07:00 a.m. (English)
09:00 a.m. (Children)
06:30 p.m. (Youth)
The Church of Our Lady of Health of Velankanni, Irla completes 50 years in 2017; a significant milestone that would not have been achieved without the will of God and the powerful intercession of Our Lady. As we celebrate this occasion, we look back at all the efforts that went into building the church which today offers the devotees of Mother Mary a sanctuary to seek her blessings and guidance.
In 1966, the PIME (Pontifical Institute for Foreign Missions) Fathers, came to Mumbai looking for an in-transit base for their Missionaries travelling across the globe. Irla, a small suburb in Mumbai located close to the airport, was the perfect choice. In October 1967, they purchased two flats in DilPazir building located on Society road, Irla. Rev. Fr. Bruno Venturin PIME, was appointed Procurator and took up residence in DilPazir Building.
Around the same time, the Catholic community in Irla desperately wanted a church nearby as they had to make a long commute to St. Blaise Church, Amboli, which was difficult at that time especially for the elderly and the young.
Fr. Venturin, while staying in Irla, used to celebrate Mass daily in a nearby convent which many of the Catholics from Irla attended, especially on Sundays. In December 1967, at the request of the people, Fr. Venturin celebrated Christmas midnight Mass in the lane that now leads to the shrine.
Overwhelmed by the turnout for the Christmas midnight Mass celebration, Fr.Venturin promised to build a church. He appointed a committee and together with the people of Irla, he worked very hard to acquire land and raise funds to realise this promise. In 1968, a shed was erected on a piece of land donated by a resident of Irla.
It was decided that this new church would be dedicated to Our Lady of Velankanni as many devotees of Our Blessed Mother used to travel all the way to Velankanni, Tamil Nadu, for the annual novena. This pilgrimage was an arduous journey and expensive too.
The community continued to gather funds through various means and soon a chapel was erected and on 14th April 1968, Easter Vigil Mass was celebrated. This structure still stands and is now called the Prayer Hall.
In August 1968, preparations for the very first Novena were in full swing. The plans included 9 days of spiritual activity, including a Solemn Procession and blessing of the sick. On 30th August the flag was hoisted and novena services were conducted for the first time in English and Marathi. The hoisting of the flag was a tradition followed by sailors in ancient times to intercede to our Blessed Mother to protect them from the stormy sea. On 8th September His Lordship Bishop Winnibald Menezes celebrated the Feast Mass and officially declared CHURCH OF OUR LADY OF HEALTH OF VELANKANNI as a Quasi Parish.
The novenas brought devotees from all over Mumbai to the shrine. The ever increasing number made it necessary to build a bigger structure. An adjoining plot of land was acquired and the foundation stone was laid on January 12, 1975 by Auxiliary Bishop Winnibald Menezes. On 12thSeptember, 1976, the new Church structure was completed and was blessed by Rt. Rev. Alphonso Berretta, Bishop of Warangal, Andhra Pradesh. All this would not have been possible were it not for the prayers and joint efforts of the priests and laity. Together they made this dream a reality.
On 10th September 1978, the Church of Our Lady of Health of Velankanni was raised from the status of Quasi Parish to the level of full-fledged Parish by His Excellency Simon Cardinal Pimenta. Fr. Tiburtius Raj (PIME) was the Parish Priest at that time. Through the years there were many structural changes made to the building. Today it still stands tall and welcomes parishioners and other devotees in large numbers.
Through the past 50 years, many PIME Missionaries have rendered their service to Irla Parish. PIME’s presence began with Fr. Bruno Venturin, (First Parish Priest 1968-1978) then Fr. RajrusselTributius (1978-1981), Fr. Lino Dal Balcon (1981-1984), Fr. Benito Picascia (1984-1988), Fr. Augustine Palett (1988-1994), Fr. Carlo Rimondi(1994-1997), Fr. Antonio Grugni, (1997-2003), Fr.George Thailammanal (2003-2009), again Fr. Augustine Palett 2009-Feb 2017), Fr. Ravi Thanaiah Marneni from March 2017 onwards..
The novenas continue to attract large number of devotees for the Annual Novena and the Novena devotion are conducted in English, Marathi, Konkani and Tamil every Saturday. The Solemn Procession is held on the Sunday prior to the Feast day i.e. 8th September. The statue of Our Lady is ceremoniously taken in Procession over a 2/3 km route on a decorated jeep. Thousands of devotees join the procession and others line up the entire procession route to pay homage to Our Lady. A truly devotional experience for people of all Faiths. When it was initiated, the statue used to be carried by the devotees in a traditional “palkhi” over a shorter route through the Irla Village.
The blessing of