Festival of Our Lady of Velankanni – 2021 at Our Lady of Refuge, San Jose, CA

Finally, the waiting was over for all in our community to come together joyfully again to celebrate the festival (from September 4 to 12, 2021) for our miraculous Lady of Health! All in our community seized this momentous spiritual occasion and gave their best to honor our humble Mother of God to the delight of all the angels and saints in heaven!

Thanksgiving & Welcoming:

First, we humbly adore our merciful God. Second, we thank for His grace and blessings to our community by providing us with a beautiful holy church, Our Lady of Refuge, and opening up the opportunity so that we all could come together in person to celebrate His Holy Mother. She also was offered as the Mother for us all by our Lord.

We are thankfully exalted and honored that our Bishop of San Jose Diocese, the Most Rev Oscar Cantu, could join the celebration, lead the feast Mass, bless the Madha statue and us all. We also want to thank Rev. Fr. Jeff Fernandez, who accompanied the bishop and assisted in the feast Mass.

From the bottom of our hearts, we thank the pastor Rev. Fr. Hugo Rojas, Rev. Fr. Antony Nguyen, and all in the Our Lady of Refuge church parish and the diocese of San Jose for giving a kind consideration and privileged opportunity for our Sacred Heart Tamil Catholic Group to be part of the parish and allowing us to celebrate the festival and monthly Tamil Mass at the church. Also, it was a great honor that Fr. Hugo Rojas, Rev. Fr. Antony Nguyen, and a Deacon from the parish could join the bishop in celebrating the feast Mass.

We are very fortunate and grateful that Rev. Fr. Rev. Fr. Chandrasekar Paulraj has become our new spiritual guide and is taking care of our spiritual needs during the most challenging times of our life, which have been very hard to conduct any of our lives spiritual activities in person. We thank him dearly for being the voice of our community and leading the festival, starting with flag-hoisting until the feast day by celebrating the feast Mass along with the bishop. We also thank Rev. Fr. Maria Joseph for joining us and celebrating the feast Mass with the bishop. Moreover, we take this time to remember and thank our community's founding spiritual guru Rev. Fr. Louis Leveil. He has helped our community grow stronger in faith from the beginning and offered a helping hand whenever possible, even now.

We are grateful for our community leaders, dedicated volunteers, and generous donors who helped to make this festival a great success, and their extraordinary contributions include planning, organizing, and executing the festival activities, fund-raising for the festival expenses, providing divine pleasing choir performance to elevate the spiritual experiences, beautifully decorating our adorable Madha statues, the Madha carrier, and the church Altar, conducting Novenas every day to bind us connected during the festival days, coordinating the visit of the two Madha statues to the homes of our community members during Novena days to enhance Madha's presence and blessings to our homes, capturing the festival experiences in photography and videos, taking care of food-arrangements, satisfying the transportation needs, and doing the final cleanups and storing things away. Considering that this festival was planned and executed in a very short time, it was a fantastic achievement to conduct and conclude the festival so smoothly and successfully, and so kudos to all the contributors. We pray that our merciful Lord and Holy Mother Mary may bless these vital contributors and their families for their selfless contributions to our community to glorify God and honor our Mother Mary!

Finally, we thank all the devotees who enthusiastically came to celebrate the Madha's festival to worship joyfully together as a single community, and we petition that Annai Velankanni may pray for us and bless us all!

The Celebration (from September 4 to 12, 2021):

Rev. Fr. Chandrasekar Paulraj inaugurated the festival by blessing the Madha flag and hoisting the flag on the evening of Saturday, September 4, 2021. Flag hoisting was preceded by the first day of Novena for the Vailankanni Arokia Madha. Although we were still in the controlled environment for the in-person worship, it was a delightful experience to see many Madha devotees joyfully joined and participated in this celebrative event. As part of this inauguration, the two blessed Madha statues started visiting our community members' homes, covering two regions based on the proximity of homes.

The community participated in the Novena remotely from the festival's second day through the pre-feast day (September 5 to 11, 2021). Each day in this duration, each of the two Madha statues continued visiting a new home. Accordingly, the Madha statues visited 18 homes combined during this festival season, and it is a record. Mainly, multiple nearby families also joined the Novena in-person with the family who received the Madha statue on a given day.

The Feast Day (September 12, 2021) started with the celebration of the Holy Mass lead by the Bishop of San Jose Diocese, the Most Rev Bishop Oscar Cantu, along with concelebrated by Rev. Fr. Rev. Fr. Hugo Rojas, Rev. Fr. Antony Nguyen, Rev. Fr. Rev. Fr. Chandrasekar Paulraj and Rev. Fr. Maria Joseph, and also the Deacon from the parish. Some highlights of the feast Mass include elevated spiritual experience with devotional songs by the choir team, and petitions read in multiple languages, 'Arathi' to Eucharist by three children with light, flower and the perfume, long line of people offering gifts during the offering time. The feast Mass was followed with a prayerful candle-light procession of the Velankanni Madha statue in the carrier, and it started from the front of the church, went around the church parking lot, and finally reached near the front of the church. The procession was led by the bishop and the priests, followed by a choir team, a long line of devotees, and the men carrying the Madha in the carrier. The choir team and the devotees recited the rosary in multiple languages and sang Madha songs during the procession. After the procession was completed, the bishop lowered the flag, a delicious dinner was served, and the community members had an opportunity for fellowship. As usual, our dedicated volunteers stayed till the end to do the final cleanup and moving things to the storage.

We look forward to another great year of celebration for Our Lady of Vailankanni!

Sincerely In Christ,