after his Ordination, he jumped headlong into organizing Popular Missions and effectively conducting various items of the Mission, which were all novel to the generality of the faithful. It was his originality and hard work that added new items and nuances to the customary practices that projected the great new Renewal Program, which was the Popular Mission. So we can say that he is one of the pioneers of the Popular Mission and to a great extent the one who paved the way to its growth and spread of it throughout the length and breadth of the country.

At 48 years of age, he suffered from two heart attacks, which left him bed-ridden over the next 45 days. His doctor warned him that he should not undertake any strenuous physical activity including climbing steps and above all not to preach any more. He was to take his medication regularly in order to control and stabilise his condition. During his convalescence period, he was invited to participate in a retreat organised by the Charismatic Movement in which 160 priests including two bishops were participants. At the end of the retreat, a bishop, the leader of the group, invited him to be prayed over and asked him to state his wish. It was during this particular function that he saw Jesus touching him in the same way as when Jesus lived, preached and healed people in Jerusalem. A major transformation occurred in him through that faith. Subsequent tests by his doctors proved beyond doubt that he had recovered. He was also able to demonstrate that he had fully recovered by climbing a nearby hill. He thereafter sought permission from his superiors to be relieved of his administrative duties and instead to concentrate his future activities on preaching the Word of God.

He also decided to study faith healing and travelled to Pittsburgh, USA, for this particular training. It was at the end of his training that the first healing miracle occurred when he prayed over a paralysed person in a wheel chair, who was immediately restored to full health and could walk. He then conducted six-day retreats and Healing Masses and popular missions all over the world.

Clarity, effectiveness and practicality marked his preaching always. His commanding personality, his musical tendencies always kept the attention of the audience in great numbers. He was always a crowd-puller, not only in India, but all over the world. So many reports of total cures of the personality kept coming to the Congregation every now and then.

Fr. J. K. Bill was one of the flag bearers of the Charismatic Movement back in India. “Go to the entire world and proclaim the Good News to the entire creation,” (Mk 16,15). This is the final mandate to the disciples of Jesus. He was always straining his every nerve to be very faithful to the same. He has taken this divine command to the core of his being. Needless to say, it is this that moved Fr. J. K. Bill to take the Word of God to every nook and corner of the world sharing the same with millions.

He was effectively diplomatic in his relationship with others. He was always generous to others. He practiced the principle of St. Paul that charity covers a multitude of sins. There are occasions when persons duped him in view of his generosity. He never kept any grudge against anybody. Whenever he met even his bitterest enemies, he welcomed them as close friends smiling and in a considerate mood. That is why he used to say, “Unless we forgive from our hearts our Heavenly Father will not forgive the multitude of our sins. We will have to remain in purgatory until the very last bit of our sins has been removed. This is the importance of forgiveness in our lives. Do not forget it.” We cannot forget his sterling qualities and what he did for the Vincentian Congregation especially for the African Mission and individuals in difficulties, spiritual, mental and material.

It was in 1992 that he joined the East African Mission of the Vincentian Congregation with lot of enthusiasm to preach the good news to the people in East Africa. His first attempt in Tanzania transformed many unbelievers into true apostles of Jesus. Very soon news about this zealous Vincentian Missionary spread far and wide in the whole of the African Continent. His retreats attracted people in large numbers. People, irrespective of faith, nationality and colour, flocked to his preaching sessions. Meanwhile, he started getting requests from all over the world to conduct healing services. Consequently, he became an international preacher of great reputation within a short time. The bundles of passports and the retreat schedule he always carried with him make one understand how busy he was as a true messenger of Jesus’ love and forgiveness.

With the intention of encouraging people in their spiritual life, he started many prayer homes in Tanzania, Kenya and Uganda and all over the world. Regular healing services and retreats are being conducted in these centers in line with the spirit and vision of the Rev. Fr. J. K. Bill and his world-wide preaching ministry is now carried out by his successors.

Father Bill could not see the 50th anniversary of his Priestly Ordination here on earth. A few months before his golden jubilee he was called Home by his Heavenly Father. It was only a few days after his 80th birthday.

Rev. Fr. Bill, pray for us!

I was with Fr. Bill in the last weeks of his life and also at the moment of his death. He died in my arms. I wish to share with you how it happened.

