Festival of Our Lady of Velankanni – 2019 at St. Cyprian Church, Sunnyvale, CA
Dear friends in Christ,
God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son!
Jesus so loved us all that He gave us His Holy Mother to be our Mother! This is the most precious, beautiful and loving gift from God to us, before Jesus gave-up His life for us on the cross!
People of God so loved our Holy Mother, a great many of them came from all over the places to celebrate the feast of our Lady of Velankanni Madha as a single big family occupying the whole of St. Cyprian Church. The Velankanni festival, which started on August 30 and concluded on September 7, gave all of us a divine opportunity to honor and glorify our Holy Mother, and has given us the full liberty, as her children, to reach out to her confidently in prayers.
The feast day was a soul filling divine experience which included Grand Holy Mass celebrated by Most Rev. Bishop Oscar Cantú (Diocese of San Jose) along with Reverend cadre of Fathers, and candle-light procession of Madha in a brightly lit new carrier.
All was possible and the feast was a grand success because of the Grace of God, love of our Holy Mother, blessings from the Most Rev. Bishop Oscar Cantú (Diocese of San Jose). Rev Fr. Vincent Pineda (Parish priest), Rev. Fr. Louis Leveil SJ, Rev Fr. Anthony Uytingco (Bishop’s Master of Ceremony), Rev Fr. Periyanayagam SJ, and other four other Jesuit fathers, support from parishioners of St. Cyprian Church, Good planning and execution by our leaders and coordinators, generous contributions from donors, and unlimited hard-work by our tireless volunteers.
The organizers and volunteers of the Velankanni festival, whole heartedly THANK all those who came to celebrate the feast of Our Lady of Velankanni with us. We humbly and cordially invite all again to come and honor our graceful Lady of Health during coming years!
We are humbly grateful and thank Most Rev. Bishop Oscar Cantú (Diocese of San Jose), for his blessings and readily accepting our invitation to be with us and celebrating the feast Holy Mass for us, and also we are very hopeful that he could come and bless in the future celebrations.
We are thankful to the pastor, Rev Fr. Vincent Pineda, of St. Cyprian Church for his blessings and joining the Bishop in celebrating the feast Holy Mass with us. We are also grateful for all the care and support that Rev Fr. Vincent Pineda has been giving to our community.
We thank and express our gratitude to the St. Cyprian Church parish and Diocese of San Jose for all the support and giving us the church facilities for our community to use for the purpose of spiritual and cultural activities. We thank also Ms. Kathleen from St. Cyprian church for all the help during Holy Mass, and her help with taking care of offertory gifts (from festival Mass) that were donated to the Vincent De Paul Society.
We are grateful and thank Fr. Louis Leveil, SJ, for being with us always during volunteering and celebration, being readily available and continuously providing spiritual support for our community and being the voice for our community.
We thank Fr. Chandrasekar for all the blessings and helping to initiate the festival celebration with flag-hoisting. We thank Rev. Fr. Periyanayagam SJ, for his blessings and joining with us in the celebration and supporting our community by frequently celebrating Holy Mass for us. We thank Rev Fr. Anthony Uytingco (Bishop’s Master of Ceremony) for joining us for the feast and helping the Bishop in celebrating the feast Holy Mass. We greet and Thank the four Jesuit Fathers (from Berkley) - Rev Fr. Robert Das, Rev Fr. Ozzie Saldanha, Rev Fr. Andrew Simpasa, and Rev Fr. George Griener, for joining us for the feast celebration!
The organizers, sponsors & generous donors, and dedicated volunteers are the main reason for the continued success of Velankanni Madha’s festival every year, and thank and express our sincere gratitude to them for providing strong support for our community so we all collectively work towards the glory of God and His and our Holy Mother!
It may be worth quoting from something we said in our write-up for the Vekabkanni festival during 2018, and we can recogniz that God and Holy Mary have answered our prayer by bringing more than enough volunteers and contributions to help with this year festival, and brought many more people to participate in the celebration so they can see and feel the glory of our Holy Mother.
