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It is the gate-way to the famous Blue Hills of the Nilgris Hill- resorts, the haven for the British of the South India and now for the tourists and the well-to do! Since the Nilgris Hills were lost to our Diocese only in 1940, with the division of Diocese, some general idea about the Hills may not be out of place, since atleast we could get a satisfaction that the new Diocese of Ooty, was nurtured by us for nearly 130 years! For many centuries the Blue Mountains remained a mysterious region. The Hindus believe that they are sacred and it is enough to look at them to be cleansed of all their sins! The peak, closest to us, is Pakaswrankottai. Supposed to be the abode of the demon Pakaswran. Infact there was once a fort, now in ruins, which was used by Tippu Sultan as a place of confinement of prisoners of War; Mr.John Sullivan, a Collector of Coimbatore was the first to set foot and discover Ooty (known as ‘Othai Mandhu’ popularly). He built a bungiow known as “Stone House” in 1 815 and is still preserved as a historical monument. Some European Planters started Coffee and Tea estates between 1 819 and 1825. The old ghat road from Mettupalayam to Coonoor was constructed in 1830-32. Before that, a steep mountain trail was the only link and supplies had to be transported on donkey’s back. The English, needing people to serve them as domestic servants, and work in the plantations, many people from Kodiveli, Erode areas, mostly Adi-Dravidas and later many Catholics from Pallapalayam etc. also settled there. In 1859, the Government of Madras Presidency established their summer head quarters at Ooty, even building , a building for the “Assembly Hall” (which is now used as a cinema theatre!) . It is a tourist center and one of best Botanical Garden of the East Asia is situated at Ooty. The Nilgris Railway was opened from Mettupalayam to Coonoor in 1 899 and extended to Qoty in 1 910. Because of the steep climbing, a unique system of rails with an iron locking-system, and mountain gauge. It is such a unique one, but now Indian Railways cannot find spares or fresh supply of Engines! The first ones were manufactured by a Swiss Company in the I 9th century and they had stopped production long ago! Hence the ghost of closure hangs over it. Because of the natural boundary, separating our Diocese first from Mysore Diocese and from 1955 from Ooty Diocese, is the river Bhavani and Moyar in the north, we have some anamolous situations with regard to jurisdiction. One is born in Coimbatore Diocese, but could be burned only in Ooty Diocese at Mettupalayam, since there the church built in 1846 by Fr. A.J. Langier was on the left bank of Bhavani ( while another chapel built in 1851 by Fr. Bonjean on the other side) which is now the cemetry; Fr. Petite built a new church and presbytery on the right bank (Coimbatore side, in 1922!) That is how one is baptized in Coimbatore Diocese and is buried in Ooty diocese! At Satiyamangalam town also the river Bhavani divides the town into 2 parts, but unluckily there, the church and cemetry is on the left bank (in Ooty diocese) By mutual understanding however things run smoothly:at Mettupalayaxn the parish priest for Coimbatore diocese looks after the Catholics on the other side and at Satyamangalam, the other way arround. Thus we have lost the Birth-place of Coimbatore mission by the “name” only (since Sathy was only called as ‘Sathy Mission’) while the actual first church and Residence of the Missionary was on our side, between 1643-56 and then, Kannuvakarai was the head-quarters of the Mission which is in our Diocese! Another anamoly is that even the Bishop of Ooty has to pass through our Diocese, to reach one half of his Diocese from Mettupalayam into Sathy to reach his parishes situated north of Bhavani to Thalai Malai of Thalavadi area, Gundri and Andiur Taluk; near the river Mayar, the gap is only a few kilometers of at Thengumarata!
Mettupalayam, being a Railway Colony parish, it was first attached to Cathedral parish along with Podanur and Shoranur, from 1903 it was a substation of Podanur when it was made a separate parish. In those days, the churches in the Railway Colonies, belonged to the Railway Company and built and maintained by them and the Parish Priests were given free passes (as for the Protestants). In those days, our Indian Railways had 3 classes of accornodation. I” class : all cushioned seats and large carpet area ;vith sleeper accomadation so as to accommodate families; (This was usually reserved only for the English); The II class, with cushioned seats, but no sleeper facilities, comfortable seating ensured; and finally the Ill class, fitted with wooden seats and no reservation. So the Railway companies (they were privately- owned) thought that it was a great act of condescension to Christian Pastors and Priests, to allow them to travel free, though with only II class accornodation! The Railway chaplains (whether Protestant or Catholic) were paid a monthly stipend Rs.l00/- But it could not be ascertained whether the Railway-chaplains had to hand over the amount to the diocese, of their stipend or pocket it! All these facilities were with-drawn with the Nationalization of the Railways, by the Indian government after the Independece, but the obligations were retained (for any change, improvements of buildings, additions etc. cannot be done, without the permission of the Railways).
