Mangaluru: Parishioners along with volunteers are all gearing up for the prestigious Post Centennial Golden Jubilee Celebrations of the Immaculate Conception Church-Urwa here. In preparation for the celebrations the Church has gone through some tremendous refurbishment and has got a new-look, with the inside of the Church being re-decorated, altar being painted, construction of the new Belfry, Grotto and much more. This Church is expected to showcase the historical and cultural significations of the Church and its people. The centenary of a Church in any Parish marks a very important milestone in its history. It is a time for celebration, not only for the Church itself but for the whole Parish community. Parishioners of this Church should owe a deep debt of gratitude to the priests who were responsible for the building of the present Church, and also to the people who supported him so generously in difficult times and built this magnificent and artistic Cathedral.
I feel that this is an occasion well worthy of celebration, and that it is an opportunity too, to illustrate that the work done by many organizations, committees and individuals is inextricably linked with the activities of the Church in its service of the community. Immaculate Conception church while looking forward to celebrate its 150 years in existence, is one of the rare and third oldest Church in the Coastal area, having rich and sound heritage; precious and vivid meaningful traditions; and unique order of worship and rituals bind together in sacred and staunch faith. It could withstand so far so greatly with the immense grace and guidance of God Almighty.
A Church touches the lives of a person from their Baptism until their Funerals. A long procession of people have wind their way through the history of this Church since it was built until the present day. If we look through the Parish Church records- Baptisms, First Confessions, Holy Communions, Confirmations, Marriages and Funerals- we will be reading the unfolding life history of a people. At the same time, we think of all who entered the house of God to worship and pray, bringing the work of their hands and minds, their joys and sorrows, their hopes and fears, their laughter and tears to God’s love and forgiveness. They departed to their life’s work each week having heard the word of God, having shared in His sacrifice and Sacraments, to go forth and serve the Lord, and one another. Yes, this Urwa Church dedicated to Our lady of Immaculate Conception is on the threshold of 150 years of its existence.
This parish is known for its vibrant life manifested by the very many and variety of talents of the people. This has been the birth place of artists, musicians, dramatists, educationists, social workers, business people and politicians. Indeed it has been a mosaic of human and Christian life. The achievements of the people has truly spread to the four corners of the country and of the entire globe.The parish has given great importance to the education of the children and youth of this place- there is a school and also a College. Rosario has catered to the needs of all sections of the people without distinction of caste, creed and religion. The past students have been holding positions of importance in the society.
The parish pays much attention to the upliftment of the poor, the needy and the marginalized, helping them out in every way possible. The various Associations belonging to Urwa Church namely Marian Girls’ Sodality; Young Catholic Students’ Movement (Y.C.S.); Urwa Church Youth Movement (UCYM); St.Vincent De Paul Society; St. Monica Women’s Association; Secular Franciscan Order; Catholic Sabha; Parish Choir; and Rosary Confraternity of Our Lady of Pompei do their best to develop the economic and social conditions of the people. The church bulletin is named as “Urwachi Zalak”.
Immaculate Conception Church has nearly 2300 parishioners belonging to 655 Catholic families. The Church had twenty-five parish priests, with Rev Fr Victor D’Mello being the 26th parish priest since 2008; and had 35 Assistant Parish priests, with Fr Jeevan sequeira being the 36 Asst. parish priest since 2013. Educational institutions managed by the Church, with names of principal/headmistress are :Pompei High School: Hilary Franky D’Souza (Principal); St Aloysius Kannada Primary School: Hycintha Saldanha; St Aloysius English Medium School-Headmistress: Precilla D’Souza; Ladyhill Convent Institutions namely Ladyhill Victoria P.U.College: Sr Juliet Mathias A.C., Ladyhill English Preparatory School: Sr Doreen Jaques A.C., Ladyhill Higher Primary School: Sr Jyothica A.C., Ladyhill English Higher Primary School: Sr Veronita A.C; and Ladyhill Nursery School.
The following are the 14 wards with the name of the Gurkars belonging to the Church- Holy Cross/Alake- (Gurkar)Walter Lobo; Vailankanni/Ashoknagar-Mrs Irene D’souza; Holy Family-Mrs Theresa Almeida; Immaculate Conception/Chilimbi-Mrs Anitha Cutinha; St Francis Xavier/Gandhinagar-Mr Francis D’cunha; St Joseph/Kandet-Ms Felcy Alvares; Sacred Heart/Kampa-Ms Grace Lasrado; Mother Teresa/Lower Urwa-Mrs Grace Miranda; Guardian Angel/Lower Mannagudda-Mrs Celine Pinto; Lady of Fatima/ Upper Mannagudda-Mrs Blanch D’Almeida; St Antony/Lower Boloor-Mr Edwin Miranda; Lady of Carmel/Ladyhill-Mr Hilary D’Souza; Infant Jesus/Upper Boloor-Mrs Reena Sequeira and Lady of Pompei/Urwa Stores-Mrs Irene J Lobo.
