Annual feast of our Lady of Health Parish - Shirva on 2nd and 3rd February 2010

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Report by Eugene Moodubelle

Shirva, 01 February 2010: The annual parish feast of Our Lady of Health (Saud Saibin)-Shirva  will be held on  Tuesday, 2nd and Wednesday, 3rd  February 2010. The programme on Tuesday, 2nd February 2010, the eve (vespers) of the annual feast will begin at 6.30pm. The theme for the Besp is ‘The Word Of God Brings Unity Among Us’. Procession will start at 7.00pm followed by devotion to the Word of God, Sermon and fireworks. Rev. Fr. Francis Rodrigues, Editor of Rakno Weekly will be the chief celebrant.

On Wednesday, 3rd February 2010, the solemn Annual Feast Mass will be concelebrated at 10.30 am with Rev. Fr. Victor Machado, Rector of St. Joseph’s Seminary, Jeppu, Mangalore as the chief celebrant. For the sick, there will be a special prayer in Kannada. Chief celebrant will be Rev. Fr. Andrew D’Souza from the Shrine of Blessed Joseph Vaz, Mudipu. There will be Holy Hour and the Word of God from 3.00 to 4.30 pm and special prayer for the healing of the sick from 5.30 to 7.30pm.

As the Shirva parish celebrates the annual feast, it would be appropriate to know in brief the history of the parish dedicated to Our Lady of Health.  According to some accounts, Christianity  began to spread around the region during the sixteenth century. At the turn of the twentieth century (1900) there were two churches in Shirva-one was dedicated to St. Francis Xavier and was known as the  ‘Upper Church’ whose parish priest was Fr. Nicholas Cornelio and the other church was dedicated to Our Lady of Health and was known as the ‘Lower Church’ which was under the charge of Fr. Gregory Antony Menezes.

In 1906, Fr. Casmir Fernandes came as the parish priest of the Upper Church and  Fr. Gregory D’Souza was the parish priest of the Lower Church. Being broadminded priests, both Fr. Casmir Fernandes and Fr. Gregory D’Souza proposed the unification of the two parishes and a joint meeting of the ‘juntha’ of both parishes was held under the chairmanship of Fr. Sebastian Noronha, the Vicar of Kallianpur in September 1910. The ‘juntha’ unanimously passed a resolution for the unification of both the parishes. At the same time it was suggested that both the church structures should be demolished and a new church be erected at a neutral place. Further, it was decided  that Our Lady of Health  would be the chief patroness of the new parish and St, Francis Xavier would be the second patron saint of the would be built church.

The Bishop of Mangalore, Most Rev. Dr. Paul Perini put the seal of his approval on the decision of the ‘juntha’ and issued a decree on 2nd October 1910 to that effect. Further,  he decreed that the Chapel at Moodubelle, which was originally  a part of the Shirva parish, would be constituted as an independent parish and Fr. Casmir Fernandes who was the parish priest of the Upper Church  was deputed to Moodubelle as the first parish priest.  Fr. Gregory D’Souza, who was the parish priest of the Lower Church was designated as the first parish priest of the Unified Parish of Shirva.

The construction of the  new church building dedicated to Our Lady of Health was started in November 1911 and was completed in 1915 and  was blessed and inaugurated by Bishop Paul Perini on 9th February 1915. Meanwhile, in order to promote education among the children of the parish, Fr. Gregory D’Souza established primary schools at Mudarangadi and Shankarpura (Pangala) and upgraded the church primary school at Shirva to higher primary. In 1919, Fr. Gregory was transferred to Pejavar  and in his place, Fr. Monthu Menezes came to Shirva as the new parish priest.

Fr. Monthu Menezes established a chapel at Pangala dedicated to St. John the Evangelist which later became an independent parish.  In 1922, Fr. Hilary Gonsalves came to shirva as the assistant parish priest and after two years was transferred to Pangala. Following the transfer of  Fr. Monthu Menezes to Thottam, Fr. Reginald Pinto became the parish priest of Shirva who made additions to the existing church building by adding the main altar and pulpit. He also installed the church bell.

