“Our Lady of Arabia” Parish: Historical Timeline
… Ahmadi being the centre of oil production, scores of people, mainly migrant workers, began to settle here. The Catholics worshipped in a provisional Chapel from 1948 until 1955. This Chapel was previously a Nissen hut on the Ahmadi Ridge, which had housed a power station and was later abandoned. The Chapel was blessed on 8th December 1948. On that day, devotion to “Our Lady of Arabia” started …
The present-day Church in Ahmadi was consecrated on Easter Sunday, 1st April 1956. It was on that day, H.L. Bishop Stella blessed the new Church of Our Lady of Arabia. It is noteworthy that His Eminence Alexender Cardinal Verde signed the document which grants to the Church of Our Lady of Arabia the same indulgences as for visiting the greatest Marian Shrine of the world, the papal basilica of St. Mary Major in Rome.
Historical Timeline …
Significant Events in the History of the Church in Ahmadi
1945 : First mass celebrated in a tent in Maqwa on Christmas day.
1946 – 1948 : A Priest from Carmelite Mission in Basra visits Kuwait periodically to celebrate Mass at different venues in Kuwait, including the indoor cinema of KOC at Maqwa and Ahmadi and at the Protestant chapel of the American Mission.
1948 APR : Fr. Theophano U. Stella appointed first resident priest in Kuwait.
1948 NOV : An old Power Station in Ahmadi is requisitioned and converted into a chapel. First Mass in the “new” chapel is said on the feast of the Presentation of the Virgin Mary in the Temple (Nov 21).
1948 DEC 8 :The rite of the Blessing of the “Church” (i.e. Chapel) is performed by Fr. Stella on the feast of the Immaculate Conception.
1949 DEC :The Statue of Our Lady of Arabia is requisitioned from Italy by Bishop Stella, and blessed by His Holiness Pope Pius XII. On arrival, the statue is taken in a procession from Shuwaikh to Ahmadi.
1952 :Permission is requested and granted by KOC to build a new Church, The cornerstone for the new church is acquired from the ruins of an old Dominican Abbey in Aylesford, Kent. The stone is blessed by Pope Pius XII before being sent to Kuwait.
1955 SEP 8 :The cornerstone is laid at the site of the new church. The cornerstone can now been seen in the chapel of St. Elias and St. Therese.
1960 MAR 25 : Cardinal Valerian Gracias, Archbishop of Bombay places a crown of gold on the statue of Our Lady of Arabia.
1990 AUG 2 : The ghastly Iraqi aggression and invasion on Kuwait has a devastating effect on Kuwait. Unimaginable acts of violence are perpetrated against its peaceful citizens. Ahmadi was particularly badly affected. Msgr. Francis Micallef braved all dangerous circumstances and celebrated mass either in a house or in the church. Fr. Mizzi carried on bravely trying to protect the church from acts of of violence. Inspite of this, the statue of Our Lady of Arabia was pushed down and broken by unknown persons. It was later restored by parishioners. The church and the priest’s house sustained damages as a result of bombs dropped on houses nearby.
1991 FEB 26 :Kuwait is liberated from the Iraqi aggressors, and the church bells ring continuously in celebration of this event. The damage to the church is repaired with help from volunteers.
1998 DEC 8 :This day marks the Golden Anniversary of the inauguration of the first Church (Chapel) of Our Lady of Arabia.
1999 : Plans for an extension to the north side begin to take shape.
2001 APR 17 : Inauguration and opening ceremony of the new hall (extension to the Church). H.L. Bishop Francis Micallef, Msgr. Giuseppe De Andrea – Chargé D’Affaires of the Apostolic Nunciature in Kuwait and Fr. John Chrysostom perform the ribbon cutting ceremony.
The handwritten-note (right) is at the back of the picture. The text reads as follows:
This is the oldest – Our Lady of Arabia – brought from Mount Carmel. It was framed at the beginning of May 1948 to be used in the Chapel, a room in C.Q. 2B, Ahmadi for May devotions. At the blessing of the new Chapel, December 8, 1948 – it was kept there till May 1949 and was replaced by a small statue of the Legion of Mary.
Queen of Arabia, Conquer Thy Kingdom!
– Fr. T.U. Stella
The Church of Our Lady of Arabia is the “mother church” of our Vicariate. It is the first Catholic Church to be built on Kuwait soil. It is dedicated to the great Mother of God, Mary most Holy. The Church is also dedicated to St. Elias the Prophet and St. Thérèse of Lisieux. Since the very beginning, the Carmelite Church in Ahmadi has played a fundamental part in the life of the Catholics here and a very important role in the Church history of the State itself.
