13,000 attend feast of Kandhamal’s new Marian shrine
By Purushottam Nayak
Bhubaneswar: More than 13,000 people on March 5 attended the feast of a new Marian shrine in the Kandhamal district of Odisha, an eastern Indian state.
“Mother Mary loves us all. She wants us to grow in faith, love and affection,” said Archbishop John Barwa of Cuttack-Bhubaneswar, who led the Mass at Mother Mary of Partomah, a substation of Daringbadi parish.
The parish is under the Archdiocese of Cuttack-Bhubaneswar in Odisha.
Around 30 priests and about 25 nuns attended the feast day Mass at the shrine situated on a mountain.
The Divine Word prelate urged the gathering to pray, fast and abstain from comforts and pleasure “in our spiritual journey.” He noted that the feast fell on the first week of lent, the 40-day period of fast and prayer for Christians before Easter.
The archbishop said the Blessed Virgin “is ever ready to intercede” for the people of Kandhamal, who in 2008 suffered the worst anti-Christian violence of modern India.
Parish priest Father Angelo Ranasingh welcomed the gathering and explained the origin of the shrine.
According to him, a Hindu widow, Kamola Devi, had gone to the mountain to collect firewood on March 5, 1994. She then saw a man in white dress with beard and long hair. He disappeared as he closer to her. Then she saw a beautiful woman at a distance who called her by name. The woman instructed the widow to request the local Catholic priest to build a church to pray for society.
Devi first shared the matter with a neighbor, who laughed at her. Then a 12-year-boy called Devi one morning to the mountain and disappeared. Once again the woman appeared to Devi and revealed her identity, “I am Mother of Jesus. Pray constantly for the change of society.”
The widow then went to Father Alphonse Balliarsingh, who was the local parish priest. The priest set up a committee and built a small grotto close to the banyan tree where Mother Mary had appeared.
Since then people began to flock to the mountain grotto named Mother Mary of Partama Shrine. The widow was later baptized as Agnes. The popular devotion to Mother Mary gradually increased. Many miracles have been reported since then, the parish priest said.
Archbishop Barwa offered the first Mass at shrine in 2011 and again in 2015. Emeritus Bishop Thomas Thiruthalil of Balasore offered Mass in 2016.
Anita Sahu, a regular visitor to the shrine, said she has received “everything through the intercession of Mother Mary of Partama. I have come to show my great devotion to her.”
Bhumya Pradhan from Partama said she braved scourging sun to attend the feast day Mass.
Alado Digal, another devotee, said he gained eye sight after praying at the shrine. “Even after taking medicine for the healing of losing sight I was not able to see,” he told Matters India.
The administration had provided police protection during the feast day celebrations.