Vellore Diocese


The main aspects of the popular religiosity are

  1. Girivalam (Reciting rosary while walking around the hill and   vigil prayer service on every full moon day at Chetpet diocesan shrine) 
  2. Lenten pilgrimage to different churches  ( visiting 14 churches for reflecting 14 stations of the way of the cross ) 
  3. Pathayathirai-Foot pilgrimage ( walking on barefoot to Our Lady of Veilanganni shrine during Lenten season)
  4. Wearing saffron dhoti and rosary (on Lenten season observing abstinence and fasting for 40 days)
  5. St.Antony’s devotion at Viruduvilanginaan ( special offering of goats, cocks and shaving head)
  6. Fasting on First Tuesday (St.Antony), First Friday (Sacred Heart of Jesus) and First Saturday ( Mother Mary)


1. Our Lady of Lourdes, Chethupattu

Chethupattu is one of the well-known Shrines in South India. Having come to know of the miracles wrought by Our Lady, thousands of pilgrims visit this place.

Let us hear the miracle that has happened to my friend. His body was full of pock marks. His mind was full of confusion His family was desperate, not knowing what is to be done. He took a pledge to visit the Shrine of Our Lady of Lourdes at Chettupattu on the festive days every year. That year, with strong faith in the heavenly mother he went there with his family. As the family approached the Shrine, my friend was strengthened and felt being consoled. When he knelt in front of the statue of Our Lady his pock marks disappeared. With tears of joy welling up in his eyes, he embraced the feet of Our Lady of Lourdes.

People from the district and all nearby districts, without any distinction of caste or creed, pay their homage to Our Lady of Lourdes at Chethupattu, especially during the nine days of festivity in March every year.

Where is this Shrine? When and by who was it built? These questions are the natural ones for an inquisitor mind. The Parish of Our Lady of Lourdes at Chethupattu, which celebrated its centenary in March 1978, is one of the important parishes in the Diocese of Vellore, North Arcot District.

The mission work in Chethupattu was started in the year 1876 by Rev, Fr. J. F. Darras. A priest of Paris Foreign Mission Society

Conversion Movement:

He was preaching Christ’s Gospel in a nearby village, Kil-Kallur, when some 12 Hindus of Chethupattu villages approached him, expressing their desire to be baptized and become Catholics. With great pomp they brought him to Chethupattu on 25th February 1876. Fr. J. F. Darras has written in the parish Chronicle that his entry in Chethupattu was like the triumphant entry of Our Lord in Jerusalem and his pleasant remark: Veni, Vidi et Vici is worth noting here. There Fr. J. F. Darras found 1000 Hindus ready to embrace Christianity. He instructed and baptized them. This is the beginning of the consoling conversion movement. In four years’, time about 17,000 people in Cheibupattu and in the surrounding villages embraced Christianity. Thus, Chethupattu parish was established on the 11th March 1878.

With grant enthusiasm and deep love to Our Lady, Fr. J. F. Darras bad vowed that should God be pleased, through the intercession of the Blessed Virgin Mary, to bless his missionary labours with numerous conversions, he would show his gratitude by erecting in her honour a magnificent Shrine. Evidently his prayer was heard, for such a movement of conversions had never been seen in these barren places.

Matha Hill:

Fr. J. F. Darras therefore began by obtaining from Government the so-called Satan Hill’, a hill situated a little away from Chethupattu itself. After changing its name into Matha Hill’ (the Hill of the Divine Mother), he erected on the top a small Shrine, which was blessed by the Rt. Rev. Msgr. Louvanan Addressing the big assembly of devoted children of Mary, the bishop said that the small Shrine on the hill, beautiful though it was, would not suffice. A huge, magnificent Shrine only would be an adequate expression of Fr J. F. Darras’ gratitude and love to the Heavenly Queen.

Shrine of Our Lady:

This was indeed Fr. J. F. Darras great desire Yet only in 1884 could the collection of funds be started with a small sum of Rs. 50/- offered by an unknown man. But the Blessed Virgin saw to it that the donations are multiplied. Before long, the Rs. 50/ increased to Rs. 80,000/- and the work of construction was started. The gigantic Church rose slowly, but steadily, until completion in 1896. On the 1st May 1896, His Grace Msgr. Gandi, Archbishop of Pondicherry, solemnly blessed the imposing structure and dedicated it to the service of God and the honour and glory of the Blessed Virgin Mary. Since that day, it stands as a magnificent token of that gratitude of thousands of Mary’s Children and in a special way of Fr. J. F. Darras, and as a monument of her blessings.

