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October 28, 2020

RIP Valsan Pulikkodan, Beloved L’Arche Assistant

The L’Arche Jacksonville community and friends mourn the loss of beloved Valsan Pulikkodan who passed away following a brief illness on October 7, 2020. Serving 44 years as a live-in assistant, Valsan was perhaps the longest-serving assistant in L’Arche history. Valsan’s spiritual journey, beginning in India with Mother Teresa (St. Teresa of Calcutta), brought him to L’Arche Jacksonville in May 1996. He will always be remembered for his enviable green thumb, spicy Indian food, wonderful gift of welcome, and unconditional love for the core members. 

Gifts in Memory of Valsan may be made to L’Arche Jacksonville, 700 Arlington Rd. N, Jacksonville, FL 32211 or Donate Here
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EULOGY for Valsan Pulikkodan

by his friend Br. Charbel Allen O.F.M. Cap.

I recall Valsan saying on a number of occasions, “God knows my heart,” and what a true statement that is! The Prophet Jeremiah says: “More tortuous than anything is the human heart, beyond remedy; who can understand it?” Only God can fully understand the heart, and Valsan sought after God with all his heart. Whether he was at a Christian Ashram with Bede Griffiths in Tamil Nadu, or among the poorest of the poor with Mother Teresa in Calcutta, Valsan sought after Jesus.

Yet, it was ultimately at L’Arche that Valsan seemed to discover the hidden Christ he had been looking for. The Jesus who said to him, “I have called you friends,” the Jesus who cried out to him, “I thirst.” In those 44 years spent in the L’Arche community, much of which was spent here in Jacksonville, Florida, Valsan desired an intimacy with Jesus, an intimacy which always comes with a cost in this life: “Unless a grain of wheat falls into the ground and dies” (John 12:24). Valsan was called to enter into the pain of others, into the restless pain of his own heart, and to look upon the pain in the gaze of the Crucified One; and, yet, the great paradox is that you really lose nothing when you follow Jesus: “Amen, I say to you, there is no one who has given up house or brothers or sisters or mother or father or children or lands for my sake and for the sake of the gospel who will not receive a hundred times more now in this present age: houses and brothers and sisters and mothers and children and lands, with persecutions, and eternal life in the age to come. (Mk 10:29). Did not Valsan receive many brothers and sisters from Jesus: Robbie, Robert, Brenda, Mary, Paul, Kathy, Chip, and Tommy, just to name a few? This was a true Gospel family! I will never forget Valsan’s tears when Tommy’s health was thought to be in jeopardy, it reminded me of the special and unique friendship between Lazarus and Jesus: “and Jesus wept” (John 11:35). Nor will I forget the uproarious laughter which emanated straight from his belly when one of the core members laid out the bare facts in a witty and disarming way. It reminded me of Jesus rejoicing in the Holy Spirit proclaiming: “I thank thee, Father, Lord of heaven and earth, that thou hast hidden these things from the wise and understanding, and revealed them to babes” (Matt. 11:25).

Yes, Valsan found Jesus at L’Arche. Yet, Valsan, like all of us, had a restless heart, and part of him always wanted to enter into Religious Life. He was particularly attracted to the way of St. Francis, who he saw as an example of living simply and living Gospel Joy. Valsan sought God in the silent early morning hours, burning his incense, sitting in quiet; he saw the beauty of God in the flowers he watered daily in the garden. He had a teacher and preacher in his soul, and anyone who visited the Nouwen House for prayer or dinner in the early days, would have left with some wisdom to chew on. He wanted to live God’s call in his life from the center, from that deep center in his soul, and this is what kept him seeking, questioning, searching. However, sometimes our mission in life finds us, and we can know it is from God when we see its fruits. Look at the fruits of Valsan’s life, see the many hearts he touched, of core-members and assistants alike, of the young and the old, Valsan spoke a universal language. It was the language of the heart.

Now the mystery of this mission is fully revealed to him by that greatest of Mysteries, the God who is Love. I’m sure that much like his dear friend Tommy, Valsan has a lot of questions for God…I’m sure he had questions in those last moments, and yet, he has all of Eternity to gently, and sweetly listen to those answers, answers that are deeper and wider than any abyss.

Why not? Valsan, after all, sought to answer that same question our Lord proposed to St. Peter after the Resurrection, “Do you love me?” I believe that most of us here today, would say, looking at Valsan’s life and at his witness, he gave a resounding “Yes” to that question.

Peace to you, Beloved Friend.
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SPIRITUAL REFLECTION: Memories of Valsan

Written and delivered by Sr. Little Rose in Valsan’s own dialect for relatives and friends viewing the Mass from India. Translated to English by Sr. Little Rose

Thank you for giving me the opportunity to express our condolences, remembrances, and prayers. On behalf of the family members in Kerala, India and friends all over the world, let me share some memories of Valsan. The loss of Valsan was very painful and until now I cannot believe he is gone. Even the Core Members feel the same way. We still feel his presence around the house. He was a good spiritual man and was influenced by Mother Teresa through his words, deeds, and actions. Mother Teresa also helped him to share the love wherever he traveled in the world assisting people with intellectual and physical disabilities which lasted 44 years. He was always listening and seeking spirituality through readings and other preachers. No matter what he did within the community, for example cooking or cleaning, he found a way to offer it to God for the forgiveness of his sins and others. Let us pray for the reposed soul of Valsan on behalf of the spiritual presence of his family members and those who are present here.

God Our Father, we offer the reposed soul of Valsan to this Holy Mass for the forgiveness of his sins. We ask this through our Lord Jesus Christ, your son, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit. One God forever and ever. Amen.