Apostolic Nuncio to India to dedicate new shrine to St. Michael
By Sr. Prasanthi Mandapati, SCN
St. Michael's Church in Pedavadlapudi is commemorating 80 years of service to the Roman Catholic faithful in the village. The church is part of the Guntur Diocese in the Southern Indian state of Andhra Pradesh.
The existence of the Catholic Church in Pedavadlapudi began in 1902. It was a mission church under a nearby parish. In the early years, the faithful gathered in a little hut for the Eucharistic celebration.
Then, in 1940, the mission was designated as a parish and called St. Michael's Church. As the parish's population increased, the foundation for the new church was laid in 1942.
Many priests and religious worked tirelessly to make the parish a home of faith. The church celebrated its golden jubilee in 1992 and its platinum jubilee in 2016. At present, St. Michael's Church serves around 4,000 parishioners.
In addition to parish activities, the church administers four parish institutions: three parish schools and an orphanage. The parish had 16 mission churches adjoining Pedavadlapudi. However, two of those have been classified as parishes.
Initiative for a new church
Despite its historical significance, St. Michael's Church lacked any notable amenities. It is the diocese's only church named after St. Michael.
Since the church building built in the 1942 was in need of extensive repairs, Fr. Kiran Kumar Vunam, the parish priest at the time, worked relentlessly to fulfil the dream of building an international shrine dedicated to St. Michael in Pedavadlapudi.
After conferring with the bishop, Fr. Kiran set to work with the help of local parishioners
Bishop Bhagyaiah Chinnabathini, of Guntur Diocese, laid the foundation for the new church in 2018. As a result of Fr. Kiran’s international fundraising endeavors, the small Catholic community became well-known in many parts of the world.
In an interview with the Vatican, Fr. Kiran said “Bishop Chinnabathini was the source of the idea of building a shrine in the parish. Along with his proposals, he directed us in every step of the construction of the magnificent church dedicated to St. Michael in the diocese. The church's faithful are ever grateful to the bishop for his efforts in support of the Church's prosperity.”
St. Michael's Shrine is almost finished with its construction.
Dedication by Apostolic Nuncio
On 18 September 2023, the Apostolic Nuncio to India, Archbishop Leopoldo Girelli, will dedicate and bless St. Michael's Church. The bishops of Telangana and Andhra Pradesh will join in the Eucharistic celebration on that day.
The diocese of Guntur looks forward to welcoming the Apostolic Nuncio, along with 13 bishops and priests, religious, and faithful from the states of Andhra Pradesh and Telangana, for the celebration.
Fr. Nallapati Showry, the current parish priest of St. Michael's Church, also spoke to Vatican News about the importance of this moment in the life of the local Church.
"I feel privileged to be here at this historic moment for the parish and Guntur diocese,” he said. “I have witnessed difficulties and problems in completing the church. My heart overflows with gratitude to God for his grace on all the people who labored for the Church. I have faith that anyone who comes to the place will experience God's presence as they seek comfort. May St. Michael protect the diocese, families, and parish.”