Friday, August 22, 2008

Holy Family Church Mattakkara


Attempts to build the church For quite a long time the Catholics of Mattakkara depended on their parent parishes like Cherpunkal, Kozhuvanal, Kuruvinal, and Pala, for their spiritual needs. The journey was extremely difficult as they had to go through forest paths full of wild animals. People still remember stories of the long walks the forefathers had to undertake in the small hours of the morning every now and then to reach the distant church for their spiritual needs. Marriages and funerals caused unimaginable hardship in those days. They started thinking about building their own church at Mattakkara. By the end of the ninetee
nth century, they were determined about building a church. They soon started the attempts to fulfill their dream.
There had been 176 Catholic families at Mattakkara and its premises drawn from the parishes of Cherpunkal, Pala, Kozhuvanal and Kuruvinal. There were frequent discussions about a new church. Those who led the discussions and spearheaded the attempt to build the church were Mannanal Kunnumkuzhy Punnan Ouseph, Pazhampallil Mathai Devasia and Thundeekkarottu Cherathu Thomman. After four years of continuous attempts the sanction to build a chapel at Mattakkara was issued by the Travancore Maharaja Srimoolam Thirunal and the permission was obtained from Changanacherry bishop Mar Mathai Makkil. The vicar of Cherpunkal gave the sanction to build a chapel of Cherpunkal church at Mattakkara and certified the application to the bishop. The representatives of Mattakkara met the bishop of Changanacherry with the request to build the chapel. The bishop was generous enough to give permission.
The people began the attempts to find a suitable place for the new chapel. They inspected several plots of land like Kavumpuram and Pallikkoodamparambu. At last the people decided to build the chapel in the Kallida purayidam owned by Kongampuzha Keecheril Mani Augusthy and Ely, the wife of Arakkal Thekkanadiyil Thommi
Panthal Palli The people were extremely glad when they got official sanction for the chapel from the authorities and when the land was freely given for it. They earnestly began the work on the temporary chapel. Using bamboo poles, areca nut palm and palm fronds they built the first thatched chapel at Mattakkara in a few days. The floor was polished mud and the walls were woven coconut leaves. The madbaha and the altar were carefully built. There had been a covered room behind the madbaha for the priest. The bishop of Changanacherry appointed Rev Fr Thomas Nechikkattil of Cherpunkal as the assistant vicar of Mattakkara church. The representatives of Mattakkara church went to meet the vicar and assistant vicar of Cherpunkal and informed them about all the matters related to the newly constructed Panthal Palli at Mattakkara. The priests were happy about all the work. They decided to arrange the first holy mass at Mattakkara on Sunday, 23rd October 1898 (7 Thulam). One set of all holy articles necessary for the holy mass was provided by the Cherpunkal church. The assistant vicar Rev Fr Thomas Nechikkattil came to Mattakkara on the previous day itself and examined all the preparations. On 23 October 1898 (7 Thulam 1074) he said the first holy mass at Mattakkara and blessed and laid the foundation stone for the church building. The Catholics of the area celebrated that day in a grand manner and the celebrations were sponsored by Sri Cheriyathu Thomman Thundikkarottu. The celebrations and the presence of their own place of worship in their midst gladdened the 176 Catholic families of Mattakkara and neighbouring places who wished to join Mattakkara parish
The Old Church The work on the new church began soon after the blessing of the first chapel. The people co-operated wholeheartedly with the intention of finishing it in time in order to make it an independent parish. The first parish meeting was held in Midhunam 1899 under the presidentship of Rev Fr Thomas Nechikkattil. All the 176 members who wished to join this parish but were members of Cherpuinkal, Pala, Kozhuvanal and Kuruvinal parishes in those days discussed the present functioning of the chapel and prepared and signed a memorandum to the bishop of Changanacherry. The memorandum was a request to the bishop for the permission to conduct all services necessary for the spiritual needs of the people in the new chapel. They were trying to solve the problems experienced by them over the years in satisfying their spiritual needs. That was the motivating factor behind their co-operation in the construction of the new church and the activities to establish a new parish at Mattakkara.