On February 23, 2008 we blessed a new house in Uganda, we went for a retreat to Tanzania and then again we met in Uganda. Fr. Bill was supposed to go for a popular mission to Gulu, which is a city on the border to Sudan. It is a very complicated place with civil war and a lot of violence. The journey Entebbe – Gulu is more than 400 km on bad roads. I wanted to buy a flight ticket for Fr. Bill for Sunday but they called me from the airport on Saturday evening informing me that just a small plane would go to Gulu on Sunday and all the seats had been sold out. I suggested cancelling the program in Gulu. Father Bill looked at me and said: “You can tell me anything, but never ask me to cancel a popular mission or a retreat!” And he asked me to drive him to Gulu. I hesitated because I did not know the way, I just knew how bad the roads were. However, Fr. Bill insisted. He said: “Let´s go!”

We drove a big jeep. We left at 11 a.m. and reached the place at 8 p.m. Nine hours without a break. Four hundred kilometres, up and down. When we arrived, the organizers welcomed us and they took us to a stage. In front of the stage some three hundred thousand people were gathered, they sang and clapped hands. I brought Fr. Bill right below the stage and showed him how to climb the stage. He went up to the stage and again and again he looked back at me. Then he asked me to join him on the stage. He told the people: “I have brought you a young priest. He will preach.” I looked at him surprised: “You told me to drive you here, not to preach. I have never preached to such a big crowd!” When I looked at the ocean of people, I started to shiver. Father Bill said: “Don´t worry, you´ll manage!” So I did and after the blessing we went to sleep.

On Monday we had a wonderful sleep and then a nice program in the evening. On Tuesday morning we went to a local hospital where Fr. Bill was asked to pray for the sick people. More than 500 sick people gathered there and Fr. Bill told them: “One day all of us will die, be prepared for that day!” People made a long face. I started to sweat. I thought to myself: Why is he speaking like that? Actually he is telling them: get ready! Death can come any time! And Fr. Bill continued: “I am already old so I brought you a young priest, he will heal you.” Then he went to the ICU and asked me to approach all the sick people in the hospital and to bless them. I accompanied Fr. Bill to the ICU – there was one man on the bed and Fr. Bill prayed for him. In two days the dead body of Fr. Bill would lie on the same bed.

On Wednesday we were invited to a convent. There were 85 religious sisters and every year one of them got paralyzed. The sisters thought there was some evil there. When we reached the convent, the sisters asked Fr. Bill to celebrate a healing mass for them. Fr. Bill promised to bless all the rooms and to celebrate the healing mass. And he told me: “Let´s go, let´s celebrate a healing mass!” When I was putting on my stole, he told me: “Anthony, you´ll celebrate the healing mass!” I became afraid: “I don´t know how to celebrate a healing mass yet, why are you doing this to me?” But he made me celebrate it. I did not know at all how to do it. I celebrated a good holy mass, Father Bill was very happy and the sisters, too. Then Fr. Bill asked me to bless all the rooms of the sisters and also their land of 80 hectares. I agreed. Some sisters carried barrels of water and they gave me a big aspergillum and I sprinkled everything and in the evening I could not even move my hand. Around 10 p.m. we visited Radio Maria and Fr. Bill told them he brought a young priest who would preach tomorrow. Again I got afraid – I had never talked on the radio before. But Fr. Bill told me to keep quiet and we returned home.

In the evenings I usually massaged Fr. Bill´s legs. I did it in that evening again, but my right arm was in pain after the long exercise in the convent so I massaged him only with my left hand. Fr. Bill asked me to be more gentle, but I was in big pain. Legs were followed by arms and I stayed with Fr. Bill until 6 a.m. on Thursday. I massaged him all night long. When I left the room, I heard him vomiting. I came back and found out that it was really true. I thought he had malaria. He was in Tanzania before and there malaria is widespread and people with malaria vomit, shiver and they have a headache. I wanted to take Fr. Bill for a blood test. He complained about burning on his chest. He did not want to go to a hospital, but I forced him.

