The Sisters of St. Charles Borromeo – Eastern province

The Sisters of St. Charles Borromeo – Eastern province

Adrien Villa, # 28 Surappatu Main Road, Vinayagapuram,
Kolathur P.O Chennai 600 099
St. Charles Borromeo

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Mugandanur

‘Tidal wave’: Blooms in flushes throughout the season with deep intense bright yellow in small clusters’.

Alluding Mugandanur Mission to the rose, ‘Tidal wave’ satisfies fully the reason. That’s because when the giant killer wave ‘Tsunami’ hit the coastal regions of Tamilnadu on 26th December 2004, volunteers rushed to lend a hand to the rescue operators.

‘Being ready for frontline ministries’ was very much the watchwords among the Sisters of St. Charles Borromeo, Eastern Province, who were then preparing for their Provincial Chapter 2005. Forcing their way out from the crowd, brave souls hastened to Nagapatinam, one of the worst hit areas. It was not just to render first aid but to integrate themselves with the other NGOs that had plunged into rehabilitation programmes. They joined the company of Jesuit fathers and brothers at Vedaranyam in Nagapatinam district. This involvement clenched a tie with some important people in and around Nagapatinam.

In the association that was built with some, one to be remembered here is the acquaintance with Rev. Fr. M. L. Charles, the then Parish Priest of ‘Pattudaiyaniruppu’, Mugandanur who persuaded the sisters to pitch a community in his parish to continue the rehabilitation work. How true is our Lord’s saying, ‘The wind blows where it wills’. (Jn. 3: 8a)

Geographical Location

‘Pattudaiyaniruppu’ is the parish in Mugandanur village which comes within Thiruvarur district covered under Tanjore diocese. Tanjore diocese comprises the entire districts of Thiruvarur, Nagapatinam and Tanjore. It also includes Papanasam, Kumbakonam and Cuddalore with exception of two taluks in each of these and Pudukkottai district, with the exception of 6 taluks.

The story of the genesis of this diocese takes us to the hoary past and rich missionary traditions of Mylapore diocese, the third oldest and the 2nd biggest diocese born in India in the year 1560. The territory that constitutes the present diocese of Tanjore was the field of the heroic labour of the Portuguese Padroado missionaries from Goa, Franciscans, Augustinians, Jesuits, Foreign Society of missionaries and Salesians. Velankanni in Nagapattinam district, the centre of pilgrimage which attracts the devotees of Our Lady of Good Health from all parts of the globe is in this diocese.Among the ancient missionary centres, invariably mentioned is Nagapatinam where St. Francis Xavier had spent some days in 1545 on his way to San Thome.

It was November 23, 1952 the Holy See erected the Tanjore diocese through the Papal Bull ‘Ex Primaevae Ecclesiae’. It had to wait for four more months for the nomination of the bishop. Most Rev. Dr. A R. Sundaram, an illustrious son of the soil was nominated the first bishop of Tanjore on February 4, 1953. On March 25, 1953 he was consecrated as the Bishop with his motto ‘Cor Jesu et Mariae spes mea” and with his special gifts for masterly planning and efficient administration, Bishop Sundaram began to build the diocese from scratch. After 33 years of laudable episcopal ministry, he retired in 1986. His successor Archbishop Dr. P. Arockiasamy took charge on November 26, 1986 and continued to lead the diocese to realize the goal. After 11 years of fruitful episcopal ministry, he retired in July 1997. Most Rev. Dr. M Devadoss Ambrose was consecrated Bishop of Tanjore on September 24, 1997. He is the third bishop of the diocese of Tanjore. It is to be noted that this renowned bishop is a parishioner of the Sacred Heart Church, the Cathedral Parish of Tanjore.

It is no surprise, that the diocese from its genesis has grown steadily and strongly giving birth to new parishes. ‘Pattudaiyaniruppu’ was one such that came into existence in the year 1997 branching out from Koradacherry parish, placing itself under the protection of ‘Our Lady of Refugees’. ‘Pattudaiyaniruppu’ has four substations, while three are villages with distinct names Thalpal, Pandavanthoppu and Singanthottam. Substation ‘St. Sebastian’s Church Street’ comprises of the Catholics concentrated in a street in the outskirts of the village Mugandanur. These are a community of people belonging to scheduled caste. This is mentioned here only to say how Catholicism gets marred and tarnished by people who refuse to open their minds and heart to the ‘Fatherhood’ of God preached by our Lord. The stubbornness tinged with ignorance in the people here, often gives rise to disputes in the village besides nurturing the evil of ‘untouchability’.

