Sunday, December 2, 2012

St Xavier’s Church Pune Camp gets 150th anniv makeover

Sakal Times
St Xavier’s Church gets 150th anniv makeover
Wednesday, October 10, 2012 AT 12:20 AM (IST)
Tags: Saint Francis Xavier’s Church
PUNE: Saint Francis Xavier’s Church, located on St Vincent’s Street in Pune Camp, is getting a new look as it prepares to celebrate its 150th anniversary in two months.
The same team of experts, who undertook a massive renovation drive at St Patrick’s Cathedral recently, is presently busy sprucing up the church’s heritage artefacts.
The first mass at the church, which was still under construction, was held on December 2, 1862 on the feast of St Francis Xavier, after whom the church is named. The present church structure built in Gothic architectural style was constructed only in 1864.
Parish priest, Father Bertie Rozario, told Sakal Times that the renovation will cost around Rs 90 lakh.
“The funds for the renovation are being raised by our parishioners. Despite being one of the oldest churches in the city, the number of our parishioners has now dwindled to merely 150 families. Most of the young parishioners from Pune Camp have left during the past few years, to reside in spacious houses in Wanawadi, Fatimanagar and surrounding areas,” said Fr Rozario.
The renovation works include painting the church building, restructuring }of stained glass paintings and repainting the over a century-old statues of saints.
Incidentally, St Xavier’s Church is presently the only parish in the city which is looked after by Jesuit priests.
Vasai-based Mingleshwar Sequeira and his brother Benzoni, who are doing the work of restoration of wooden statues and other artefacts at the church, are fourth generation artistes.
Having launched the work in May this year, their team of artistes has given a new look to nearly 20 antique statues and also polished the pews and other old furniture.

Sunday, October 14, 2012

‘Church failed to implement Vatican II reforms'

‘Church failed to implement reformist recommendations’
Monday, September 24, 2012 AT 12:05 PM (IST)
‘Time’ magazine reporter who covered Vatican II council speaks up
PUNE: The Catholic Church which will soon launch the golden jubilee year celebration of the Vatican II Council has failed to implement many reformist recommendations of this historic conference including birth control measures and democratic church issues, former 'Time' magazine reporter Robert Kaiser has said.
The US-based Kaiser (82) who covered the four-year-long deliberations of the Vatican II Council in 1960s for the 'Time' magazine is presently on India tour to deliver talks at various Catholic institutions on the present relevance of the historic Church meet.
Kaiser was a 'Time' magazine reporter from 1961 to 1966, served as reporter of 'New York Times' from 1979 to 1981 and as 'Newsweek' reporter from 1999 to 2005.
Speaking to Sakal Times here on Sunday, Kaiser said that the Vatican II Council which took place from October 11, 1962 to December 8, 1965 was convened to usher in revolutionary reforms in the Church.
While the Church succeeded in replacing Latin with the local language in prayers and liturgy and in introducing inculturation to end its image as a colonial church, it has not taken steps to end its rigid hierarchical structure, the journalist-author said.
Not withstanding the dictum 'People are the Church', the clergy - priests, bishops and cardinals - are held accountable only to the pope and not to the faithful, lamented Kaiser.
“The Church must change as per the times or else it would soon turn into a museum,” he warned.
Kaiser said that the Church's opposition to contraception is not realistic as 95 per cent of the faithfuls see nothing immoral in family control measures.
Recalling his experiences of covering the Vatican Council II deliberations five decades earlier, Kaiser said that he was immensely helped by Thomas Roberts who was archbishop of Mumbai from 1937 to 1950.
“The archbishop who stayed as a guest in my house for two years during the Vatican II proceedings would pass on many confidential Latin documents to me and this helped to cover the deliberations extensively for the 'Time' magazine,” Kaiser said.
The Church scholar delivered two lectures on the various aspects of the Vatican II Council at the Jnana- Deepa Vidyapeeth campus in the city on Sunday.

