"History is a storehouse of human experience and as such an irreplaceable educator. For sure knowledge of the past lets us draw upon earlier human experience, facilitating our leap into the future with a sense of ease and confidence." Fr Vijay Kumar Prabhu, SJ in"The Burning Bush: The History of Karnataka Jesuit Province"by Fr Devadatta Kamath, SJ

Sunday, June 20, 2021

Life in History

 The Karnataka Jesuit Province, originally the "The Mangalore Mission" today comprises the whole of the territory of Karnataka State. Started in 1878 with an international group of Jesuits from Italy and Germany, in a small town of Mangalore, the Jesuits continue to follow in the footsteps of the early Fathers and Brothers who gave themselves to the service of faith, education, health, language and happiness. They made our land richer by establishing educational institutions, hospitals, parishes, retreat houses, etc. The Jesuits in Karnataka continue to strive and to live the spirituality in word and action taught by the founder St Ignatius of Loyola (1491-1556) which inspired the first Fathers and Brothers who set their foot on our soil.  The founding Fathers and Brothers even though being foreigners not only learnt our mother tongues Konkani, Tulu, Kannada, Tamil, Hindi, etc., but also ate our food and integrated themselves in our society as any one of us. 

"The mission territory inherited by the Jesuits from the Carmelites and called Mangalore Mission comprised then what would later constitute the dioceses of Mangalore and Calicut and later still Kannur too. Having laboured in this territory for nearly three-quarters of a century they would disengage themselves from a part of it called Malabar and move over to the rest of Karnataka and even to North East." Fr Devadatta Kamath, SJ The author of "The Burning Bush: The History of the Karnataka Province."

 Their labours, both in their successes and failures, spread through 142 years are what this web blog contains.

Map of Karnataka, where Jesuits are working

The depository of Karnataka Jesuit archives continues to gather material from Jesuits and their institutions as a way to keep the memory of our predecessors and institutions alive. With its thorough record maintenance and systematic organization, the experience of the past continues to inspire the present and future generation of Jesuits and their collaborators in striving to bring Glory to God in all things. You are always welcome to contact us if you would like to get the history of our Fathers and Brothers better known to others.

Until recently, Karnataka Jesuit Province treasured artifacts collected by many Jesuits including Fr Lawrence D’Souza (1932-2009) and postal stamps and coins by Brother Gabriel Ferruccio, SJ (1939-2013) and Fr Alexis P. Menezes (1922-2002). Now, most of it has been donated to the upcoming Museum of St Joseph's College, Bangalore and St Joseph's School CBSE, Bangalore and St Aloysius College Museum, Mangalore. 

Contact details are below.

- Olvin Veigas, SJ
In Charge of the Archives of Karnataka Jesuit Province. 

Provincialate of the Jesuits in Karnataka
Loyola Mandir, 
96 Lavelle Road, 3rd Cross, 
Bengaluru - 560001.

FR ANTHONY ZEARO, SJ (1885-1965)

 Many a time already has Father Anthony Zaro appeared in this story, and it is right I should give here what is known of his early life till his death. He was born on 2 September 1885 at Moggio Alto in Frioli, a very picturesque mountain village on a promontory over the River Fella running through a deep valley near the Udine Tarvisio Railway line. His mother Maria died when he was six, leaving him and his 4 year old sister, Theresa, who lived to tell me this story of his early life. She has an astonishingly good memory of events. Giuseppe, their father, had to migrate to Austria for work to maintain their families as the land could scarcely support them. In a letter written from India in 1929 to uncle Simon at La Plata (Argentina), Father Zearo exclaims; "Our poor family! There wants only one for Australia to say that we have been in all parts of the world!".

The two children were brought up in the house of their parents who were good to them. Anthony's First Communion was on 25 March 1895. In those days and for a half century in Moggio Basso, the village portion at the foot of the promontory, there was a good simple priest as curate, Don Domenico Tessitori, who had the rare gift of perceiving and fostering many good priestly vocations. He was Anthony's confessor and soon discovered in him signs of a true vocation. Wordly lure could not detain him, so poor he was. His father did not oppose him, but said, "If you really want to go, remember that you are of poor condition, so you should always be ready to serve others." So at 12 he joined the Udine Seminary, in November 1897, and the following year he was confirmed. He was very intelligent, as we can see it even from his letters. He finished his theology at 22. But as he was too young for Ordination, he was sent to Cividale where there was a College, to teach little seminarists.

He was ordained priest on 14 March 1908 at Udine and was appointed for Ovedasso near Moggio. His sister came to serve him.