Kurian Ouseph Varikkayil, Punnan Ouaseph Kannukuzhiyil, Itty Iype Ouseph Kochumadhathil and Mathai Devasia Pazhayampallil were elected as the trustees of Mattakkara chapel. They had been the first trustees of the chapel. They were officially recognized as trustees by Mar Mathai Makkil, the bishop of Changanacherry on 12 Chingam 1899 as per order number 548 of that day, Then Rev Fr Mathai Koorkamattathil of Mattakkara became the second assistant vicar of Mattakkara chapel. He joined with the people shoulder to shoulder and the new church was completed. The work on the priest home, the kitchen and the cemetery was also initiated. By that time the original Panthal Palli had become very old and unusable. So the church committee requested the diocese to permit them to conduct the services in the new building. The meeting also requested the diocese to declare Mattakkara as an independent parish. As they were short of money, they decided to borrow money to complete all the works. All those decisions were conveyed to the diocese. At last sanction was given to say the holy mass in the new building. However, the people had to make repeated requests to elevate the chapel into a parish so that they could conduct all the necessary services in their own church.
In 1902 Mattakkara chapel was declared an independent parish as per order number 191 of 1902. That was the moment of fulfillment to the people of Mattakkara. The vicar of Kozhuvanal was appointed as the commission to demarcate the boundaries between Mattakkara and Cherpunkal parishes. In accordance with the report submitted by the commission, the boundaries of Mattakkara and Cherpunkal were finalized as per order number 820 of 4 Vritchikam 1902.
When we review the history of the Mattakkara parish we remember with gratitude the 176 family heads that unanimously decided in favour of an independent parish at Mattakkara and worked for it tirelessly. During the initial phase a lot of money and manual labour had to be spent to get the permission to build the chapel, to build the thatched shed and then to build the new church. There was a committed and efficient leadership to look after everything. A special word of thanks to Advocate Kummanam Govindapilla who rendered free service in obtaining permission to build the church at Mattakkara. The first vicar Rev Fr Thomas Nechikkattil rendered selfless service to the parish in its initial years. Staying in the poor priest home (Parnasala) he worked day and night for the welfare of the church. The parish expresses its sincere gratitude.
The second vicar Rev Fr Thomas Nechikkattil has a prominent role in the history of the parish. His contributions include the construction of the new church, the cemetery, priest home and the kitchen, and the elevation of Mattakkara into an independent parish. He was in fact the first vicar of Mattakkara. It was his selfless and dedicated service that sustained and developed the parish in its infancy. We remember him as well as the four trustees who worked with him for the development of the parish. We are also grateful to those who donated the land where the church stands. The well and the quarry in the church compound had been the donation of Sri Kovoor Padmanabhapilla, a generous benefactor of Mattakkara church. They still lie there as the symbol of communal harmony and mutual support.
The great religious conference Mattakkara held a great religious conference on 13-15 March 1934. Rev Fr Placid Podipara, Rev Fr Romeo Thomas, Rev Fr Dominic Thottassery, Mon. Jacob Vellaringattu, Sri K E Job, Sri V C George, Sri A O Joseph Anchery, Rev Fr William Neriamparampil, Chennattu Mathai Kathanar, Sri A C Kuriakose Adhikaram and others led the audience into the depths of Christian beliefs. Rev FR Abraham Kudakassery, who could extemporize poems, made it an unforgettable experience by performing an Ottan Thullal out of the history of Mattakkara and the importance of the conference.
