Sastan St. Thomas Church ready for Inauguration Today - St. Thomas the Apostle of India.

Reported by: Prof P. Archibald Furtado, E-Mail:
Kemmannu News Network, 21-05-2022 21:07:58

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Sastan St. Thomas Church ready for Inauguration Today - St Thomas the Apostle of India.

The legend of ‘Apostolic Christianity’ has been deep rooted in our blood and the ancestors always remained reverential to this wonderful gift. With this primary knowledge, the Christians settled in Airody, Sastan and Kodi etc were celebrating the feast of St Thomas and Bartholomew every year. With that devotion the community built a Church way back in 1926, led by holy Rev Fr Zephrine Noronha, (then Vicar of SMS Brahmmavar) in Sastan dedicated to St Thomas the Apostle. Yes, there are many such houses for prayers in Kerala, Tamil Nadu and even in Andhra; their number is fairly less in Coastal Karnataka. Under this context the significance of Sastan Church occupies an important role. Though the present Church is about a century old, its seeds are still deep with both roots and fruits spread far and near. This holy location was known for miracles and granting favours both temporal and divine, whoever longing and praying for it, irrespective of caste and creed. The local devout ‘Konkani speaking Syrian Christians’ who rightly credited to keep the purity of age old ‘Kallianpur Konkani culture’ intact in their practice of religious obligations and social gatherings have a valid, solid and genuine reason to rejoice, celebrate and thank Almighty Lord as a new artistic renovated Church now ready for blessings and inauguration, today, 17th May, 2022…….. It’s rightly a symbol of unity and mutual respect.

Christianity was first spread as a ‘way of life’ and believing in one Almighty Lord. Holy Scriptures narrates, it was after the resurrection of Jesus, the Apostles were filled with the power of Holy Spirit and were instantly able to speak in different languages or what they spoke was heard and understood by the listeners in their mother tongue.

Jesus, before his ascension to heaven assured them Holy Spirit, to descend upon them on Pentecost day, will strengthen them to propagate the ‘good news’ to all the corners of the world and anointed Simon Peter as the shepherd to lead the flock or first Pope of the Church. Jesus also asked the disciples to travel in pairs to evangelize. Accordingly, two of His Apostles St Bartholomew and St Thomas landed in India on the shores of Hungarkatte estuary where the two rivers Swarna and Seeta embrace Arabian Sea, there was a natural harbour. By that time Pakanur or Barakkanoor was a well known commercial port of the West, whose mention is made in ancient Greek, Egyptian and Roman records.

Apostles Bartholomew and Thomas landed here in 52 AD, by sea route. Both with divine power of Jesus Christ, cured many ailments, performed miracles and succeeded to make them to understand the existence one Almighty Lord. A place near Kemmannu – Kallianpur still known as Tonse, where Apostle Thomas cured deadly diseases. The news of these Holy men spread like wild fire, with their miraculous healing and compassionate preaching, instant solutions to complex misunderstandings etc and merchants from Calicut, Cochin who were on visit to Hungarkatte harbour pleaded them to visit their places too. It was then decided by both, that Apostle Thomas will travel down to South and Bartholomew to North and eventually return to his hometown in Palestine…..Legend has it that, St Thomas was welcomed here in Kerala with warmth by the local rulers and noblemen and many Christian denominations respectfully gave credit for their faith to the man who lived, dine and walked with Saviour of the world Jesus Christ…..!

It was said one copy of the parts of Holy Bible written in Hebrew was placed in a house in an Altar and one copy St Bartholomew who returned to Asia-minor took with him and given to the believers in Sindh /Kutch which is still preserved by this community.

As we mentioned in the beginning these Apostles never spread the good news as religion, it was a just a way of life - to believe in one God and love, care, respect and help one another and have a just society, as children of God. There were no Churches or Prayer houses at that time. The person who gave space to reside was the place to worship. There were such places or homes in Kemmannu, Tonse, Colombe Kudru, other adjacent islands, Uppinakote, Airody, Kodi, Kallianpur, Pandeshwar, Barkur etc. There was no clergy or priests at that time, however the ‘community head’ used to baptise new born or whoever wished to be cleansed by their sins and trust in one Almighty Lord.

There lived a substantial number of people and still living, who trust in the existence one God and universal brotherhood in and around these places and nearby villages in perfect harmony with local inhabitants observing the same cultural ethos, professions, agriculture and trade. In other words the ‘Christian philosophy’ was /is implied practice in their day-today life and living.

St Thomas the Apostle had a significant role in the life of Jesus. The followings versus in the Holy Scriptures are always considered as the most trustworthy testimony of Christ’s resurrection.

Thomas first speaks in the Gospel of John. In John 11:16, [15] when Lazarus has recently died, and the apostles do not wish to go back to Judea, Thomas says: "Let us also go, that we may die with him."[b]

Thomas speaks again in John 14:5. There, Jesus had just explained that he was going away to prepare a heavenly home for his followers, and that one day they would join him there. Thomas reacted by saying, "Lord, we know not whither thou goest; and how can we know the way?"[16]
John 20:24-29[17] tells how doubting Thomas was skeptical at first when he heard that Jesus had risen from the dead and appeared to the other apostles, saying, "Except I shall see on his hands the print of the nails, and put my finger into the print of the nails, and thrust my hand into his side, I will not believe."[18] But when Jesus appeared later and invited Thomas to touch his wounds and behold him, Thomas showed his belief by saying, "My Lord and my God".[19] Jesus then said, "Thomas, because thou hast seen me, thou hast believed: blessed [are] they that have not seen, and [yet] have believed."[20]

To this day, Saint Thomas is venerated as the ‘Apostle of India’. In fact, there exists a population of Christians along the Malabar Coast, on the western coast of India, who lay claim to conversion by St. Thomas. Their tradition holds that he built seven churches, was martyred during prayer by a spearing on the “Big Hill” near Madras, in 72AD and was buried in Mylapore, on the east coast of India. Ultimately, St. Thomas’ remains were transported to Ortona, Italy, where they reside today.

Once European missionaries led by Portuguese and Spaniards, in 15th and 16th centuries, who had a clue of this Apostolic connection and deep rooted values, further nourished it to be identified as a community by renaming few with their own surnames and proper names of Christian saints and holy men. Over and above, due to various economic and social reasons a fairly large number of Konkani speaking settled and welcomed by the local satraps to develop agriculture and trade. These immigrants brought innovative ideas in modern cultivation, language Konkani and culture and basic education with them. There were both Christians, Hindu and even Muslim brethren in this group for whom language Konkani was the common uniting factor. Interestingly, about 300 to 400 years ago, and specially after returning from Srirangapattana, from the unfortunate captivity by the Sultan of Mysore, 1783 – 1799 it is said there was some identity crises for Christians and en-masse accepting of certain surnames took place and today we bear these surnames side by side local names and few local family names…!?

We hope the above given brief background and reflections on St Thomas the Apostle of India and his possible evangelization in Western Coast of Karnataka, Kerala, will help us not only to understand him but also a memorable occasion to trace our roots of divine faith….



Comments on this Article
Jossey Saldanha, Raheja Waterfront Wed, May-18-2022, 7:34
May the Almighty bless this Church and Parishioners ..
James Fernandes, Chicago /Barkur Wed, May-18-2022, 7:27
You build. They will come.

May faith flourish for Cathedral.

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