---2018 The fantastic community spirit shown by all our contributors bode well for our joint mission to glorify our God and honor our Mother Mary, and it has been the cornerstones of the great success in all activities that our community undertake. We wish and pray that this level of excellent community spirit, God serving mentality, and affection towards our Madha continues well into the future, so we all collectively get stronger and stronger to do more wonders to glorify the God and honor Mother Mary, while at the same time strengthening our community’s cultural & spiritual bond. ----
We are so grateful that many people have generously donated and the total donations this year well exceeded any of the prior years, and we thank-you all those donated and contributed generously. It is a very good indication that God’s spirit taking hold among us that make us work unitedly to work towards the glory of our Holy Mother, who is there always for us to speak to Jesus! The financial details will be published separately, and below are some of the material donations from the donors:
• Velankanni Madha Flag (designed by Jesu Darison’s Father) • Flowers and other decoration items. • Gifts, sandal garlands and golden shawls to bishop and priests. • Food, tea, water, etc. for volunteers. • Madha statues for many who came to the church on the feast day. • We are sure there are lot more items donated that are not accounted here.
Apart from the donations, the volunteering effort by our community members was huge once again. We are grateful and thank these stalwart volunteers for their great contributions to our community, and listed below are some of the contributions for the Velankanni festivalast by our volunteers, coordinators and leaders:
• Overall planning and coordination of the feast. • Planning, transporting and setting-up the new carrier for Madha. Presumably, this was the very unpredictable and toughest task for this year celebration but finally it was a happy ending. First of all, no one was sure the carrier will arrive on time for the celebration – but, it arrived and gave us a reasonable time to work on it. Considering the heaviness of package with fragile items, and the package getting transported in multiple hops, it was a miracle everything in the package was intact and usable. Samy coordinated with strong set of volunteers in transporting the carrier from the airport to the church, and setting-up perfectly in a very time-crunch schedule. It was a great to see nearly all the volunteers stayed until 2 AM to finish as much as possible. Then, the volunteers continued the work in the morning on the feast day to finish anything remaining, which included padding the wooden bars to help carrying carrier easy on the shoulder and hands. • Beautifully decorating & lighting the carrier and Madha in the carrier, and Madha stage inside the church and Madha in the stage by our decoration experts and the lighting expert. • Organizing and taking care of Novena during all days of the festival. • Organizing Madha visiting to the homes of community members during all days of the festival. • Decorating outside church. • Setting-up the flag pole, flag and decoration in front the church for the flag hoisting day. • Setting-up audio system by our audio expert and team so we all can hear the Bishop, Mass proceedings, songs and music in a clearest sound. • Taking photography and videos during festival days. • Feeding the volunteers with good food, tea, water, etc. by some kind hearted during volunteering days. • Putting lot of effort and having multiple rounds of practices by our choir team which helped them to show-case their best during the feast Holy Mast with melodious singing and music which pleased us all. • Taking care of the important job of financials accounting by our chosen volunteers. • Angelic services by our Altar servers. • Dinner arrangements by our volunteers with the quality of serving others first. • Cleaning-up, disassembling the carrier, taking things to the storage and finally organizing things in the storage after the feast is over. As usual, there were lot of volunteers stayed around and helped with this task, and it was well beyond midnight before everything was done.
Finally, we thank and recognize the families of Arone Premkumar, Prabhakar Joseph, Lourdraj, Vikas Helen, Murugesh and Winston Ratnam for sponsoring dinner for us all and Murugesh for providing pizzas (for kids) on the feast day.
We also thank God for increasing our dedicated volunteering base as these folks provide a strong foundation for our community to grow in faith spiritually and supportive of one another culturally. Now, it is time we introduce our newest volunteers Selvajegan, and Martin, and also the little man “Nathan Auxio Charlie” whose service was letting his parents to do the volunteering peacefully all days without demanding much attention for himself!
Flag-Hoisting Preparation (August 29 & 30, 2019):
Volunteers assembled in the evening before the flag-hoisting day to make all the arrangement to prepare for the flag-hoisting celebration and the tasks undertaken by the volunteers were: Decorating Madha and the stage inside the church (near the Altar) by our decoration specialists, setting-up audio system by our audio specialists, and erecting the flag pole with flag and decorating the front of the church with roped flags by our all-in-all volunteers. It was close to midnight before all the planned tasks completed for that night, and the decoration team did an amazing job that resulted pleasingly graceful Madha in a very attractive stage.
First Day of Celebration – Novena-1 & Flag hoisting (August 30, 2019):
The first day of the Velankanni feast was started with the flag-hoisting ceremony at the front of the church around 7 PM on August 30, 2019 (Friday). The ceremony started by saying the first novena prayer to Our Lady of Velankanni and then followed with the blessing of the flag of Our Lady of Velankanni and hoisting the flag. The whole congregation then processed from the front into the church, saying prayers & singing along the way, to participate in the Eucharist celebration (Holy Mass).
