The Seashore Anthony’s Shrine, which is celebrating its tenth anniversary, is an embodiment of divinity and spiritual splendour. Nestled between the waters of the Bay of Bengal and the busy East Coast Road at MGR Road in Palavakkam, this Shrine, known for its many miracles, attracts devouts from various parts of Tamil Nadu and other States. The church’s elevation to the status of Shrine within a short span of nine years is a miracle in itself.
The St. Anne and Joachim’s church in Vettuvankeni is our Shrine’s mother parish. The then Vettuvankeni parish came under the archdiocese of Madras-Mylapore, one of the oldest diocese in India started on Jan 19, 1606, by his holiness Pope Paul V. As the parish was spread out over a vast area from Thiruvalluvar Nagar to Injambakkam, it was difficult for the parishioners to meet their spiritual needs. The nuns of St. Anne’s convent, Vettuvankeni, also found it hard to pay routine visits to the parishioners. Hence, the need to start a sub-station at Kottivakkam or Palavakkam was felt by one and all.
In 1985, the efforts of Rev Fr. C.V. Thomas, the then parish priest of Vettuvankeni, bore fruit by bringing forth the Seva Missionary Sisters, on a piece of land in Kottivakkam, donated by one Mr. Swaminathan.Fr. It acted as a substation to Vettuvankeni (presently St. Antony’s Matriculation School). Thomas and priests from Sathyanilayam celebrated mass there regularly. The next Parish priest of Vettuvankeni Rev Fr. Chacko and his successor Rev Fr George Palakattu Kunnel continued to cater to the spiritual needs of the people of that locality. They also eagerly scouted for a land in Palavakkam/Kottivakkam to build a church. Many faithful too made a representation to the archbishop in this regard.
In 1997, 12 Catholic families resided in Palkalai Nagar (Madras University Staff Quarters). Following a varsity syndicate resolution to allot a piece of land for all religious groups and encouraged by the construction of a temple in the area, these families decided to build a place of worship in the campus. A thatched shed was put up for worship in St. Anthony’s name, with the blessings of Fr. George on Feb 27, 1997. Though a tiny place, it drew people from the neighbouring areas within a short period of three weeks. Every Tuesday seemed like a festival day, with people making offerings like buns and garlands made of currency notes. As this place was situated near the seashore, the patron saint was affectionately called “Punitha Kadarkarai Anthoniyar“ - Seashore St. Anthony.
However, the joy of erecting a new place of worship did not last long as some miscreants demolished the chapel within a month. The Statues and Crucifix that had been bought with the contribution of the people had to be removed and secured to prevent further desecration. Undeterred by this incident, the faithful continued to assemble every Tuesday and pray for a miracle that would enable them to have a permanent place of worship.
Faithful of Palkalai Nagar along with the then Archbishop and the minority commission Chairman appealed to civil authorities and the Honourable Chief Minister but it was in vain. In the meantime a delegation from Palkalai Nagar and the Palavakkam area made representations to the Archdiocese separately.
True to the Lord’s words, “Ask and you shall receive, seek and you shall find“, such a miracle was in the making not far from the sight of the demolished chapel. On number 38, MGR Road, lived the Sukumars. Mrs. Jayanthi Sukumar, owing to her early education in a Christian institution, had developed a strong affinity towards the faith. In her dream, she saw angels in the very place she lived and made known her wish to make this place a retreat centre. The couple soon converted to Christianity and accepted Jesus as their Saviour.
They were introduced to Rev Fr. Lawrence Raj by Fr. George, who in turn introduced them to the Archbishop. The talk between Sukumars and Fr. Lawrence Raj resulted in the transfer of the land of the angels to the Archdiocese. On October 14, 1999, an agreement was made between the Archdiocese represented by Rev Aruldas James, and Mr. V.S. Sukumar.
According to the agreement the Diocese had agreed to pay a nominal sum, and to run a retreat centre in memory of Mrs. Jayanthi Christina Sukumar, and the maintenance of Mr. Sukumar. In course of time due to some unavoidable developments, agreements terms were revised and the land was owned by the Archdiocese after paying an increased amount. Thus the construction of the Shrine that we see today began.
In the year 2000 Archbishop Rt. Rev. Aruldas James, along with a small congregation of the laity laid the foundation stone for this Church. He entrusted the construction work in the able hands of Rev. Fr. Lawrence Raj, who was the Diocesan properties in-charge. He along with the devotees raised funds indigenously and built the Church without any foreign funds. On 3rd Oct 2000, the lower Church was built and mass was celebrated. The statue of St. Anthony from Palkalai Nagar was brought here.
In 2001, Palavakkam was announced as a new Parish, comprising Srinivasapuram, Kottivakkam, Palavakkam and Chinna Neelankarai. The newly created Parish comprised of nearly 300 families, mainly from the Parish of St. Anne and Joachim’s at Vettuvankeni and a few families from Annai Velankanni Church, Besant Nagar. In 2002, the Archdiocese was bifurcated and the new Diocese of Chingleput was created. Rev. Dr. A. Neethinathan assumed office as the first Bishop of Chingleput Diocese. Palavakkam came under the newly carved out Diocese. Being the first Tuesday of the month, 2nd April 2002, was a red letter day, for it was the day that was designated to consecrate this new Church. During the solemn liturgical service, Rt. Rev. Anthony Devotta, Bishop of Trichy, Rt. Rev. Dr. Amalanathan, Bishop Emeritus, Diocese of Tuticorin, jointly consecrated the Church and sanctified the sacrificial altar with a relic of St. Timothy embedded in the centre.