In 1934, Fr. Hilary Gonslves came back to Shirva as the parish priest and continued to be in the parish till 1971. For all the developmental work that he had undertaken, Fr. Hilary has been called as the “Builder of Modern Shirva”. During the tenure of Fr. Hilary Gonsalves, Shirva parish was probably the largest one in the Diocese of Mangalore. For the benefit of the parishioners living in far off places, Fr. Hilary constituted three new parishes-Kenha (Mudarangadi) in 1942, Pernal in 1955,  Pambur in 1968 and Kalatthur in 1971. He also built a chapel at Yermal which became an independent parish later.

Fr. Hilary was chiefly responsible for making Shirva a hub of education. He constructed  two buildings for Don Bosco Higher Primary School and established St. Mary’s High School in 1947. He also  provided various amenities to Shirva such as Community Health Centre, Cooperative Society, Branch of Catholic Bank, bus service, etc. He invited the Sisters of Franciscan Missionaries of Mary who established the Nativity Convent in 1961 in Shirva. Following the celebration of the Golden Jubilee of his priesthood in 1971, Fr. Hilary retired and after few years passed away in Mangalore on 26th August 1975 and was buried in front of the Shirva church where he had served for 37 years.

The next parish priest of Shirva, Fr. Aloysius Rosario (1972-1987) was reputed as a good orator and preacher. During his tenure the St. Mary’s High School was upgraded to the Junior College level. He was also responsible for the establishment of St. Mary’s Degree College and  also an English medium primary school in Shirva.

Fr. Sylvester D’Souza the next parish priest of Shirva  introduced the practice of medical camps in the parish attended by doctors and nurses from Manipal. He made provision of tailoring classes to the needy girls and even provided sewing machines to poorer families. He also provided infrastructural facilities to the existing school buildings. He founded the parish journal titled, “Saude Samachar”. He was  the parish priest when the Platinum Jubilee of the Unified Parish was celebrated in 1990.

Fr. Lawrence Gomes who was the parish priest of Shirva from 1994 to 2001  revived the parish journal under the new name “Saude Sandesh”. During his tenure as the parish priest, the Golden Jubilee of St. Mary’s Junior College and the Centenary of  Don Bosco Higher Primary School were celebrated.

The practice of holding the Christmas and Easter liturgical services in open ground to accommodate ever increasing number of parishioners was started by the next parish priest, Fr. Valerian Pinto. He also erected the main arch-tower at the main entrance of the church. Renovation and beautification of  the cemetery, repair of  the building of St. Mary’s Junior College, provision of separate toilet blocks for boys and girls and introduction of midday meal to the school children at subsidised rate were some of the chief achievements of Fr. Valerian Pinto.
The present parish priest of Shirva, Fr. Richard Coelho has been continuing the good work of  his predecessors. Fr. Richard Coelho is being assisted by Fr. Frederick Monteiro, the assistant parish priest, Mr. Norbert Machado and Mr. Melvyn Aranha, the vice president and secretary of the Parish Pastoral Council respectively.

Besides the main Church of Our Lady of Health there are three other centres of worship in the Parish where people visit and receive favours. These are: Shirva Old Church Pilgrimage Site, Irmiz Chapel at Shirva and Infant Jesus Shrine at Pilar, Shirva.


Comments on this Article
Ajay, Bangalore Wed, February-3-2010, 8:47
All Shirva parishioners, wishing you happy Feast.
Paul Dsouza, manibettu-belle now kuwait Wed, February-3-2010, 7:06
Whishing yu all happy pariesh feast and the Saoud Mai keep yu all in good blessing.
Sunil Martis, Kattingeri Tue, February-2-2010, 11:35
Wish you all Shirva parishioners a happy Feast.
Francis Noronha, Mumbai Tue, February-2-2010, 6:09
Let the Word Of God Bring Unity Among all the christians. Wishing all Shirva parishioners a happy Parish Feast.and the Saud Saibeen keep you all in good spirit.
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