This is a special year for the Mellieha parish community because we are celebrating the 150th anniversary of the arrival of the titular statue of Our Lady (Il-Bambina) among us.
Our forefathers had wisely deemed it expedient to dedicate our parish to Our Lady's nativity.
The Mellieha parish feast, since its inception, has been very popular. Maltese and Gozitans flocked to our parish to celebrate the feast with us. Every year, on the eve of the feast and on the feast day itself, countless people from various towns and villages in Malta and Gozo, used to come to Mellieha to enjoy the feast and our picturesque village.
They would attend the religious functions and afterwards enjoy the marches played by the two Mellieha bands. Up to a few years ago, the feast of Our Lady's nativity was also very popular with folk singers (ghannejja). On the eve of the feast they would come in groups and sing in the area outside the church till the very early hours of the morning.
The people of Mellieha had long wanted to have a titular statue in order to organize a procession in honour of Our Lady's birth. Their wish was finally fulfilled in 1853 - 150 years ago. The parish priest at the time, Fr Joseph Baldacchino, had petitioned the Bishop, Mgr Publius Sant, for the acquisition of the statue. Bishop Sant agreed to the request, and sculptor Pietru Pawl Azzopardi was commissioned to produce the statue. He had already sculpted statues for various parishes.
Azzopardi worked on the statue at his studio in Valletta. The statue was paid for by Fr Joseph Di Stefano. When it was finished, the statue was transported to Our Lady of Mount Carmel church in Valletta, where it was blessed by Bishop Sant himself. That same day the statue was carried by Mellieha parishioners from Valletta in a pilgrimage to Mellieha. When they reached the outskirts of Mellieha, known as Ix-Xaghra ta' Barra, they were greeted by hundreds of parishioners who were eagerly awaiting the arrival of Il-Bambina.
We still feel the joy of our forefathers during those memorable days. I have been sacristan of Mellieha parish church for 27 years and I can testify that Mellieha during the annual feast is characterised by a tremendous community spirit. Large numbers of parishioners participate in the religious functions and receive the sacraments. Hundreds gather around the statue of Il-Bambina to pray and to thank her fior the graces and blessings she showers upon them. It would be most fitting, if this year, as in the past, many Maltese and Gozitans join the Mellieha community, together with its parish priest, Fr Carmel Tanti, to give praise and pray to our beloved mother, who has always showered joy and blessings on the Mellieha parish, on Malta and on the whole world.