Cordel Church; Celebrating its 150th anniversary under the patronage of the Holy Cross
Mangaluru: The Holy Cross Church of Kulshekar, Mangalore, more famously known as ‘Cordel Church’, is now celebrating its 150th anniversary. In the past 150 years, under the patronage of the Holy Cross of Jesus Christ, the guardian of the religious centre, the blessings received by the people here have been immense. Hence, Holy Cross Church has decided to celebrate this occasion with a Thanksgiving mass on September 14 and September 17.
Addressing the press conference, Parish Priest Rev. Fr Clifford Fernandes said, On September 14, this church will observe its 150-year celebration with devotion. Many programmes have been organised in this regard. Youth Day, Couple’s Day, Teacher’s Day, and Health Workers’ Day have already been celebrated. On September 14th at 5.30 PM, Monsignor Rev. Fr. Maxim Noronha, the Vicar General of Mangalore Diocese, will lead the Thanksgiving mass. Later, the day of all the heads, secretaries, ward heads, benefactors, and founders who have served in the parish will be celebrated.
On September 17th, there will be a festive celebration. At 5.30 PM, the Bishop of Mangalore, Most Rev. Dr. Peter Paul Saldanha, will offer the Thanksgiving service. That day will be celebrated as the day of all the priests and other religious people who have served in this parish. Senior Citizens’ Day, Disabled People’s Day, Sports Festival, Fancy Fete, Non-Resident Indian Day, and All Religions Meet are planned to be held in the coming days.
In conjunction with these events, the Cordel Church Kulshekar 150th anniversary emblem was unveiled. Elias Fernandes, vice president Ruth Castelino, secretary Anil D’Sa, and advertising committee coordinator Laveena D’Mello were present.
The 150-year history of the shrine
September 14, 1873, is a very memorable day for the Christians of Kulshekar. It was the day of the foundation-laying of the church, which was essential for the spiritual development of the people of this region. Kulshekar was then a part of Milagres Church. Rev. Fr. Alexander Dubois, Parish Priest of Milagres Church, who used to visit this place for the spiritual service of the Christians of this region, took the first step in realising the dream of the Catholic devotees by laying the foundation stone for the Holy Cross Church. Rev. Fr. Alexander Dubois was loved by all and came to be popularly known as Frad Swamy.
September 14 is significant for people in this locality for two reasons. Firstly, it is the day when the foundation stone of the church was laid by Frad Swamy, the founder of this church. Secondly, it is the day of the Feast of the Holy Cross, the guardian of this shrine. For this reason, in memory of the founder and for devotion to the Holy Cross, September 14, 1873, is celebrated as Foundation Day. The centenary was celebrated in 1973; the post-centenary silver jubilee (125 years) was observed in 1998; and now the 150th anniversary of this extraordinary event is being celebrated.
Frad Swamy’s beloved ‘Cordel’
Cordel was a village in Shaktinagar, which lies 1.5 km from Kulshekar. The Christians here planted a cross in the Cordel forest to confirm their faith in God in their time of difficulty and offer prayers. Frad Swamy, who visited this place, was not only thrilled to see the devotion of the people but also found the name of this town very appealing. Frad Swamy not only brought that cross to the Kulshekar Church but also named the centre Cordel.
Frad Swamy, the Immortal
Rev. Fr. Alexander Dubois came to Mangalore from France and rendered his valuable service at Milagres Church from 1865 to 1877. From there, he used to walk barefoot to serve the people of areas like Kulshekar, Bondel, Kelarai, Vamanjoor, Valencia, and Nagori that came under his jurisdiction. Now all these areas have independent churches. While commuting in this way, he not only served the Christians but also worked for the good of all people. He responded to the hardships of many people and extended his best help. He learned Konkani and Tulu. He cured the illnesses of the people through his prayer of faith and also blessed the crops to prosper. People who witnessed his deep spiritual life saw him as a saint.
His kind heart drew all the people to him. Because of this, he came to be called ‘Frad Saib’ by the Catholic Christians and ‘Kullyarda Ajjer’ by the Tulu speakers. These names are still popular. After the laying of the foundation stone of Kulshekar Church, for the next four years, along with the construction of the building, he also worked towards creating a beautiful and spacious surrounding area.
He dedicated a total of 60,000 francs that he had acquired from his inheritance and from the pontificate towards completing all these works. In 1877, halfway through the work, while tending to cholera patients, he succumbed to the same disease. On December 11, 1877, he joined God’s feet. As per his wishes, he was buried the next day in a tomb prepared by him earlier at Kulshekar. In this way, the land in Kulshekar gained sanctity from then on.
People began to visit his tomb in droves and received many boons. He became famous as a miracle man. The soil of his grave has been helpful in curing many of their diseases. This same faith and devotion are still present in the people, and a lot of them constantly visit this holy tomb. Frad Swamy is immortal here. Founder’s Day is celebrated on December 11 every year as part of the commemoration of Frad Swamy.
Rev. Fr. Ladislas Deloz, who had been Frad Swamy’s assistant, continued the work in 1877. However, the construction work did not pick up speed. He, too, died on November 21, 1888. Thereafter, the period till 1904 was dark in the history of Kulshekar, as there are no records of much development having taken place here.
Finally, in 1904, the then-Bishop, Most Rev. Fr. A. Cavadini, officially declared Kulshekar Church an independent centre on May 31 and appointed Rev. Fr. M. P. Colaco as the first parish priest of the church. At that time, the number of families here was 250. Similarly, Fr. M. Lunanzhii of the Society of Jesus was appointed to continue the work of the church’s construction. With his efforts, the most beautiful Holy Cross Church came into being at Kulshekar. After a formal inauguration and blessing on January 30, 1912, it was opened to devotees.