Saturday, September 22, 2012

Pune is my home in India: Peter Vizenetz

Pune is my home in India: Peter Vizenetz
Sakal Times
Monday, September 17, 2012 AT 12:25 PM (IST)
German businessman has been visiting the city for 2 decades
PIMPRI: German industrialist Peter A Vizenetz (78) who has been visiting Pune almost every year for the past two decades, says the city has now become his home during his sojourn in the country.
Vizenetz, who is the Executive Chairman of the Megatron Group, is presently on a fortnight-long business visit to Pune.He says that he is happy to choose Pune as his base during his India tour.
The German industrialist has business partnership with Bhosari-based Megacraft Enterprises, owned by Anjali and Shreekant Apte. He has also set up factories in France and China.
“I have a hectic schedule during my visit here, but I always find some time to meet people, visit local shops and markets for purchasing items of my special interest and even read the local newspapers,” Vizenetz told this correspondent in Bhosari on Sunday.
Vizenetz says during his stay in Pune, he reads local newspapers throughly. “I am interested even in the news of the local dams filling to their capacities. I also read advertisements and then choose to visit the sales and exhibitions to purchase paintings, antiques and brass items,” he says. “My recent acquisition is a statue of Lord Ganesh, carved in modern art style,” he added.
“While returning, I always choose the airliner which allows me to carry maximum luggage in cargo and also in my hand bags,” says the industrialist.
He has been instrumental in the recent Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) signed between the Berlin-based AMA Association for Sensors with the local Entrepreneurs International. headed by Santosh Lalwani.
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‘Time’ reporter to talk on Vatican II meet in Pune

‘Time’ reporter to talk on Vatican II meet

Thursday, September 20, 2012 AT 12:57 PM (IST)
PUNE: Robert Kaiser, US-based award winning 'Time' magazine correspondent, who covered the Vatican II Council in 1960s will deliver a lecture on the humane side of the historic Church meet at the Jnana-Deepa Vidyapeeth on Nagar Road on Sunday evening.
Kaiser, a former Jesuit, covered the Vatican II Council (October 1962 to December, 1965) on behalf of the ‘Time' magazine, and won an international award for his highly professional work.
Kaiser (82) recently arrived in India on a three-week long lecture tour to deliver lectures on the Church in Kolkata, Pune, Mumbai and other cities in the country.
Kaiser has won an award for reporting on Second Vatican Council. He has authored 13 books, four of which are based on the Catholic Church. His latest book is 'A Church in Search of Itself : Benedict XVI and the Battle for the Future.'
Pope John XXIII had convened the Vatican II Council in 1962 to discuss and formulate the Church's policies on various issues. The Council, later presided over by Pope Paul VI, was attended by 2000 bishops from all over the world.
The Vatican II Council is said to have modernised the Church and its approach towards people of other faiths. The first Vatican Council took place in 1870.
Fr Noel Sheth, a Sanskrit scholar from the Jnana-Deepa Vidyapeeth, said that the lecture has been organised as a part of the forthcoming 'Year of the Faith' declared by Pope Benedict XVI to commemorate the golden jubilee of the Vatican II Council.
The Year of Faith will commence on October 12.

Sunday, July 29, 2012

Pune's St Anne’s Church enters 50th year

St Anne’s Church enters 50th year
Wednesday, July 25, 2012 AT 12:19 PM (IST)
PUNE: St Anne's Church, which was first built as a small chapel in Solapur Bazaar in Pune Camp in early 19th century to serve the Goan officers in the Peshwa's army, is celebrating the golden jubilee of its foundation this week. The church community has arranged a four-day celebration, starting on July 26.
The church constructed in 1963 has a unique architecture. It is the only church in the city having its front view in the shape of a 'gopuram.' In fact, many people find it difficult to believe that the building is a Christian religion shrine.
In early 20th century, the then British government had given a piece of land in Mule Lines to St Anne's Chapel, which was used for building St Vincent's Poor Home and a school. In 1925, the school had 157 students. Veteran Jesuit Fr J B Hass looked after St Anne's Church which was still a part of the St Xavier's Church in Pune Camp.
In 1979, St Joseph's School, which was a purely Tamil medium school, turned into an English medium middle school. An independent St Anne's Parish was established only in 1983.
Church's parish priest Fr S A Louis told Sakal Times that the jubilee celebrations will be launched by Nashik diocese Bishop Lourdes Daniel with a mass at the church on July 26 evening.
Heads of the Pune provinces of the Jesuit and Salesian religious congregations, Fr Bhausaheb Sansare and Fr Michael Fernandes will celebrate the mass on July 27 while emeritus Bishop Valerian D'Souza will celebrate the mass on July 28.
Pune Bishop Thomas Dabre along with emeritus Bishop D'Souza will concelebrate the mass on the last day of the jubilee celebrations on July 29. The festivities will conclude with a community. The oldest members of the church and former parish priests will be feliciated during the jubilee celebrations.
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Saturday, July 21, 2012

Bishop Valerian D’Souza’s sermons on Facebook

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Emeritus Bishop Valerian D’Souza’s sermons on Facebook a hit online

Tuesday, July 17, 2012 AT 10:44 AM (IST)
79-year-old prelate has 1,775 friends on Facebook. His spiritual reflections are getting much love in cyberspace

