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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Periakottai

Large flower with pink blend and rare sweet fragrance

‘Primo Premio’, sounds like ‘first and foremost’ and that name best fits this mission. It is our patroness who through her saintly powers for interceding, brought to realise the first house of St. Charles in the diocese of Sivagangai, which had given more than 20 of her daughters to the Congregation of the Sisters of St. Charles. The community at Periyakottai is the ‘Primo Premio’ rose which Little Therese has fondly planted to bloom and spread its rarest fragrance.

Periyakottai is a substation of Michaelpattinam parish formed in the year 1916. It was then under the jurisdiction of Madurai Archdiocese. The Holy Father Pope John Paul II, by the Bull dated July 3, 1987 decreed the erection of the diocese of Sivagangai which was established on July 25, 1987. Michaelpattinam parish was one of the 57 parishes that came under Sivagangai, a suffragan diocese of Madurai archdiocese. It is about 50 kilometers from Madurai. The territory of the diocese comprises the two civil districts Ramanathapuram and Sivagangai. Most Rev. Bishop S. Edward Francis was the one first to be handed with the sceptre to shepherd the flock and he transferred it into the hands of Bishop Most Rev. Jebamalai Susaimanickam in the year 2005, who now cares for 65 parishes. The foundation for this marvelous growth is attributed to the labours and martyrdom of St. John de Britto.

St John de Britto, a legend of the South Indian Church History is the acclaimed patron of the diocese. Oriyur, a little town along the south eastern coast is where this holy Jesuit was beheaded on October 4, 1693. It is one of the most visited pilgrim centres in South India. The history of the missions in South India has many pages about this holy man’s adventurous journeys through the hamlets of Ramanathapuram district and the challenges he threw to the then regional king, ‘Thadiya Thevan’ in a fashion similar to that of John the Baptist. The reader will do well to grasp a book on John de Britto to have an example for the amazing works God accomplished through the foreign missionaries in this land.

Brief History of Periyakottai

It all happened in the same era when this St.John de Britto, a zealous missionary went about proclaiming the Gospel, people who were in search of some occupation to earn their livelihood moved in big groups from Tanjore district to Ramanathapuram. While many kept shifting in groups frequently from one place to the other which they thought was more prospective, some of them settled down in the place of their choice. And here in Periyakottai, a village which is about 14 kilometers from Sivagangai, a community of ‘pillaimar’ pitched their tents, the kith and kin scattering themselves in 7 small villages that were reachable through beaten paths. They settled as inhabitants of ‘Ezhoor’ (Seven Villages).

These seven villages are identified as Rajakambiram, Idaikattoor, Michaelpattinam, Arulandapuram, Pacheri, Kalloorani and Saveriyarpattinam. These good Catholics after settling down founded a tent for God at Periyakottai in order to come together and pray for security, safety and protection from people more powerful than themselves who were a threat to them in the new land they had appropriated and most of all protection from deadly plagues and venomous reptiles. The channel for heavenly aid they sought was St. Sebastian who was already attributed with praises for performing miracles from his pedestal at ‘Kokkoorani’ another village quite some kilometers away from Periyakottai.

The humble hut now raised for the dwelling of God at Periyakottai was ‘Sebastiar Koil’ (Chapel of St. Sebastian). The people took to the old manner of migrating looking for better pastures and that left Periyakottai with a handful of faithful as residents during the 18th century. The one family remembered to have remained resisting all forces that induced them to move elsewhere was the family of Mr. Arulanandampillai that tended daily the Chapel of St. Sebastian. In the days of their good fortune they undid its thatched roof and made it strong with bricks and clay.

The renovation of the chapel initiated in the year 1907, was completed in 1912 and was consecrated ceremoniously. Over the decades it got weathered and damaged. By now most of them who descended in the line of Arulanandampillai, the parishioners of Periyakottai had moved out to the towns, cities and foreign countries except four families. In 2004 a nostalgic group returned to Periyakottai and they planned to rebuild their church that was almost in dilapidation. As per the will of God a beautiful little church, all in white now stands as a result of their good will and collaboration. Most Rev. Antony Pappusamy, DD, Bishop of Dindigul, blessed and inaugurated the church. People have long list of miraculous experiences wrought through the intercession of St. Sebastian of Periyakottai. The quiet ambience that pervades this place has made it conducive for prayer and meditation. Occasionally, retreats and prayer meetings are held and regularly every second Saturday novena prayers are conducted.