Works in Different Fields


In the direct care of souls, the Jesuits have used all the means which experience had demonstrated as efficacious elsewhere in the world. Of these the sodalities of the Blessed Virgin Mary and the Retreats deserve special mention.

The first sodality to be established in Mangalore was Men's Sodality of the Immaculate Conception at Codialbail in 1879. It was started by Fr Urban Stein. During a hundred years it has faithfully maintained the high traditions and has been a model to other sodalities as well. To keep the members together and to promote healthy social life among them, a Recreation Hall was constructed at Hampankatta which came to be known as the Catholic Club, where library and reading room facilities too were provided.

For women, the Sodality of the Christian Mothers was started by Fr Torri at Milagres Church. These and other parish sodalities were the means of propagating true and filial devotion to the Blessed virgin Mary, love of prayer, regular use of sacraments, cultivation of Christian virtues in hundreds of men and women. For the students of St Aloysius College, The Sodality of the Presentation was started in 1881 which was bifurcated later on to form the Sodality of the Assumption for Junior boys of the High School. These two have in particular been the seed-bed of vocations to the priesthood and the religious life.

As it is well known, a new orientation has been given to the sodality movement with a change in name and of programme as Christian Life Communities in which much greater responsibility is given to laymen with the aim of forming a capable laity and a more solid spiritual basis of Gospel values and the Spiritual exercises of St Ignatius. They are yet in their infancy and will have to be tended with great care and solicitude.

The Spiritual Exercises of St Ignatius popularly known as retreats have always been considered a potent means to instill a deep spirituality and to renew it regularly. The first retreat for the clergy was held in the first year, namely 1879. Since then, the clergy retreat has been an annual feature in the Diocese of Mangalore. Retreats for boys and girls were introduced in schools and colleges. In the parishes, 'missions' were preached from time to time. 'Closed retreats' or residential retreats for small groups were introduced by Fr Emmanuel Coelho as Director of the Sodality of the Immaculate Conception and so to say exploited by Fr Denis A. Pai as producing the night atmosphere and disposition for youth to choose their state of life or, in the words of St Ignatius, 'to make an election.

Fatima Retreat House

It was however left to Fr A. te Tellier S.J. to give a push to the movement and to give it a "local habitation and a name", "Characteristically he swooped down upon Mangalore and started the work. He took the town by storm as he knocked and knocked at the door of each prospective benefactor. Mr James Britto gave the present compact 3.5 acres of land at Jeppu as a gift for the retreat house, wrote Fr William Sequeira in 1953 describing Fr Le Tellier's activity in Mangalore between 1938 and 1948. Fatima Retreat House had begun! In the decades which have followed, successive directors have made additions to buildings and improvements. In keeping with the spiritual atmosphere of the place, a life size Calvary and the stations of the Cross in cement concrete have been erected on the grounds, around the shrine of Our Lady of Karnataka, Patroness of the Karnataka Jesuit Province. The Fatima Retreat House has all the advantages without any of the disadvantages of a roadside location.

The Fatima Retreat House today is more than a retreat house merely: it is a complex of apostolates: the press apostolate with the publication of the monthly paper, Jesu Rai, religious books and liturgical-music publications; the School of music already known as 'Sangeetalaya' teaching vocal and instrumental music: the West Karnataka Jesuit Regional Vocation Centre. It is, owing to its location, a meeting place for scripture studies, Alcoholic Anonymous, conferences for clergy, courses in counselling and spirituality for religious etc.

While there was limited response for the retreat movement in Calicut, it caught the attention of the people in Banga lore, thanks to the numerous houses of formation for religious. This led to the establishment of Dhyanashrama, the house for retreats on the Bannerghatta Road.

Works outside Karnataka

 St Joseph's Industrial School, Ooty

On becoming a Vice-province, Karnataka Jesuits began to spread out to other dioceses. In 1959, at the request of Bishop Padiyara of Ootacamund, Jesuits took up St Joseph's High School and St Joseph's Industrial School. After ten years of steady work and improvement, the former was handed back to the diocese, but the Industrial School and the Boys' Home continue to be our responsibility. From Fr J. Zambon to the present Director, Fr C. Mariaraj, the period has been one of steady progress in spite of adverse circumstances which demanded love, zeal and tact. The school owes much to Fr Lawrence P. Colaco for his 18 years of direction and help. Brothers of the caliber of B. Simonetto and J. Germek, have with their mechanical skill, made the Industrial School a name to reckon with among industrial concerns, while Brother Dudley Pereira made the Boys' Home a veritable home. The purpose of the Industrial School is to train poor, orphan and destitute boys particularly of the Nilgiri Hills and to fit them for some definite avocation in life. While the Boys' Home shelters and supports the 110 inmates and attends to their moral and spiritual needs, the Industrial School offers them a three- or five-year course in carpentry and cabinet making as required by the Department of Employment and Training for a Government Diploma.