Fr.Petite (1906-35) was really the first parish priest, since Mettupalayam and Shoranur were made substations of Podanur. He built a church in honour of St. Antony on the right side of Bhavani river in 1922. In 1947, Mettupalayam became a separate parish with Fr. S. Saveriar (1947-1951) as the first parish priest. The presbytery was extended by Fr.L. Antonyswamy (1951-1962) and the church was extended by 20 feet. In 1955, 20 families were baptized at Karanur (15 miles away). An Elementary School was started by Fr. S. Saveriar (1962 ) in his second term as parish priest and the church was completely rebuilt by him and blessed by Bishop Savarirnuthu. It was at this time, that the Italian Rayon Factory was started at Sirumugai. In 1964, a church was built there by him and was blessed by Bishop Savarimuthu. Another major extension was done in 1967 by Fr. Savariar. An Elementary School, started by a private Portestant management was acquired by the diocese, called “Gandhi Memorial School”. It was handed over tc the Presentation Sisters, who raised it to be an Higher Elementary ichool (mixed school). A Grotto of Our Lady of Vellankanni was zonstructed, about 2 K.m. away on the main Mettupalayam Coimbatore Road in 1975, with a plot of land bought by Bishop Visuvasam, who had a penchant for choosing such vantage lands Eo catch the attention of Non- Catholics. It was blessed by him on 11-2-1975. Gradually it has grown into a major Pilgrimage centrc. Fr. S.Amalraj popularized it and the Grotto was made into a chapel! Fr. Maria Joseph, built a beautiful, modern church, behind the Grotto, and it was consecrated by Bishop Ambrose on 04-01-2003. The third extension of the parish church was done in 1997, as a memorial of the Golden Jubilee of the church and it was consecrated on 20-06-1997 by Bishop Ambrose. Bishop Ambrose Shopping Complex was built by the Diocese, and was blessed on 12-10-1999. St. Antony’s Community Hall (the first floor) was built by Fr. A. Pappu and blessed by Bishop Ambrose on 12-10- 1999. Fr. Henry Daniel, inspite of ilhealth, put up the second floor of the Community Hall (as a Dinning Hall) and it was blessed on 24-6-2001). A new presbytery, independent of the church was built by Fr. C.S. Madalaimuthu and blessed by Bishop Visuvasam in 1976.Mettupalayam parish has the distinction of being the first parish to organize the entire parish into 1 2 “Basic Christian Communities called “Anbiam” (named after the twelve Apostles Instead of Judas Iscariot, of course St. Mathias, I am sure!) even before the Tamil Nadu Bishops’ Council made it compulsary, thanks to the unceasing labours of Fr. A. Pappu! his silent but unceasing, self-less interest and efforts, was appreciated by the whole parish.
1. Welspuram :
Between Mettupalayam and the famous Badrakalli Amman Temple, 24 families of the old catholics, Telugu- speaking cobbler caste, from Micheal Palayam of Somanur and Pallapalayam were settled here in 1935. Five acres of Porampoku land was allotted to them with patta, through the good- office of Mr.Antony Muthu, Deputy Thasildar then, by the then Collector of Coimbatore, Mr. Wells after whom the colony is named as Weispuram. A small chapel- cum shed was put up. During the drougt of 1954-1965 many of them left for the Nilgries, in search of work. Fr. S. Saveriar, the parish priest of Mettupalayam induced them to come back in 1969 and built a chapel again which was blessed by Bishop Savarimuthu. In 1974 Fr. Joseph Pragasam built a permenant chapel. Fr. S. Amalraj changed its tilled-roofing into concrete- roofing. There are now 24 families mostly employed in the surrounding Mills and in the farms they must have been baptised by the early French Foreigii Missionaries at Karumathampatty. It was because of the employment of one of the young men of this caste by Fr. de Jelis in1855, as his ‘syke’( incharge of the horse) that gave rise to the (first caste ‘Callabam’ of Somanur, when for a few years the caste Christians refused to go to the church, demanding his removal. Finnaly Fr. Ravel MEP in 1857 managed to bring peace. The first official Statistics of our Vicariate of 1859: there were 25 Christians at Soosai Nallur near Karumathampatty; at Michael Palayam near Somanur: 35 Christians of this caste, and at both places no chapel.
2. Vedar Colony (Ceylon Tamil Refugees’ Camp)
10 K. M. away and actually on the northern bank of Bhavani; so actually belonging to Ooty Diocese. But because of the mutual understanding of the Dioceses the Catholics on the other side, close to Mettupalayam come under the parish of Mettupalayam, this colony of Tamil Refugees from Ceylon, is looked after by Mettupalayam. There is a small chapel, built by the Refugees themselves (as everywhere else) and Sunday Mass is said there.
Distance from the Cathedral Church : 40 K.Ms.
Total No. of Catholic Families both in the Main & Sub - Stations : 747
Total No. of Catholic Families in the Main Station : 635
No. of Catholics in the Main station : 3173
Weekdays Mon & Wed 6.30 a.m
Tue 6.00 p.m Mass and Novena to St.Antony
Fri 6.00 p.m Mass and Novena to Divine Merc
Sundays : 8.15 a.m
SUB - STATION
1. Welspuram :
Distance : 5K.Ms.
Families : 50
Catholics : 250
Mass Timings : Sunday 6.30 a.m
2. Vedar Colony :
Distance : 10 K.Ms.
Families : 46
Catholics : 200
Mass Timings : Sunday 6.30 a.m
Anna Vailankanni Shrine :
Mass Timings : Thursday - 6.00 p.m
Saturday - 11 a.m & 6.00 p.m
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