Fr. Praveen Henry D’ Souza, OFM - Minister Provincial

…a sign of Providence, a symbol of Faith and an emblem of Hope!

It was on 28th February 1953 that Friars set foot in St. Sebastian’s Church, Madhavaram. It is 66 years since Friars began their pastoral ministry for the people in and around Madhavaram. Over the period of these years, the parish has seen its growth and development spearheaded by various Friars who have ministered here. The year 2019 marks a remarkable milestone in the history of St. Sebastian’s Parish as the existing church has been extended and renovated with a magnificent façade, a splendid interior and an impressive sanctuary.

It has been a sincere prayer of the parishioners and friars for a spacious Church with an elegant frontage ever since the number of the attendees for the liturgical celebrations was on the rise. Added to it, it was an urgent and immediate need to create adequate class rooms to ensure a quality catechism towards the children, effective animation for the youth, professional guidance for the couples and resourceful assistance towards women. While this felt-need was growing in its magnitude, successive pastoral team of friars in these years have addressed the same to the best of their ability utilising the available resources to the optimum.

Treading the footprints of friars who have served in St. Sebastian’s Parish, the pastoral team of friars under the gifted leadership of Br. Simon A, the Parish Priest undertook a courageous initiative to venture into extending and renovating the existing Church. While it was an exciting development in the life of the Parish, it was not an easy endeavour! However, with a firm belief in the Word of God, “Unless the LORD builds the house, the builders labour in vain” (Psalms 127:1), the parishioners and the pastoral team marched ahead with the insurmountable faith and the resilient hope that it was the LORD who was going to build His House and that their labour shall not be in vain.

St. Francis of Assisi began his life of conversion repairing the Church. He went about in the streets of Assisi begging with a loud voice, “He who gives a stone, will get a reward. He who gives two stones will get two rewards. He who gives three stones…” It is this simple yet profound faith of St. Francis that resulted in repair of some churches in and around Assisi. St. Sebastian’s Church as it stands today is a testimony to the same experience of St. Francis in his time.

When this Church construction met with various roadblocks, when faced with the financial crunch and when the difficulties were on the increase, the Lord sustained the parishioners and pastoral team throughout this tedious journey providing them with the strength and courage to persist in their endeavours and accomplish faithfully this great task. The Church today stands as a sign of Providence, a symbol of Faith and an emblem of Hope. This Church dedicated to St. Sebastian, the martyr, whose intervention in the life of many through his powerful intercession will continue to be a place to experience the divine favours.

Jesus, the Redeemer with His hands outstretched is a beautiful sight to behold. Everyone who passed the Church cannot but wait to have a glimpse of Jesus, the Redeemer. Jesus, stands there inviting His Children with these irresistible words of consolation, "Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest.” (Mt.11.28). These words of unfathomable assurance echo in every brick of the Church.

The mighty presence of Jesus adorning the façade of the Church is a divine visual and a heavenly scene. The accompanying presence of the 12 Apostles, the pillars of our faith is a representation of our history of Church. These Apostle stand there as an inspiration for every Christian to model our lives in the Gospel manner.

I am indeed overwhelmed with joy and gratitude towards every parishioner of St. Sebastian’s Church, Br. Simon A, the Parish Priest, the pastoral team of Friars and the fraternity of St. Sebastian’s Friary for their dedicated efforts that have borne fruits in constructing a marvellous Church. My sincere thanks to every donor, parish, funding agency and well-wisher for their timely support. It is my duty to acknowledge the toil of every skilled labourer in each department of the construction work for their meticulous care and patient application of work.

I join you, Brothers and Sisters of St. Sebastian’s Parish, the devotees of St. Sebastian and my Brothers of St. Sebastian’s Fraternity in singing, “How Lovely is your dwelling place, Lord Almighty.” Yes. It is indeed a lovely dwelling place of our Lord!

Fr. Simon A. OFM

May the Lord give you peace.

I take it as an honor and Privilege to greet everyone on the occasion of St. Sebastian’s Church Inauguration and Consecration. I look back with gratitude what God has been to me and to each of us and this new Church in one of such blessing. As the Psalm 127:1says, “Unless the LORD builds the house, its builders labor in vain” and “This is the LORD'S doing; it is marvelous in our eyes” (Psalm 118).

The idea of the new Church came as an invitation to work together as a family of St. Sebastian. What I see behind this beautiful Church is Hard work, generosity, Unity, Support, Creativity, Sacrifice, Hardships, hope and so on. Like the journey of life, the journey of construction of the Church was filled with challenges, hardships, difficulties and so on. And we were able to over come all these obstacles by the grace of God and God’s people. These only remind me of the assurance of God, “My Grace is Sufficient for you.” (2Cor12:9). Therefore we need to remember that every good work will face difficulties but they will make you strong and more eager to do the good work that God has begun.

