Fr. James De Rossi (1736 -1774) of Sarugani, Tamil Nadu - a great Tamil scholar in Tamil

Sarugani Parish is unique in the sense it has the privilege of enjoying the great works of two saintly missionaries. The first parish priest of Sarugani, from the year 1736 – 1774 is Fr.James De Rossi, from Italy we call "Chinna Savariar" one of the missionaries.The impact of the work of Fr. De’ Rossi was so powerful, the faith of the people in this area is still strong and the memory of the priest is still fresh.

Fr. James De Rossi Born in the year 1701 at Nalavoor in Italy, right from the early age he developed interest in missionary work. His admiration for St. Xavier brought him to India and join the Madurai Mission. His missionary work in that part of the region was on a rough road and resisted by some misguided, powerful natives. The ruler of the region the Rajah of Ramnad was not very much enthused about a foreigner preaching a different faith and converting the natives to Christianity. At one stage his work came to a stand still on account of destruction of Church building and confiscation of church properties. Even the Christian converts were threatened. All was not well  with Fr.  James and he was even deported to Pattukkottai, a big town  now in Thanjavur district, Tamil Nadu When the ruler's consort - queen came to know about all these,   she regretted very much  and  invited Fr. James to her Ramanad palace and  not only to honor him but also give him freedom to spread his faith.

Marudu Pandyars were literally ruling the area  for the Queen Velu Nachiyar. They  hated the British and their dubious dealings and were the ones among the early freedom fighters who rebelled  against the British. Once  Fr. De Rossi tricked the British and saved the lives of the Mardu brothers. As a token of their gratitude to Fr. Rossi, the village of Sarugani was gifted to the church of Sarugani. In the year 1773, a beautiful church was built dedicated to Jesus and Mary. The Church was known as Sacred Hearts of Jesus and Mary was  blessed by the bishop of Cochin. Fr. De Rossi built  he Rosary church at Madurai and modified the Church at Oriyur where St. Britto was martyred. St. Sebastian at Kokkoorani owed a lot to Fr. Rossini.

Another surprising fact about him was he was quite comfortable with the local language - Tamil and wrote many works in scrolls. His seven books were about 365 miracles, life history of Saints  and recorded the history of many villages. His works in Tamil were were well respected and on par with another Italian priest settled near Thanjavur, Trichy cities. He worked with dedication like St. Xavier and did a lot of miracles and so fondly called 'Chinna savariar, [Little Xavier]. After his death here he was  was laid to rest at Sarugani with much  reverence. He could have led a happy, easy going life in 'Naples.' Even now, two and half centuries  after his death, he is a source of inspiration to numerous people there.

Till his last breath, he cared about the natives around him and being a foreigner he never felt lonely because he became a part of them, lived for them and at last died for them all in the name of Christ, embodiment of love, affection and care.


Note: I find it difficult to get his picture