A Nostalgic Homecoming

“ One Generation builds the road on which the next one drives”- This Chinese proverb reminds me
of our elder generations who had built not only a magnificent church, but also laid a path of
ardent faith on which we now thrive on. Devoted to the religion, they had the compassion to help
the needy and passion to prosper their Parava community.

In gratitude, I speak from my heart about our Pattanathars whose achievements got imprinted in
the annals of Catholic Church and of the State/Nation as a History.

Faithful Pethuru (Peter) Fernandez.

St. Francis Xavier arrived at the Coramandal Coast during the year 1542. During his stay at
Virapandian Patnam, Pethuru Fernandez was his most trusted disciple. By his evangelical fervour,
St. Francis Xavier made known the people at neighbouring villages about Virapandian Patnam
and its faithful populace.

Pethuru Fernandez of Virapandian Patnam contributed in good measure in the religious works of
St. Francis Xavier as his good devotee. He had followed St. Xavier to all over the places he
travelled in the Coramandal Coast.

He was the vital eyewitness of a miracle wherein a little boy fallen into a well and died was saved
by the intercession of prayers offered by St. Francis Xavier. It happened at Kombuthurai (then a
sub-station of Virapandian Patnam). In 1616, Pethuru Fernandez gave testimony of this eye-
witnessing miracle during an enquiry/inquest held by the Catholic Church to consider sainthood
to Francis Xavier.

It must be an echo of serenity to commemorate our Pethuru Fernandez, as his eyewitness
assertion was one of the key testimonies for canonization our ‘Peria Appan’ as a Saint.

St. Francis Xavier states in one his letters about Pethuru Fernandez quote “ He is my most
trusted good man”- unquote.

(The above information was derived from the article written by (Late) Rev.Fr. S.Venantius based
on the manuscripts: –
1.Coleridge, H., ‘The Life and letters of St. Francis Xavier’, Vol. I, London, 1874, P211
2.Schurhammer, G,‘Francis Xavier, His life and His Times’Vol.II, Rome, 1977, P437-38
3. ‘Monumenta Xaveriana’, Madrid, 1912, Vol.II, P 547-548)

Businessmen: At the end of 19th and early 20th century, S.V.Bastian Coonghe, Soosai Nevis
Fernando and Manuel Cruz Villavarayer alias Srapu Chettiar of Virapandian Pattinam were
amongst the owners of Thoothukudi Schooners/Barques (Pai-mara kappal) They owned two
vessels named ‘Philipston’ and “Swaminatha Puravai’ (Gazetteers of India, Tamil Nadu State,
Thoothukudi District Volume I & II – 2007 page 480).