Historical significance

‘Pattudaiyaniruppu’ is on the banks of the river named ‘Vettaru’. Alighting from the bus at Mugandanur bus stop one has to walk down the road that slopes a few meters and passes over the canal. It is a sight to watch, men, women, children and cattle bathing in the canal.

On turning around to walk on the street where the Parish Church is, one needs to take great care not to step on the goats that passively lie undisturbed by anything.

The swaying palms in the coconut groves, the rows of plantain trees and the thick foliage of the arecanut trees create a panorama of greenery in this place. But the people of the village are not landlords. They are labourers who displaced a small group of ‘udayars’ who had settled here. The name ‘Pattudaiyaniruppu,’ is given to this village after the name of the ‘udayars’ who occupied it at the beginning.

The history of South India narrates elaborately, the golden years of this part of the land ruled by the Chola Kings with Tanjore as the capital. River Cauvery and her tributes are the cause for acclaiming this land as the ‘granary of Tamilnadu’. The glorious past of this kingdom is reflected by the Pragadeeswarar Temple in Tanjore that even today is a centre known for art and architecture original to Tamilnadu and India. Therefore while the history of the Indian church answers to the question, “How come there are 200 Catholics families in this small parish of a Hindu village?” This historical significance of Tanjore district explains why so many people in this parish are living in drudgery. They are settlers who had come to work in the fields of the landlords and earn their livelihood in this fertile region of Tamilnadu.

The ready response of the sisters to the call that came from Rt. Rev. Dr. Devadoss Ambrose, Bishop of Tanjore, was born of both the zeal to fulfill the challenge of living amidst the people who were going through an experience of loss disappointment and desolation and the desire to find new pastures for extension and growth. Mr. Dharmaraj’s house taken on lease for 2 years became the abode of Sr. Amala Chinnarani, the superior of the community, Sr. Victoria Arul Rani and Sr. Pauline Arockia Mary. On August 29, 2005, the house was blessed by the bishop and was dedicated to the protecting care of Our Lady of Velankanni. Rev. Sr. Saroj, the Provincial of the Eastern Province, her councillors and the superiors of many of the communities of the Province graced the inaugural function through their presence and prayers.

The community had a clear vision, to rehabilitate the orphan girls who suffered the trauma of losing their loved ones to the tsunami that abruptly snapped all the ties, and snatched all that they held as their ‘treasure’. With the help of Mr. Pierre Huysman, our benefactor in Belgium, a vocational training programme was started. The beneficiaries, 30 young girls who lodged in the same house where the sisters lived were empowered with means for self reliance through development of skill in handling computers and sewing machines. The sisters engaged themselves in rendering pastoral services which they continue to do. The sister employed in the diocesan school is the catalyst in the institution to bring about a change in its standard that is notable.

Mr. Dharmaraj’s land measuring 4.32 acres was purchased and registered on June 4, 2006. The land proceedings were signed by the Provincial Superior, Sr. Jaya. The farm house became insufficient to accommodate the sisters and the question on the strength of the structure had a scary response. Foundation was laid for Marian Block by Sr. Jaya, the Provincial Superior and Rev.Fr. M.L.Charles on April 21, 2007.

On July 2, 2007 a mini dispensary was brought to function. Sr. Cynthia joined duty as the B.T. Assistant in July 2007 in the diocesan school.
In 2010 the farm house was replaced by a sturdy construction with the financial assistance given by the Peter Claver Sisters in Rome and the Provincial Society of the Sisters of St. Charles Borromeo, Eastern Province.

Sisters always busy themselves in rendering pastoral care that is the sole mission of this community. They take care of the Parish Church’s cleanliness and the shrines in the substations besides visiting the families. They lead the B.C.C and Sodality meetings. Evening classes supervised by the Sisters in the convent premises have resulted in distinct progress of the students in their academic performance.
The St. Charles Borromeo community in the vicinity of Velankanni is now a favoured spot to halt on the way to Our Lady’s shrine. The ‘Tidal wave’ has become a home of shelter. Miracle indeed!

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