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Bethany Ashram, also called the Order of the Imitation of Christ (O.I.C.), was founded by P. T. Geevarghese Panickaruveettil O.I.C. (who later became Archbishop Mar Ivanios O.I.C.) on 15 August, 1919 at a place called Perunad, Ranni, Kerala, India. Bethany Ashram was the first monastic community in the Indian (Malankara) Orthodox Church
The founder, Mar Ivanios O.I.C. aimed at bringing together the monastic ideals of the Christian East and Indian Sannyasam in a particular life-style which is actualised in a life of intense prayers and apostolic activities. The name Bethany Ashram itself points to this fact. Simple and austere life, atmosphere of intense prayer and solitude, saffron (Kavi) habit, vegetarian food, life in common etc, were some of the basic features of this life style.
Soon after its foundation, Bethany Ashram became the pilgrim centre of the Malankara Church. In 1930 most of its members joined their founder on his way to reunion with the Catholic Church as the Syro-Malankara Catholic Church, and Bethany Ashram remained the cradle of the historic Reunion Movement. It is now part of the Eastern Rite Malankara Syrian Catholic Church (Est. 1930). This event ushered in a new era in the life and growth of Bethany Ashram. The members were initially confined to the activities directly related to Reunion Movement. But later, along with that, began to undertake a wide range of apostolic activities with an "All India Missionary Vision". In 1966 the Congregation was raised to Pontifical Status. Members of the order use the postnominal initials O.I.C.
After the reunion to the Catholic Church, the Generalate of the Order of the Imitation of Christ was at Nalanchira, Thiruvananthapuram. In 1971 it was shifted to Vadavathoor, Kottayam. Fr. Jose Mariadas, OIC is the present Superior General.
The General Chapter of the Order of the Imitation of Christ held in the year 1998, decided to establish a provincial system in the Congregation and so it formed two provinces, namely Navajeevan Provinces, with it headquarters in Thiruvananthapuram and Navajyothi Province with its headquarters in Aluva. Jerome Peedikaparampil OIC and Mathai Kadavil OIC are the present Provincials of these provinces respectively.
At present the OIC Congregation has
- Priests: 122
- Brothers: 10
- Dayara(formed house): 4
- Zoor Dayara: 20
- Mission Mandiram: 8
- Residential Institution: 2
- Institution: 36
Holidays for the Bethany institutions
- July 15 : Mar Ivanios Day
- July 29 : Bethany Day
Present general governing body
- The order's website
- Syro-Malankara Catholic Church
- Syro-Malankara Catholic Church - alternative site built by Malankarites