We left at about 10 a.m. A university program was scheduled for that day, but I cancelled it because Fr. Bill did not feel well. We reached the hospital and the doctors were happy. Four of the five doctors were from Europe. I mentioned everything Fr. Bill complained about – pain in his legs, arms, chest and vomiting. They took his blood and tested it for malaria and typhoid and then they brought various devices. When Fr. Bill noticed it, he looked at me accusingly and said: “You told me we went for a blood test so what were they doing with me?” Doctors found out that Fr. Bill´s blood was in order, but he was very tired, so they ordered him to stay in the hospital for two days. When Fr. Bill heard it, he got up from the bed and shouted: “Anthony, I told you not to take me to the hospital! As soon as any doctors get me, they find all possible sicknesses with me!” The doctors urged Father to stay in the hospital, but Fr. Bill said: “Let´s go!” So we left the hospital. Fr. Bill told me on the way: “When I die, you have to build a house for me in Masaka.” And again, the same way as many times before he asked me: “Will you take care of me when I grow old?” I told him: “Yes, don´t worry, I will take care of you.” He told me: “I want to die as poor people in Africa do.” He took me to a village and asked me to take a few photos. When the poor people saw Fr. Bill, they got afraid and ran away because they could not understand why Fr. Bill came to their place. But he assured them and told them: “Don´t be afraid, I am here for you!” They rejoiced from the depths of their heart. And Fr. Bill visited their houses. It was just a few hours before his death.

When we came back Fr. Bill was very tired. I replaced him in preaching and I came back around 9 p.m. Fr. Bill was still in his room. Doctors and nurses were there with him. Around 10 p.m. he asked: “Have you been on the radio?” I replied: “How could I go there if your condition is like this?” He said: “Go!” So I went there and preached something for one hour, I don´t remember at all what it was. I came back around midnight. Only one nurse was there with Fr. Bill. I told her I was very tired, I would get one hour´s sleep and come back. As soon as I entered my room, the nurse knocked at my door and asked me to come back because Fr. Bill was extremely exhausted. I saw how he was sweating, the sweat dripped from his head as if someone threw water on him. He asked me to open the window. It was raining outside but he was hot. He sat on his bed, asked for a cup of water and said: “Jesus, I´m dying, Jesus, I´m dying.” I wanted to take him to the hospital but he refused. However, he had severe pain on his chest.

I rushed out to the car and when I came back, Fr. Bill pronounced his last words: “Let me lay down.” His last words: LET ME LAY DOWN. I genuflected in front of him and begged him: “Father, please, let´s go to the hospital!” He did not want to. I called the nurse and asked her to help me to carry him to the car. We put Fr. Bill on the seat and I drove him to the hospital. We did not talk. We were completely exhausted. There was a very bad road and as it was raining we did not know where the road was. I supported Fr. Bill´s head with one arm and I used the other one for driving. In about 10 minutes I felt how his head dropped onto my arm. In that very moment it was as if something got disconnected, as if I lost something. I stopped and checked his breathing. I did not feel any breath, so I checked his chest and found his heart beating. I drove fast to the hospital, doctors were already waiting for me and they took Fr. Bill to the ICU. Still I hoped he would be fine, I thought he was just exhausted and I planned to take him to a different hospital in Nairobi.

Around 2 a.m. the doctors came, they called me and said: “Father Bill left us for eternal glory.” I did not expect it at all. I could not believe it and I got afraid. I was alone there in that village, no one could help me, I did not know the language of that tribe and I did not know what I would tell my congregation. I took a healthy man to Gulu and he died on the way. I thought I would get a heart attack, too. People from the hospital knew Fr. Bill and they cried when they learned Fr. Bill had died. Then people told me: “Take heart! You are alone here, you have to announce the death of Fr. Bill to the world!” I told just two people about it – one priest in Entebbe and my superior in India. Then I took my phone and kept calling. I received a special strength to arrange what was necessary. Father Bill died early on Friday morning, on Saturday his body was embalmed and on Sunday he was brought to Entebbe. We laid his dead body down at the Miraculous Medal Shrine and people from all over the world came and Father Bill had a really royal burial. He is resting at the Entebbe shrine and many people come to pray here and ask him for his intercession.

When I think of Father Bill, I always remember his appeal: “Be holy! The world needs holy priests.” He advised all young priests like that: “Be good, be holy. And God will do everything!”

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