Seldom we run into amazing people who dedicate their entire lives for the good of people around them and tirelessly work hard for their welfare till the twilight of their lives. To them ''service to needy people is service to God,'' nothing else. Such wonderful
|Rev.Fr. Maria Louis Leveil, a Jesuit priest from France.fatherleveil.com|
On March 21 every year, people following different faiths congregate at the Sacred Hearts Church in Sarugani, a village near Kalayarkoil in Sivaganga district, Southern Tamil Nadu state to celebrate the life of the ‘People’s Priest’ - the death anniversary of Rev. Fr. Maria Louis Leveil.
Fr. Maria Louis Leveil, born on Palm Sunday in the year 1884 in France as the 10th child in a religious family, was surprisingly baptized on the same day itself. It was God's edit that this weak baby grew up to be a great evangelist in the southern part of Tamil Nadu, India.
In 1908 Louis Leveil left France for good not in pursuit of amassing wealth or embarking on an adventurous trip to win King's medals, but in search of a community where he could teach the gospel of Christ and work for its welfare - truly a noble cause undertaken by a young Jesuit. His destination was British India, a vast strange hot country with different languages and culture. India was then being ruled oppressively by the British, who rendered decently living vast Indian population prior to their arrival in 1600 impoverished, eking out hand to mouth living.
Louis Leveil landed in the region - near Madurai, where the dominant community was Hindu Maravas. When he was going around the places to get himself familiar with the people and the land, he was in a state of shock over the appalling conditions under which they were living. The people were very poor and emaciated with no proper education. Nor did they have enough food.
The first parish priest of Sarugani, from the year 1736 – 1774 is Fr. James de rossi, from Italy and people called him "Chinna Savariar". Though initially Fr. Leveil
|Students of Louie Leveil Home.Sarguni, India. fatherleveil.com|
His strenuous and tiring missionary work took him to places such as Ramnad and Andavoorani and at last settled near Sarugani where he became well-known. People from different walks of life with all kinds of problems including the sick sought his advice and blessings and returned home well satisfied. They experienced the Grace of God through his blessings and benedictions. Fr.Louis Leveil, just out of France, not to return there leaving behind his parents, his relatives and people, surprisingly spent 52 long years in the region of Madurai and Ramnad and built 30 chapels and churches and many schools with donations from rich people. His students won Best Teacher awards at the State and national levels.
A fascinating aspect about him was Fr. Leveil used to write the prayer, “Oh Jesus, King of Love, I put my trust in thy loving mercy,’ in Latin on palm leaves, which were planted on agricultural fields with a cross to ward off pest. Villagers say it did work.
Sarugani was a center for the priests of the diocese for their monthly retreat and many religious functions. The center owes its origin and growth to Fr.Louis Leveil, who on 13th January 1970 had the great joy of celebrating the golden jubilee of his priestly ordination at Sarugani. Fr. Louis Leveil had been in India for more than 62 plus years. He had neither visited his native country France during this period nor had met his his relatives. However, he had immense pleasure in seeing his niece during the golden jubilee of his priestly ordination at Sarugani. According to Rev. Fr. L. Ambrose Louis, parish priest, Sarugani Fr. Maria Louis Leveil could speak, read and write in Tamil!!
On March 21 every year, people congregate at the Sacred Hearts Church in Sarugani, to celebrate the life of the ‘People’s Priest’. He died on the predictable day and chose his own burial place and conveyed the message that life is not an end but only a passage.
That, many children in the composite Ramanathapuram and Tirunelveli districts bear his name suggests how Fr. Leveil is being held in great esteem and revered by the people there.