Glorious Predecessors Diocese of Kumbakonam
- At the dawn of the Jesuit Mission in India, a ray of Faith began to shine in the land of South India and also in the area of Diocese of Kumbakonam under the efforts of the Jesuit missionaries the Faith grew strong and many embraced the Catholic Faith. St.Francis Xavier was the pioneer in Evangelization. Fr.Robert de Nobili called as 'Thathuva Pothagar', Fr.C.Beschi, known, as 'Veeramamunivar' and St.John de Britto were the pioneers in the inculturation of the Diocese.'
- St.John de Britto was born of a noble family on March 1, 1947 in Lisbon, Portugal. In 1662, John entered the Society of Jesus and was educated in Evors and Coimbra Universities. When he was still a Scholastic, he wrote twice to the Jesuit General to grant him permission to go and work in the Indian Missions and he was given permission in 1670.
- John started from Lisbon on March 25, 1773 arrived in Goa on Sept.4, 1673. John pursued his Theological studies in St.Paul's College and came out successfully in the final examinations, in Sept.4, 1674. Then he was sent to Ambalakat in Kerala where the Jesuits had founded a Seminary and a printing press. The Seminary was a sort of a finishing School for the young Jesuits to undergo the tertianship or the third year of noviceship. Ambalakat was situated about 32 km away from Kaladi where Adi Sankarachariyar was born. John prepared himself for the Mission to which he was destined. He began to learn Tamil. And he opted for a way of life of an Indian Sanyasi and that too of a 'Pandara Swami'. He wore a sanyasi dress and took a Tamil name, 'Arulanandar Swami'.
After he had prepared himself sufficiently well for the mission, he was asked to go to Kolei, a small village of the Ginjee kingdom, now a substation of the Parish of Varadarajanpet. Fr.Andre Fryere, who had worked several years in the village of Ginjee, was his guide and guru. Both of them arrived in Kolei on July 30, 1674. Fr.John made a quick progress in speaking Tamil and preaching the word of God and exhibited a real missionary zeal with an undaunted spirit of fervour in time of challenges and trials. The neophytes came to Kolei from distant villages to fulfill their spiritual obligations on Sundays and on other days of importance. Soon Fr. Fryere witnessed, his disciple had grown to a full-fledged missionary in every respect. In 1676, he put him in charge of a new Mission-Station of Thatthuvancherry which was under the rule of Udaiyarpalayam Princes who were favourable to the new Religion.
- Fr.John swung into action and brought hundreds of people to the Christian fold. He could witness joyfully both the high caste people and the dalits (low caste) participate together in the Liturgical functions. In December 1677, there were torrential rains and on 17th, the river swelled. Floodwaters entered the Church campus and Fr.John and some of his neophytes had to swim for their life. They took shelter in an old fort. The floods receded after three days. But the Church and the Priest's house with all the furniture and the holy objects were washed away by the floods .The Princes of Udaiyarpalayam made a kind gesture of rebuilding the Church. The New Year was celebrated in the new Church.
Thereafter, he was asked by his Provincial to establish a new mission-center in Koovathur, formerly called Kuttur. He built a Church and a house in 1678. Though he was residing at Koovathur, he used to go to Thatthuvancherry on important days to give spiritual assistance to the Christians. His field of activity extended to 130 kms from North to South and to 50 km from East to West. He was travelling always on foot to visit the sick, administering the Sacraments to the neophytes and to preach the good news to others.
Arulanandar came thrice to Kumbakonam town to visit the Christians. When he came first in 1679, the town was gripped with epidemic. He spared no pains to serve the sick without even having basic amenities. As a result blisters appeared in his legs and he left to Thatthuvancherry.
In 1683, he came again to the town to visit the sick and administer them the last Sacraments. During these two visits, he could only comfort the poor children in their sufferings and confirm them in their faith.
- And for the third time he came to Kumbakonam in a time of religious persecution. The Brahmins had connived with a government official, Rama Naikan, by name, who got orders from the Chief Minister to persecute the Christians. Hundreds of them were rounded up and thrown into prison, after confiscating their belongings and properties. Arulanandar was then at Vadakankulam (Tirunelveli District). As soon as he heard about this, he rushed to Kumbakonam. The Christians came to know of the arrival of their Pastor; and went to meet him on the outskirts of the town. They begged him to leave Thanjavur kingdom lest anything unprecedented befall him. The Christians were afraid, their master might also be arrested. And Arulanandar obliged; and he left to the other side of the river Coleroon from where he was having contacts with the Christians and was guiding them as to how conduct themselves in those trying circumstances.
The Christian-servants of the palace at Thanjavur took up the cause. They made a strike. The King came to know of the reason for their strike. He ordered a judicial enquiry. The judge, after hearing both the sides found that all the accusations against the Christians were baseless. All the Christians were freed. The judge accorded to them to practice and preach their Religion. Arulanandar was happy to see that peace was restored to the persecuted Christians.
The same year he was made the Provincial of the Madurai Mission. And in May 1686 he left to Marava Kingdom (Sivagangai District) where he was martyred on 4th February 1693.
- Fr.John de Britto evangelized a sizeable part of the Diocese of Kumbakonam i.e., the Northeastern part. We can say in all certitude that the present Parishes and Substations of Varadarajanpet, Vadaveekam, Koovathur, Andimadam, Jayankondam, North Michaelpatti, Sikkalnaickenpet and Kumbakonam particularly the villages of Kolei, Thatthuvancherry, Pandanallur, Anaikarai, T.Palur and Kodalikaruppur owe their Christian origin to the missionary activities of St.John de Britto. The Diocese of Kumbakonam rightly venerates him as the Second Patron.