Speaking to me one of the parishioners of Urwa Church, Archibald Pais, aged 76 said, ” This church has been a second home for me, my wife and our children. I had my baptism here, my communion, got married at this church. Al my four children had their nuptials at this church. Couple of my grandkids got their communion here. All I can say is that Immaculate Conception Church is a model to other parishes of the diocese, in terms of spiritual and religious matters, and also in other social administration fields. This church is conveniently located and an ideal place for worship. I feel proud to be a parishioner of this marvellous church”.
“Health is Wealth” is a well-known adage. Indeed, good health is a very precious gift from God. A healthy person is a happy person. When health fails, even a wealthy man feels at a loss. Today, we have excellent medical facilities and medicines, which are unfortunately, out of the reach of the poor man, who has to struggle from day to day to make two ends meet, even for bare necessities. It therefore becomes inevitable for him to seek assistance from the well -to-do. If God has blessed us with wealth and resources, it is, in turn, our duty to use them for the well-being of all. When we reach out to a poor patient, it certainly makes us feel good; and this, no doubt, will not only keep us in good health, but also bring us rich blessings from the Almighty.
Of late, quite a few sick people- parishioners, as well as others, have approached the Church for financial aid. Since the Church didn’t had a specific fund for this purpose, the sick-parishioners were not able to get adequate help. So to cater to the medical needs of these people, the Church management decided to establish a Medical Relief Fund and use the proceeds to help those in need. Those who would like to contribute for this good cause can make the payment by cheque in favour of A/C. No. 0494053000001877, South Indian Bank, Ladyhill, Mangalore – 575006.
The History of the Church :
The Urwa Church originally was situated at Derebail. The Catholics were caught during a Sunday Mass here and led into the captivity to Srirangapattana by Tippu Sultan. The Church was completely destroyed and all records were burnt and the parish families got scattered. After the death of Tippu Sultan in 1799 many captives returned back but found all their lands were occupied by others. In 1864, Fr Lawrence D’Souza lived in a hut and offered Mass in a small building. The people united together to built a small chapel near the present Church. It was served from the Cathedral. In 1865, Fr Emmanuel Salvadore Vas was put in charge of the chapel. Urwa was formed into a Parish in 1866 with Fr Salvadore Vas as the first Parish Priest. The Parish was dedicated to Our Lady of Immaculate Conception. Rt Rev. Michael Antony ocd, the Vicar Apostolic, paid the first pastoral visit on May 5, 1870.
In 1889, Fr Balthazar Rebello received Rs 1,000 from the Bishop and some loan from B S Saldanha of Bolar Coffee Works and the local Catholics bought the present site. Fr J.B. Rossi, the Vicar General, laid the foundation stone for the present Church on October 7, 1890. To construct the Church building, Fr. Rebello sold his ancestral property. By facing great difficulties and with his sustained hard work of three years, the Urwa Church was blessed and inaugurated in 1893. Fr Camillus Rego added the portico in 1901. Fr A.J. D’Souza (1915-1930) started the devotion to Our Lady of Pompei and the altar was declared a Privileged Altar by Pope Pius X on December 6, 1904. Fr A.J. D’Souza also started a monthly magazine, “The Trumpet Call”.
Fr T.A Lobo (1951-1971) added new wings to the Church. The entire western wing of the Church building was donated by G.A. Rodrigues. He built the Centenary Hall in 1964. Fr Valerian D’Souza (1971-1978) constructed an open air stage, built the belfry. Fr John D’Souza constructed the present new Church building and it was inaugurated on May 1, 1991.Rev Fr. Fred Pereira and Rev Fr. Dennis Prabhu also served the community as Parish Priests and guided the parishioners.
H.E.W. Fernandes donated the High School building. Fr Valerian D’Souza started an English Medium Nursery School. Rev Fr Andrew Lewis who was the Parish Priest from 2001 to 2008 gave a new shape to the Church campus. He extended the English Medium School Building. He also did renovation of the Centenary Hall, built the present Presbytery and above all did a lot for the spiritual growth of the Community. Since November 2008 Fr Victor D’Mello is the Parish Priest of this Parish. Being young and energetic he is fully involved in the Parish activity and continues the ministry of guiding the Community.
