Towards the Canonization of Brother Fortunatus Thanhäuser

The process for the Beatification of Bro. Fortunatus Thanhäuser officially opened at 10 a.m. on 22 November with a solemn Pontifical Mass celebrated in the parish church of St  George in Kattapana, Kerala State, India, by H.E. Mgr   Mathew Arackal, Bishop of  Kanjirapally.  The process was initiated following a written petition (supplex libellus) by the Postulator General, Bro. Elia Tripaldi, on behalf of the General Government of the Order and of the General Government of the Congregation of the Sisters of Charity of St John of God.  Start of the beatification process means Bro. Fortunatus will be called a Servant of God. 

 Bro. Fortunatus (given name, Bernhard) was born in Berlin on 27 February 1918. The eldest of three sons, he spent his childhood and adolescence in Volpersdorf (now Wolibórz, Poland), a small town in Silesia. In 1935 he entered the Order of the Fatebenefratelli in Breslau (modern Wroclaw, Poland) and was admitted to the novitiate on 20 September of the same year. He made his Simple Profession on 21 November 1936, but had to wait 10 years before he could make his Solemn Profession because of ostracism on the part of the Nazi authorities and because of the Second World War.

 He first trained as a male nurse and then as a para-medical technician and worked in the Fatebenefratelli’s hospital until 1950 when he was expelled from the city of Breslau together with the other German monks because Silesia had in the meantime become part of Poland. 

 

In the following years, he played a leading role in the birth and development of the Order’s Rhine Province, now part of the Province of Bavaria.    

 

At the request of an Indian Bishop, the newly-formed Province decided in 1969 to found a Mission in India and charged Bro. Fortunatus – who was then 51 – with implementing the project together with two other Brothers.   In Kattapana, federal State of Kerala, he built and opened a hospital which is now  one of the most important medical facilities in the region. 

 

In 1977 Bro. Fortunatus handed the hospital over to an Indian fellow Brother in order to devote himself to his “House of the Poor”, a home located in the hospital’s grounds. In the same year in order to continue giving assistance to the poor, he, together with several women, founded the female Congregation of the Sisters of Charity of St John of God, which obtained diocesan recognition in 1994 and today numbers some 90 nuns. He started a great number of aid projects for the poor, the sick and the elderly, laying the foundations of the Order’s present Indian Province.  Venerated as the “Father of the Poor”, Bro. Fortunatus died in Kattappana in the odour of sanctity on 21 November 2005. He was 87. 

 

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