Date:17/11/2005 URL: http://www.thehindu.com/2005/11/17/stories/2005111701010500.htm
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Kerala

An invitation to receive his blessings


Madre de Deus Church at Vettucaud is one of the most prominent pilgrim centres in South India. The annual Feast of Christ the King commenced on the 11th of November, 2005 with the flag hoisting (Christuraja Padaka).

The church and the shrine at Madre de Deus, Vettucaud, are situated on the Arabian coast between the International Airport at Thiruvananthapuram and the Rocket Launching Station at Thumba. The establishment of the ancient church at Vettucaud dates back to the 16th century when the Portuguese Missionaries preached and propagated the Gospel of Christ along the coastal belt of Kerala.

In 1542 St. Francis Xavier the Jesuit Priest along with the Portuguese landed in Goa and later in 1544 reached the coastal belt in Kerala for preaching the Gospel. It is believed that among the many churches founded in the coastal area, the church in the name of Mother of God (Madre de Deus) at Vettucaud was founded by St. Francis Xavier. Madre de Deus means Mother of God: `Madre' is an Italian word meaning `mother' and `de Deus' are two Portuguese words `de' meaning `of' and `deus' meaning `god'.

The church at Vettucaud has a long history and a revered tradition. According to the reports of a priest appointed by the Jesuit General in 1644 there were 175 Catholics in this parish. The church got its independent status in 1890, as a result of the "Padruado" agreement (the agreement between Portugal and the Holy See) at Rome.


The construction of the present church in the name of Mother of God as the Patroness started in the year 1934 and was completed in the year 1937. It was blessed by Monsignor Leon D'Souza (Goa) the then Vicar General of Cochin.

The statue of Christ the King in front of the church at Vettucaud has also a history. The statue which was sculptured in Changanacherry was presented by the parents of Fr. C. M. Hillary as a remembrance of his ordination to priesthood. The statue was installed and blessed by Rt. Rev. Dr. Jose Viera Alvernes, the Bishop of Cochin and was dedicated for public veneration on 11th October, 1942. The parish priest of Madre de Deus Church, Vettucaud was Rev. Fr. Michael John. The Feast of Christ the King was instituted and promulgated by His Holiness Pius XI through his apostolic letter "Quam Primas" in the year 1925 which incidentally was also the Holy Year. The annual feast of Christ the King is being celebrated during the 3rd Sunday of November. It is a celebration of people from all walks of life.

All Fridays especially the first Fridays are the days set apart for devotion to Christ the King. The Holy Masses conducted in different languages and the `Christuraja Padapooja' conducted on Friday evenings attract thousands of devotees and pilgrims to the church of Mother of God and the Shrine of Christ the King. Thousands of people from different parts of Kerala and other nearby states flock to the Shrine to pray.

The people of Vettucaud parish have come a long way and have made rapid progress in all fields during the last few decades. In the fields of economic, cultural, social and educational, the progress made is highly commendable. For the uplift of the poor and needy, Christuraja `Poor-in-Need Welfare Trust' was formed in 1979. The inspiring and motivating force behind this venture was Msgr. James Amado who was the parish priest from 1978 - '80.

Novena of Christ the King (Christuraja Padapooja) On every Friday at 7 p.m. Novena in praise of Christ the King is being offered at the Shrine. Thousands of people take part in this unique and blissful ceremony. Devotees testify that they get healing touch and experience wonderful miracles by participating in the "Christuraja Padapooja".

The Padapooja attracts many pilgrims irrespective of caste, creed, religion and language. The ceremony started in the year 1980 by Rev. Fr. Stephen, the then parish priest of Vettucaud. Now the 25th year of worship "Padapooja" had been celebrated from 15th of October to 4th of November 2005.