Fr. AL Anthony Sebastian (2001-2003) became the first Parish priest. He laboured hard, sparing no pains to popularise the devotion of St. Anthony. The laity was attracted by his powerful preaching and a cordial relationship with the Parishioners. He lived in a small room along the ECR as there was no Priests' residence then. Thirteen Anbiams (BEC) were initiated by him and he coordinated all the Church activities through them. The Nuns of Seva Missionary actively took part in the Church activities. With the birth of the new Chingleput Diocese, Fr. Sebastian remained with the Archdiocese Madras-Mylapore and Rev Fr. Louis Rayar (2003-2004) succeeded him as the second Parish Priest. With fluency in Tamil and powerful sermons, he involved himself in the integrated growth of the Parish. Since he opted to pursue his higher studies, he was transferred in June.
Rev. Fr. Cyril Raj (2004-2009) was the third Parish Priest in the order of succession. He was a young and dynamic person, always on his toes. He not only concentrated on bringing about changes in the appearance of the Shrine but also strove hard towards interior spiritual transformation of his Parishioners. To commence the year of the Eucharist in a memorable manner, the tabernacle was shifted to the central position with the modified background and the altar was blessed on 31st Oct 2004 by Rt. Rev. Dr. Neethinathan. In the year 2005, Rev. Fr. Dominic Savio was appointed as the first Assistant Parish Priest, who contributed a lot towards the development of the Shrine for nearly three years. On 26th June 2005, a relic of St. Anthony was brought from Padua by a delegate Dr. Matthew Purayidam. After an impressive function on the seashore, the relic was carried in a procession and installed at the Shrine for veneration by the devotees. In remembrance of the Eucharistic year (2004-2005), after full day Eucharistic adoration a 100 feet high tower resembling the monstrance was blessed by Rt. Rev. Dr. Neethinathan on 25th Feb 2005 at 5 p.m. Besides the artistic masterpiece, the bell fry, the entrance arch facing ECR and the computer centre above the Liturgical stall were blessed and declared open on the same day.
On 25th Feb 2007, the first anniversary of the Eucharistic tower inauguration was celebrated at 5.30 p.m. on a grand scale, presided by Tamil Nadu Ministers Thiru Arcot N Veerasamy, Thiru Parithi Ilamvazuthi and Thiru Anbarasan under the leadership of Rt. Rev. Dr. Neethinathan. In the year 2008, Rev. Fr. Stephen became the second Assistant Parish Priest.
With the ever increasing number of Parishioners and pilgrims, the need to extend the Church was felt. Consequently, a western wing and eastern wing were built. On 12th Jan 2008, at 5.30 p.m. the Relic Chapel on the western wing and Apparition Chapel of Our Lady of Velankanni on the eastern wing were blessed by our Bishop. ¾ of the lower multi purpose hall was also converted and consecrated as a Chapel on 13th June 2008 by most Rev. Dr. A.M. Chinappa so as to enable the senior citizens and the sick to partake in the daily mass.
Taking into account the increasing influx of devotees from all over Tamil Nadu and the numerous miracles attributed to St. Anthony, this Church was raised to the status of a Shrine by Dr. Neethinathan on 6th Jan 2009, within a short span of nine years.
The present Parish Priest Rev. Fr. John Suresh (2009 - Present) is a dynamic personality and a great devotee of St. Anthony. He is a good preacher, writer, systematic planner and has cordial relationship with the people. He has installed bronze bust of St. Anthony embedded with the Relic of the Saint. He has many dreams and plans to beautify the Shrine.
Rev. Fr. L. Doss (2009-2010) was the Assistant Parish Priest and he supported all the works of Rev. Fr. John Suresh. Rev. Fr. Adaikalraj was appointed as the Assistant Parish Priest in the year 2010 and he continues to extend all his support and hard work to ensure that the plan of the Parish Priest bears fruit.
Since Tuesday is the day of St. Anthony, special prayers and masses will be offered on that day. The First Tuesday devotion is a special one and thousands of people from all walks of life irrespective of religion, creed or language throng the place. There will be 8 masses on that day. All the important functions in the history of the Church were conducted on First Tuesdays.
The dream would have never been realised but for the unstinting service of the Bishops, the Priests, the people of Palavakkam Parish, the BEC leaders and the leaders of various groups.
We would like to take this opportunity to express our sincere gratitude to all of them. It is certain that in the coming years this Shrine will attract more and more devotees and the powerful intercession of St. Anthony will be witnessed by one and all, irrespective of religion, creed, language or caste. By God’s choicest blessings, may this Shrine in the days to come be popularly known and affectionately called the Padua of India.
Rev Fr. John Suresh Seashore St. Anthony Shrine Dear devotees of Seashore St. Anthony, I am very pleased to inform you about the launch of a new website for our shrine www.seashorestanthony.org. It is indeed another milestone in the history of the rapid growth of the shrine..,Read More