Wednesday, October 11, 2017

St. Francis Xavier's Church, Alanchy, Kanyakumari

St. Francis Xavier's Church, Alanchy, Kanyakumari
St. Francis Xavier's Church is located at Alanchy Village in Kanyakumari District of Tamilnadu. The name "Alanchy" is derived from the Tamil words "Aalu" (Banyan tree) and "Anju" (Five). The whole area was owned by Alanchi Tharavadu family and hence the name. Christianity is the primary religion in Alanchi Village. Almost everyone are Catholics, except for a few families of Hindus and Muslims. St. Francis Xavier had toured Alanchi and helped set up a small church which was the first known. Alanchi has a Catholic church dedicated to St. Francis Xavier and a nun's convent nearby.

History
Christianity set foot in Alanchy during the days of St. Francis Xavier, one of the missionaries of Catholic church, and hence 99% of the Alanchy people are Catholics. Still there is a belief among people of Alanchy that the Stone Cross, presently placed in the Church porch, was erected by St. Francis Xavier himself. The Catholic Church in Alanchy is 180 years old. The present Church is the third church and the patron Saint is rightfully St. Francis Xavier.
Thanks to the efforts of Sri. V. Soosanthony Maistry, who was a Church architect and Contractor and with close proximity to the Syro Malankara Church, most of the residents of Alanchi were trained and offered jobs in the construction business owned by Sri. V.Soosanthony Maistry. He also funded the laying of the roads to the neighboring village of Colachel, which had better connectivity to the other parts of the district. Soon there were money and joy in the houses of Alanchi. Huts slowly began to transform into Modern houses.
There were great Vaithiyars and Varmanis (Native Physicians) whose contributions were immense for the health of people of Alanchy. The parish priests had contributed much for the development of Alanchy. Among them were Rev. Fr. Elias and Fr. Martin, Carmelite missionaries who lived in the late 19th century, responsible for the establishment of the first church in Alanchy. In early 1950s, Rev. Fr. C. M. Hillary laid the foundation stone for the modern Alanchy of today. He encouraged education among children and tried hard to establish a school.
The Church
Since the old church was small, the number of the families was increasing day by day and the promise made to the bishop to build a new church, people took an initiative to do that. However, they did not want to demolish the artistically built church which was beautiful and small. Therefore, they built a new church around the previous one that is still there under the altar of the present-day church. The newly built church which was in a cross shape.

The altar of that newly built church was wonderful. There were three statues on the altar. St. Francis Xavier at the center, St. Ignatius at the right side and St. Michael the Archangel at the left side were placed. The crucifix and the tabernacle were placed under the statue of St. Francis Xavier. There were three steps made on the altar and at the third step was decorated with cement grills. There were two sub-altars too at the side of the main altar respectively.

After vat II, the church asked the faithful to make some changes and the cement grills were placed around the shrine found at the junction of the village, that are found till these days. The then bishop of Kollam, at Rev. Benzihar donated a church bell made of bronze that was shaped at Belgium on 1928. This is the bell that was seen even today at the top of the church. The sound of the bell vibrates at least three kilometers.

The new church was blessed by bishop Benzihar on 1928 when Fr. Domenic was the parish priest. In 1930 the Kottar vicariate was bifurcated and became a new diocese having four vicariates. The first bishop of the diocese is Rt. Rev. Lawrence Pereira. During his sickness, he stayed in Alanchy to take rest in the year 1932-33. He administered the whole diocese by being in Alanchy. In 1937, Alanchy being separated from Karankadu, became the substation of Kurumpanai, it was a turning point in the growth of Alanchy parish.

In 1950, they demolished the first floor of the parochial house to renovate the building. On 29/05/1966, Alanchy was elevated as a main parish; Rev. Fr. Darmanathar was the first parish priest. Here, Kandarvilagam became its substation. Due to some inconveniences, it separated itself from Alanchy. Before the Vatican council II was held the liturgical language was Latin. Both priest and the faithful were facing themselves on the altar. Even though the faithful did not understand Latin, they had reverence toward liturgy.

The respondents of the liturgy were called ‘moosk’ (singers). After vat II, in the year 1973, the   liturgical language was localized. The stone cross which was laid by St. Francis Xavier was placed in the hall found before the church where we see today the flag hoisting stone, those days the faithful had a popular devotion towards this cross, therefore, Rev. Fr. Pieter who was the parish priest that time demolished the hall and buried the cross there itself.

When the present church was built, Rev. Fr. Mathias took an effort to bring it back. Thus, the stone cross is presently placed at the left side of the church entrance. There was an emergence to build a new church, in 1988, it so happened that during the mass presided over by Rev. Fr. Mathias, the northern side of the church’s roof developed a crack and the tiles started falling down inside the church. It was a shock to the parish priest and the parishners. Therefore, the parish priest invited the people to build a new church.

Due to economic crisis that could not be realized immediately. In order to prevent any further danger, they placed a long wooden piece to support the roof. In 1989, July 24th, the then bishop Leon. A. Dharma raj laid a foundation stone to construct a new church. This new church is of cross in shape, the altar indicates the modern art. Marble stones are placed on the face of the altar. A big crucifix is fixed on the altar. The roof is made of asbestos sheet and the floor is laid of mosaic cement. Just before the entrance there is a portico in which the statue of St. Francis Xavier and the stone cross are placed.

The church tower is 121’ height with European style architecture. It is to be noted that all the towers around the church indicate the modern civilization. This new church was blessed on 9th February 1996 by Rt. Rev. Leon. A. Dharma raj, the then bishop of Kottar. During that time, Fr. Peter Arul Raj was the parish priest. This parish today is divided into 28 Basic Christian Communities. It has got a governing body   called    parish council and the sub ordinate bodies such as pious associations and movements.
Connectivity
The Church is located at about 4 Kms from Colachel, 4 Kms from Colachel Bus Stand and 12 Kms from Eraniel Railway Station. Colachel is located at about 4 Kms from Mandaikadu, 8 Kms from Eraniel, 19 Kms from Nagercoil, 40 Kms from Kanyakumari, 12 Kms from Muttom, 13 Kms from Thuckalay, 17 Kms from Marthandam, 21 Kms from Thiruvattaru, 27 Kms from Vilavancode, 28 Kms from Kollamkode, 29 Kms from Suchindrum and 63 Kms from Thiruvananthapuram. Nearest Railway Station is located at Eraniel and Nearest Airport is located at Thiruvananthapuram.

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