PUNE: Emeritus Bishop Valerian D'Souza who administered the Pune diocese for 31 long years has begun posting sermons on Facebook. The 79-year-old prelate has as many 1,775 friends on Facebook and is receiving many hits to his posts from youngsters across the globe.
The Emeritus Bishop who is also known as the singing Bishop for his penchant for playing the guitar during his preachings opened his Facebook account in March 2010. However, he began posting his spiritual reflections and short sermons on the networking site only a few months back. “I have won over 1,775 friends on Facebook and the list is increasing rapidly. Every day, I get at least 10 requests for confirmation as friends ,” the Emeritus Bishop told Sakal Times on Monday.
The net savvy Bishop was busy working on his laptop at the Viannny Home, the home for retired clergy in the Bishop's House complex on Empress garden road, when this correspondent paid him a visit on Monday afternoon. As the former Bishop of Pune, Rt Rev D'Souza has been a much sought after speaker at religious discourses in India and abroad. He has published three collections of his sermons. Until a few years ago, some cable networks used to telecast video CDs of his preachings, especially during the Holy Week comprising Good Friday and Easter.
In his Facebook profile, D'Souza, an alumnus of the St Vincent's High School and the Nowrosjee Wadia College said, “Now in retirement, but busier than before. Slowly changing into a lower gear, with more time to myself.”
Besides posting his sermons and spiritual advices on Facebook, the retired Bishop also uploads and tags pictures, shares links and greets and blesses people on their birthdays and anniversaries.

बिशप डिसोझा यांची 'फेसबुक'वरून जगभर प्रवचने

बिशप डिसोझा यांची 'फेसबुक'वरून जगभर प्रवचने
Tuesday, July 17, 2012 AT 01:15 AM (IST)
बिशप डिसोझांचा 79व्या वर्षी उपक्रम 

कामिल पारखे 
पुणे- ख्रिश्‍चन समाजाच्या पुणे धर्मप्रांताचे निवृत्त बिशप व्हॅलेरियन डिसोझा यांनी वयाच्या 79व्या वर्षी "फेसबुक'च्या माध्यमातून प्रवचने देण्यास सुरवात केली आहे. त्यांच्या उपक्रमाला अल्पावधीतच चांगलाच प्रतिसाद मिळत असून, जगभरातून सुमारे अठराशे मित्र जोडले गेले आहेत.

डिसोझा यांनी 126 वर्षांच्या पुणे धर्मप्रांताच्या इतिहासात तब्बल 31 वर्षे बिशपपद भूषविले. या कालावधीत त्यांनी शेकडो मोठी प्रवचने देऊन भक्तांना प्रभू येशूचा मार्ग दाखविला. प्रवचन देताना स्वतःच गिटार वाजवीत गाणी म्हणण्याची सवय असल्याने त्यांना "सिंगिंग बिशप' म्हणून ओळखले जात असे. अशा या उत्साही धर्मगुरूंनी मार्च 2010 मध्ये सुरू केलेल्या फेसबुक अकाउंटला सर्वाधिक प्रतिसाद तरुणवर्गाकडून मिळत आहे.

यासंदर्भात ते म्हणाले, ""मी आतापर्यंत 1,775 मित्र फेसबुकमार्फत जोडले असून, दररोज त्यात सरासरी दहा जणांची भर पडत आहे.'' सोमवारी त्यांच्या निवासस्थानी भेट घेतली तेव्हाही ते लॅपटॉप घेऊनच बसले होते. प्रवचन पोस्ट करण्याबरोबरच परिचितांना लग्न आणि वाढदिवसाच्या शुभेच्छाही ते नियमित पाठवीत असतात.

पुणे धर्मप्रांताचे बिशप असताना डिसोझा यांना देशात आणि युरोपात अनेक ठिकाणी धार्मिक प्रवचन देण्यासाठी मोठी मागणी असे. त्यांच्या प्रवचनांचे तीन खंड प्रसिद्ध झाले आहेत. गुड फ्रायडे आणि ईस्टरदरम्यान एका स्थानिक केबल नेटवर्कच्या माध्यमातून त्यांच्या प्रवचनांचे प्रक्षेपण अगदी अलीकडील काळापर्यंत करण्यात येत होते.

Wednesday, June 6, 2012

Y B Chavan A leader of the masses

Leader of the masses
Sakal Times

Tuesday, June 05, 2012 AT 08:18 PM (IST)
I joined Tilak High School in Karad as a standard XI student and soon I learnt that the then foreign affairs minister Y B Chavan was an alumnus of the school. Chavan often came to his home-town and I had the opportunity to watch him and hear his speeches from close quarters. Often, he wore his famous grin from ear to ear and mingled with party workers and others freely. These and several other incidents  flashed before my mind when his birth centenary celebrations were launched recently.

