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Tamil Catholic worship traditions continue


In the 2016 census about 2700 people in South Australia identified themselves as Tamil speakers. Although small in number, their linguistic and religious fervour is strong, writes Dr Aruna Manuelrayan, a founding member of the Adelaide Tamil Catholic Community (ATCC).

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Dr Aruna Manuelrayan

The 2016 census mentions that there are 73,000 Tamils in Australia, with 40 per cent of these from Sri Lanka and 35 per cent from India. The remainder come from various countries namely Malaysia, Singapore, Canada, USA, South Africa, Fiji and Mauritius. The census also recorded 0.23 per cent of the population claiming to speak Tamil at home. Not surprisingly, the Tamil language is an approved subject for the Year 12 examination.
In 2011, some Tamil Catholics in Adelaide came together to look into the feasibility of starting a monthly Tamil Mass. This inspiration grew out of the desire to serve the growing number of Tamil-speaking Catholic families and the availability and readiness of Tamil-speaking religious sisters and priests to support and commit to it.
The Adelaide Tamil Catholic Community (ATCC) was formed in late 2011, with the blessings of then Archbishop Philip Wilson. The inaugural Mass was celebrated by Fr Anthoni Adimai in The Annunciation Church, Hectorville, on November 13 2011.
The main mission of the ATCC is to provide spiritual support and inspiration to the Tamil-speaking parishioners. However, irrespective of their country of origin and nationality, everyone is welcome to participate in the Mass and other celebrations.
The ATCC started with four families and has since grown to a dozen. The founding members formed a choir to lead in the worship and make music to praise the Lord. Over the years more singers and instrumentalists have joined the choir. Some of the spiritual activities and celebrations include monthly Mass on the second Sunday at 3pm in The Annunciation Church. This Mass is preceded by confession and adoration. During the Mass individual and family intentions are mentioned in the prayer of the faithful.
After Mass everyone is welcome to share in light refreshments, where birthdays or special events such as baptism are celebrated in the church hall.
During Lent, the Stations of the Cross in Tamil precedes the Mass. The Easter and Christmas Mass in particular is celebrated in grandeur by sharing a meal and exchanging gifts after Mass.
The community celebrates the Blessed Mother’s birthday and/or Our Lady of Valankkani feast. In 2015, a well wisher donated a statue of our Lady of Valankkani and subsequently a chariot was made to carry Our Lady of Good Health. In that year, a small procession was organised on Our Lady’s feast day.
In 2017, a flag-raising Mass heralded the start of the novena. It culminated with a Mass by then Archbishop Wilson, which he concelebrated with 10 other priests. More than 200 people attended the Feast of Mother Mary.
In 2018, the feast was concelebrated by Fr Peter Zwaans and a number of Indian priests and children sang an upbeat hymn during the Mass. This was followed by an Indian feast and fellowship. For the first time, 10 families hosted the novena that preceded the feast day increasing the spiritual fervour and togetherness of the Tamil-speaking Catholic community. This year, a new flag of Our Lady has been donated in preparation for the celebration in September 2019.
Spiritual guidance for the ATCC comes from the resident celebrant Fr Adimai and supporting Indian priests in Adelaide. The prayer team consists of Religious sisters and elder parishioners and the choir is led by the inspirational John Joseph Jawahar and his daughter Catherine.
The aim of this growing community is to mould the next generation of leaders, musicians and singers. It is also hoping to secure the services of a chaplain or deacon.


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