An appeal to the People of God

For the greater glory of God and peace to His faithful and...
Appeal Message - St. Mary's Catholic Church

Dear Brothers, Sisters and People of good will.

I feel privileged to be the Parish Priest of St. Mary’s Catholic Church and a successor of so many great missionaries starting from Rev. Fr. Zachary who was martyred in 1857.

St. Mary’s Church is the oldest Catholic Church that exists today in and around Delhi. I would like to present you a little about the origin and development of St. Mary’s Church and later the missions started in different areas of Delhi and of Haryana from St. Mary’s. Even though there are some evidences to prove that the Christian missionaries arrived in Delhi sometime in the middle of 16th century the mission was started in its full vigour when Capuchin Fathers took over the Agra Mission in 1803. Agra Archdiocese started its Delhi Mission in the beginning of 19th Century and the infant church in Delhi had to face a lot of problems and persecution. To make the story cut short, in 1855, Rev. Fr. Zachary from Trento, a Capuchin priest arrived in Delhi and started mission seriously. It was he who managed to get the present St. Mary’s Church complex as we read from a letter he addressed to his parish priest in Italy on 18th April 1857 where he mentioned that he had got a big plot of land in the centre of the city. He also mentioned in the same letter that he had already started the construction of a church. He used to live in a hut and made a kind of a temporary shed in which he used to celebrate the Eucharist with his local Christian community and teach catechism. It was in this church Rev. Fr. Zachary while praying on his knees holding a crucifix close to his chest before the Blessed Sacrament was killed with several shots and his body was dragged out of the church, his arms and legs were amputated and he was finally beheaded and thrown into a well. The church along with the entire document was put on fire by the enemies of the Church. The work he started for the new church was completely destroyed. Thereafter the church of Delhi was built on the blood of this great missionary priest and the royal son of the Catholic Church. After the martyrdom of Fr. Zachary Rev. Fr. Kingham (Keegan) a secular priest was appointed to continue the mission. As there was no suitable accommodation to hold Divine service, with the help of local community and of the catholic troops he built present St. Mary’s Church in 1865. Later owing to financial difficulties, the ecclesiastical authority decided to give the church building over to the military authorities for the annual repairs and in this way it became a military church.

The church was once renovated by Rev. Fr. Luca Vannucci da Prato, an unforgettable missionary and the architect of Delhi Archdiocese, in 1919 while he was the parish priest of St. Mary’s and later in 1966 by Rev. Fr. Lawrence Pinto.

At present St. Mary’s Church is in a very bad condition. It needs urgent repairs since it is crumbling in many places. The followings are the findings of the Architect and the engineers who examined the church building.

  • The soil has lost its strength and hence the church building is sinking. Because of this the
  • arches and beams of the church are cracked in different places and these cracks are really alarming. .
  • The facade of the church is broken into pieces and seen as if it is going to fall at any time. .
  • The roof of the church is leaking in many places and the roof plaster is falling in many places. .
  • The plastering of the building is disintegrated and as the result of it, the walls are falling down like powder/mud. .
  • Dampness is found everywhere on the building. It really weakens the structure. .
  • The electric wiring is found faulty beyond rectification. .
  • In this situation we are planning to undertake the mission of the restoration of this church which is our patrimony and heritage.

St. Mary’s parish has nearly about 150 families of which some belong to lower middle class while majority are poor.

Placing these facts before you all I would like to tell you that it is really a blessing from God to be a builder of His house being part of the renovation of St. Mary’s. Today the Lord asks each one of us to restore this sanctuary for Him as he told Moses: “let them make a sanctuary, that I may dwell in their midst” (Ex.25:8). So what we need to do is to be generous with Him as He is generous with us. The Lord spoke to His people whenever His house was in ruin; “My people, is it a time for you yourselves to dwell in your paneled houses, while My house lies in ruins?.... Let us therefore work together for a house for Him, and then He would pour out His graces. The Lord of Hosts says: “I will fill this house with splendor and in this place I will give prosperity” (Ref. Haggai 1:2-11). To be part of the renovation of His house is indeed a privilege. This is certainly a loud expression and an authentic manifestation of our faith in this year of faith. This is also a sign of our cooperation in the building of his kingdom and in the Evangelization.

As the Archdiocese of Delhi is going to undertake a major repair in order to preserve this beautiful and historical Church which is the oldest Catholic Church of Delhi and an important heritage monument, I appeal to you to contribute generously towards its renovation. I request all the people of good will to be part of this great endeavour. You may draw the cheque/DD in the name of St. Mary’s Church and send the cheque or amount to Fr. Mathew Koyickal, Archbishop’s House, 1 Ashok Place, New Delhi – 110 001or you can directly deposit your amount in the account which is opened with South Indian Bank, Chandni Chowk Branch for this purpose alone. Account Number: 02 21 05 30 00 02 31 83.

Seeking God’s choicest blessings upon each one of you and with the compliments of the season.

Yours sincerely in the Lord

Rev. Fr. Mathew Koyickal
Parish Priest