The First “Chapel” in Ahmadi
Ahmadi being the centre of oil production, scores of people, mainly migrant workers, began to settle here. The Catholics worshipped in a provisional Chapel from 1948 until 1955. This Chapel was previously a Nissen hut on the Ahmadi Ridge, which had housed a power station and was later abandoned. The Chapel was blessed on 8th December 1948. On that day, devotion to “Our Lady of Arabia” started.
The Present Church
It was the dream of Rev. Fr. Teofano Ubaldo Stella OCD, the first resident Catholic priest and later the first Bishop in Kuwait, to have a decent-sized Church for his Catholic faithful. Fr. Stella approached the Kuwait Oil Company management with his request regarding the building of a proper Church. The KOC management supported the proposal and in due course permission was granted for a new Church to be built in central Ahmadi. In November 1950, preliminary sketches of the permanent Church were submitted to Fr. Stella for his consideration. On 8th September 1955, the cornerstone was laid for the Church of Our Lady of Arabia by Bishop Elect Monsignor Stella. There is an interesting story told about the cornerstone:
“On 20th November 1952, the chaplain, Fr. Stella and a few members of the Carmelite Mission in Kuwait went on a pilgrimage to Aylesford, Kent in South England to collect a cornerstone for the new Church. The stone was unearthed from the ruins of an old Dominican abbey there (the same in which the Carmelite Monks had taken refuge after their flight from Palestine during the Crusade). On the return trip to Kuwait, on 12th December, Fr. Stella and his group were given audience by H. H. Pope Pius XII. It was the feast of Our Lady of Guadalupe and at the very moment the Pope blessed the stone, the bells of Saint Peter’s basilica began ringing the Angelus, and His Holiness knelt down by the stone to recite the prayer with those in the room.”
Inscription on the Parchment laid with the Cornerstone
“To the Glory of Lord, this CornerStone, taken on November 20th, 1952 from the ruins of the Church of the Assumption, built by M. Simon Stock at Aylesford and blessed by His Holiness Pope Pius XII on December 12th 1952, was solemnly laid with proper ceremonies by the Right Rev. Msgr. T.U. Stella, OCD, Bishop Elect of Autaerpolis and Vicar Apostolic of Kuwait, for the Church – in honour of OUR LADY OF ARABIA, St. Elias the Prophet and St. Thérèse – which the Kuwait Oil Company is generously building, that its employees and workers might find in the house of God, peace, joy and contentment and might pray for the prosperity of His Highness Sir Abdulla Al Salim Al Sabah, Ruler of the country for anyone coming here from afar, and for the people of Kuwait.”
On Easter Sunday, 1st April 1956, H.L. Bishop Stella blessed the new Church of Our Lady of Arabia in Ahmadi. It is noteworthy that His Eminence Alexender Cardinal Verde signed the document which grants to the Church of Our Lady of Arabia the same indulgences as for visiting the greatest Marian Shrine of the world, the papal basilica of St. Mary Major in Rome.
Description of the Church
The present-day simple, yet, beautiful Church is a generous gift from the Kuwait Oil Company to the Catholic faithful. It is built of stone and has an attached bell-tower.
The Chapel of St. Elias and St. Thérèse (inside the Church) houses the cornerstone.
The Church furnishings are simple. The sanctuary was re-designed to accommodate the statue of Our Lady of Arabia, which occupies a central position, high above the altar. The Statue of Our Lady of Arabia is a replica of the statue of Our Lady of Mt. Carmel, venerated in her basilica on Mount Carmel. The Statue was formally enthroned on 6th January 1950, and thereafter crowned on 25th March 1960. The sanctuary is adorned on either side with artistic paintings. St. Joseph, the Spouse of the Blessed Virgin Mary, St. Teresa of Avila, St. John of the Cross and St. Maria Goretti, the second Patron of the ‘Men’s Sodality of Our Lady of Arabia’ are represented on the Gospel side, while St. Elias the Prophet and St. Thérèse of Lisieux, the added Patrons of Ahmadi Church, together with St. Francis Xavier, Protector of the Missions and St. Pius X, the Patron of the “Ladies’ Sodality of the Blessed Virgin, Mother of God” are painted on the side of the Epistle.
The Church in Ahmadi has come to mean many things to many people. The day-long Eucharistic Adoration in various languages on the First Friday of every month is well-attended by many Catholics in Kuwait. Equally important, the “little” Church in Ahmadi, will always be regarded as a centre of pilgrimage for all Marian devotees.
Renovation of the Church
It all began in November 1996, when the Vatican Foreign Minister, His Grace Archbishop Jean-Louis Tauran laid the foundation stone for the new hall annexed to the Church of Our Lady of Arabia, Ahmadi. This was based on the then status and the speculation that the construction would begin in the near future.
