Save A Family Plan was born out of the inspiration of a man with incredible love for the poor, a man named Monsignor Augustine Kandathil, but better known as Father Gus. Father Gus was born in Kerala, South India and ordained a priest in 1947. He was an incredibly intelligent man and eventually earned his PhD in Chemistry while studying at Notre Dame University in Indiana as a Fulbright Scholar. He went on to teach Chemistry at St. Thomas University in Fredericton, New Brunswick, Canada, in 1962.
In 1964, during the International Eucharistic Congress in Bombay (now Mumbai), Father Gus was inspired by the words of Pope Paul VI as he asked the world to join him in a non-violent battle against hunger and poverty. Father Gus started in his home state of Kerala by matching five Indian families with five families in Canada to provide financial support and greater cultural understanding. From this very small beginning, Save A Family Plan has grown into an organization that reaches out to tens of thousands of impoverished families across India every year.
Father Gus passed away in India on July 18th, 2001. Today, on the 10th Anniversary of his death, we remember his love for the poor and marginalized and the incredible impact of his work with Save A Family Plan in creating a more just world. Our mission continues to be guided by his example. Bishop Sebastian Adayanthrath, President of Save A Family Plan India, had these words to share about his memories of Father Gus.
“Father Gus is one of the most ascetical men I have met in my life. When he left Canada, he had a small suitcase with him to travel back with two sets of dress. He wore a watch which he bought during his college days. The watch had constant problems, one of the major ones being that it never showed the right time!!! We often suggested to him that we should buy a watch for him. He told me, “You give that money and I will take care of it”. But I realized that the money went for someone who needed it badly either to pay a medical bill or to buy some food. He was poor so much so that they had to borrow a good cassock when he was laid in the coffin.
Father Gus is one of the rare people who knew where he should focus his energy. He was not interested in anything else except to assist people to regain their human dignity. He thought about it, he prayed about it and above all he worked hard for it. You could not divert him from where he wanted to go; he was highly focused in everything he did. When he worked, he worked hard; and when he had fun, he would do his utmost to enjoy the time.
One will be shocked to know that he was not a healthy man at all. He had quite a bit of Asthma and it troubled him throughout his life. Often he could not sleep but he never complained. He looked fresh in the morning. He was a genius for his times. He developed the structures so well for Save A Family Plan so much so that none of us who came after him could add much to it. It was well set.
We love him and love him deeply. May his memory guide us to stand for people who are voiceless in our society.”
Bishop Sebastian Adayanthrath
Auxiliary Bishop of Ernakulam
President of Save A Family Plan, India