Fr. James: “I Learn God’s Providence through Velangkanni”


Copyright: Graha Maria Annai Velangkanni

My wife, Eva Barus, challenges me to write English article. I accept hers but one problem stumbles me. That is, managing time. Huehehehe. Anyhow, we have made resolution for this year: to publish a book and trying to write English article. Hopefully, we can realize it before 2018 ends.

I prefer to write about Velangkanni, due to several reports I did for Medan Archdiocese official magazine, MENJEMAAT. Recently, Fr. James gave me his biography book. A precious reference. This is the first English article in my blog. Dont mind to correct any mistake by mailing me at: anantabangun@gmail.com

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Fr. James asked me to change spectacle, when I wrote about evangelization spirit of Graha Maria Annai Velangkanni. I stared at him for a second. Then, I giggled as he explained it was implicit words. “You mustn’t see Velangkanni an ordinary building. Many people visit the graha just snapping for photo. Only few come here for prayers,” Father James said.

Velangkanni is a Tamil-Hindu-temple church style which is situated at Medan — the capital of North Sumatra province,  Indonesia. “This is a place for prayers, therefore it is named Graha — which means home. This graha is open to everyone,” Father James Bharataputra, the 78-year-old Jesuit Priest who conceived of and constructed this church, explained.

Pallavi Aiyar, a journalist of the Hindu, wrote that Fr. James was born in 1938 in a town near Madurai he entered the Jesuit order in 1957 with dreams of serving in a mission abroad. In 1966, his goal was realised when he was sent to work with Tamil communities in Malaysia.

Shortly after his arrival, however, the Malaysian government passed an immigration law against foreign missionaries and so his superiors dispatched Father James to Indonesia. He has remained in the archipelago ever since, spending several years each in Java, West Papua, and Sumatra. Father James became a naturalized Indonesian citizen in 1989.

A Mystery of Faith

Fr. James concerns that Velangkanni is mostly visited for selfie or we-fie purpose. “Here Catholics may deepening faith life. Or a pilgrimage of faith,” he said. “I never see Velangkanni as a building. More than that, I have new experience of faith every day.”

According to him, efforts to build Velangkanni are also a mystery of faith. He bought the land that the church currently stands on in 1979 with the aim of persuading Tamil Catholic families to shift there, away from the ghettos that they lived in. But they refused to move and the land lay fallow for the next couple of decades.

He was almost desperate, and planned to leave mission in Indonesia. However, he decided to join spiritual retreat held by Indian Jesuit priest and psychotherapist, Anthony de Mello SJ. Fr. Tony’s advice enlighten Fr. James’ spirit. “

“I told him about crisis of my mission. So, I said that I want to leave mission di Indonesia (Archdiocese of Medan),” said Father James. “Father Tony gave me new inspiration. He said, perhaps, I must not lead God’s hand. On the contrary, he asked me to surrender to God. Believe the God’s providence.”

It was only in 2001 that Father James embarked on the construction of the church, following what he called a “miracle”. The money to build the church had been raised by soliciting donations from the community.

Father James had stored these donations in cash at the home of a friend in Medan. But an accidental fire gutted the entire home. The only objects to survive were the church construction funds, which had been wrapped in plastic, and two copies of the Bible. Graha Maria Annai Velangkanni eventually opened its doors in 2005 and since then has gone on to become a major regional attraction.

He invites Catholics to experience new life of faith through Velangkanni. “Christians should deepens faith by deeply knowing Jesus. “Who is Jesus?” “He is son of Mother Mary.” She is the only human who has deep relationship with our God. Therefore, we may said:”Oh, Mother Mary. Please lead us to know Jesus.””

“Then we will have  mysterious guiding. Many fails to experience it. But, I learn to understand His wishes through mission in Indonesia.”

penjelasan warna di gedung graha maria annai velangkanni (Copyirght: Graha Maria Annai Velangkanni)

REFERENCES

Archdiocese of Medan official magazine, MENJEMAAT

“The God of All Things” by Pallavi Aiyar (http://www.thehindu.com/features/magazine/pallavi-aiyar-visits-the-graha-maria-annai-velangkanni-church-in-sumatra/article7949084.ece)

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