St. Sebastian Church is growing day by day spiritually with its various activities of spiritual and temporal. People have told me that they like to come to this Church for various reasons like The Holy Mass, Sermons, Liturgy, activities, choir, space, atmosphere, availability of Franciscan friars, a place of blessing, powerful saint, and so on. There are more to add to our Church, throughout the year lot of devotees come in large number to pray and to thank God for the blessings. For the festival of St. Sebastian people from all over Chennai and Tamilnadu come to visit our Church. We get around 1.5lakhs (one and half lakhs) devotees. What is so Unique to this Church is that people of all religion come here. This Church and the people have gone beyond religion to stand with the people in times of natural calamities, to create social awareness about creation and especially on water and land. This is a miracle happening place. Now the church has a very new look which is very modern, beautiful, artistic, and meaningful.

Once again I thank each and everyone who have contributed to this Church.

Sr. Renita Joseph

Dear Rev. Fathers and the Parish Community,

It gives me great pleasure in extending my hearty congratulations and prayerful wishes to Rev. Fathers and Parish community for the consecration of St. Sebastian Church, Madhavaram, which is charming with heart touching and inspirational architectural designing.

I feel great Joy that the church is a Spiritual heritage and reservoir for our sisters in Madhavaram, from 1961. The occasion will surely rejuvenate the faith of the people and bring down showers of blessings through the benevolent intercession of St. Sebastian.

May this event be recorded in silver and gold in the history of the local church and may this venerable Church remain a Spiritual center for the Christian community. We the sisters of St. Ann, Luzern, Bangalore Province, send sincere best wishes on the momentous occasion.

Sr. Jacqueline Mary

My dear Fr. Simon OFM

It gives me a great pleasure to congratulate Rev.Fr. Praveen D’Souza, you and all the friars in your community for the completion of the Church to its’ full stature with beauty and space. I admired the spirit of unity, good will and generousity that all the friars and parishioners demonstrated while reconstructing the Church.

St. Sebastian Church is a part and parcel of our Congregation ever since we shifted from Royapuram to Madavaram in 1948. My heartfelt thanks to all the friars who are presently working and worked in the past for your spiritual journey with our sisters, novices and the people who come to the Round Church every day. I offer my prayers that the great St. Sebastian Church at Madavaram may continue to flourish and meet the spiritual needs of the people of God.

Wishing you all the best in your future endeavours.

Sr. Josephine Selvi, SMA

Dear Rev. Fr. Simon, OFM and all the parishioners,

Wishes from SMA Sisters!

It gives me immense pleasure and joy in confining these lines for the Souvenir to be released to commemorate the Consecration of newly constructed St. Sebastian's Church. It is a moment of joy and legitimate pride for the friars as well as the people behind many strenuous and collective effort made by them to raise up this magnificent church.

When we skim through historical facts of the bible, God often called a few committed people to rebuild "the temple of God." Haggai, the first of the post-exilic prophets, was urged by God to rebuild the "house of the Lord."(Hag 1:1-15). The new Haggai Fr Simon, the

millennial prophet under the guidance of the Master Architect Jesus, too was called to rebuild the temple of God at Madhavaram. Building the house of God is a special charism per se and an extraordinary mission. The incumbent parish priest Fr .Simon climbed up many mountains (obstacles and challenges of different dimension) and cut timber (overcame the obstacles and differences of ideologies) to rebuild the House of God to honour God. (Hag 1:8). He exhorted his parishioners and encouraged them to join hands with him to enlarge the place of worship. He was not afraid of the challenging mission for he was sure that the spirit of the Lord would guide him and the Lord of the hosts would be with him till he accomplished the mission. While congratulating him for his 'mission successes and episcopal consecration', I wish that he moves out to a larger mission of "rebuilding the Church" (Souls) in line with Saint Francis who practiced the art of building the church with sublime poverty.

At this defining and propitious moment, it is fitting to plead for God's blessing on you and the parishioners. May the LORD send a blessing on your baskets and on everything you put your hand to. May the magnificent monument echo the Magnificat of Mary! (Song of the Soul)

May the glory of this new house be greater than the glory of the former one!

May the peace of the Lord go forth from this church and touch the ends of the earth! (Hagg 2:9)

May the Lord bless all the parishioners yet from now on! (Hagg 2:19)

May the Lord make Fr Simon like a signet ring and bless him more. (Hagg 2:23) May God bless you all.