Udupi: Our Lady of Health Church Shirva Centenary Celebrations to Culminate on January 31

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Udupi: Our Lady of Health Church Shirva, which was established in 1915, will be holding celebrations for three days from January 29 to January 31 to mark the culmination of its centenary year, said parish priest Fr Stany Tauro.

He was addressing the mediapersons at the Church meeting hall on Saturday, January 24. Fr Stany Tauro said that the inauguration of the centenary celebrations of the church will be held on January 29 at 9:30 am. The deceased parishioners will be remembered on the occasion. There will be a mass at 9:30 am followed by prayers at the cemetery. Msgr Baptist Menezes will be the chief celebrant. There will be a procession of offerings at 4 pm.

January 30th will be the day of the Religious. The Eucharist will be held at 4:00 pm. Dr Antony Fernandes, Bishop emeritus of the diocese of Bellary, will be the chief celebrant. Fr Valerian Mendonca, Chancellor, diocese of Udupi, will offer the homily. Msgr Denis Moras Prabhu, Vicar General of the diocese of Mangaluru, will be the guest of honour.

The main centenary celebrations will be held on January 31. The Eucharist will be celebrated at 10:00 am. Dr Aloysius Paul D’ Souza, bishop of Mangaluru, will be the chief celebrant. Dr Gerald Isaac Lobo, bishop of the diocese of Udupi, will deliver the homily. A felicitation ceremony will be held at 11:30 am followed by lunch at 12.30 pm.

Msgr Baptist Menezes (Vicar General, diocese of Udupi), K J George (Minister of Home Affairs), Vinay Kumar Sorake Minister of Urban Development), Shobha Karandlaje (MP Udupi-Chikkamagaluru constituency), Oscar Fernandes (MP), J R Lobo (MLA), Ivan D’Souza (MLC), Hasanabba Sheikh (President, Shirva gram panchayat), Ida Gibba D’Souza (member of Udupi zilla panchayat) and Krishna Poojary (member of taluk panchayat, Udupi) are expected to participate as guests of honour.

Brief details of Our Lady of Health Church

Even though Shirva has another name, Manchakal, the educational, banking, government organizations and religious centers are famous here by the name of Shirva. Shirva shines in green fields and jasmine gardens. The Hindu, Muslim and Catholic communities live here with love and harmony. It is probably the quality of the soil.

History states that Catholics lived here since the 16th century. It is said that there was a church devoted to the Mother of Health at Kodi, five kilometers away from Shirva. The royal family of Bidanoor Nayak had backed the Catholics who had interest in agriculture and farming. Some of the elders remember King Venkappa Nayak out of them.

There was a church at Manettu near Kuthyar and Tipu Sultan had ambushed and destroyed the church due to his enmity with the British, say the historians. There was a barren field there, where stood a six-foot high stone which is said to have become the corner stone of the building. Though the stone is named as the stone of Mother Mary, there is no picture of the Mother or her carving on it.

There were disputes between the bishops of Goa and Verapoli at the end of the 18th century and the beginning of 19th century. They were trying to increase their followers, so there were two churches in Shirva. The small church near the temple of Konkanas was called the old church while the other church near the cemetery was called the upper church. The church below was devoted to Our Lady of Health while that at the top was devoted to St Francis Xavier.

A Ray of Hope

A miracle was waiting to happen in 1906. The parish priest of the lower church, Fr Gregory D’Souza, and the parish priest of the upper church, Fr Casmir Fernandes, were like-minded. They desired that there should be no divisions among the devotees. The priests and devotees did not want to have two churches within a distance of 600 steps.

As a result, a large meeting was called in 1910 and after relentless discussions, it was decided that both the churches would be demolished and a new church would be built instead, which came up five years later in 1915.

The then bishop of Mangaluru sent Fr Casmir Fernandes as the parish priest of the chapel and Fr Gregory D’ Souza was appointed as the first parish priest of the United Shirva Church.

Fr Gregory D’Souza had the challenging task of building the new church. The people were poor and humble. He collected contributions from the people and worked hard with the people, even physically with a pickaxe in his hand.

The work was completed under the leadership of the then famous mason Motest D’Silva in three years and three months. Bishop Paul Perini blessed the church on February 9, 1915. The parishioners showed their joy by performing local folk songs and dance. Shirva was a part of Mulky then. Schools and colleges were opened in Pangla, Pilar and Mudarangadi considering the needs of people.

Revolution in education

Msgr Hilary Gonsalves has been called as the peace messenger of Shirva for his service in and around the parish. He came to Shirva during the turbulent time when people were not happy about the decision of handing over the schools of the region to Catholic board.

Msgr Gonsalves started the revolution in education in the area. He created the new parishes of Mudarangadi, Pernal, Pambur and Kalathur. If the Shirva area has reached this level of economic prosperity today, that is because of the dedication of Msgr Gonsalves. When he died in Mangalore after years of leaving Shirva, his mortal remains were brought to Shirva for burial and people from all communities participated in the funeral. Shirva mourned his death for many days.

Presently, more than 2500 students study in the educational institutions of Shirva. The contributions of Fr Aloysius Rosario, Fr Lawrence Gomes, Fr Valerian Pinto and Fr Richard Coelho are still remembered.

Present infrastructure

The infrastructure in the past hundred years has not remained the same. The church building has Gothic style architecture. But in the name of modern style, old values have not been forgotten. Fr Stany Tauro has maintained the sanctity of the place during refurbishment. The Altar retains the older looks while the painting and other facilities inside the church are really modern. The church complex with a bus stand nearby and new parking space looks like a town on its own.

Centenary year

The church during its centenary year has helped the people in their spiritual development. But it has not forgotten their material needs. It has provided a house for the needy and has helped to build a toilet for the deserved. Numerous charity works have been undertaken during the centenary  year.

Fr Stany Tauro, Parish Priest; Assistant Parish Priests Fr Anil; Fr Wilson, Fr Jerald. Wilson Dsouza, Vice President Parish Pastoral Council; William, Secretary Parish Pastoral Council were present.

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