21 May 2024  |   03:23am IST

Celebrating 150 years of Our Lady of Miracles chapel in Mayem

Locals come together once again, this time to celebrate the completion of 150 years of the Our Lady of Miracles chapel located in Mayem. This is an important feast for those with a deep devotion to the Blessed Virgin Mary which is celebrated with great pomp and splendour. It is a day to remember and appreciate the miraculous works of Mother Mary, and people from all over come to pay their respects
Celebrating 150 years of Our Lady of Miracles chapel in Mayem

Annalie Rodrigues

Mother Mary gained her title of ‘Our Lady of Miracles’ in 1320 when on March 24, two criminals were sentenced to be burned to death for their crimes. One of the two, a young boy, prayed to the Blessed Virgin Mary. While invoking her name, he bravely faced the fire and remained unharmed, while the other was entirely consumed by the burning flames. When Pope John XXII was made aware of the occurrence, he recognised the miracle and insisted that a chapel known as Our Lady of Miracles be built at the very same execution site. Unfortunately, when the French Revolution was gaining momentum, the chapel was seized as state property and then sold.

In Goa, during the month of September, there commences a beautiful custom where one will notice the Catholic community in villages, gathering at an individual’s residence, at dusk where all those gathered, welcome an image of Nossa Senhora dos Milagres (Our Lady of Miracles). The great devotion to Our Lady of Miracles is widely seen in Goa in the form of several big and small shrines, chapels and churches dedicated to this apparition of Mary. These establishments are seen to have been scattered far and wide across the state, some quite prominent while others may not be recognised as much. Many of these may be privately owned or coming under the Archdiocese of Goa and Daman. Some of these are found in places like Sirsai, Sanguem, Loutolim, Maina, Sernabatim and Mapusa but they celebrate their feasts on a different date. One such gem nestled in the quaint village of Mayem is a private capela dedicated to Our Lady of Miracles. Mayem is a village often heard of in ‘dulpods’, a form of Goan song. The chapel was completed and established on  May 21 1874 by Dom Jose Joaquim de Noronha and today marks a hundred and fifty years of its celebration. There is only one feast celebrated by this chapel and no other private devotions. The need was felt to build this chapel, as the local church was at quite a distance for most of those residing in Mayem. Therefore, the chapel catered to the spiritual needs of those affiliated to it. Initially, the chapel housed a resident priest who would celebrate masses on a daily basis. However as years progressed, due to the unavailability of diocesan priests in the early 1970s, Dominican priests were requested to conduct the services in place of them with due permissions. Although the resident priests used to celebrate masses on a daily basis as mentioned earlier, the masses slowly came to be celebrated at a lower frequency that was on Wednesdays and first Fridays of the month. After the Covid-19 pandemic, they subsequently shifted to celebrating mass only on Sundays due to practical reasons. Some of the priests that have been actively involved in conducting services are Fr Carlos Vaz and Fr Mario Barretto.

The chapel boasts of an elaborately carved and gilded altar and retable which is fashioned like a throne bearing three tiers which houses an elegant statue of the patroness. The statue is placed in a niche resembling a semi-circular arch, which is bordered with a band of stylised radiating rays, gilt in gold.  In addition to this altar which was used before the Vatican Council II, there exists another altar to suit the requirements of the Ordinary Form of Mass. The floor of the sanctuary is made up of black basalt rock while the ceiling is vaulted. The chapel can easily accommodate about thirty six people in front of the altar and on an average around fifteen next to the sacristy and the open space outside the chapel is sufficient for over a hundred attendees. In addition to the grand and majestic facades painted in white, what adds to the beauty of the exteriors of the chapel, are the traditional seating arrangements that are locally referred to as ‘soppe’ or ‘assento’.

The chapel is a private edifice managed by the successors of Dom Jose Joaquim de Noronha and spiritually guided by the priests of the church of Our Lady of Grace, Bicholim since it comes under the jurisdiction of the parish of Bicholim.  

The feast day comprises a high mass followed by an elaborate procession led by the celebrant holding a statue of the Blessed Virgin Mary. The procession is accompanied by an attendant brass band playing harmonious Goan tunes and vibrant decorations generally comprising of arches constructed using palm fronds and colourful paper streamers. The procession begins with the loud clanging of the chapel bell adding to the festive spirit of the people. The preparation for the feast begins ten days in advance commencing with the fama, the novenas and the vespers finally followed by the feast.

Such small chapels are often not given due attention while only the main churches are spoken about. It is therefore important to uphold and appreciate the rich culture and history of these chapels as well.


Iddhar Udhar