Rev. Fr. Chandrasekar helped to initiate the flag-hoisting ceremony, and then blessing and hoisting the flag, and finally celebrating the Holy Mass for us.
On this first day of the feast, Madha’s visitation (small statue/image of Madha) to homes also started with the Velankanni Madha’s image (small statue) visiting the first home on the first day.
The first day of celebration was concluded with fellowship, and delicious potluck dinner near the left side of the church (picnic area with the benches) and finally volunteers cleaning up the place after the dinner.
Novena 2 (August 31, 2019):
The people assembled in the prayer room behind the St. Cyprian Church on August 31, 2019 for the second day of Novena prayer to Our Lady of Velankanni.
The Velankanni Madha’s image visited the second home.
Novena 3 through 8 (September 1 through 6, 2019):
All the faithful remotely connected (teleconferencing) for saying novena prayer to Our Lady Velankanni from day 3 through 8 of the festival.
The Velankanni Madha’s image visited one home each day during these days.
Feast Preparation (September 6 & 7, 2019):
This has been a herculean effort day with full of heavy preparation towards the goal of making everything go right for the feast day. First of all, the unassembled carrier (in a giant wooden box) was available for pickup at the airport after 2 PM on the day before the feast day. Around 2.45 PM, Samy called for set of volunteers to be present in the church by 3.30 to help with unboxing and setting-up the carrier. Some of the volunteers (Charlie, John Pradeep, John Prashanth, Remy, Samy and Selvajegan) were super fast, and we could see them in full action and all items unboxed and ready to be assembled by 4.30 PM. Then, many more volunteers joined and it helped tremendously considering the fact that carrier is heavy and sophisticated, and we needed all the physical strength available, moral support, good ideas to solve problems. Volunteers also took a trial run of the carrier with Madha statue (without decoration) in the parking lot to make sure all is good for the procession on the feast day. By all the hard-work and good ideas of these skillful and hardworking volunteers, everything went so well during the procession. God’s angels were also watching over and helping us with whatever help we needed – for example, the carpenter who came (through the help of Christina) provided a timely important help that none of our volunteers could have done easily and quickly.
Some families who provided food, tea and water for the volunteers, and this provided enough energy for the volunteers keep going without taking much rest!.
While volunteers were setting-up the carrier:
- The decoration team (Gabby and Princy) were taking care of decorating the Madha statue, and the lighting expert (Julian) was in full in action working towards lighting-up the carrier and Madha for the procession. Their work made the carrier and the Madha look glorious in the procession!
- In parallel, the never-satisfied choir team (what else one can expect when people like Alex Luke and Jesu Darison are in the team), keep on practicing to improve. It is no wonder that what they delivered in the Holy Mass was a superb experience!
On the feast day (September 7):
- The never-tired volunteers continued to finish any remaining items in setting-up the carrier (like, the wonderful idea from Alex Lobo to pad the wooden rods so it would be easy on the people carrying the carrier on their shoulder.
- The volunteers also did more decoration in-front of the church – like, they helped to hang the thoranam around the church entrance, fixed decorative umbrellas and banana leaves on top of bushes in both the sides in front of the church, and all these decorations gave a very festive mood for the St. Cypiran Church on the feast day.
The Feast Day – Novena, Holy Mass, Procession and Flag-Lowering (September 7, 2019):
Just Before the Holy Mass:
Before the Holy Mass was started, all the men in the church were called upon for a duty to bring the decorated carrier with Madha statue from the backside (near the prayer hall) to the front of the church. All men very enthusiastically accepted this duty, and helped to carry the carrier with Madha to the front of the church.
The scene of the decorated front of the church along with the decorated carrier with Madha statue was a pleasingly inviting to all who came to partake in the Holy Mass on the feast day. Inside the church the beautiful Madha in the pleasantly decorated stage gave the blessing appearance to all in the church all the time. So, no one could escape from this beautifully capturing scene from either inside or outside the church.
Before the Holy Mass was about to begin, Michael Sekar gave a welcome speech to all in the church.
All who were present in the church felt privileged as it provided an extraordinary opportunity to partake in the Holy Mass celebrated by the Most Rev. Bishop Oscar Cantú (Diocese of San Jose) along with Rev Fr. Vincent Pineda (Parish priest), Rev. Fr. Louis Leveil SJ, Rev Fr. Anthony Uytingco (Bishop’s Master of Ceremony) and five other Jesuits Fathers (Rev Fr. Robert Das, Rev Fr. Ozzie Saldanha, Rev Fr. Andrew Simpasa, and Rev Fr. George Griener ).
