Chennai : Renovated St Sebastian’s Church, Madhavaram, a popular pilgrim centre in Chennai, was inaugurated today by Fransican Provincial Superior Fr. Praveen Henry Dsouza and consecrated by Archbishop George Anthonysamy of Madras-Mylapore.
“The Church, known for the miracles which occur to devotees, will have a new look which is very modern, beautiful, artistic and devotion inspiring,” says parish priest Franciscan Father Simon A.
The visitors were welcomed by an impressive 30-feet statue of Jesus with outstretched arms installed atop the dome of the Church. It is flanked by two wings of 12 colonnades above which are placed life size statues of 12 apostles, just like at St. Peter’s Basilica in the Vatican.
The challenging engineering feat was executed by Church Art Kolkata, known in India and abroad for their meticulous and intricate Church-related works. Church Art has done numerous pioneering works in India and abroad, combining aesthetics and engineering, to create work of art in tune with the canonical spirit.
Through out the year, thousands of devotees visit the church to pray and thank God for blessings they received. For the festival of St Sebastian (22 January) over one lakh people from all over Chennai and Tamil Nadu flock to the church.
“What is unique about this Church is that people of all religions come here,” says Fr. Simon who commissioned the renovation of the church. “This church and the people have gone beyond religion to stand with the people in times of natural calamities, to create social awareness about creation (environment) and especially of water and earth,” he said.
St Sebastian’s Church Madhavaram was established in 1942 and was looked after by the Salesians of Don Bosco. The Church is dedicated to St. Sebastian (C.E. 256-288) an early Christian saint and martyr killed during the Roman emperor Diocletian’s persecution of Christians.
“The people around the area were very poor and worked as casual labourers in local tanneries. The Church revived their faith in God, educated them and did social services. The Franciscans in Madhavaram are fondly called by the native people as `The Order of the Needy’,” recalled Fr. Simon.
“The contribution of the Franciscan Order to society as a whole is exemplary and we as members of the church are proud to be a part of the great history,” say parishioners.
The parishioners appreciate particularly the contribution of St. Sebastian’s Church to the education of the poor and the counseling offered to terminally ill cancer patients in the Cancer Institute at Adyar and in the Franciscan Clarist Hospice called ‘Jeevodaya’ and also the Family and Individual Counseling given in the parish.
In 1953 the Franciscans took charge of the parish which was one of the centres which rehabilitated the Burmese repatriates. The parishes of Red Hills, Manali and Muthamizh Nagar were bifurcated from this parish. The present church was built and blessed on 17th December 1988.