Fr.S. John Berchmans shortly called as Father.S.J. Berchmans is a song evangelist, a worship leader, a man of joy and the founder of Jebathottam Ministries. He is always kindly referred as “Father” or “Appa” among Christian circles. The term “Father” indicates “priesthood” in Catholic institution. He is called so not because of his rootness in Catholic but because of his fatherhood in spirit. He is an influential leader loved and cared by all Christians, all denominations and by all religious people. His songs are being a blessing for all Christian congregations, which heal and bind the broken heart and life of literates and illiterates.
Fr.S.J. Berchmans was born as a fifth child for his parents Soosai, a farmer and Periyanayagam, in a very interior small hamlet- Soosaiapparpatti near Paramakkudi in Ramanathapuram District, on 3rd August, 1949. He grew up with five siblings- two elder sisters, two elder brothers and one younger brother in the hamlet and had his middle school in Thiruvarangam, a nearby village and high school in St. Mary’s High school, Maduai.
Right from his childhood, being brought up according to the staunch faith in Catholic Christian tradition he was taught to lead a holy and God’s fearing life by his aunt Sis. Karunamaram. This influential making inspired him to commit his life as a Catholic priest at very early age. After the completion of his schoolings he joined as a student at St.Paul Seminary in Trichy, 1964 and ordained as a Catholic priest in 1974.
At first he was appointed as an assistant parish priest for six months in a village called Sooraanam in Sivaganga district and transferred to Srivilliputhur, where he learnt Carnatic music, which laid a foundation stone for his desire to compose songs. Later he got several transfers to various villages as assistant parish priest. He was firstly placed as Parish priest in Nanakkudi near Devakkottai. Then transferred to a village called Saatharasanpatti near Kalayarkoil in1979. There he served with a prime motive to change the society for God and to earn fame through dramas by forming drama troupes in that village. In this time he was severely affected by diseases and experienced voidness, loneliness in his heart. At this precarious scenario, he had an encounter with God. He heard God’s voice in his heart saying “Straight your path. Did I Call you for this purpose?”. On hearing this with deep regret he surrendered his life in God’s hands. This incident made a great turn in his life.
From then on he spent more time with God through prayers and realized the unfathomed compassion of Jesus Christ. He was filled with the burden of Christ on people and started to serve for the kingdom of God. Servants of God like Bro. Ezekiah Franics, Bro. Thuti Sankar (late), Bro. Sam Jebadurai, and Pastor. Joseph Balachandran guided him to walk closer with Jesus Christ. In 1983, he received the anointing of Holy Spirit by participating in a “Power camp” conducted by Dr.D.G.S.Dhinakaran (late). Then the charismatic ministry began to flow in his life. Many miracles, healings, signs and wonders began to take place in the course of his worship, preaching and prayers. New songs and tunes were birthed from his heart and blessed people. Thousands of people from the surroundings of Ramnad and Sivaganga Districts especially Catholic Christians and many non-Christians were gathered in Saatharasanpatti village church campus for prayers. Many sick were healed and souls were saved.
At this time Father recorded his songs with fine music composition and released as Visuvaasa Geethangal (Faith songs). His songs reached widely into all Catholic churches and even into the Pentecostal churches. Even prior to his anointment he composed songs that reached hardly to the people. But after God’s encounter his songs with God’s grace comforted and comforting many. In this point he pines to work as an evangelist all over the places as guided by the Holy Spirit rather than confining himself as a priest in one parish. Then started evangelical ministry and blessed with more new songs and tunes by the Holy Spirit.
By 1990 Jebathottam Ministry was founded at Periyanarikkottai village near Kalayarkoil, Sivaganga district with the vision of “Glorifying God through Praise”. A significant person who supported Father during all this time was Sis.Lucilla, who served as a Mother Superior and teacher in a congregation, resigned her post and joined in Jebathottam Ministry. At the Jebathottam campus by the glory of God a great revival began,thousands of people were reborn in Christ, sanctified, delivered and got redeemed. God blessed his servant to compose more new songs. Now the songs were composed and released as Jebathotta Jeyageethangal (Prayer Garden songs). The songs widely reached into all various churches. As a song evangelist Father reached all over Tamilnadu and to many countries to spread the gospel of Christ. By the pure grace of God more than 400 songs as 37 volumes of Jebathotta Jeyageethangal and 4 volumes of Visuvaasa Geethangal were released and also many songs translated into Hindi, English, Telugu, Kannada, Odiya, Sinkalales and more. As God promised him in 1990 as per Exodus 34:10 “And all the people among whom you are shall see the work of the Lord. For it is an awesome thing that I will do with you”- He is doing great things through him. And our Father is running still at his 70’s to see the greater glory of God.