Monday, August 22, 2011
Hearing the message of God clearly
By Shevlin Sebastian
Photo: The new altar
When the new building of the Little Flower church was set up in October, 2004, at Elamkulam, Kochi, the parishioners were happy. Over the years, the number of parishioners had grown, and there was need for more space. Now, with its 13,000 sq. ft. area, there was enough and more area. Plus, its sloping tiled roof had made the church a landmark in the city.
But it was not long before the problem with the acoustics could be detected. “When the priest spoke, we found it difficult to hear him,” says Molly Issac, a long-time parishioner. What aggravated the situation was that during the monsoon season, when the raindrops beat hard on the roof, it became impossible to hear what the priest said.
Church trustee, Prof. George Philip, of Sacred Heart College, says, “If the dimensions of a hall are more than 17metres in its length, breadth and width, there will always be an echo.”
The pressure grew to solve the sound problem. In 2006, the Parish Council passed a resolution that the acoustics had to be repaired. But there was no money to do it. In the following years, as Kochi grew, and job opportunities became plentiful, more and more people joined the church. Contributions were solicited again. And this time, the money started pouring in steadily into the church's coffers. “The people responded whole-heartedly,” says Fr. Kuriakose Puthenmanayil, the parish priest. Today, there are 1100 families.
To ensure that this time they got the sound right, the Parish Council worked closely with sound engineer Fr. Paul Alengatukaran, CMI. “A polyethylene sheet has been pasted to the roof with glue,” says Fr. Paul. “This prevents water from leaking in. These sheets are also heat-resistant.”
Underneath it, at a gap of three feet, boards, made of a mix of cement and fibre, has been put up. “To suspend the boards, we set up trusses,” says Fr. Paul. “These boards formed the ceiling. So, there is a cushion of air between the roof and the ceiling. This ensures that the church is cool.”
Then glass wool was put on the side of the ceiling, which faced the floor. “This absorbs sound,” says Fr. Paul. “This can be found in theatres and air-conditioned halls. Over that, full tone sheets have been put. These have small holes and it takes in the sounds.”
To further increase the absorption of sound, the altar has been enlarged. Now, there are six new pillars made of wood, which has glass wool inside it. “It is well-known that wood absorbs sound very well,” says Prof. Philip.
To achieve all this took eight months of work, in which 25 workers worked six days a week, from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. The total cost: Rs 52 lakh.
On August 15, the new hall was inaugurated by Syro-Malabar Major Archbishop George Alencherry. And in the packed church, there were a lot of happy smiles, because the acoustics was perfect. “It has rained several times since, and we have faced no problems,” says a beaming Fr. Kuriakose. “Everybody can hear my voice clearly. And I can hear the responses of the faithful also.”
The Little Flower Church has been a magnet for people, who come in at all times of the day to pray for a little while. “There is a sense of peace inside the church,” says Fr. Kuriakose.
One morning the cleaning lady brought a piece of paper which had been placed on the altar. It was an appointment letter of a well-known bank. “It was a girl from another community who had put it on the altar, out of gratitude,” says Fr. Kuriakose. “People of all faiths come to pray.”
Many youngsters who come for interviews in the nearby Dream Hotel first drop in to the church to pray. “Some tell me later they have secured jobs,” says the parish priest.
The Little Flower is blooming again.
(The New Indian Express, Kerala)