Saint Mary`s Syrian Cathedral
How it all began ?
A BRIEF HISTORY ......
While the Apostles toured to different countries propogating the gospel of Jesus Christ, St. Thomas, one among them set out to eastern countries. He reached Malankara beside Kodungalur of Malabar in 52 A.D, and thereby succeeded in deep rooting Christianity. In 4th century Syrians from Mesopotamia came and settled with the Christians who were already there. The people who settled there and the group that joined them later were gradually called ‘Syrian Christians.’ They used ‘Syriac’ language in their worship.
Though the Syrian Christian sect settled in Malabar of Kerala, it reached Brahmavar during the late 19th Century. That time the propaganda mission and padroado were conflicting with each other. As the menace of the propaganda mission grew worse, the padroado revolted inorder to restore its rights. Due to the effect of the controversy there occurred confusions, quarrels and splits. They were not satisfied with the duties of the propaganda mission and so under the leadership of Fr. Alvares established a Syrian church in Brahmavar.
When Fr. Alvares was rewarded and consecrated as the Bishop, he handed over his vicarship to Fr. R.Z. Noronha. During his life time, he had to put up facing a tough fight between the Roman Catholics who were trying to convert the Syrian Christians. He requested the Syrian Christians not to be carried away by any pomp or lust. Fr. Lopez came to assist the vicar general in the congregation. But his untimely death made Rev. Fr. P.G. Koshy to come over to Brahmavar to assist Fr. Noronha.
A great achievement in the history of the Syrian church – the erection of cosmopolitan school in Brahmavar in 1916. As the Syrian Christians got strengthened, Fr. Noronha established St. Antony church in Kolalgiri in 1923.
Fr. Noronha had a many-faceted personality. He was not only a religious leader but also an educationist. He had authored eight books. He did a lot of charitable works. He cured a number of people as he was a doctor in indigenous medicine. He breathed his last in 1936, July 23 at the age of 86.
Fr. P.G. Koshy became the Vicar general after the demise of Fr. Noronha. A new chapter began not only in the history of Syrian congregation but also in the history of education. He continued the work that Fr. Noronha had left unfinished. He gave a new outlook to the Mabukal Cosmopolitan School. He established St. Thomas orthodox Syrian church in Sastan and also St.Gregorious orthodox Syrian church in Hulikal in 1935. A short history of the Syrian church got published during his time. A great achievement of his time was the establishment of S.M.S High School in 1953. He breathed his last before his dreams could come true in 1953, September 14.
A new era began in 1953, with Fr. K.K. Kuriakose, the vicar general. Most of the church buildings got a new look during his tenure. It was under his leadership that S.M.S. High School was changed into Junior College in 1970. With the co-operation of the Syrians and villagers, he was able to establish a Degree College in 1980 and thereby succeeded in imparting the university education to the people of Brahmavar. Hats off to the perseverance of the teachers and the sincerity of the people that within a short time the college was able to achieve name and fame.
Rev. Fr. K.T. Verghese was assisting Fr. K.K. Kuriakose in the ecclesiastical services and also serving in cosmopolitan higher primary school as a teacher and later as Head master. He even served as an active member of the Rotary Club and thereby came into contact with the locals of Brahmavar. After the death of Fr. K.K. Kuriakose, he served as the vicar general and also the correspondent. But his period as correspondent was short-lived. It ended within 70 days. He too breathed his last in 1986 March 23.
Under the direction of an experienced, knowledgeable correspondent Fr. Dr. N.J. Thomas, it was decided to celebrate the centenary of the church. The Bishop, most Rev. Zachariah Mor Dionysius inaugurated the programmes. Fr. J.M. Kuriakose and Fr. Lazarus were serving in the congregation with him. Fr. N.J. Thomas put in efforts to establish S.M.S. English Medium School in 1993. During his tenure S.M.S. Jr. College celebrated its golden jubilee. The construction of the volley ball court, stadium of the college ground, well furnished computer lab were the programmes that the college achieved during the celebration.
