St. James’ Church Mutwal - 1872
St. James’ Celebrates 134th year
by U. A. D. Joseph A. Perera, (CIM) UK, MBA-Colombo
Former Secretary, St. James Parish Council
St. James’ Church Mutwal was built in 1872, with the moral support, dedication and devotion of the Mutwal fisher folk. Rev Fr. Peter Elari was the parish priest who invited Hillarian Sillari, the Archbishop of Colombo to consecrate the church in the name of St. James the Great. When the church was planned, it was to be small but the poor people of the area protested and wanted a bigger church to be built in order to accommodate a large congregation.
The poor agreed to contribute generously towards the construction of the church, and also agreed to contribute an additional. 10% out of their daily earnings to the building committee, which was set up to collect funds for the construction of the church. Thus, the hard work of the poor fisher folks contributed to the present magnificent edifice.
Almost all Thursdays of the year thousands of people used to arrive at St. James’ Church Mutwal, Colombo 15 with much devotion and true faith to St. James the Great to receive their requested needs from the great Saint.
The 134th year celebration of the church will commence at St. James’ church Mutwal on Sunday, 3 1st July 2005.
St. James, who followed the actual steps of Lord Jesus Christ, who does wonders and miracles to his followers, during the past 134 years to the people who appeals to the Great saint have granted their needs to their entire satisfaction. That is the reason the devotees never fail to attend the novena every Thursday. The parish priest of this church Rev. Father Basil Wickramasinghe never had a day’s rest on this day.
Rev. Fr. Vincent Dep, former parish priest of St. James Church initiated the ‘Novena’ for St. James in good faith on 7 th June 1981 with 21 parishioners. Today, many Catholics and devotees of other denominations too, rush to St. James’ Church, the miracle working saint of those who are in trouble, arrive from all parts of the island. The sick are helped by granting good health, and those who are in distress and sorrow are granted the tender compassion.
ST. JAMES (APOSTLE)
St. James, son of Zebedee, and brother of St. John, was a native of "Bethsaida" in Galilee; he is called "The greater" to distinguish him from the other apostle James, called James the less.
One day, his mother approached our lord, and asked the favour that "these my two sons may sit, the one on thy right hand, and the other on thy left in thy kingdom" (Gospel). Christ then prophesied their martyrdom. Like the other apostles, St. James would "sit on a throne to judge the twelve tribes of Israel" (comm.), but must first undergo suffering and persecution (Ep.) and share in Christ’s passion (Gospel).
St. James was beheaded at Jerusalem in the year 42 by order of Herod Agrippa, who hoped to please the Jews. Spain claims the glory of possessing his relics.
And in the Middle Ages pilgrims from all parts Christendom went to his tomb at Santiago de Compositely, second only to Rome and Jerusalem in fame and popularity as a place of pilgrimage. The road of "St. James" leading there marked out by ancient churches and pilgrim hospices, were long famous, and in Spain St. James is still greatly venerated. His name is coupled with that of his brother, St. John, in the canon of the mass.
At another occasion St. James said "We apostles are treated to this very moments as the refuse of the world and outcast of humility. I do not write these things to shame you, but to admonish you as my dearest children. For although you may have ten thousand tutors in Christ, but you do not have many fathers because I am your father who begot you in Christ Jesus through the Gospel."
According to the readings once St. James the Great said: "It seems to me that God has placed us as apostles last of all like men condemned to die at public executions. We have been made a spectacle to the world to angels and to men we are fool for Christ sake but you are wise in Jesus Christ. We are weak but we are strong. We are despised, but we are honoured".
THE INNER PART OF THE CHURCH
The architectural work and design of the church has been done according to Greek and Roman architecture. It is a massive structure with imposing pillars. The inner area of the church is carved out artistically, and in the sanctuary there are paintings of Lord Jesus Christ and the assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary. These are the work of the late Mr. Hendricks who has imitated the paintings of Michaelangelo. These modifications were done during 1913 to 1918 years.
It should be noted that some of the architectural designs, structures and paintings of the church are rare and not found in any other church in Sri Lanka.
The belfry was constructed in 1887, along with a clock tower. The sound of the bell could be heard up to Wattala or even Ragama, according to the elders at that time. The belfry was consecrated on the 15th of December 1895 by monsignor Zeleski, the apostolic delegate to the East Indies. On the 26th of April 1903 Right Rev. Andrew Melizen, the Archbishop of Colombo, unveiled the clock of the belfry tower.
The Grotto has been constructed during the period of 1935-1957 and dedicated to Our Lady of Lourdes by late Rev. Fr. Cajetan pulle. Parents and children comes here in the evening to recite the Holy Rosary, which has now become a regular practice. This grotto is 70 years old, which remembers the immaculate conception of our lady and the innocent girl, Bernadette who saw Blessed Virgin Mary at a number of occasions at the premises of Lourdes.
The Blessed Joseph Vas Statue with an alter was built by the Joseph Vas Organisation at the church premises. Once a year the feast of Joseph Vas day is celebrated by holding a special mass.
This should be continued as a service in remembrance of blessed Joseph Vas of Sri Lanka, every year. This installation was done with the advice of Rev. Fr. Nihal Perera who served St. James’ Church closer to five years with much faith and love to the parish and society.
At present young Rohan Abayanayake and his dedicated and devoted sisters pay an important role to keep St. James church at every festival occasion. They continue this action as a duty in respect of St. James for generations.
The parish council and the youth of this area maintain the church and the church property as a regular custom. Present parish priest Rev. Father Basil Wickramasingha directs them when he requires their services. Rev. Sister Superior Sr. Deepthika is also dedicated and devoted to help the poor and needy without any time limits.
As the Colombo District Boy Scout leader I was able to arrange with thirty -forty boy scouts to give a guard of honour to St. James the Great on the celebrations day possession since 1963. For more than thirty years this scout group was initiated by the request of Late Rev. father Fabian Fernando, then parish priest of St. James’s church. Let us remember Rev. father Fabian at all our prayers.