More than 500 worshipers turned out on Saturday at the Miraculous Medal Shine on East Chelten Ave, for the Feast of Our Lady of Vailankanni, aka Our Lady of Good Health.
The Mass and procession were the result of a collaborative effort involving the Shrine, and the St. Thomas SyroMalabar Catholic Forane Church in Northeast Philadelphia.
Sheila McGirl, the director of institutional advancement for the Central Association of the Miraculous Medal, which maintains the Shrine notes the Indian Catholic community and the CAMM have forged a close relationship.
“The community in Philadelphia worked with us to build a shrine to Our Lady of Vailankanni,” she said, “and this is the annual gathering of the group.”
The two-hour mass featured a number of unique moments. “There was a lot of singing,” McGirl said. “A lovely choir came from the local church. It was beautifully done. And at the end of the Mass they did the Our Lady of Vailankanni Novena that the community wrote. They said the rosary and they brought together individuals from several cultures to share parts of the rosary in their native language; English, Spanish, and the Indian dialect.”
According to church teaching, the Feast of Our Lady of Vailankanni commemorates two apparitions of Mary the Mother of Jesus in the town of Vailankani, India sometime in the 16th or 17th centuries. Both are associated with miracles.
In the first instance, the apparition appeared to a young boy who was delivering milk. En route to his destination, he was asked by a mother to share his milk with her child. When he arrived at final destination he discovered he had a full supply of milk.
The second instance, according to oral tradition, involved a lame boy selling buttermilk to passersby who was approached by a woman holding a child and asked to share his buttermilk, which he did. He was then asked to travel to a nearby town and tell a certain person to build a chapel in the town of Vailankani. Church tradition has it that after relating his story, he was no longer lame.
“The chapel to Our Lady of Vailankani was built,” McGirl said, “and the Vallankani Shrine within our shrine is in honor of that.
“The Indian community has great devotion to her and they pray for good health.”
The event highlighted the CAMM’s commitment to connecting with the surrounding community. “The whole idea is ‘We’re one church,’” McGirl said, “but there are many cultures within that church and we need to celebrate every one.”