On the 17th February, the inauguration of St. Padre Pio Mission took place in the Ditton Community Centre, Aylesford.

The Syro-Malabar eparchy of Great Britain, which was established on the 28th of July 2016, has formed a mission later last month. It is understood to be the first of the 76 missions that are planned to exist in the near future. The Syro-Malabar Catholic Church is an eastern catholic church based in Kerala, India since 50AD, earlier than when Christianity was known in England, and was founded by St. Thomas the Apostle.

Last year a decision was made to unite several Mass centres into one mission, with a designated vicar for each mission. However, prior to the formation, Mass or in the Eastern Syriac term ‘Holy Qurbana’ took place only once a month in different churches; now it is made possible for there to be one run every Sunday.

This particular mission consists of a lively community combined from the Syro-Malabar Catholic Mass centres in Gillingham, Maidstone and Southborough. The trustees (Anoop John, Joby Joseph, Joshy Annithottathil, Bijo Thomas, Deepa Mani and Elizabeth Benny), conveners (Tomy Varky and Joseph Kurian) and other people of the mission organised this event.

The inauguration commenced at 9:30 am with several children and adults lining up holding colourful umbrellas and roses to welcome the Bishop, Mar Joseph Srampickal. Afterwards, the Bishop, priests, Fr. Tomy Adattu (vicar) and Fr Francois, and altar servers entered into the hall. Then, Joshy Annithottathil (trustee) gave a biographical speech in Malayalam regarding the life of St. Padre Pio. After, Fr. Francois read out the decree followed by the clergy and some of the trustees officially inaugurating the mission by lighting of the oil lamp. Subsequently, the Bishop blessed the saint’s statues and began the Holy Qurbana, consisting of devotional hymns and prayers.

After the Mass, the people were given an opportunity to carry an arrow through a procession around the hall to show devotion to St. Sebastian the martyr as well as have a blessed offering.

Many described the occasion as ‘truly memorable’, especially as it was held on a couple’s 25th wedding anniversary and a child’s birthday. The event ended with the cutting of a cake and a live-kitchen that served ‘appam and chicken curry’. It was also used as a time to socialise with everyone and everything was completed around 1pm.

One of the key messages that was given on that day was: “This day will remind many of the importance of religious belief and making dreams a reality, as there are still more jobs to be done but that is all possible with the help of God.”