Being 'destitute', the boys themselves or their parents are unable to contribute anything towards their maintenance. The government grant of Rs. 18/ for some and Rs. 50/ for others does not carry us a long way. The deficit is met partly by the sale of articles of furniture or the income from the WOODWORKS which are located at Kakatope. Although under ideal conditions the income from the saw mills of Kakatope can be good, yet with power-cut, high wages and shortage of logs actually the surplus is meagre. The Nilgiris Jesuit Educational and Charitable Society is thus left with a heavy financial burden. But the fact that the beneficiaries are the poorest of the poor, has created the conviction that the Institution must be maintained. Every year about 20 boys go out with a certificate and a box of carpenter's tools to begin life on their own.

To recount and elaborate on the social work undertaken by individuals, though a pleasing task would be beyond the scope of the present article. However, one cannot fail to mention the name of Fr Emmanuel Coelho. While being a Professor of English at St Aloysius College, he started numerous works for the needy. His Bene Morienti Sodality for workers who were prone to drink, or the care of the lepers who would not live at Fr Muller's leprosarium but preferred to beg, or the Poor Girls' Dowry Fund, or the Institute of Maids of Nazareth for the service of the poor are a few among them. The Sodality of Bene Morienti continues to this day under the guidance of Fr Lawrence D'Souza of St. Aloysius College. Fr Bertram Siqueira has inherited the mantle both of his brother late Fr Joseph Siqueira and Fr Emmanuel Coelho who worked for the lepers. In addition to this, he continues the hidden work of Fr John Peter Noronha in whom the poor boys of the St Aloysius College and High School and the patients of the Government Hospitals of Mangalore found a refuge and an understanding heart in their time of need.

An institutional social work suited to our days is what the Evening Schools and Colleges do in Mangalore and Bangalore which are a boon to working men and women inasmuch as they enable them to obtain a better qualification to improve their status or condition in life. The Housing Scheme of St Joseph's Seminary, under the leadership of Fr Valerian D'Souza, has seen to the rehabilitation of a hundred families displaced by floods, channelling aid and supervising its employment to the greatest advantage of the beneficiaries. Nehrunagar as a housing service at Ullal has been constructed on a part of the property owned by St Aloysius College while yet another part of the property in the same place is earmarked for the Social Service Centre on the occasion of the Centenary for rehabilitating the physically handicapped. In the formation of young Jesuits at Mount St Joseph (Novitiate), the seed for social concern is being sown early by involving them in the movement for liberation through the Social Service Centre of Kalena Agrahara and the neighbouring villages in Bangalore South.

- Taken from the Karnataka Jesuit Centenary, Souvenir, 1878-1978

Working in the Social Action


Hand in hand with evangelization went social work and the fight for human rights and justice. One of the most O glorious achievements of the first batch of Jesuits is Father Muller's Hospital at Kankanady, Mangalore. Fr Augustus Muller who had trained himself in homeopathy started work on a very modest scale on a small table with a few medicines at SAC. He soon founded a dispensary at Kankanady, which through the years has grown into a well-organized hospital and earned fame as one of the best Catholic hospitals in India. Called 'Pagani Dispensary in the first decade of the twentieth century, it was renamed in memory of its founder. After the death of Fr Muller in 1910, Frs D. Gioanini, A. Cavaliere, A Rondano and M. Lunazzi as directors built up the hospital till it was handed over to the diocese in 1933.

With similar concern for the sick, Frs Beretta and Rocca started Nirmala Hospital at Marikunnu in Calicut, with many specialized branches of treatment and a training school for nurses.

In the mission stations social work took the form of cooperative societies among workers v. g. at the Cathedral under Fr Stein, at Suratkal under Fr D. Coelho. Among the poor and oppressed, it became a fight for human rights in courts and panchayats. The early missionaries not only lived like the poor, among the poor to show their solidarity with them but also tried to restore to the Kor gars and the Pulayas what society had deprived them of.

'The St Joseph's Asylum Workshops' was the result of Fr Diamanti's zeal to help converts and other poor Catholics to make a living. But the Jesuits who stood by him and continued his service thereafter his death were Br Visuvasam and Br Foglieni. They are the real stalwarts who deserve the name of founders. The orphanage and the catechumenate owe much to Br Visuvasam for his many years of dedicated and silent work. It was at his suggestion that these were opened in 1885. Br Foglieni was the guiding star from 1889 to 1931. He was the real manager over 44 years which saw ten directors including Fr Jerome Lobo, Fr Lunazzi, Br Nalato, Fr William Sequeira and Fr Ambrose D'Mello. Under the management of the Diocesan authorities today, it continues to be an efficient and useful institution, where many learn a trade and at the same time earn a living.

