Holy Family Church, Vadakkankulam, Thirunelveli
Holy Family Church is located at Vadakkankulam town in Thirunelveli District of Tamilnadu. The Holy Family Church was built in 1779. After the death of Martyr Devasahayam Pillai, his clothes are preserved at Vadakkankulam. These belongings are kept inside a glass case, and available for public viewing. Every year, there is a 10-day celebration (Aug 6 - 15) at the church commemorating the Assumption of Mary.
Vadakkankulam is the first parish of the interior area that joined the Pearl Fishery Coast mission and it was the last parish of the south western border of the Madurai mission. St. John de Britto who was on horse journey accosted the four Catholic families here who had come from the village of Thoppuvilai in 1600. He built a small thatched church dedicated to the Holy family in 1605.
As many Catholic families from elsewhere settled down here, it became part of Nemam mission belonging to the Jesuit province of Cochin. After de Britto, Fr. De Souza stayed here and converted many in Marungoor village. In 1750, Fr. Putheri renovated the church built by de Britto. As per the notes of Fr. Bavane, in 1787, of the 14 parishes of Madurai Mission, Vadakkankulam, Palayamkottai, Suranam and Kamanayakkanpatti were under the jurisdiction of Cochin diocese.
When the Society of Jesus was suppressed in 1773, Vadakkankulam was under the supervision of Archbishop Salvatore Thorais of Kiranganoor. At that time, priests from Pondicherry served here for some time. After 1838, Thulois Jesuits came to Vadakangulam. They demolished the old church and laid foundation for the new church on the 9th of August 1855. Archbishop Canos of Madurai consecrated this church on the 23rd of June 1872, when Fr. Gregory was the parish priest. This is the present church of Vadakangulam.
Our Lady of the Assumption statue had been in the church for a long time. In October 1803, one Mr. Savarimuthu Pillai came to Vadakangulam to interview an English lady named Hentriette Belderk. As he went to the church in the morning, he saw clouds hovering over the altar and the statue’s hands opened and eyes shed tears. Startled he called the catechist Mr. Yagapper Pillai. Lady Belderk came there as well. They rang the bell. People came and began to pray with tears as the statue gained its previous status, according to some witnesses.
The first Vicar General of Tuticorin diocese Msgr. Marianather is from Vadakangulam. His brother Mr. Yagapper Pillai served as Catechist of this church for more than 60 years, the Pope Pius XI awarded him with Benemonthi title in 1935. Mr. Devasagayam Pillai who died as a martyr in Kattadi hills next to Aralvaimozhi had been baptized at Vadakangulam. His wife Mrs. Gnagapoo was buried at Vadakangulam cemetery. The turban of Devasagayam Pillai is still treasured at Vadakangulam church until now.
· Fr. Ignatius 1931-1936
· Fr. Mariadas 1936-1943
· Fr. Joachim Fernando 1943-1950
· Fr. Benedict 1950-1954
· Fr. Navamoni 1954-1960
· Fr. Maria Gnanam 1960-1974
· Fr. Antony M.S 1974-1982
· Fr. Peter Raja 1982-1985
· Fr. Cruz Marian 1985-1988
· Fr. Job de Rose 1988-1990
· Fr. Irudayaraj 1990-1995
· Fr. Mariadas 1995-1997
· Fr. Theophilus 1998 -2003
· Fr. Paneerselvam 2003 - 2008
· Fr. Nelson Paulraj 2008 - 2013
· Fr. Thatheus Rajan 2013
Vadakkankulam is located at about 66 Kms from Thirunelveli, 24 Kms from Valliyur, 35 Kms from Nanguneri, 113 Kms from Thoothukudi and 225 Kms from Madurai. Nearest Railway Station is located at Valliyur. Nearest Airport is located at Madurai and Thoothukudi.