The sons of the soil gather on these occasions and make it a family gathering and festival of the village. Hundreds of Christians and non Christians participate in this sentimental reminiscence of the past centuries.

How did the Sisters of St. Charles land here?

From seventies i.e. since the year the house in Madurai was established, Ramanathapuram district was a place of annual vocation tour for Sisters of St. Charles Borromeo. These visits have fruitioned in producing 20 sisters who are finally professed without counting those under formation. It was the desire of long years to start a community in the newly founded diocese so as to knit more of the people in this region with the Congregation. The appropriate time arrived and Rt. Rev. Dr. Susaimanickam, Bishop of Sivagangai, invited the Eastern Province of the Sisters of St. Charles to the diocese. The proposal to start the house at Rochma Nagar was alternated with the need for the Presence of a religious community at Periyakottai. The second one gained the approval after several deliberations.

The constant calls from one Mr. Vallal Sebastian, a resident of Madurai who geared the good works in his village and dreamt of restoring the past glory of his native place through installing basically a dynamic religious community gave leverage to the dicision.
‘Education is fundamental for all developments’ being an established truth the initiative taken by Mr. Vallal Sebastian to begin a English Medium school was consented to. The promised monetary help of Rs.500, 000/- received from him was utilized for the modification and extension of the little shed that stood along the eastern side of the Church campus. A small out house adjacent to it was modified into a kitchen. The spacious room above the sacristy at the rear of the church was vacated by the Parish Priest of Michaelpattinam, Rev. Fr. Bastin, to make it the residence for the sisters. Everything was set for the starting in the same manner in which all the new communities of the Sisters of St. Charles Borromeo had been started, the pioneers, Srs. Magdalene Francis, Catherine Christina and Helen reached the village. The three energetic and enthusiastic sisters got into action losing no time in preparing for the inauguration. June 3, 2009 was fixed to seek the Almighty’s blessings upon this new beginning.

The priests who hailed from Periyakottai, the elders and local administrators and the Sisters from various nearby communities gathered to participate in the grand Eucharistic Celebration presided by the Bishop of Sivagangai. A grand felicitation ceremony followed the Holy Mass. A fellowship meal was shared by all who were present.
All who hail from Periyakottai left the place with the satisfaction of having seen their dream come true, thanking St. Sebastian for hearing their prayers and singing the psalmody , ‘This is the day that was made by the Lord, we will rejoice and be glad.’ (Ps:118:24)

Sisters enlivened the church campus. The light at the tabernacle started burning bright as new hands trimmed the lamps’ wick.The Sun rays streamed into the church brightening all its corners for all its windows were left open. The church bells chimed in a new rhythm at the presence of the devoted hearts that thumped in prayer with its sound.
Little children led by their parents poured into the campus to begin their schooling. The kindergarten started functioning from June 4, 2009 with 40 boys and 20 girls. They hadn’t to travel 14 kms anymore to reach their school. Kindergarten has grown into a pre-primary school having classes 1, 2 and 3. Growth brings needs or vice-versa? Vehicle plies around to collect the children from the villages. The performance of the children is amazingly excellent.

The land about 40 cents gifted by the custodians of the church property is legally registered in the name of the convent. They are two separate pieces of land. One strip is outside the campus and along the north wall of the church. The other part is where the simple construction with four rooms is used as school.

In view of opening new vistas for tomorrow’s artists, scientists, entrepreneurs and inventors the sisters have delved into plans for giving standard education through the curriculum which will match the context. 7.5 acres of land was purchased and registered on March 29, 2010. The mission is prospective of growing into a centre for holistic education for the children of ‘Ezhoor’ and make come true the objective of education, ‘Human’Formation’. The construction of a single storeyed building is done in foreview of upgrading the school in to a High School gradually. The Sisters have learnt the art of relating with people through their simple approach. Their visits to the people have earned them the confidence of the village folk.
To our loving saint Little Therese, we commend the little children and this little mission to expedite its growth and ensure its purpose. “All things work unto good to those who love God”. (Rom. 8:28)

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