However, elation turned to disappointment as the proposal was turned down and shelved. Not discouraged by this drawback, H.L. Bishop Francis Micallef, the clergy and the parishioners pursued the matter with perseverance, prayers and faith, and once again the proposal was revived, when in August 2000, the church was advised that the new hall had been sanctioned.
Excavation for the annexe started in October 2000 and slowly but surely the building and the surrounding landscape took shape. Though the completion date was scheduled for April 4, 2001, the building along with the landscaping was completed on March 29, 2001 and the handing over ceremony was held on April 1, 2001.
The inauguration and opening ceremony was held on April 17, 2001 and H.L. Bishop Francis Micallef, Msgr. Giuseppe De Andrea – Chargé D’Affaires of the Apostolic Nunciature in Kuwait and Fr. John Chrysostom performed the ribbon cutting ceremony.
The addition of the new hall to the existing Church is a gift from the Kuwait Government and the Kuwait Oil Company to all the faithful. We express our sincere thanks to them for giving the Catholic community the opportunity and place to practise their faith. We would also like to extend our thanks to the clergy, the parishioners and all who assisted and were instrumental in making this dream come true.
MASS TIMINGS: OUR LADY OF ARABIA PARISH, AHMADI
SUNDAY : 6.15 a.m, 6.00 p.m.,7.15 p.m. In English
MONDAY : 6.15 a.m. ,6.00 p.m. -In English
7.30 p.m. (Syro-Malankara)2nd Monday of the Month
TUESDAY : 6.15 a.m.,6.00 p.m. -In English
WEDNESDAY : 6.15 a.m., 6.00 p.m. -In English
THURSDAY : 6.15 a.m. – English
FRIDAY : 7.30 a.m.,9.00 a.m.,10.00 a.m. -In English
11.15 a.m. -Konkani
4.00 p.m.-Tamil (2nd Fridays Only)
5.00 p.m. English
6.15 p.m. Tagalog
7.30 p.m. English
SATURDAY : 6.15 a.m. -English
7.00 a.m. Arabic (Latin & Coptic Rite alternately
6.00 p.m. English
7.15 p.m.Syro-Malabar (Malayalam)
Fridays and Sundays (All the Masses)
Saturdays (6.00 p.m. and 7.15 Masses)
Thursdays (6.30 p.m. Mass)
Mondays, Tuesdays, Wednesdays (All the Masses)
Thursdays (6.15 a.m. Mass)
Saturdays (6.15 a.m. Mass)
in honour of
OUR LADY OF ARABIA
said during the PERPETUAL NOVENA
held every Saturday at her Shrine
in AHMADI (Kuwait) ARABIA
On Saturday evenings at 6.00 p.m. at the Shrine in Ahmadi people gather for the Perpetual Novena Service. Before the celebration of the Holy Mass, the prayers are recited. Near the Statue of the Queen of Arabia, in a special box, letters, with requests for favours or thanksgiving for benefits granted, are kept and a mention is made during the Novena.
OUR LADY OF ARABIA
Our Lady went into a strange country
And they crowned her for a queen,
For she needed never to be stayed or questioned
But Only Seen;
And they were broken down under unbeareable beauty
As we have been.(G.K.Chesterton – The Queen of Seven Swords)
The devotion to Our Lady of Arabia started on the day on which a Chapel in Her honour was dedicated in Ahmadi: December 8, 1948.
To the officiating clergy as well as to the faithful attending, this title of Our Lady seemed quite ”new.” Yet the Right Rev. Apostolic Administrator of Arabia had approved it.
It is meant to fulfill the prophecy of the Blessed Virgin contained in the “Magnificat” : “Behold, from henceforth all generations shall call me blessed! ‘‘(Luke 1:48)
Few are aware that for the last thousand three hundred years the Arabs were reading in the Qur—an such a praise of the sweet mother of Jesus: “0 Mary, verily God hath chosen thee above all women of the world” (Chap. Ill, Section 5 – 45th verse).
To the glorious Arab crowned women mentioned in the Holy Scripture and in the ancient history as well as in that of the Arabs: i.e., the biblical Queen of Sheba, then Zenobia, Queen of Palmyra, who led her people against the armies of a Roman emperor, and the gentle sovereign of the ‘‘Arabian Nights’’ a greater Queen is added in our days.
From the desert of Arabia she spreads out her charm and power in every country. Mary – The Queen of Arabia – rallies around her throne in Ahmadi Catholics of twelve different nationalities, English and Palestinian, Australian, North American, Indian, Irish, French, Pakistani, Lebanese, Syrian, Iraquee, lranee. We could apply to this image of Our blessed Mother the words of St. John, in a different sense: ‘‘Upon her head a crown of twelve stars” (Apocalypse XII). Through these people she will be invoked, she will be asked for favours in other parts of the world, as Our Lady of Arabia.
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