Dr. Thomas Mar Makarios
By SUSAN FIELD
Clare Managing Editor
Clare Managing Editor
A professor of religion studies at Alma College and the founder of the United States-Canada Diocese of the Malankara Orthodox Church of India was remembered as a much-beloved teacher, friend and advisor.
Bishop Thomas Mar Makraios, 81, died in Newcastle, England, Saturday morning, Alma College spokesman Mike Silverthorn said.
Makarios, who had been a professor at Alma College for 25 years, was in England for his annual pastoral visit to the parishes of the United Kingdom and Ireland when he sustained serious injuries in a traffic accident Jan. 5; he remained hospitalized until his death.
At Alma College, Makarios was recognizable by his flowing red robes and will be missed by all, President Shaundra Tracy said.
"Bishop Makarios was a revered member of the Alma community," she said. "While he was a distinguished world religious leader, his commitment to educating and nurturing Alma students was profound.
"He will be deeply missed."
Makarios began teaching at Alma College in 1988 and was committed to introducing students to differences between Eastern and Western modes of religious thinking, Silverthorn said.
While Silverthorn said teaching was Makarios' first concern, the bishop thought of students as a part of his personal family, and his commitment to the college, its students and its faculty was evident in an October 2006 interview.
"My mission in Alma is not just academic alone," he said. "By being on campus, I'm a father figure to many students to help them in their personal lives.
"Sharing with students about their concerns and their problems that is part of my calling."
Makarios thought of Alma students as his children, according to the interview.
"I see Alma as a family much more than an academic institution," Makarios said.
"It is family work.
"Students are my children. When they come to share a problem, or they invite me for a meal at an Indian restaurant, that is more meaningful to me than giving them a grade or a test."
Makarios had a unique teaching style, according to Ronald Massanari, his longtime colleague and retired chair of the Alma College Religious Studies Department.
"He used books, but he would teach with parables and stories," he said. "He would tell them stories and then explain them, often with an Eastern twist.
"He was very engaging."
Makarios oversaw 75 churches and 7,000 families while teaching at Alma. He was a constant traveler to minister to his churches and was a frequent guest of church leaders around the world, Silverthorn.
Makarios was the only American religious figure invited to Qatar to a worldwide conference by the king of the nation, and was often invited to United Nations events or presidential commissions, Massanari said. He always took time to talk about Alma College at those events, he said.
"Before his accident, he talked with the Archbishop of Canterbury, and he thought that was a wonderful opportunity for Alma College."
Massanari said. "He would do interviews with reporters from newspapers all over the country, and he would always talk about the college."
Makarios came to the United States from India in 1963 as a priest to earn a doctorate in religion. When he returned to India and was consecrated a bishop, he asked to return to America to minister to Indian families he had met, Silverthorn said.
According to the St. Gregorios Indian Orthodox Church website, Makarios was known for his work ethic and commitment.
"As a priest, and especially as a hierarch, Metropolitan Makarios was distinguished for his ecclesiastical ethos, his work ethic, his adherence to the fundamentals of liturgical life, his commitment to the Orthodox faith and the traditions of the St. Thomas heritage," according to the website. "He was a great gift from God to the church."
The Malankara Orthodox Church was founded in 52 AD by St. Thomas, an apostle of Christ, in India; since the mid 19th century, only Makarios family members have been priests or bishops in the church, according to Silverthorn.
Makarios will be buried in India, according to traditional church rites; details of the Indian services are incomplete, and information about a campus memorial service will be released when details become available, Silverthorn said.