As the chief minister of the Mumbai bi-lingual state and as the first chief minister of Maharashtra, Chavan was instrumental in shaping the destiny of the state to a great extent. He outlined his vision for a new Maharashtra when the state was carved out in 1960. He took many decisions having far-reaching impact on the cultural, social, political and economic sectors of the state. The policies he laid down were followed by his successors. Under his enlightened leadership, Maharashtra became possibly the most progressive state in the country. Three decades after his demise, he continues to be a role model for political leaders and thinkers of the state.  Chavan had a flair for writing - as is noticed in his numerous writings, including the letters written to his wife, Venutai. I happened to read some pages from his first and the only volume of his incomplete autobiography, "Krishna Kath" and I regretted that he could not complete his memories. People would have got an insight into the personal life of this great personality and also into what went on in New Delhi, especially before and after the Emergency.

Chavan was a true leader of the masses. He had a direct rapport with political workers across Maharashtra. In his public career spanning five decades, he had nurtured close associations with people from different walks of life. He knew the pulse of the state, over which he never lost control, although he was in New Delhi for two decades. He knew innumerable rural leaders by name. He knew their families and even years after their last meeting, he could recognise the people and would inquire about their families - a feat few political leaders can match today. The rural folks were welcomed with open arms whenever they visited the residence of the ‘Saheb’ in New Delhi.

Chavan epitomised Maharashtra in New Delhi and belonged to the political genre of K Kamaraj and Devraj Urs. It's a pity that the tribe of leaders of such stature, values and concern for the people is becoming extinct in Maharashtra and also in the country.

Ghogargaon – First MSFS mission in Nagpur diocese

Ghogargaon – First MSFS mission in Nagpur diocese


Fr Gurien Jacquier of Ghogargaon   (Catholic Mission in Aurangabad diocese - 1892  onwards)

By Camil  Parkhe 

Published by SFS Publications, Bangalore

Till the middle of the 19th century, Christianity was almost non-existent in Central India. The Christians in this area were mainly the Irish, Goan and Tamil soldiers at the garrisons of the East India Company. The Goan priests of the Golcoda mission used to visit them occasionally.  
The MSFS or Fransalian congregation was founded by Fr Peter Marie-Mermier  (1862) in France on October 24, 1838 under the patronage of St Francis de Sales. The vast mission territory of Visakhapatnam in India was entrusted to the MSFS in 1845. Fr Mermier sent his best six men for the new mission. Fr Jacques Martin, Fr Joseph Lavorel, Fr Jean Marie Tissot, Fr Jean Thevenet, Bro Pierre Carton and Bro Sulpice Fontanel boarded the ship on June 8, 1845 and arrived at Pondicherry on September 8, 1845.
Visakhapatnam mission then included parts of the present day states of Andhra Pradesh, Orissa, Madhya Pradesh, Chattisgarh and Maharashtra.  Its four mission centres were Visakhapatnam, Yanam, Kamptee and Aurangabad.
Many of the missionaries who came to India learned many Indian languages and some of them even wrote books in these languages. The Visakhapatanam mission was divided into two in 1887, forming the new diocese of Nagpur, with Alexis Riccaz (MSFS) as its first bishop. During the last 125 years, this Nagpur diocese was further bifurcated to form various dioceses including Nagpur (1887),  Amravati (1955) and Aurangabad (1978).  During these years, the Fransalians too have spread out to the other parts of India. This religious congregation today has five provinces in India, namely Visakhapatanam, South–West, North–East, Nagpur and Pune.1
The first Fransalian missionaries, Fr Jean Thevnet and Fr Joseph Lavorerl, arrived in Central India in 1846. At that time, there were only three priests in the whole central India – Fr Murphy, Irish chaplain at Kamptee, his Tamil assistant Fr Emmanuel and Fr O’Driscoll, a military chaplain in Jalna.
            The Fransalian missionaries made several attempts to open mission centres in central India but they were unsuccessful. Fr Lavorel tried to work in Mandla in Madhya Pradesh. Fr Benistrand tried to work among the Kunbis and the Mangs in the Deccan and among the Kurkus in Vidarbha. An orphanage was also opened at Thana near Nagpur in 1865 but with limited success. 2
            The breakthrough came in 1892 when the first mission centre for the local people was opened at Ghogargaon in Aurangabad district.  There is an interesting story revealing how the seeds of Christianity were sowed in this region, now called Marathwada. 