The Entrance Procession, in the beginning of Holy Mass, was so elegant that all in the church had to turn their head to watch. The procession was led by the Altar servers, followed by the children showering the flowers, then all Rev. Fathers following and finally the Most Rev. Bishop wearing Mitre and walking with crosier! The whole procession was greeted (in a saluting posture) by the two personnel from Knights of Columbus in the front of the center aisle of the church where the procession was proceeding. At the end of the procession, moms of two of our community members did aarathi to the Bishop, and the Bishop did the aarathi to all in the church.
The Bishop blessed the Altar and then the Mother Mary in the decorated stage (in the front right side of the church) using thurible with burning incense.
The Homily by the Most Rev. Bishop during the Holy Mass captivated everyone in the church as he took us through various aspects of Mother Mary, starting with her birth-day as it coincided with the feast of Our Lady of Velankanni, going through her miracles, connecting her with God and us, giving reasoning how we can understand the parents of Mother Mary from our knowledge of Mother Mary, and how the good qualities (treating women with dignity, and loving children) of St. Joseph may have influenced Jesus as a human (note that Jesus also treated women in dignity and loved the children), and it was both spiritually very satisfying and learning experience for all in the church.
Our choir immersed us all with very celebrative devotional singing and music with full of joy and high in spirit, and this enhanced the spiritual experience during the Holy Mass.
Other highlights from the Holy Mass were: - Readings by the High school students who will be graduating this academic year. - Prayer petitions in multiple languages (Hindi, Malayalam, Spanish, and Tamil) with translation in English. - Offertory procession by couples from our community. - Closing song by the children.
After the conclusion of the Holy Mass, everyone paraded behind the Altar servers, Rev. Fathers and Bishop towards the carrier as the procession was going to start soon after the Holy Mass ended.
Candle-light Procession of Madha in Carrier:
As the procession of Madha in the carrier was about to start, everyone was given lighted candle to carry along during the procession.
Although the decorated carrier with Madha was too heavy, many men came forward with devotionally competitive spirit to carry the Madha in carrier and to be under her feet. It was close to around 48 men or so who carried the carrier Men rotated themselves frequently to give opportunity for others to carry the Madha in the carrier. Samy directed the men carrying the carrier and this helped them to move synchronously.
The procession, in the front of the Madha in the carrier, was led by the big children holding the decorative umbrellas, followed by the Altar servers, kids and others. The procession behind the Madha in the carrier followed by the Most Rev. Bishop and Rev. Fathers and followed by others.
People recited rosary in multiple languages and singing when the procession was moving along.
The procession of Madha in the carrier started from the front of the church, moved towards road (Leota Ave), turned right to enter into the church campus to move along the left side of the church, proceeded all the way to the backside parking lot area, turned right into the parking lot and then again turned right to move along the right side of the church, and finally again turned right and moved back to the front of the church. After reaching the front of the church, men still carrying the Madha in the carrier, positioned the carrier so that the Madha was facing the road (Leota Ave). The Most Rev. Bishop standing along with other fathers in front of the carrier and facing Madha said the final prayer.
After the final prayer at the end of the procession, Most Rev. Bishop helped to lower the Velankanni Flag as an indication that the festival has come to the conclusion.
Dinner and Fellowship:
After the procession has ended and the Velankanni Flag has been lowered, everyone moved to the gym where food was being served by our volunteers. There was plenty of food for everyone and in-fact a good amount left over after everyone finished dining. During dinner time, small Madha statues, donated by Anthuvan’s family, were distributed to many people.
Conclusion & Cleanup:
While the festival was coming to conclusion, the image (small statue) of Our Lady of Velankanni visiting homes also concluded by visiting the last home for this year festive season.
Once everyone finished the dinner and fellowshipping with each other, the final shift for the volunteers started, and they took care of the following before they could go and rest. - Cleaning up the dinner place and putting back tables and chairs. - Disassembling the carrier. - Carrying all the things back to the storage and organizing them efficiently in the storage so we could store more as we have only limited storage space.
It took beyond midnight (close to 1 AM) to finish everything.
Please visit our Facebook Page to see more photos from the festival
Yours in Christ to the Glory of Velankanni Madha,