THE PARISH

Geographically, Il-Munxar had always formed an integral butperipheral part of Ta' Sannat. The people of Il-Munxar attended religious services at Saint Margaret parish church in Ta' Sannat. However historical and documented evidence points to the presence of small chapels in Il-Munxar, but which no longer exist. A chapel dedicated to Our Lady's Visitation stood at Forn il-Gir, a spot between Xlendi and Il-Munxar. It is mentioned in the Pastoral Visit of 1615, but was later profanated in 1657. Another chapel dedicated to St. Simon stood at Kantra in Ras il-Bajjada. The sole surviving relic of this temple is a Crucifix erected in its place. The 1621 Pastoral Visit Document reveals the existence of yet another chapel at a place called ta' Norata, Il-Munxar. It was dedicated to St. Agnes; a Roman virgin-martyr. It has long since been pulled down and buried.

Late in the nineteenth century, Fr. Alessandru Cauchi, parish-priest of Ta' Sannat, becoming aware that the spiritual needs of the community at Il-Munxar were not being adequately catered for, filed a request to the commission of Canon Salv Bondi - later presented to Bishop Pietro Pace - for the building of a chapel in the area of Il-Munxar.

A lull in the following years deadened the issue. Nonetheless, the matter was revived by a zealous priest Fr. Mikiel Ang Spiteri who presented Bishop Giovanni Maria Camilleri with a further petition stressing the need for a local chapel. Meanwhile, on March 24 1913, with the request still under scrutiny at Curia, Fr. Spiteri received a generous donation - the brothers Lorenzo and Guzeppi Cassar together with their sister Maria - known as ta' Katalla - offered a building site, free of charge, amounting to an area of two and a half acres. A building plan was duly sketched by master Luigi Vella and by February 2, 1914 excavation works had begun. It was decided that the church should be dedicated to St. Paul's Shipwreck.

At this stage, Fr. Spir Gauci appeared on the scene, injecting new energy to the flagging morale. On March 22, 1916 the community flocked to witness the laying of the foundation stone by Vicar General Mgr. Joseph Farrugia. Masons Francis Farrugia and Luigi Vella were entrusted with the building of the church and sacristy respectively. Fr. Gauci worked his heart out extricating pennies in regular village collections to make both ends meet. It was an occasion of surging pride and optimism when on February 19, 1921 the community at Il-Munxar looked with satisfaction on the finished church which was consacrated by Bishop Michael Gonzi on October 18, 1925.

The statue of St. Paul depicting the fiery apostle just after his shipwreck was wrought by the Gozitan statuary Wistin Camilleri. It cost Lm40 of which Lm29 were donated by Ganni Saliba. It was blessed by Bishop Gonzi on January 31, 1933 and a week later it was taken processionally to Il-Munxar, but it was not before February 10, 1951 that it was triumphantly carried round the village streets.

Mgr. Spir Gauci was succeeded by Mgr. Carmelo Xuereb who set out to embellish the church with various art treasure which were sorely missing. Among his notable achievements was the acquisition of a new set of bells which were duly blessed and placed in the bellfry. Worth mentioning are the fine silver artisan works which adorn the altars. A considerable part of the silver engraving and plating was carried out in Milan most notably the principal altar frontal depicting the Last Supper ingeniously wrought by Edmondo Chiodini. Other decorations including velvet dressings and marble works were sponsored by eager benefactors.

By then it was fast becoming evident that Il-Munxar was 'craving and yearningfor independence'. Already prominent people from Munxar had presented repeated requests to Bishop Joseph Pace in this respect. On the memorable day of December 12, 1957 Bishop Pace issued the decree "Pro Munere Nostro Pastorali" by which the community's dream came true and Il-Munxar was officially declared a parish in its own right.

The first parish-priest was an ex-Domenican friar, Fr. Alan Fenech, who took possession of his duties on March 8, 1959. He toiled without tiring for the spiritual enrichment of the flick and the organisation of the new parish on a sound footing.

A Maltese religious tradition embedded in history is the popular devotional procession around the main village street. Five annual processions are organised in Il-Munxar - the first being that of the "Quarant'Ore" on the Sunday nearest February 10. A crowd-pulling procession is that of Our Lady of Sorrows celebrated on the Friday preceding Palm Sunday. Centre of attraction is the village feat procession. On the last Sunday in May the imposing statue of St. Paul is carried with great pomp around the flag canopied streets amidst the dazzling fireworks. Soon following in mid-June is the Corpus Christi manifestation where the Blessed Sacrament threads the flower-strewn walkways of Il-Munxar. Finally but equally pious is the pilgrimage-procession of Our Lady of the Rosary falling on the first Sunday in October.

A well organised mass service provides the community dwellers with excellent facilities for their spiritual requirements. On week days, the four morning masses start at 5.30am and proceed at half hour intervals while the evening service including Rosary and Benediction is subject to seasonal schedules. On Sunday there are three morning masses and an afternoon full service.

The two existing Confraternities are those of the Blessed Sacrament and Our Lady of Rosary. In every procession the members of each Confraternity march in style and pride. The Catholic Action, the Legion of Mary, the newly set-up Eucharistic Community and the Youth Movement are the four main active religious association in Il-Munxar, while the Liturgy, the Catechism and the Social Care sub-committees are the principal affiliates of the Parish Council. The two most influential organisations, strictly speaking outside the religious sphere are the Local Council, the ever-growing Il-Munxar Falcons Football Club and the Stage Group.

In the few decades that have passed since the establishment of the parish, the villagers have always been guided by a strong sense of duty and belonging towards the community. Only in this way will the village prosper and every individual acquire a Faith deep and unwavering.

Fr. Alan was succeeded by Fr. Saviour Debrincat on December 16, 1965. Fr. Debrincat hails from Il-Munxar and is a Lateran scholar, having obtained his doctorate in Pastoral Theology in 1985. Under his able leadership the parish has steered towards a comprehensive integration of the norms set down by Vatican Council II. The building of the remarkable Parish-Centre is a living monument to Fr. Debrincat's dedication to the community's welfare. A well-stocked parish owned library operating on an alternating time-table offers ample enlightening opportunities to village students and bookworms.

In April 1996 H.E. Bishop Nicholas Cauchi nominated Ix-Xaghra born, Fr. Frankie Bajada a philosophy teacher at the Major Seminary, as successor to Fr. Debrincat who hadbeen commendably promoted to Cathedral Monsignor and Curia Chancellor. Fr. Bajada was invested as Il-Munxar's third parish-priest with great pomp on May 24, 1996. Even in so short a span of time Fr. Bajada's imprint on the parish cannot be missed. He has infused new energy and youthful enthusiasm among the various sectors and embarked on an ambitious but highly useful refurbishment of the parish centre. The archives containing old manuscripts, precious documents and an interesting photographic collection which have been housed in a small lean-to beside the church parish office, have been recently transferred to the Parish House - Presently the parish priest is Fr. Michael Said.

 

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