7th March, 2004  Volume 10, Issue 34

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  • St. Jude reaches out to the desperate

In search of solace

By Hemamala Wickramage

In the middle of the road of life almost everyone comes across moments of desperation and despair. When met with situations where all hope seems lost there are those who tend to look up to the heavens for help. A sanctuary for such people has been St. Jude's Shrine at Indigolla in Gampaha. It is one of the few churches in the country famed for miracles and visited by large numbers belonging to all faiths.

The high level of patronage - both by Catholics as well as those from other faiths throughout the years - is testimony to the Saint's ability and power in helping the desperate, said a strong devotee and a long standing resident of Indigolla, retired school principal Francis Jayakody. He said what is special about the church is that it is not just the Catholics that come seeking help. "There are Buddhists, Hindus and even Muslims who come to St. Jude's Shrine for assistance. After the first visit they keep returning and some even come from overseas. There are people I know who on their occasional trips back home make it a point to visit St. Jude's before they leave again," said Jayakody.

Help for the anguished

Shrine's Administrator, Rev. Fr. Wilfred Pinto said "even though it may be a malady defying all human skill, a sickness for which there is no apparent remedy, an anguish of soul or distress of heart, poverty, misery, even despair, St. Jude will show you a way out of your troubles, if not through your own solution, at least in a better one conceived of in the mind of the one above us all and in us all."

The church's previous administrator, Rev. Fr. Elmo Dias had started a number of social development projects in the Indigolla area said Fr. Pinto and that he hoped to continue the good work. Some of these programmes include scholarship schemes for school children as well as the annual distribution of school books. The church also sponsors a foster parent scheme for needy children. A nourishment programme named soup kitchen is amongst the dozens of church's charity work and the programme had been started with the assistance of housewives of Indigolla. It is run on Tuesdays and Fridays where around 60-70 children and elderly are given a nourishing meal said Fr. Pinto.

Fr. Pinto is keen on starting a counselling service to the numerous depressed and those that visit the Shrine burdened with mental anguish. "There is the need to talk to someone as in this kind of situation letting out one's problem certainly helps. I spend a lot of time with them, listening and even Fr. Elmo did the same thing. But we are not qualified counsellors," said Fr. Pinto. According to him plans are underway to obtain the services of two qualified counsellors who could be present at the church. "There will also be a priest qualified in the US who will be available from time to time," said Fr. Pinto.

Religious harmony

At a time where religious intolerance threatens to add to the country's numerous woes the Indigolla St. Jude's Shrine can be described as a perfect example of religious harmony. "We work in very close relationship with the Buddhist temples in the neighbo- urhood. We invite the Buddhist monks for our important functions and they do the same. On church feast days for the large number of vehicles that bring in devotees the Indigolla temple premises provides parking space," said the priest. Both Fr. Pinto and Indigolla temple's Buddhist monks sit in the advisory board of many of the community organisations such as the Gampaha-Bandarawatte Welfare Association. "The cordial relationship we have with the temples is something we are proud of," he said.

The majority of residents living in the church surroundings are Buddhists but never in the church's 50 year history has it ever been accused of attempts of religious conversions said Fr. Pinto, adding that on church feast days it is most of the Buddhist people in the neighbourhood who volunteer to help. "All those from other faiths who have been coming here for years have come on their own free will and it is because they have had good reason to believe in the Saint," said the priest.

"To quote Fr. Elmo Dias 'St. Jude's Shrine has attracted thousands over the years as St Jude is the Saint who makes possible what seems impossible. He helps one to reach for the unreachable. He is God's special Saint for an impossible mission. He is the Saint of hope. Indigolla has become a hamlet of hope and a spiritual oasis,'" added Fr. Pinto.

A brief history

Indigolla Shrine is the first church to be dedicated to St. Jude the patron of those in despair. The shrine had been the brainchild of Rev. Fr. Philip Dissanayake who bought a five acre piece of land at Indigolla to build the church in consideration of the several Catholic families living in Indigolla. The foundation stone for the church was laid in March, 1952. A statue of St. Jude brought from Rome was placed in the Shrine. The Church celebrated its Golden Jubilee in 2002.

Considering the church's growing number of devotees, Fr. Elmo Dias initiated the building of a new church which would increase the seating capacity for devotees from 180 to a 1000. The foundation stone for the new church was laid in September 1999. With the contributions coming in expeditiously from both local and overseas devotees the new church was completed within just four years and was opened to the public in July 2003.

*  *  *

Who is St. Jude?

A number of newspapers continue to publish notes of thanksgiving to St. Jude almost daily. One may well ask 'who is St. Jude?", and why this devotion?'

St. Jude is known as the 'Forgotten Saint" and the "Patron of Desperate Cases.' The confusion of the name of St. Jude with the name of another Jude, Judas Iscariot - the traitor who betrayed Christ has been the reason for the Saint to be called forgotten.

St. Jude's parents were Cleophas and Mary of Cleophas. He was the grandnephew of St. Anne and St. Joachim, the parents of the Blessed Virgin Mary. He is thus, a nephew of Joseph and Mary and a cousin of Jesus.

While the origin of the devotions to St. Jude "Patron of Desperate or Hopeless Cases" is obscure, the first miracle performed by the Saint is considered to be curing of leprosy of which the King of Edessa had been suffering from.

Through his entire ministry St. Jude was the subject of all sorts of persecution and suffering. And history has it that St. Jude died a martyr's death - a victim of clubbing. His body it is believed lies in a crypt in St. Peter's Basilica in Rome.

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