As Rev. Fr. Dr. N.J. Thomas left to the ashram, the responsibility was handed over to Rev. Fr. G.M. Skariya, who was then teaching in S.M.S. PU College as a lecturer in Accountancy. The educational institutions of the Syrian church have a new outlook now. He has taken great responsibility in establishing S.M.S. Community Hall in 2007 and the tennis court of S.M.S. College. The credit of the establishment of a Ladys’ Hostel goes to Fr. G.M. Skariya. At present, Fr. Lawrence D’Souza, Fr. Davis Crasta and Fr. Johnson are serving sincerely as assistant vicars.
As the years roll by, the church and its institutions seem to have etched an indelible print in the history of education and service not just in Brahmavar but beyond the portals of Brahmavar as well.
Late Rev. Fr. Roque Zephrin Noronha, Brahmavar
“Every calling is great, when greatly pursued it”, says Oliver Mendel.
The divine call was gifted to our dearest Fr. Roque Zephrin Noronha by means of His Grace Alvaris Mar Julius. Fr. Noronha, with a lot of devotion chose the path of the Lord, as his journey of life, as said rightly by Holmes.
Rev. Fr. R.Z. Noronha belongs to the “Shenvi” family (obtained from the word “Shanbhog” or “Shenoy”, meaning a writer, a teacher or a scholar), a native of Cortalim, located on the left bank of Zuvari River. At present it is in “Mormugao” taluka in Goa. Fr. Roque Zephrin Noronha was born on 20th Oct. 1850, at Angediva. He is the youngest son of Custodio Santa Anna de Noronha and Feleciana Dionisia Assumpcao da Silva.
Rev. Fr. Noronha is the one who preached ‘Orthodox Faith’ to the coastal belt in undivided South Kanara viz. Brahmavar, Sasthan, Kolalgiri, Kandlur, Barkur, Neelavar and so on and laid a strong foundation of faith.
Fr. Noronha was impressed by the lifestyle and teachings of lamented Metropolitan His Grace Alvaris Mar Julius. As the consecration of Bishop was invoked as Mar Julius, the responsibility of St. Mary’s Orthodox Syrian Cathedral was handed over to Fr. Noronha. He started to follow the footsteps of his role model in high spirits and accepted the ‘Orthodox Faith’. This was because he learnt that St. Thomas had established the ‘Orthodox Community’ 2000 years ago in Kerala, South India.
The belief in Fr. Noronha still didn’t die out in the hearts of today’s people because he is a person who is ‘Saint in the Making’. Even after 74 years of his death, his memory has taken deep roots in the hearts of the masses especially the elderly people of Brahmavar and Brahmavarians. There are lots of reasons behind this. The first and foremost is that Fr. Noronha used to give medications. His medication was free of cost and never depended on one’s caste. He always lent a helping hand to the people. Though he never did any doctoring, he utilized his teachings from Goa to aid the poor and needy, which led to miracles. This made him popular and far famed. His spirituality was beyond comparison. He has already occupied a ‘Saint’s’ place in the minds of the people, all because of his prayers and medications.
He was a good educationist, who believed in giving good education to the poor and needy. So he founded the Cosmopolitan Higher Primary School in the year 1916. The name of the school itself reveals the personality of Fr. Noronha. Cosmopolitan meant to treat everyone equally. (The dictionary defines ‘Cosmopolitan’ as diverse, multiethnic or multicultural.)
Through his writings, he challenged his opponents, the ‘Colonial Christian Faith’, who had challenged his mighty faith. He built the foremost Brahmavar Church with his own hands. Besides this, he went far in the service of the ones in deep waters.
Right from the time he settled at Brahmavar, this place turned into a holy and historical pilgrimage centre. Along with this, the people of St. Mary’s Orthodox Syrian Cathedral, Brahmavar became more devotional to their patron ‘Mother of Miracles, St. Mary.’
Let the intercession of Fr. Noronha pour out showers of blessings, good health, peace of mind, prosperity and progress to the people, one who takes shelter under his wings.