Besant Nagar Velankanni Church in Chennai
Velankanni church at Chennai is located at the famous Eliot's beach in Besant Nagar. It is one of the important monuments of Chennai city. Being located at the Elliot's beach on the shore of Bay of Bengal this shrine is as like a heaven for the pilgrims. Devotees worship Mother Mary as 'lady of health' in this church. Thousands of devotees visit the church to seek the blessings of mother Mary. The Velankanni Church at Besant Nagar is considered as the 'Mecca' of Christians. Many devotees belonging to different caste and religion often visit the church and worship mother Mary. This church is also famously known as ''Sacred Arokya Madha Church'.
The location of the church is also easily accessible from any part of Chennai as people from various parts of Chennai visit the church regularly. There are also various interesting celebrations that take place during the time of Christmas festival. It is also a very holy place for the locality of people who live there. The church also has a very good historical importance. The internal architecture of the Velankanni church is also in such a way that it attracts all the people. The church has also given accommodation for many families for free of cost. Apart from the services that are rendered by the church, it also offers marriage service to the public. Every day we can find a huge crowd visiting the church. People also find it very holy to visit the church regularly. The authorities also take a great initiative in maintaining the beauty of the church.
History of Velankanni Church in Besant Nagar in Chennai
Till 1971 the Besant Nagar church was a under the control of St Louis Church, in Adyar. FR.PT Arulappa was the parish priest of St. Louis church. As the history says, mother Mary appeared with infant Jesus in the dreams FR.P.T. Arulappa, which lead to the construction of beautiful shrine for Virgin Mary. With great and striving effort of fr.PT Arulappa the lady of Velankanni church was erected. In the year 1973 it was declared as separate parish having its own priest by Archbishop of Madras Mylapore Rev Dr R Arulappa. Initially there was a church with a great architecture. On 27th august 1972, 92 feet belfry was erected by the chief minister of that era Dr. Karunanidhi. On 15th august 1985 a bigger church was blessed and constructed by Archbishop Most Rev Dr R Arulappa.
The extension of the church made way in order to accommodate many people who visit the church. Further extensions and renovation of the church were made by Rev Fr PJ Lawrence Raj. The church campus consists of a big community hall, large museum and a class room blocks. In May 2000, 8 grounds were purchased near the church and a large stage was constructed over it. During the festival seasons mass are conducted in this big stage so that many people can be accommodated. In 2001 a small chapel for the Blessed Sacrament was built. The Blessed Sacrament is worshiped everyday in this chapel. In 2002, a grotto depicting the miracles of mother Mary was built. Devotees offer sarees for the shrine of mother Mary in thanksgiving to Annai Velankanni. The 3 apparitions of mother Mary is depicted in this grotto. In 2003, Mother Mary's Square and Reconciliation Chapel was constructed. This chapel has centralized ac. This adoration chapel is open on all days from 7:30 to 8:30.On Thursday special adoration is done in this chapel. The priest and nun in the church stay in the new convent building in the campus of the church. On 8th September 2005 this Church was decreed as a Shrine of the Archdiocese of Madras 'Mylapore by the Most Rev Dr AM Chinnappa SDB, Archbishop of Madras 'Mylapore.
Significance of Besant Nagar Velankanni Church
Annai Velankanni shrine is a place of worship, pilgrimage and reconciliation. More than 1600 families live at the back of the campus of the church. The church has allocated place for them at free of cost. As a living community of faith the church welcomes more than two lakhs visitors visit every year. The church is open all 365 days. It attracts both pilgrims and tourist all over the country and even over world. Nearly 1 million people visit every year. The mother Mary square in the church campus visually represents four apparitions of mother Mary which are accepted by Catholic Church. The four apparitions are our lady of Guadalupe (1531), our lady of la Salette (1846), our lady of Lourdes (1858), our lady of Fatima (1917). The museum in the church campus contains various articles of miracles of mother Mary.
The museum exist for past 25 years and it manifest the faith in mother Mary's powerful intersection. Since the shrine of mother Mary is worshipped as 'lady of health' many people offer candle shaped disease affected part of the body which is available in church itself. This is also practiced in Velankanni shrine at Nagapattinam. Besides that people even offer flowers, candles', garlands as the offerings. The church offers 3 masses everyday and more than 5 hours of confessions. The church also offer marriage service, 1st Friday and 1st Saturday services. In addition special masses, devotions and prayers, concerts take place regularly during festival seasons and other special occasions. There is a catholic book store in the church where all books related to Jesus Christ, mother Mary and all other saints and priest are kept. The stall in the church campus consists of collections of prayer books, stickers, rosary, medals, calendars, statues of mother Mary and Jesus Christ. There is even a matrimonial center which has been established in the year 1981 in which only Catholics are enrolled. There is a big hall where marriage receptions and any other special occasions are held. This hall is called Rev.P.T.Arulappa memorial hall.