Renewal of Matha Hill:

Little by little, the small Shrine of Matha Hill was damaged until in course of time, it practically became a heap of ruins It was in 1948, the then parish priest Rev. Fr. S. David Marianayagam, S.D.B., who became afterwards bishop of Vellore, with a collection of about Rs 15,000/- built the new hill Shrine which welcomes the pilgrims like a beacon, when they are several miles away.

Feast of Our Lady:

In the beginning, the feast of Our Lady of Lourdes at Chethupattu was held in May for some years Later, on account of heavy rains and wind during summer monsoons, it was celebrated on 4th March Then to avoid first Friday and Sunday the feast was fixed and is still kept on Wednesday following the 1st Sunday of March, from 1939. Year after year thousands of pilgrim’s flocks in over increasing numbers to Mary’s Shrine to pray and to thank the mother of Christ and Our Mother especially during the annual Festival.

Fr. J. F. Darras

Fr. J. F. Darras, the Founder of Chethu. Patto Mission, was born at Cambray on 18th March 1835, ordained in Paris in 1859, resided at Chethupattu for 40 years, baptized more than 30,000 souis, built the Hill Chapel and the Parish Shrine of Our Lady of Lourdes and is rightly called the Apostle of North Arcot. He allied unbounded trust in Providence to heroic zeal, kindness and patience. He died on 30th Oct. 1916.

In March 1947, the remains of his body were interred in the Shrine of Our Lady which he himself built, in front of the altar of our Lady of Lourdes which is visited by thousands of pilgrims. This function was presided over by the Most Rev. Mathias, 5.0.11., Archbishop of Madras and more than forty priests and 20.000 faithful participated in it. Fr. J. F. Darras is a saint no doubt. Let us pray to him.

Behold Thy Mother “is the Inst testament of Our Lord to the world through St. John the Apostle. His good servant Fr. J. F. Darras took these words to his heart and dedicated his life and service to Him through His Mother. So, the mother of Our Lord gave him the strength to do the wonderful work in and around Chethupattu. Let us also put our hope in her definitely she will come to our rescue Let us visit the Shrine. We will get the moral and physical strength from her, and thus she will lead us to her Son, Jesus.

2. The Shrine of the Virgin of the Poor, Vengbili:

Who are you beautiful Lady?”, the child questioned. I am the Virgin of the Poor; this spring is reserved to all nations, in order to bring relief to the sick. I will pray for you, Good bye is the melodious response of the Virgin. This is the third apparition of the Virgin of the Poor to Mariat Beco.

Banneux N.D. is a small village in the District of Louveigne, Belgium. This village is situsted fifteen miles South-East of Liege the headquarters of the Diocese. The Beco family, which consisted of eleven children, lived half a mile away from the Church of Banneux. Mariat Reco, the eldest of all, was born on 25th March 1921, the Feast of Annunciation. When she was twelve years old, i.e on 15th January 1933 at 7.00 P.M., Mariette Beco was looking at the Garden and the bushy trees beyond it through the window in the kitchen for her brother, who went out that morning with his friends. Suddenly she had an apparition. A Lady, radiant with light prayed, smiled at the child and with a motion of her hand, invited her to come closer. Mariat shouted to her mother about the vision and said that it was the mother of Our Lord. Then reciting the Rosary, she tried to go out to meet her. But her mother told her that it was devil’s work and stopped her from going out of the house. When the child being disappointed, went back to the window, the Virgin disappeared.

Consequtively on 18th, 19th and 20th January, on 11th, 15th and 20th February and finally on 2nd March 1933, the Blessed Virgin Mary appeared to Mariat Beco in the garden and asked her to pray much, to have trust in her and to put up a church in that place in her honour, as She is the mother of the Saviour, who wants to relieve Suffering. 

His Excellency, the Rt. Rev. Kercop had given his approbation for all these eight apparitions already in 1942 and 1947. Then finally on 22nd August 1949 through a pastoral letter, he has given his final approbation since then thousands of people, especially the sick, from all over Belgium and other countries go to this Holy Place and obtain solace from Our Lady, the Virgin of the Poor.