St. Mary's L. P. School was established in the year 1917 during the time of very Rev. Fr. Monteiro. During the time of Rev. Fr. Godwin A. Gudinho, St. Mary's L. P. School became an Upper Primary School. In the year 1952 -53 with the kind efforts of Rev. Fr. Cyril D'costa, St. Mary's U. P. School became a High School. Sri. A. J. John the then Chief Minister of Travancore was instrumental in issuing special orders to raise the school to the status of a High School. Sri. V K. Krishna Menon the then Defence Minister of India laid the foundation stone for the High School. The High School was raised to Higher Secondary School in the year 1997-'98. St. Mary's HSS has classes from standard V to XII. St. Mary's HSS is one of the well equipped schools in the state. The school premises cover an area of 7 acres of land and has football, basketball and volleyball courts. The school is well equipped with science labs and computer labs giving all facilities for the students who pursue courses in the respective field. In order to raise the standard of academic performance of the students we have initiated various programmes.


The premier and notable institutions in the parish are the following. Christ the King Pilgrim Centre started in the year 1973, Christ the King Community Hall and Shopping Complex started in 1989, Fr. C.M. Hillary Memorial Pastoral Centre and Information Centre started in 1997.

St. Mary's Sports Club started in the year 1920 has contributed a lot to the welfare of sportsmen and women. This sports club has produced a number of talented and outstanding footballers and athletes who have donned State, National and International colours. The club has undertaken several schemes to groom a new generation of sports men and women.

St. Mary's Library established in the year 1948 sports a new look after the renovation work and construction of the jubilee block having a collection of over 17000 books. It has been accorded A-grade recognition.

Titanium Employees Welfare Association, Vettucaud Welfare Trust in UAE and Qatar, St. Mary's Charitable Society anre some of the associations, which are earnestly involved in the welfare of the people at Vettucaud.

The Mystical Rose Convent, run by the Tersian Carmelites started in the year 1950, plays a significant role in the social, spiritual and cultural development of the parish. St. Mary's L.P. School, Mystical Rose Convent English Medium L.P. School, Dispensary, Carmel welfare Social Centre, Little Flower Orphanage and Fathima Matha Boarding are the institutions run by the congregation.

The parish council is the executive body of the parish having 21 members including the parish priest as its president. For the better participation in Prayer and Liturgy the whole parish is divided into 39 Basic Christian Community Units. Each BCC unit has four leaders. Three or Four BCC units make a ward. Altogether there are 11 wards and eleven members are elected into the parish council.

The parishioners of Madre de Deus Vettucaud residing at U.A.E. celebrate the Feast of Christ the King on 18th November 2005 at St. Michael's Church Sharjah and parishioners residing at Qatar celebrate the Feast on 17th November 2005 at Our Lady of Rosary Catholic Church, Qatar.

So as to meet the needs of the pilgrims necessary measures have been taken by the parish council with the help of various departments of the Government. For the convenience of the pilgrims the railways have sanctioned a special stop at Kochuveli for all distance trains. The KSRTC also operates special buses to Vettucaud from various depots of Thiruvananthapuram and Kollam Districts.

As part of the Spiritual preparation, a Five-day retreat was organized. The retreat was preached by Rev. Fr. Boby Kappuchin. From 11th of Nov.'05 to 20th of Nov.'05 Holy Masses for various intentions and in different rites and languages have been arranged. Special masses for the sick, destitute, expatriate, students, couples, parents, children, workers, youth, soldiers and for vocations have been arranged.

The Government declared a half day local holiday in Thiruvananthapuram and Neyyattinkara Taluks on the 11th of Nov.'05. The colourful procession will be held on 19th of November. The statue of Christ the King will be taken in procession and it will start from the church at 5.30 pm. The procession will proceed first to Kannanthurai church and back to Kochuveli church and finally return to Madre de Deus church. The main celebrant for the vespers at 9 pm will be Rt. Rev. Dr.Yoohanan Mar Chrisostam, the Bishop of Marthadam Diocese. There will be an `Agape' (Snehavirunnu) on the feast day in which thousands of pilgrims participate. The Feast of Christ the King will come to a close with the solemn concelebrated Feast Mass which will be officiated by Most. Rev. Dr.M. Soosai Pakiam, Arch Bishop fo Thiruvananthapuram Arch Diocese.

We invite all the devotees and pilgrims to be present for all the important functions and pray to Christ the King, King of Kings to shower his abundant blessings on all.

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