St Roberts Church in Fenham will be a permanent home for the relics of Blessed Indian Father Kuriakose Elias Chavara (Carmelites of Mary Immaculate) from Kerala. The relics were installed in the presence of a large number of Syro Malabar community members attending the night vigil and Holy Mass in honour of Blessed Chavara.
On April 3, 2014 Pope Francis authorised the Congregation for the Causes of Saints to promulgate the decrees concerning the miracle attributed to Kuriakose Elias’s intercession. This confirms Pope Francis’s approval of Blessed Chavara’s canonisation, which is most likely to be held in October 2014.
During the night vigil on May 28th, in honour of Blessed Chavara, his relics were displayed and venerated. The former Prior at Mannanam Monastery (the place where Blessed Chavara’s mortal remains are kept) and currently parish priest at St Joseph’s Church in Wembley Fr John Menonkari,CMI concelebrated the Mass with Fr Roji Mukalel who brought the relics from Kerala, alongside Fr Saji Thottathil. As part of the service, novena, litany and veneration of the Relics took place in the presence of the faithful gathered. Fr Saji handed over the relics to Parish Priest Fr Shaun O’Neill after the benediction. The relics will be displayed for veneration during the Monthly Night Vigil in St Roberts, during the last Wednesdays of every month.
It’s worth mentioning that, Blessed Chavara, is one of the founding father and the first Superior General of CMI (Carmelites of Mary Immaculate) congregation of the Catholic Church, who died on January 3, 1871. His mortal remains were transferred from Koonammavu where he died, to be kept in the chapel of St Joseph’s Monastery, Mannanam, Kerala. He was declared Blessed on February 8, 1986 by Pope John Paul-II.
Thousands of people come to the tomb of Blessed Chavara every Saturday followed by attending Holy Mass and Novena. The feast of Blessed Chavara is celebrated with great devotion and solemnity every year from December 26th– January 3rd.
To his credit there are many firsts in the history of the Kerala Church: the first indigenous religious congregation for men (CMI), the first Catholic Sanskrit School, the first catholic printing press, the first Indian congregation for Women CMC. He prepared the first liturgical calendar in the Malabar Church in 1862 which continued to be used until recently. It was through his efforts Syriac was first printed in Kerala and the first prayer books in Malayalam were printed at Mannanam under his care.
It was in 1866, with the cooperation of Fr Leopold Beccaro OCD, that Blessed Chavara started the Congregation of the Mother of Carmel (CMC) for women, He was the pioneer of popular education in Kerala and the one who inspired Catholics to start schools in every parish alongside their churches. Hence Schools in Kerala are popularly called “Pallikkoodam”- a place for education attached to the Church. Besides many social initiatives, he found time to write a few books, both prose and verse, for the benefit of the faithful. His counsels to the Christian families given in the form of a “Testament of a Loving Father” are universally applicable and are relevant to this day.