Feast of Our Lady of Velankanni – 2018 at St. Cyprian Church, Sunnyvale, CA
Dear friends in Christ,
This year, our merciful God has gifted our community with a new church (St. Cyprian Church, Sunnyvale, CA) which provides us a Holy environment for worshipping God in our cultural setting, and facilitated us to celebrate the fifth anniversary of Our Lady of Velankanni successfully.
For all the devotees of Our Lady, the main focus was on Mother Mary and not the location, so they all just followed to honor our Holy Mother at the new place. Remember that Velankanni is a location chosen by Our Lady of Good Health, so it is her direction (by God’s Will), and not ours, to move to whichever Holy location our Mother Mary and God want us to go and we all follow.
The leaders, sponsors, volunteers, and contributors wholeheartedly THANK all who came to celebrate Our Lady of Velankanni feast with us and receive blessings from our Mother Mary, and we WELCOME you all again to take part in all our future spiritual and cultural events so we all can grow in faith together in our cultural environment.
First, we thank our almighty God for guiding us always in the right direction through last year, and blessing us with the new church in time to celebrate His Mother’s feast, and being present in us and making the celebration of Mother Mary a very successful event!
We thank Vicar General Rev. Msgr. Francis V. Cilia from San Jose Diocese for being a kind, supportive and helping friend of our community through all these years from the beginning, and making himself available in his hectic schedule to lead our Mother Mary feast for us!
As our community has now become part of St. Cyprian church, Sunnyvale, CA, we are very grateful to the parish pastor, Rev. Fr. Vincent Pineda, for gladfully welcoming our community into the parish and providing us with all the facilities to help us to do our spiritual and cultural activities, and also joining us to celebrate Feast Holy Mass with Vicar General and other priests. We also want to thank Ms. Kathleen of St. Cyprian church for all her help satisfying the needs of our community. Thanks to the parishioners of the St. Cyprian church for making us feel home in the parish.
We gratefully thank our community’s spiritual guru and friend Rev. Fr. Louis Leveil for all the dedicated services to our community and leading the celebration starting with flag-hoisting, participating in daily Novenas, and co-celebrating the Feast Holy Mass along with Rev. Msgr. Francis V. Cilia and the parish pastor Rev. Fr. Vincent Pineda, and thanks for bringing Rev. Fr. Periyanayagam to celebrate Mass for us. Our community is happy and thankful that Rev. Fr. Periyanayagam could join us to celebrate the Feast Holy Mass.
Everything was possible, and the Velankanni Madha feast was very successful because of contribution and help from our sponsors of the feast, the dedicated, hardworking volunteers and the other very generous contributors. Majority of our community helped with one way or the other to make this event a great success. The fantastic community spirit shown by all our contributors bode well for our joint mission to glorify our God and honor our Mother Mary, and it has been the cornerstones of the great success in all activities that our community undertake. We wish and pray that this level of excellent community spirit, God serving mentality, and affection towards our Madha continues well into the future, so we all collectively get stronger and stronger to do more wonders to glorify the God and honor Mother Mary, while at the same time strengthening our community’s cultural & spiritual bond. We can’t stop admiring about the dedication of our volunteers that some of them traveled from far away distances back and forth multiple times for volunteering, and also many of our volunteers were gladfully willing to volunteer at odd hours and longs hours (like, beyond midnights) numerous times. We believe that the magic for this level of our community energy has resulted from the common affectionate bond that we all have with our Mother Mary. Below are the highlights of various contributions by many from our community that helped to make the feast a grand success, and we wholeheartedly THANK and appreciate all these contributions, and God may bless us all for all the work that we do towards honoring His Mother! Note that, except for sponsors and new volunteers, the contributor names were not mentioned because there were too many and it is difficult to do the perfect job and with the fear that we may miss some.
- The sponsors of the feast who contributed generously towards the feast-day food expenses and other feast related expenses. This is the first time, we have made published call for the sponsorship, and the response was delightfully tremendous. We are grateful and thank our these generous sponsors (listed alphabetically): Alex Lobo & Sheela, Alex Rayan, Anthony P, Ajitha, Anu M, Benjamin & Usha, Charles Jamesraj, Charlie N, Christina Arockiam, Dean Ryan, Eugene & Pam, Florence, Henry, John Pradeep, John Prashant, Patrick Jamesraj, Priya, Vignesh, Vijay, and the three anonymous sponsors.
- Our leaders and organizers who always think and try to do the best for our community, and we thank and appreciate their extraordinary effort in getting the new church in time to celebrate the Mother Mary Feast, and all the planning, coordination and completing the feast.