Shrine of Our Lady of Pompei Urwa :
The image of Our Lady of Pompei represents Our Lady with Her Son Jesus Christ, handing out Rosaries to St. Dominic and St. Catherine of Siena. The present devotion to Our Lady of Pompei owes much to Bartolo Longo, a lawyer, one of Her most zealous apostles. Bartolo Longo was born in 1841 in Brinddisi, Italy. His mother ensured from an early age that Bartolo developed a great love for Our Lady through praying the Rosary. During his student days, however, his friends drew him towards the occult. Eventually he became a Satanic priest and condemned the Catholic Church, deriding the hierarchy and the established Catholic system. A saintly priest with a deep devotion to the Rosary brought Bartolo back to the faith.
With renewed zeal Bartolo vowed to work for the poor and needy and endeavoured to spread devotion to Mary through the Rosary.On visiting Valley De Pompei in 1872 he aimed to evangelize the people who were leading a worldly life. What he needed was a suitable image of the Blessed Mother to aid his mission. Fortunately a Dominican Sister supplied him with a painting of Our Lady of the Rosary, and after restoration, this painting was exposed for public veneration.In 1883 a sanctuary was built at the valley of Pompei for the image and consecrated in 1891. Miracles were reported and pilgrims began to frequent the place. The devotion started spreading far and wide.
In Urwa Parish, Rev.Fr. A.J.D’Souza, who served as the Vicar from 1915 to 1930 was instrumental in introducing the devotion to Our Lady of Pompei. He brought a copy of this picture from Pompei and it was enshrined on a side altar. Thus Urwa became a place of pilgrimage for a large number of devotees from every nook and corner of Mangaluru.
In 1995 Rev. Msgr.Fred Pereira , who himself was inspired by the devotion, took the lead with the help of the devotees and built a shrine to Our Lady of Pompei. Priests coming to the Parish from time to time have given an impetus to the devotion. Hundreds of people belonging to different castes and religions visit the shrine every day to pour out their problems and petitions at the feet of Mother Mary. Countless people are witnesses to various favors received through the intercession of Our Lady of Pompei.
Novena is held on every Wednesday with Mass at 5.30 p.m., during which special prayers are offered for the devotees and for the sick. Every year on the second Sunday of December the feast of Our Lady of Pompei is celebrated at Urwa with devotion. On that day open air Mass is celebrated, followed by Eucharistic procession and Benediction of the Blessed Sacrament. Thousands of devotees visit the shrine that day and take part in the liturgy. Fireworks are held to conclude the celebration of the feast. Thus the shrine has become a centre for the warmth and blessings of Our Lady of Pompei to all.
A Distinguished Visitor-Most Rev Salvatore Pennacchio : as narrated by Fr Frank Rodrigues, Socius, Urwa Parish
It was indeed a wonderful and memorable event, a God-given gift to our parish in this Post Centennial Golden Jubilee Year. When the representative of the Pope, Most Rev. Salvatore Pennacchio, the Apostolic Nuncio to India, paid a surprised visit to the shrine of Our Lady of Pompei in our Parish. The Nuncio had heard about this Shrine before and when he came to inaugurate the Shrine dedicated to St. John Paul II at Bajpe, he casually expressed his desire to our Bishop to visit this shrine at Urwa. His wish was fulfilled on 28th November 2014, to the great joy and delight of the Urwa parishioners. Quite a few of them were present on the occasion even though came to know about the proposed visit very late!
The Nuncio was as much delighted with the visit as we ourselves were. Speaking casually on the occasion to the gathering, he said that he came from a place close to Pompei in Italy. He also told us that after he received his call to be priest. He regularly visited the Shrine of Our Lady of Pompei and prayed to our Lady to protect him and to guide his steps towards the altar.
He was genuinely interested and wanted to know more about how we conduct the Novena to Our Lady of Pompei and about the annual celebration of her feast. He requested our parish priest, Fr. Victor D’ Mello to give him more information about it in writing which, he said, he would get published in the Chronicle published from the Shrine of Pompei in Italy. A detailed article about this was indeed sent to him with relevant photographs, and true to his word he got it published in the Pompei Chronicle, Pompei, Italy.
This is certainly a recognition for our Shrine and a matter of pride for our parish as we celebrate the post centennial golden jubilee of our parish. I am sure that the Papal Nuncio himself taking such keen and personal interest in the proceedings and the activities at our Shrine, our Shrine will be blessed all the more and devotion to Our Lady of Pompei will deepen in our hearts and her fame will spread even farther and her motherly blessings and her protection will be with us always.