On the 8th December 1942, the Japanese entered the Second World War. In no time they occupied Burma and even penetrated into the province of Assam. In 1943 the Japanese Fleet sailed not far from Madras on its way to Trincomallee where it inflicted heavy damage on the British Navy. That was how the idea of a vow, and a Shrine in fulfillment of it, came to be conceived. We shall relate the story briefly in the Archbishop’s own words. “Madras was in the grip of a scare. Schools with their boarders were evacuated into the interior. The exodus of people was such that Madras looked for a while like a depopulated city.”

“It was during a special service held in St.Mary’s Cathedral on Sunday 5th September 1942, after consecrating the whole Archdiocese to the Immaculate Heart of Mary, that I made, before the Faithful who filled the Cathedral to capacity, the Solemn promise to erect, soon after the war, in the city of Madras, preferably in that locality of Kilpauk or Chetpet, – a church in honour of the Immaculate Heart of Mary, as a Votive Church, asking in return, for the duration of the war and after, the protection of our Heavenly Mother and Queen over the Archdiocese and Mission.”

“A campaign for offering towards this Votive Shrine was started in the New Leader. Rev.Fr.Michael Murray, S.D.B., went round collecting funds, but the response was meager. He was then sent to the U.S.A. for the specific purpose of collecting funds at our disposal. The intention was to put up the Shrine in that property and convert the large building already existing into the Archbishop’s House which would e shifted there from Armenian Street.” “Surprise after surprise took place soon after the acquisition of Kingsford. The first was that Mr.N.T.Patel, the contractor of the Catholic Centre, approached by Rev.Fr.J.P.D’Souza, promised to undertake to build the Shrine without any profit on his part or that of his firm. He was pleased to help us in a work for God’s glory.

The second was that Mr.J.R.Davis, the architect of the Catholic Centre and of the Shrine of Perambur, accepted to draw up the plans free of charge and see that the Shrine be erected without any delay. With the help of his partner, Mr.Peterson they prepared a beautiful plan of the Shrine, blending marvelously well Indian architecture with the Ecclesiastical architecture necessary for a Catholic Church. The third surprise and this was the greatest and most consoling – was the real sign that Our Lady had accepted my vow and was sanctioning it in a most miraculous manner.” “It was on Wednesday, 2nd of May 1951, that Mr.Prudhomme, a French gentleman who had been in Madras since 1901, called for me urgently

Miss. Amy de Rozario tried to get me first on the phone, but as I was absent, she called for Mr.A.P.C.Albuquerque, asking him to bring me immediately, if it were possible, as Mr. Prudhomme was anxious to see me. At 1.30p.m., I went with Mr.Albuquerque to see Mr.Prudhomme at his residence “Fontenoy” at Kilpauk. Mr.Prudhomme, who was subject to very high blood pressure had a week earlier, a stroke of paralysis which paralysed his left side. As soon as I arrived, he expressed a wish to donate his property known as “Fontenoy”, in order to erect in the compound the Shrine in honour of the Immaculate Heart of Mary, of which he had heard.”

“He then gave me a cheque for Rs.1,50,000 for its erection, He gave me also the adjoining property known as ‘Albuba’ to be used as the priests’ quarters, expressing the desire that ‘Fontenoy’, be turned into a charitable institution for the poor and destitute. The funds for the construction of the Shrine having been provided by Our Lady in a most unexpressed way, work was started immediately. The foundation stone was laid on the 20th April, 1952; the building was completed and the church solemnly blessed on the 6th December 1953. The high altar and two side altars were consecrated. The donor was present at the ceremony. A year later, at the close of the Marian Year, the statue of Our Lady of Fatima above the main altar was solemnly crowned by His Grace on the 11th December 1954.