- Our decoration team did a fantastic job which resulted in gracefully beautiful Madha (in saree), highly charming Madha stage, and pleasantly lighted spectacular Madha carriage. Thank-you the ‘decor’ team for producing such an excellent show. We believe that this was possible because the group was organized well, planned things beforehand, purchasing the right materials with cost-effective manner (through your shopping team), having mentality to listen to the recommendation and also objections, working well within the team and other teams, willing to put lots of hard work, and finally one crucial factor is that the legendary decoration experts are part of the team to give experienced guidance to the team.
- We also thank the thoranam team for producing thoranam arts from palm leaves and decorating the front of the church with thoranam. We also want to thank the master of the thoranam who taught many very young kids to adults, on how to do the thoranam and hopefully, our community now has lots of thoranam experts!
- Audio is such a vital item to make everything else (like choir, sermon, etc.) to sound proper. And, the job of making sure the ‘sound’ sounds-great is not over until the whole feast is over. The sound during the Feast Holy Mass, procession, flag-hoisting, etc. was crystal clear, and we thank our resident audio expert for the hard-work, and meticulously taking care of it continuously so rest of us can enjoy the event with crystal clear sound!
- The choir was excellent during the feast Holy Mass and garnered well-deserved appreciation from Vicar General, Rev. Fr. Louis, and many who attended the Mass. We thank our choir team for selecting outstanding Madha songs and appreciate all the hard-work (lots of practices) that you put to give us all the spiritually uplifting experience.
- Thanks to our Altar Servers for continuing to do sincere duty to our Jesus at the Altar, and for being inspirational to all of us who attended the Mass.
- We thank our photo specialists for capture the exciting moments in the feast celebration, and capturing the faces of our community so we all can cherish the event looking back from the future!
- We thank the helpers for helping in the feast Mass – like, arranging gifts, souvenir, and the shawls for the Vicar General and priests, and arranging Arathi and kuthu-vilakku.
- The prayer warriors who helped with making the nine days of celebration a holy and solemn season, like, conducting Novenas and organizing ‘Madha statue visiting home a day’ event.
- Volunteers for storing community belongings. Since we don’t have dedicated storage at the church to keep our community belongings, some generous folks from our community have stepped up and offered their places to the store things support. We thank their generosity for our community.
- The army of dedicated all-in-all volunteers, whose hands were literally on everything, helping with many things related to the feast and anything else that our community needed. We thank these volunteers as they did the heavy lifting recently. For example, these volunteers helped with the church move and transporting items between various places. Note that carrying items between the stored sites and the church is a massive effort now compared to the situation we had before. These volunteers also helped with distributing flyers in various parishes, setting-up the flag-pole in the front of the church for flag-hoisting and decorating the front of the church near pole, providing food/tea to the volunteers, creating and maintaining expense sheet (accounting), taking care of all the needs during procession (generator, wiring, lighting-up the procession areas, etc.), arranging and setting up for the feast dinner, cleaning up the place after the event.
- Finally, we want to take this opportunity to recognize these new members of our community who jumped into our dedicated pool of volunteers and shown their rookie prowess: John Prashant, Cyril, Conan, Vijay, and Vignesh, and other new members who may have made contributions but not so visibly. We are sure that these new volunteers recognize that how delightful it is to do the volunteering within our community (in a friendly environment) to serve God.
Flag-Hoisting Preparation (August 30 & 31, 2018):
Many volunteers assembled in the evening before the flag-hoisting day to make all the arrangement to prepare for the flag-hoisting celebration. The volunteers erected the flagpole in the front of the St. Cyprian Church and decorated the nearby places with flags.
The decoration team was split into two. One small team decorated our Madha with saree, and the other team in setting-up and decorating the stage for Madha. Volunteers worked until close to midnight and continued the next day to finish-up whatever remaining. The decoration team did a superb job, and our adorable Madha in the decorated stage was a delight to see.
First Day of Celebration – Novena-1 & Flag hoisting (August 31, 2018):
The first-day flag-hoisting ceremony was initiated by Rev. Fr. Louis Leveil and Rev. Fr.Periyanayagam, and the ceremony started by saying first novena prayer to Our Lady of Velankanni and then followed with the blessing of the flag and Fr.Periyanayagam hoisting the flag of Our Lady of Velankanni. The flag-hoisting ceremony was followed-up with the procession into the church by reciting St. Mary’s prayer & singing devotional songs, and then the Holy Mass was celebrated by Rev. Fr. Periyanayagam. The first day of celebration was concluded with fellowship, and delicious potluck dinner near the left side of the church with the benches and volunteers cleaning up the place after the dinner.