The Belve Agricultural Colony, an off shoot of St Joseph's Workshops, was the work of Fr William F. Sequeira. Seeing the increasing number of workers with their families and desirous of providing them with houses of their own, he acquired agricultural land and gradually settled a few families at a time. Thus from 1959 a colony grew up. During the years of its growth the virgin forest was cleared to make way for the paddy fields and banana plantations copiously watered by high powered pumps. Fr W. F. Sequeira's successors continued his policy and contributed to its firm establishment. Along with the Workshops, the Colony too was handed over to the Mangalore Diocese in 1968.

From 1923, on the same lines as at Mangalore, St Vincent's Industrials and St Vincent's Colony have grown in Calicut. It all began when Fr Alberti, the then Superior, asked Br Spinelli to help the orphans. The latter started with two sheds close to the Cathedral, Calicut, two looms and a capital of ten rupees! The proverbial seed sprouted and grew into a vast tree; ten departments including a mechanical and motor section, cement and concrete works. moulding and casting department, automobile engineering and service station. The orphanage was shifted in 1944 to a 34 acre lowland along the Colony Canal and it grew under Fr Vergottini as Director while Br Spinelli continued to serve as assistant.

- Taken from the Karnataka Jesuit Centenary, Souvenir, 1878-1978

Mission Work in Anekal


Anekal, some 24 miles to the south of Bangalore, was the field of labours of the early Jesuit missionaries of the 17th and 18th centuries. Providence has brought their successors back there in this 20th century. Only recently, after nearly a quarter century of experience of scattered activity, it was decided that the Jesuits take up a single region in Karnataka for evangelization and development, instead of spreading their personnel around the State.

Along with pastoral work among Catholics in the region, attempts are made to reach out to those outside the fold. The Loyola Hostel at Anekal, in the midst of a predominantly non-Christian area, is an attempt to move out of the city to extend educational facilities to the village boys: poor boys from village parishes reside here under the guidance of a Jesuit priest- Fr Denis Alvares at present - and attend the nearby Government High School or Junior College,

At Chandapura, which is a totally Hindu locality, there is the Divya Jyothi Ashram. It was opened in response to the desire expressed by some Jesuits at a Province meet to have some typically Indian modes of apostolate. A Jesuit priest (formerly Fr Deepak Nayak, now Fr A. Farias) resides there, always available to the people.

Attempts were made by Fr Deepak Nayak to free bonded labourers from the clutches of the landlords and to provide them with means of occupation in view of their rehabilitation. The drive for literacy prompted the opening of centres with library and reading room facilities at Chandapura, Sarjapur and Attibele.

But the most recent apostolate is even more significant. Fr Victor Mathias with his team of two other Jesuits and the Canossian Sisters to help him, has launched into what is called Adult and non-formal education, which aims at the conscientization of the people about their rights and duties, their problems and the ways to tackle them. In the process they pick up the 3R's too. In this way the elders come to appreciate the benefits of education and may more easily permit the education of their children. It is a big task and the Jesuits have put their hand to it perhaps as the main apostolate of the second century.

In this work of evangelization the missionaries of today have the powerful intercession of Fr Manuel de Cunha. Fr de Cunha was one of the early Jesuit missionaries who laboured in this vineyard. He brought the light of faith to many, and because of it incurred the wrath of some. He was killed for his faith in 1711. Only an upright stone marks the spot where he was laid to rest. People of the place often go to pray at his tomb, asking for his intercession.

- Taken from the Karnataka Jesuit Centenary, Souvenir, 1878-1978

North-East Mission: Nagaland


Nagaland is a picturesque country of the North-East Frontier of India, bordering on Burma and inhabited by sturdy tribals called the Nagas. They are mostly non-Catholic Christians i.e., Baptists and revivalists, numbering about four lakhs.

Besides there are about 20,000 Catholics and 80,000 animists. The Nagaland mission was taken over 1970. all came about this way. There was request for Jesuits for Nagaland to open educational institutions. The Provincials conference shifted the request the Vice provincial of Karnataka, with promise to stand by to help. Fr Cyril Pereira, Vice provincial acceded to the request. Soon afterwards, along with Claude D'Souza he went to the place explore the possibilities. When the exploration was over, Fr Stany Coelho who had long experience the educational field, left for Nagaland do the pioneering work was April 1970.

