Visiting Kerala’s “new” pilgrimage center
By Cyriac Sebastian
Kochi: For the past two weeks, social media platforms were agog with news about some strange happenings in a parish church under Verapoly archdiocese in Kerala.
As WhatsApp and Facebook displayed pictures and video clips of children and elders praying around the altar of St Ambrose Church in Edavanakkad, I planned to visit the place. The visit finally took place on October 13.
Edavanakkad is a picturesque village located around 21 km north of the bustling city of Ernakulam. Like other villages in Ernakulam district, Edavanakkad also has people of many religions living in peace and harmony.
The parishioners of St Ambrose Church are Latin Catholics. The parish manages a school named Edavanakkad St. Ambrose Lower Primary School (upto fourth grade) that caters to children of all religions from neighbourhood.
The quiet and tranquil life of the villagers took an unexpected twist on September 23. It all started with Krishnendu, a Hindu girl student, complained to her teacher about pain in her ears. When the girl said she could more bear the pain the teacher suggested that she apply the anointed oil kept near the statue of St. Ambrose in the church.
During the break Krishnendu went to the church with some friends. Since she could not find the oil, she applied some holy water on her ears. As the children came out of the church, Krishnendu said she elt relief in ears. The children claimed they saw in the sky a vision of Christ being whipped.
After this incident, a Catholic girl, a Ambrosia, began leading prayers during the breaks daily. Seeing the students praying, some teachers also joined them. On September 28, when the children were praying the mysteries of light with their class teacher’s help they saw a woman in a white gown, draped with a blue shawl. She had a rosary in one hand, while blood oozed from the other hand.
The woman wore a golden crown, with a golden disc rotating over her crown. The woman was quiet, small and she stood under the altar. She would occasionally peek out of the altar as if playing hide like with the children. The began shouting excitedly.
Even Hindu and Muslim children recognized the woman as the Virgin Mary since their Christian companions had explained to them about Christ, Mary and saint after the September 23 incident.
Some children went to call their parents who were standing outside the church building. Some of them also claimed they could see Mary. The commotion attracted more teachers to the church but could not see anything. However, they experienced a strong smell of jasmine flowers.
Meanwhile the sacristan was alerted who in turn informed parish priest Father Mathew D’ Cunha and his assistant Father Merton D’Silva. The priests rushed to the church, but could see nothing.
A parishioner, who happened to come to the church then, was sceptical. However, he decided to film the scene on his cellphone. He started recording the children near the altar. As he climbed the first step of the altar he felt a vibration. It grew stronger as he climbed further. When he tried to shoot the spot where the children said they had seen the apparition, his camera recorded nothing. When he moved the focus to other places inside the church, it started working.
“I can’t express what I had felt. I knew it was the Blessed Virgin and the children were telling the truth,” said the man, who did not want to be identified. He said he has been associated with the church since childhood and that he had served there as an altar boy. ”I have been attending Mass regularly yet that day was beyond expectation,” he added.
When the children were about to leave the church on September 28 the lady in blue called Ambrosia. When she turned the woman pleaded them to stay. “She told them that she was alone and not to leave her alone. The woman then emerged from under the altar and asked another girl to study well and to pray to the Holy Ghost. The woman then disappeared promising the girls that she would come again when they come with their parents.”
The sacristan said the children had a similar vision five days later on October 3. The woman led them to the church door and told them all to pray.
Most parishioners came to the church on October 3. The woman told the children that she would become visible to some parishioners also.
“She was as the children had described her,” said a parishioner who claimed to have seen Virgin Mary.
Thousands of people began visiting the church since then daily.
When our team reached the church, it had a long queue of people from all religions who came to touch the altar and seek Mary’s blessing. The church had concluded a night vigil organized to mark the centenary of the Fatima vision.
Father D’Cunha said he found the girls’ behaviour genuine. “There was no reason to disbelieve them after the events on September 28,” he said.
Meanwhile visitors claimed two miracle cures after praying in the church. A 12-year-old polio-stricken boy was cured and began walking.
Another man who had severe pancreatic ailment and doctors asked him to avoid meat, oil and other items. He was being treated at Lisie Hospital, Ernakulam, for the past 18 months. After he prayed in the church the doctors have certified that he was cured.