Fr. James De Rossi Born in the year 1701 at Nalavoor in Italy, there came a light all the way to 'maravanadu' to spread the word of God. His love for St.Xavier brought him to India and join the Madurai Mission and his zeal for missionary pushed him to Marani, the place now called Sarugani. Fr.James the first parish priest of Sarugani started his missionary works in the year 1736 that went on for nearly four decads.
It was not a bed of roses for him since the king of Ramnad region under whose jurisdiction Sarugani came, gave a lot of trouble to him based on the misguidance of his ministers. The church properties were confiscated and the churches were destroyed and the converts to Christianity were threatened. Fr.James was even deported to pattukkottai. But when the queen came to know, she felt sorry and as a compensation invited Fr.James to her Ramnad palace and honored him. She gave full freedom to preach the word of God, the confiscated properties were returned, many churches were rebuilt and the Christians were left to follow their own religion peacefully.
Maruthu pandiars who were the rulers at that time were saved of their lives from the hands of the British soldiers by Fr.De Rossi by a small trick. Appreciating and thanking the valour and intelligence of Fr.De Rossi the village of Sarugani was gifted to the church of Sarugani. A beautiful church in the name of Sacred Hearts of Jesus and Mary was built in sarugani in the year 1773 and blessed by the bishop of Cochin.
Fr.De Rossi was the instrument in building the Rosary church at Madurai to help the French soldiers. The church in Oriyur where St. Britto was martyred was modified by him. He also helped in the planning of the church of St.Sebastin at kokkoorani. He used to travel by Horse also if necessary and wherever went, did a lot of miracles and converted a number of people into Christianity covering idaikkaattur, palakkurichy and pattukkottai. He had a good relationship with the king of Sivagangai who had great regards for the priest after he was convinced of his miracles.
It was not only his religious activities he is known for but also wrote a lot of Tamil books [scrolls].He had written 7 books [on scrolls] for seven days of the week based on 365 miracles, life history of Saints and recorded the history of many villages. If fr.Beschi [veeramamunivar] was doing a lot of service to Tamil literature in the northern side of tamilnadu, fr.James was doing a lot of service in the southern side. In spite of all the troubles and hardships and turbulations, Fr.james preferred to stay in this place and as he writes "Rather than staying at rich and pleasurable 'Neples', I prefer to stay here and continue my work".
Wherever he went, people showered their love and affection and he had compassion on his flock since he saw them as a flock without a shepherd. Miracles were common those days because of his love for people who are poor and suffering and the faith he had in his Lord. He worked with dedication like St.Xavier and did a lot of miracles and so fondly called 'chinna savariar,[Little Xavier].He was laid to rest at Sarugani with much reverence. It is more than two and half a century now, but still he is a source of inspiration to thousands of people in this area. Even now miracles are glaring and the crowd that gathers on 3rd December every year is a silent witness to the continuous faith of the people.
Fr.Maria Louis Leveil Fr.Louis Mary Leveil was born on Palm Sunday in the year 1884 in France as the 10th child in his family. The child was so frail and was given holy baptism on the same day. He joined the jesuit novitiate and left for India in 1908 leaving the country, and his relatives never to see them again. The parting was really hard for all mainly for his relatives and siblings. But he decides to go to a distant land, a country completely different in food, culture, language and climate, never to return. He spent 52 years in the land of 'Maravas' in the madurai mission amidst the unknown and poverty stricken folk. It was a pleasant surprise that he was able to build 30 chapels and churches and many schools with the help of people and the donors. To summarize his long vocation in a nutshell as he puts it "IT IS LIKE A FISH IN THE WATER" because he knows in whom he has faith".
Alleviating the poverty of the people dominated his activities. Wherever he went people were attracted to him and listened to whatever he said to them. His love for the people knows no caste or creed. People had the faith that the palm leave with the prayer written on it by Fr.Leveil is more powerful than the pesticides.
After his tireless and strenuous missionary work at Andavoorani and Ramnad, towards the twilight of his life, he came to Sarugani, advised by his superiors to take rest. But he had a new definition for that word. People thronged sarugani to meet him, get his blessings, and go back happily removed of their sickness, sins and burden. "Come to me those who are burdened". People who came were relieved of their burden or their back was strengthened. People came to him from all walks of life believing that his prayers and blessings brought down the grace of God
Sarugani was a centre for the priests of the diocese for their monthly retreat and many religious functions. The epic center for their religious renovation was no wonder Fr.Leveil. Priests renewed their prayer- life through those retreats .On 13th January 1970 he had the great joy of celebrating the golden jubilee of his priestly ordination at Sarugani. Added to his happiness his niece had come from France to wish him. She brought with her the love of her family, her community and the country.Father had been in India for 62 years and had never seen any of his kith and kin nor visited France - not even once
As the days came close Fr.Leveil chose his own place for the burial [the present cemetery] and conveyed the message that life is not an end but only a passage. Till the end of his days he was cherished as a holy priest and a most beloved father. It was on 21st March 1973 the soul of the faithful servant went to his creator and Lord. The burial was glorious and attended by thousands of people who came from far and wide. It was Fr.Leveil who started the practice of pilgrimage to Oriyur, the place where St.Britto was martyred and it is still practiced by both the diocese of Sivagangai and Madurai under the leadership of the bishops on 4th February every year.The people still consider it a miracle that a palm leaf containing the prayer of Fr.Leveil is enough to remove the insects of destruction from the field .Even now the miracle continues. People gather the sand from his cemetery and take home as a blessing with the belief that no evil can harm them.
No wonder Sarugani the place where Fr.Leveil is buried also is visited by thousands of pilgrims especially on 21st March every year, the day Fr.Leveil left this world to his creator. All the people who come on the feast day are fed by the parish with the help of the donors who contribute generously. No wonder the number of beneficiaries crosses a few thousands.