1534          Entire Hindu Parathavars became Roman Catholics on conversion.
1535           Evangelical works by the Missionary of Society of Jesus commenced
1542          Arrival of St. Francis Xavier at Pearl Fishery Coast & his visits
1544          St. Francis Xavier built a church at Kombuthurai (sub station) for St. Stephen
1549          Fr. Henrique Henriques built a church for St.Thomas at this village.
1558          From Goa a picture of St.Thomas was brought by the efforts of Fr. Henriques
1571          A hospital for public and Confraternity of Charity for men were established.
1640         Church expansion works – length 160’- breadth 50’
1644         A school with 25 students & 2220 Catholics
1709          Beautification of St. Thomas Church & a church for St. Peter & Paul was built
1713          Separated from Alantalai Parish and a new Parish was formed.
                 First Parish Priest Rev. Fr. Antony D’Souza
1730          Renovation works of St. Peter’s & Paul’s Church.
1863         Carmel Matha (Mother Carmel) ‘ Confraternity’ (Komberier Sabai)
1868        Sacred Heart ‘Confraternity’ (Komberier Sabai)
1882        Renovation works of damaged church commenced. Big Pillars were erected
                and the interiors were divided in to three portions with centre one was larger.
                At the time Fr. Immanuel Paire was the Parish Priest.
1886        The newly built & renovated church with Gothic Art/culture was consecrated  
                by Madurai Bishop Cannoze on 15th August.
1891        Convent of Servants of Blessed Mary was established and they ran a Primary    
1893        Sodalities- ‘Holy Family’- for married women, ‘St. Aloysius for Youth (boys)
               Mary Immaculate for Youth (girls)
1907        Small Ther (Car) in honour of Mary on her assumption day (15th August) was    
               pulled through the streets
1909        135’ height towers (Two) erected in front of the Church
1910        Big Ther (Car) was pulled in honour of Mother Mary and St.Thomas during
               Carmel Matha (Mother (Mary) Carmel) festival
1913        Parish Priest Bungalow (the present one)
1914       Grotto for our Lady of Lourdes
1915        Middle School (St.Mary’s) –(up to 1946)
1918       The present Grave Yard
1921       Transfer of Parish Administration from Jesuits to the Secular Priests.
1923       Sacred Heart Hospital that was once ‘Thapasu Madam’ (Centre of Penance)
1925        Big Clocks (2) on the Right Side Tower facing west and south
1929       Old Boys’ Association (OBA)
1934        Iron Flag Mast 90’ high
1935        St. Xavier’s Church on the eastern coast facing sea
1945        St. Anne’s (Annammal) church at Tiruchendur (Jeeva Nagar)
1946        St.Thomas Secondary School – Up to 1956 it was only as boys’ school and from 1957
               Co-education. (Students of 6th, 7th & 8th Standards were transferred from
               St.Mary’s Middle School, consequent of which it remained as a Primary School
               since 1946 and is run by the Sisters of Servite Convent).
1948        ‘Palar Sabai’ & ‘Sarprasatha Sabai’
1949         ‘Mariyayin Senai’
1952         Our Lady of Fatima Church
1959        Christ King Church
1979         St. Vincent De Paul Society
1980         St.Thomas Hospital
1986         Kolping Sangham (Society)
1987         St. Antony’s Church on the Northern Side of the village
1998         ‘Velanganni Matha’ Grotto, St. George Chapel, Meeting Hall for ‘Vincent De
                 Paul’ Society and ‘Mariyayin Senai’,  & ‘Corpus Christi’ Mandapam
2004          Eucharist Chapel
                 ‘Francisco’ Auditorium (School Campus- Upstairs)
2005          Children’s Park
2006          Renovation works – St.Mary’s Primary School & St.Thomas Church                            
2011          Renovation works – St.Thomas Church

Diocesan Missions
1534        Under Goa Diocese
1557        Cochin Diocese
1788       Mylapore-Chennai, and then Pondichery Diocese
1838       Madurai Vicariate
1846       Trichy Diocese
1869       13 families under French Mission and the rest under Goa Mission
1923        Thoothukudi Diocese

Milestones  (56 to 477 years old) As on 30 July 2011

a) Catholics since 1534                                                  - 477 years
b) St. Stephen’s Church at Kombuthurai                 - 1544        - 467
c) St.Thomas Church – 1549                                        - 462
d) School – 1644 (St.Mary’s – 1891)                          - 367
e) St.Peter’s & Paul’s Church- 1709                            - 302
f) Carmel Matha ‘Confraternity’ – 1863                     - 148
g) Sacred Heart ‘ Confraternity’ – 1868                     - 143
h) Sodalities for married women,
  Youth (Boys & Girls) – 1893                                      - 118
i) Custom of Pulling of Ther (Car Festival)
  From 1907 (Small Ther)& from 1910 (Big Ther)   - 104
j) Parish Priest Bungalow- 1913                                   -   98
k) Big clocks on the Church Tower- 1925                  -   86
l) Old Boys Association –1929                                     -   82
m) Church Iron Flag Mast- 90’ high- 1934                -   77
n) St.Xavier’s Church on the east coast- 1935        -   76
o) St.Thomas Secondary School- 1946                     -   65
p) ‘Palar Sabai & Sarprasatha Sabai’- 1948              -   63
q) ‘Mariyayin Senai – 1949                                            -   62
r) Fatima Church – 1952                                                 -   59
Compiled by:                    J.EDMOND V.RAYEN, VIRAPANDIAN PATNAM