Away from the ceremony site (St.Cyprian Church), the event of the image (small statue) of Our Lady of Velankanni visiting one home a day (during all Novena days) was initiated.
Novena 2 (September 1, 2018, 2018):
The people assembled in the prayer room behind the St. Cyprian Church on September 1, 2018 and the second day of Novena prayer was said.
The image (small statue) of Our Lady of Velankanni visited the second home.
Novena 3-8 (September 2, 2018, through September 7, 2018):
Novena prayer was said remotely through teleconferencing from the third day (September 2, 2018) through the eighth day (September 7, 2018).
The image (small statue) of Our Lady of Velankanni visited six homes during these six days.
Feast Preparation (September 7 & 8, 2018):
Many volunteers assembled in the evening of September 7, 2018 (before the feast day) to make all the arrangement to prepare for the feast celebration. For some volunteers, their whole families joined to help. The volunteers formed into multiple groups and each group taking care a specific task – and the various tasks the volunteers completed as part of this effort are: Wrapping the carrier with decorative paper, decorating the carrier with ornaments and flowers, fixing decorative lights for the carrier, creating thoranam materials, hanging the thoranam in the front of the church, decorating the front of the church with decorative lights, getting the flood-lights ready for the procession, etc. Volunteers stayed until 2.00 AM to finish as much as possible. This previous effort continued into the next day (the feast day – September 8, 2018) for some volunteers to finish-up the decoration, and this continued until 3.00 PM.
The Feast Day – Novena, Holy Mass, Procession and Flag-Lowering (September 8, 2017):
The feast day started with saying the 9th-day novena followed with Holy Mass.
And they included Vicar General Rev. Msgr. Francis V, Cilia, Rev.Fr. Vincent Pineda, the pastor of St.Cypriann Church, Rev. Fr. Louis Leveil, and Rev. Fr. Periyanayagam (Note that this Fr. Periyanayagam is different from the Fr. Periyanayagam who celebrated with us on the Flag Hoisting day).
The specialty of this year celebration is that two members of the Knights of Columbus with unique costume walking majestically in front of the Entrance Procession of Altar Servers and Priest at the beginning of the Holy Mass.
As the Holy Mass was about to begin, Vicar General lighted the Kuthuvilakku, and Arathi performed on all Fathers. At this time, Vicar General also invited the children and briefed them about what he will be expecting from them when he meets with the children again during the homily time. During Homily time, Vicar General again invited all the children near the Altar and explored their knowledge on Our Lady of Good Health, and encouraged them to ask questions and to answer their curious questions. The prayers of the faithful were in multiple languages (English, Malayalam, Spanish, Hindi, and Tamil). The majestic Knights of the Columbus escorted the Offertory Procession also. Arathanai was performed by little girls with flower, light, and perfume during Eucharistic Prayer time. Towards the end of the Holy Mass, fathers were honored with shawls and gifts.
The choir was superb with the right selection of devotional songs (many Madha songs for our delight) matching with the festive occasion and beautiful music, which uplifted spiritually all who were partaking in the Feast Mass.
After the Holy Mass, everyone including Priests, Altar Servers, and the people moved to the front-of-the church to start the procession of Our Lady of Velankanni in the decorated carrier.
After Vicar General blessed the image of Mother Mary in the carrier, everyone was given a lighted candle, and the procession started.
The candle-light procession was lead by the Altar Servers carrying decorative umbrellas, followed by children who were followed by the women and then finally men. The procession prayer & singing team and the priests were walked close to the carrier. During the procession, the devotees recited rosaries and also sang Madha songs. After starting from the entrance of the church, the procession took the route around the left side of the church, proceeded along the parking lot at the backside of the church, continued to the right side of the church and finally landed in front of the church, and the final prayer was said.
Once the procession ended, the parish pastor Rev. Fr. Vincent Pineda helped to lower the flag of Our Lady of Velankanni as an indication that the feast has concluded.
Dinner & Fellowship & Cleanup:
Once the flag was lowered, people moved to the sports arena behind the church where dinner was being served. Indian food was yummy, and this gathering offered an opportunity for the people to fellowship with each other.
As usual, many volunteers (including their families) stayed back late in the night to take-apart things, help transport them to proper places, and cleanup.
In the background, the image (small statue) of Our Lady of Velankanni visiting homes concluded by visiting the last home for this year festive season.
For More Detail:
You could see the pictures from the Madha’s festival at our Facebook page
Once again, thank you all for joining us and being part of us in celebrating Our Lady of Velankanni festival, 2018!
Yours in Christ to the Glory of Velankanni Madha,