The work began with the establishment of Loyola School, Jakhama Parish the Kohima district. Subsequently, 1974 the Bishop Kohima-Imphal (covering the state Nagaland and Manipur) entrusted also the Phek district the Jesuits and the Chakesang Catholic Mission was opened Ligouri Castelino with headquarters Chizami. For better administration, coordination work and obviate the difficulties communication, the institutions the Nagaland territory have been constituted into District with Ligoury Castelino the District Superior. Today there are ten Jesuits working the area. Loyola School well-established high school. There are four primary schools which are parti ally feeder schools, and Teacher Training Institute dedicated Paul. The number students these exceeds one thousand which fair indication the eagerness the people learn this primitive land. Jakhama parish has over half dozen stations. Chizami, centre the Chakesang area, has nine stations.

Meluri mission parish has two substations and Tenyizumi, the latest mission parish to be started, has two stations too.

It has been hard pioneering work in a different climate, under totally new circumstances and all credit must go to the pioneers for laying the foundations and establishing right traditions. Tributer should be paid here to the late Fr Edwin Goveas, the first Jesuit missionary and first Catholic priest to lay down his life in Nagaland in the service of the flock. He belonged to the first batch of Jesuits who went to Nagaland. He worked at Tuensang for a couple of years, and on 3 February 1973, passed to his eternal re ward. The pioneers Fr Stany Coelho, Fr Ligoury Castelino and Br Raymond D'Souza have spent nearly 10 years in the place.

Educational work is going on hand in hand with evangelization, education itself being the big instrument of evangelization, slow but sure. Teachers from India find it difficult to stick on, on account of severity of climate, lack of social life and primitive conditions of living. To secure local personnel to staff the schools a training school for teachers has been opened at Phesama, not far from Loyola School.

As mostly the people of the place are attached to their land and have to live by it, an agricultural and land productive slant has been given to education.

Loyola School with its boarding house deserves special mention. The first pioneering effort of the Jesuits in Nagaland, it has already made its mark for all round efficiency. A unique feature of the Loyola School chapel is that Naga motifs adorn both the tabernacle and the main door. The construction of school buildings, boardings, chapels in Jakhama and Chizami and the supply of drinking water to them has been aided to a very great extent by Missio, Misereor and the IGSSS. The school has already 553 students on its rolls. The smart and well-trained students of the school will turn out to be the leaven to their homes and the land in years to come. The seed has been sown.

Eden: While the construction of buildings for the St Paul's Teacher Training Institute at Phesama is going on, plans are being finalized for a home for the parentless at Kuzhama. It will be called Eden. The aim is 1) to help them to become independent self-employed earners in their villages, 2) to prepare with Vocational and general training gifted but under-privileged and neglected children to take up responsible positions in Naga society. As at Jakhama, Viswema and Phesama, Fr Stany Coelho is the pioneer in this work. With at least a couple of priests, Sisters and lay missionaries it should be the core of a big programme of social help and development. As the diversity of languages makes it impossible for the missionary to reach all, a school for training catechists is a sine qua non in that region. At the Catechists' Training Centre at Imphal, of which Fr Frigidian Shenoy was the Director for five years, young men from Manipur and the neighbouring Nagaland are being trained to carry the torch of faith among their own people and liberate them from ignorance and superstition. Set on a firm basis, this school has been handed over to the diocesan management.

Attached to Loyola School is the parish of Jakhama with substations: Viswema, Mima, Khuzama, Phesama. Each village is situated on the top of a hill, at a distance of 50 to 80 Km. from any other. A multitude of languages and difficulties of transport make missionary life in Nagaland really hard. Trudging day and night between the villages of Nagaland, facing landslides, bearing hunger and thirst and loneliness and braving risk to life and limb, is the stalwart Fr Ligoury Castelino, the soul and animator of the Chakhesang Mission.

The success of the missionaries in Nagaland is to a large measure due to the hearty cooperation of devoted bands of Sisters who are missionary-minded to the core: the Apostolic Carmel Sisters at Jakhama, the Ursulines at Chizami and at Meluri, and the Bethany Sisters at Viswema, in the order of their arrival in Nagaland.

The truth is never static. By quiet work and example, the truth about the Catholic Church is spreading, and slowly but surely the Christians are seeking to be one-fold and one shepherd. Every year a good number seek admission into the Catholic Church.

The harvest is really ripe but the labourers are few. It is a place for zealous hearts and loyal minds and robust bodies. We hope that before a quarter-century of the second hundred years of the Karnataka Vice province is over, we will have a Catholic Nagaland.

- Taken from the Karnataka Jesuit Centenary, Souvenir, 1878-1978