Rev. Fr. Maria Louis Leveil of France, people's priest Sarugani.

Seldom do 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

people do a yeomen service to a society with out anticipating any personal gains, medals or accolades from the leaders or the government. They really stand apart in the multitude of people,  One such unselfish person was Fr. Leveil, a French native, who since 1908 had spent the rest of his life as a Jesuit novitiate. He was a succor to the oppressed and needy.

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.

had difficulty in adjusting himself to a strange hot place  1000s of miles away from his land of birth, he resolved to stay there to alleviate the people's sufferings and lift them from abject poverty. Charismatic as he was, wherever he went, people were keenly interested in what he was saying. Through true love and social service he made a valuable contribution to the community living there transcending color, creed and faith. The people had begun to accept him as a well wisher and Savior.  He always preferred to walk to villages to render help to the people and provide education.

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.