The new church Rev Fr Augusthy Nallary came to Mattakkara as the vicar in November 1936. In the meeting presided over by him on 9 June 1938, the plan and estimate of the proposed new church building was approved. The plan was by Raman Pothuvoor Jnanakkannu of Nagarcoil. The proposed building was to have a length of 50 feet, a breadth of 25 feet, a floor height of 2 feet, and a 55 feet tall façade. There were six doors each on the longer sides and 5 windows each. Three doors were to be there on the façade. The sacristy would be at the back in the full length of the church and 14 feet wide. The estimated cost was ten thousand rupees. Two priests from the parish, Rev Fr Kurian Mannanal and Rev Fr Mathai Kodikulam, and the assistant vicar Re Fr Joseph Mannanal participated in the meeting. As soon as the permission from the diocese was obtained the foundation work began. In the pit for the foundation on the north and east, earthenware pots for grain and some decayed grain were found. When the chapel was built first it was a piece of land covered with grass and bushes. However, the pots and grain proved beyond doubt that the place had been inhabited in the long-forgotten past. It appeared as if those ancient men used to keep pots of grain deep underground.
When the church was completed, several times the estimate had been spent. The work took long 14 years. During that period collections were made several times. The support for the workers was built using bamboo brought from various parts of the parish. As the building went further up tall coconut trees had to be brought. Elephants were used to drag the coconut trees as well as the huge blocks of stone for the pillars. In between when the work was suspended temporarily, the supports had to be built anew.
During the fourteen years when the work was in progress six vicars came one after the other. It was Rev Fr Augusthy Nallariyil who started the work. The work was continued by Rev Fr Kuriakose Mannanal, Rev Fr Jacob Pazhempallil, Rev Fr Geevarghese Pulinilkunnathil, and Rev Fr Devasia Kalappurakkal. The work was completed during the tenure of Rev Fr Geevarghese Kalekkattil
When the wall’s height reached twenty feet, there occurred certain controversies regarding the structure of the roof. The vicar in those days had been Rev Fr Pazhempallil. Those who objected to the present structure approached the bishop Mar Kalasserry. He deputed retired engineer Sri K C Thomas to submit the report about the construction. He inspected the work and submitted his report on 19 June 1945. Some parishioners didn’t approve the report and approached the bishop again. Retired engineer Rev John Kurian Puliampally was appointed to examine the site and submit another report. His report was submitted on 15 December 1945. Both reports are recorded in the second volume of the parish meeting register. Memorandums and discussions went on for some time. At last the bishop ordered the work to continue as per order number 560 of 22 March 1946. Recommendations were to build the roof as one structure, to cut down the outer wall by two and three quarters feet, to increase the height of the middle wall and to build it in concrete, and to strengthen the walls by providing sufficient number of seelanthis. However, several people disliked the idea of cutting down the outer walls. They once again approached the bishop and requested him to allow the work to proceed without demolishing the walls. The bishop discussed the matter with Sri K C Thomas. He suggested the continuation of the work without reducing the height of the outer walls, and gave a new plan. Subsequently the bishop allowed the work to proceed without cutting down the outer wall, as per order number 591 of 19 March 1947. The disputes about the plan had suspended the work for about three years. But, the new decision was acceptable to all and so the work progressed quickly.
The masons were brought again and the supports for the work were built anew. When there was shortage of money, enough money was borrowed. Collections were made frequently. The second volume of the parish meeting register is full of the details of the collections and contributions. The meeting held on 14 November 1948 decided to borrow ten thousand rupees but sanction was denied by the diocese. The bishop allowed the parish to borrow only 4000 rupees. Then it was decided to collect advance amounts for permanent masses and to collect all dues. In November 1949, tiled roofing was provided to the building. The parish meeting then decided to solve the disputes regarding the structure of the façade and to complete the building as early as possible

Consecration of the new church The new church at Mattakkara was consecrated on 9 February 1952 by Mar Sebastian Vayalil, the bishop of Pala. Then there was the procession of the Eucharist from the old church to the new one through a beautifully decorated pathway. Then the bishop said the first holy mass in the new church. That day was a red letter day for all the Catholics of Mattakkara.
Sri Kurian Mathai Thekkanadiyil was there throughout the work supervising every aspect of it. He has full knowledge of all the work done and the ways in which each part was completed. He had done selfless work forgetting all other interests. Our sincere gratitude to his services.

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