Rise of New Churches:
As the number of families increased day by day, it became the parish with the highest number of families and population among the 145 parishes of the undivided Mangalore Diocese (Dakshina Kannada, Kasaragod, and Udupi). Since the jurisdiction of this parish covered a very large area, it was decided to establish new churches for the convenience of the people.
A prayer hall was established in 1988 at Mariagiri in Shaktinagar. In 2003, this chapel was declared a new church dedicated to the Mother of God. In 2006, a new church dedicated to Saint Teresa of Kolkata came up in Paldane. However, now on the eve of this 150th year celebration, the number of families has increased again, and currently there are 1824 families with a population of about 7000.
Priests and Heads of the Parish Pastoral Parishad:
The parish priests who have served here since 1904 are:
Rev. Fr. M. P. Colaco, Rev. Fr. Salvador Vas, Rev. Fr. Francis S. D’Souza, Rev. Fr. Peter Remigius D’Souza, Rev. Fr. Piad Saldanha, Rev. Fr. Valerian Colaco, Rev. Fr. Philip Nazareth, Rev. Fr. Albert D’Souza, Rev. Fr. Ligory D’Souza, Rev. Fr. Elias D’Souza, Rev. Fr. Valerian D’Souza, Rev. Fr. Gregory William Vas, Rev. Fr. Lawrence D’Souza, Rev. Fr. Valerian Pinto, Rev. Fr. Victor Machado. Currently, Rev. Fr. Clifford Fernandes serves here as the parish priest.
In 1931, Rev. Fr. Thomas A. Lobo was appointed as the first assistant parish priest. Since then, 60 assistant priests have rendered their valuable service here. Currently, Rev. Fr. Ivan Peter Cordeiro and Rev. Fr. Paul Sebastian D’Souza officiate as the assistant parish priests.
Church Advisory Board:
Devotees of the parish join hands with the clergy in the administration of the church. Initially functioning as the Board of Administration, it was renamed the Church Advisory Board in 1971.
Those who have served as the heads of administration since its inception:
Sri Simon Pinto, Sri Anthony D’souza, Sri Salvador D’souza, Sri Paul Castelino, Sri Albert Sequeira, Sri Joseph Mary Tellis, Sri Charles D’souza, Sri Joseph Sequeira, Sri Robert D’Souza, Sri Jossy Castelino, Sri Sushil Noronha, Sri Richard Alvares, Sri Victor Vas, Sri Praveen Patrao, Sri Loy Noronha, and Sri Michael D’souza. The current Vice President is Smt. Sylvia Ruth Castelino.
Similarly, many have served as secretaries, and now Sri Anil D’sa is the secretary. There are currently 149 members on the Advisory Board who are providing various services through 21 commissions. Presently, Sri Dolphy D’souza is the convener of these commissions.
Many organisations like Church Pastoral Parishad, Altar Workers, YCS, ICYM, St. Vincent de Paul Sabha, Third Order of St. Francis of Assisi, Legion of Mary, Women’s Association, and Cordel Choir are functioning here to enable the people of all ages in the parish to render their services and unveil their talents.
The CWA Office helps the people avail themselves of the various government schemes. A unit of AA (Alcoholics Anonymous) exists to facilitate alcohol de-addiction and to inspire reformed addicts to lead a new life.
Santacruz Convent of Bethany Sisters, RMI Convent, Little Sisters of the Poor Convent, and Ursuline Franciscan Convent, along with St. Joseph Monastery of Carmel Priests, are functioning under the parish.
St. Joseph’s Primary School was first started by Frad Swamy at Kulshekar. In the beginning, along with Catechism classes, reading, writing, and mathematics were taught here. In 1881, it began to provide government-recognized education. This recognition was received on December 28, 1893, and since then, the aided St. Joseph’s Higher Primary School has been imparting quality education to thousands of children. St. Joseph’s English Medium High School was started here in the year 2000.
These two schools function under the administration of the Catholic Board of Education. On the same premises, Sacred Hearts’ English-medium Higher Primary School and aided Sacred Hearts’ High Schools belonging to Bethany Educational Society also provide good education. Dubois School of Commerce, started in 1965, has been a ray of hope for many, and many who have learned shorthand and typewriting here have secured good jobs. Along with this, training in banking, commerce, and office work was also provided. This institution is now closed.
Schemes for the Uplift of the Poor:
Since its beginning, the parish has had many projects for the upliftment of the poor. The poor are helped through schemes like the House Construction (Revolving Fund) Scheme, the Education Fund, the Health Fund, and the Frad Swamy Fund. Apart from these endowments, funding is also provided from other sources. St. Vincent de Paul Sabha is also working for the welfare of the poor. Housing assistance is also provided to poor people through the Frad Saib House Construction Committee and the ‘Prakas’ scheme.
There is a fully equipped ‘Cordel Hall’, a ‘Cordel Open Auditorium’, the air-conditioned Frad Saib Hall, and the Church Mini Hall for holding meetings. There is also a large football field where many sports competitions are held.
A house magazine called ‘Cordelchem Zaith’ is being published by the church.
A Sacred Land
The church has been renovated on account of its 150th anniversary. In addition, the renovated Frad Swamy’s tomb, the Way of the Cross of Jesus Christ Meditation Centre constructed during the celebration of Frad Swami’s Birth Bicentenary (2009), a cross on the hill, a shrine, a relic of the Holy Cross, a chapel dedicated to Mother Velankanni, Karnataka’s first Rosary Park (for rosary prayer), Mount Sinai, the 10 commandments, and many other monuments are there for devotees to pray, meditate, get peace of mind, and get many boons.