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Fishermen reclaim land for new church

Lack of available land to meet growing pastoral needs has parishioners looking at what the sea has to offer

Fishermen working on the dyke structure in Jaffna city Fishermen working on the dyke structure in Jaffna city
  • ucanews.com report, Jaffna
  • Sri Lanka
  • May 2, 2011
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A lack of available space has forced Catholic fishing families in the north of the country to reclaim land from the sea to build a new and bigger Marian church.

“We are going to build a much bigger church,” said a group of fisher folk as they unloaded rocks for a nearly completed dyke in Jaffna city.

According to the fisherman their old church is too small to accommodate the number of devotees who want to pray there. However, there was no available land on which to construct a new church.

“There is no land in the area on which to build a church to meet demand, so attempting to build one has been a formidable challenge,” said Father Roman Charles Xavier Nesarajah, parish priest of nearby St. James Church.

Existing churches date back to the 17th and 18th centuries and can’t cope with the needs of over 4,000 Catholic families in the area, he said.

Anthonippillai Rajanayagam, 61, treasurer at St. James Church said the work so far on reclaiming the land has been very impressive.

“Large crowds come to look at the work being done, even Hindus.”

Hundreds of women and children have helped transport rocks and to build the dyke. Other parishes have donated tractor-loads of rubble from church renovations elsewhere, he said.

According to Nicholappillai Sebastian, 63, a parishioner, the new church -- to be called Our Lady of Good Health --  is already popularly known as "Our Lady of Vailankanni," after the Basilica of our Lady of Good Health in the town of Vailankanni in Tamil Nadu in Southern India.

This church is very popular among Sri Lankans. Every year thousands of devotees go to India, he said.

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