When in September 1975, the Rt. Rev. R. Antony Muthu, the Bishop of Vellore Diocese, accompanied by his Chancellor Rev. Fr. D. Maria Joseph, went to Rome for the Ad Limina visit and to take part in the Holy Year celebrations, they made it a point to visit this Holy Place at Banneux, while staying and praying at this Holy Place for three days, they witnessed thousands coming to this place and the miracles that have been taking place. The bishop decided there itself to put up a Shrine in honour of Our Lady, the Virgin of the Poor, in the Diocese of Vellore on his return, he chose Venghili, a small village on the Vellore Tirupattur Road, in Pallikonda Parish. The Shrine started by Fr. Zola 0.8. in 1975, was blessed by the bishop on 2nd March 1976, the anniversary day of the eighth and the last apparition of Our Lady to Mariat Beco. At the time when Fr. John Kenneth was the Parish Priest of Pallikonda.

At the time of the blessing of this Shrine there was just only one Catholic family at Venghili. But now during the past two years, hundreds of families from Venghili and the surrounding villages, namely Agaramcherry, Thottalam, Othiyathur, Sendathur, Pallala kuppam, Pernampet and Puthur have received the Light and joined the true Fold of Christ through the presence of Our Lady at Venghili. These people, though poor in wealth, are now rich in faith. On the Feast Day, 2nd March, they all come in crowds and pay their homage to Our Lady, the Virgin of the Poor. In the course of time, we can hope that brough her powerful intercession, the whole area around Venghili will reach Christ through Her. Let us pray to our Mother Mary for this grace.

3. Shrine of St. Antony, Viruduvilenginan

Some old men were returning from their fields after a hard day’s labour, It was dusk. They were traversing a narrow path surrounded by bushes. Suddenly, they were pounced upon by a band of miscreants who robbed them of their earnings, earned by the sweat of their brows. Because of their age and the suddenness of the attack, they were too stunned to do anything. When they recovered themselves from their trance, they realised that they had lost everything they bad. There was a statue of St. Antony nearby, to which they went and poured out their heart. Though they were Hindus, they had heard a lot about the miracles wrought through the intercession of St. Antony.

When they resumed their walk back home, they saw some people unsteady on their feet when they came nearer, they realised that they were the ones who robbed them. They were surprised to see that they had become blind. After having recovered their cash, which they had lost, they placed five rupees note as their offering of gratitude at the foot of St. Antony’s statue. The following day a shepherded boy who found the five rupees note took it for himself. As a consequence, he too became blind. 

This news spread like wild fire. It reached the Head man of the village. He and the other members of the panchayat went to the Parish Priest and explained everything. He advised those who became blind to take a vow to participate in the prayers conducted every Tuesday in honour of St. Antony, continuously for thirteen weeks. What a surprise! On the completion of the vow, their eye sight was restored it indeed the miracle of St. Antony of Viroduvilenginan.

Viruduvilenginan, now one of the parishes of Vellore Diocese, was the good old sub-station of Athipakkam parish, Pondicherry Archdiocese. Seven years back Rev Fr. Antony Thumma, the then Parish Priest of Athipakkam showed keen interest to make it a separate parish. Just at that time in November 1969 when the portions of North Arcot in Tiruvannamalai and Chengam Districts were detached from Pondicherry Archdiocese and attached to Vellere Diocese, Viruduvilenginan was one of those sub-stations with a good number of Catholic families, which the Diocese of Vellore was fortunate to get. Msgr. S. Lazar, S.D.B, the Vicar Capitular of the Diocese was only too happy to erect this village as a parish and appoint Rev. Fr. A. Nambikairaj as its first Parish Priest on 16th February 1970 He started on 16th December, the same year, to put up a beautiful Shrine of St. Antony, trusting in his powerful inter cession. The beautiful and huge Shrine, built completely in granite stones in honour of this great saint surrounded by natural rivers, bushes and trees was blessed on 13th June 1976, the feast of St. Antony, His Excellency the Bishop in his sermon on that day fore-told the thousands gathered from Viruduvilenginan and the surrounding parishes that one day that Church would become the Shrine of St. Antony.

Within a year, people from all over, of all Religions began to pay visit to this shrine and to pray to St. Antony honoured in a special manner at the entrance of the road leading to the Village from the Tiruvanna malai-Tirukoilur main road. One of the miracle’s taken places is the one, I have cited at the beginning. In the early morning of every Tuesday, thousands of people flock at the Shrine to attend the Mass and offer their prayers to God through St. Antony previous night itself, people in hundreds gather to take part in the Mass & in the prayers and to offer their offerings 115 gratitude for the graces received through St. Antony.

Day by day, this Shrine invites more people from far andnear. For the last two years, the feast of St. Antony is celebrated with great solemnity and all those who visit this Shrine of St. Antony, go back with peace of mind and enriched with grace.