            A mission among the Mahars had been opened by the Jesuits in neighbouring Ahmednagar district, on the other side of the Godavari River, in 1878. Other Jesuit mission centres followed at Kendal in 1879, Walan in 1889 and Sangamner in 1892. By that time, the number of the Catholic Mahars in Ahmednagar district had risen to 1,000 under Fr Marcel D’Souza, Fr Otto Weishaupt and Fr Kraig.

Some 16 miles from Kendal was Ghogargaon village, on the left side of the Godavari. It had half-a-dozen stone and brick houses, a 100 mud houses. Outside the village lived the Mahars, the Dalits who were one of the untouchable communities during those days. An orphaned young Mahar from Ghogargaon, Nathu Raphael Shingare, had married a girl from Walan. There he saw the Jesuit mission, became a Catholic and later a catechist of Fr Weishaupt. On his return to his village Ghogargaon in 1892, Nathu Raphael gave a glorious account of the Walan mission to his neighbours and relatives. The local people who were denied development and progress for generations were indeed impressed. They immediately sent a delegation to Walan with a request to the Jesuit fathers to start a mission center in Ghogargaon.

Walan parish priest, Fr Kraig, paid a visit to the village to see the situation there. As Ghogargaon then belonged to the Nagpur diocese, he informed the chaplain of Aurangabad, Fr Montagnoux, of the local people’s desire to become Christians. Fr Montagnoux forwarded the request to Nagpur. At that time, Nagpur had no bishop after the recent death of Bishop Riccaz. Thus, in October 1892, Fr Pelvat, Nagpur diocesan administrator, received a letter telling him that several people from the village of Ghogargaon were asking for a school and were desiring to become Christians.
Bishop Riccaz had wanted to open a mission centre among non-Christians. Fr Pelvat welcomed the proposal and appointed Fr Thomas Marian to open the first Catholic mission in the Moghulai.


1) Fransalians, website of the Missionaries of St Francis de Sales (MSFS)

2) Fr Francis Moget (MSFS), “The Missionaries of St Francis de Sales of Annecy’, SFS Publications, Vinayalaya, Bangalore, Karnataka 560 055 (1985). Distributors: Asian Trading Corporation, 150, Brigade Road, Bangalore- 560 025 (pages 268-260)

Arrival of Christianity in Nizam’s Hyderabad state

Arrival of Christianity in Nizam’s Hyderabad state

From 'Fr  Gurien Jacquier of Ghogargaon 

(Catholic mission in Aurangabad diocese - 1892  onwards)

By Camil Parkhe

Published by: SFS Publications, Bangalore

Christianity in India is 2000 years old. It was St Thomas the Apostle - one of the 12 disciples of Jesus Christ - who first preached the gospel in Kerala, the southern parts of the country. Christianity took deep roots in Goa and Vasai in Thane district in Maharashtra after the arrival of the Portuguese at the west coast of India in the medieval period. A group of Jesuits were also present for some time in the court of the Mughal emperor Akbar in the 17th century. Christianity, however, did not spread in north India during those days.
The British East India established its political rule in India in early 19th century. Its military officials and soldiers were Catholics and Protestants and therefore Christian priests were needed in various cantonment areas to serve as military chaplains. The rulers of various princely states in the country also had Europeans or Goan Christians as officers and soldiers and they too needed Christian priests at their military bases. The rulers therefore donated land for building of the churches. This marked the arrival of the first Christians in different parts of the country, followed by the military chaplains and later the construction of chapels and churches in the nook and corner of the country. For example, the first church in western Maharashtra, Immaculate Conception Church or the City Church, was constructed in Pune on a land given by Savai Madhavrao Peshawa II (1774- 1795) in 1792.1
  According to Indian Catholic Church’s historian, Fr Ernest R Hull (S J ), since 1812 Fr Lopes da Conceicao, parish priest at this Pune’s City Church, used to visit the Catholic soldiers in Aurangabad where a chapel was built for the soldiers. He also visited the soldiers of the British camp in Sattor (probably Shirur in Pune district) and in Jalna, ministering to the European and Indian troops alike and the civilians. 2
 The first church in Nizam’s Hyderabad princely state was constructed at Sycundarabad by Thomas Midlton, a Protestant priest. The Society for Propagation of the Gospel (SPG) launched its missionary work in Jalna. The school opened by the SPG in Jalna offered education to children belonging to all castes and religions. The schools opened by the Hyderabad’s ruler Nizam had Urdu as medium of instruction and the Muslim teachers employed there also allowed mingling of the untouchable castes children with high castes Hindu children. This used to anger the high caste Hindus who did not wish to send their children to mingle with the children belonging to the lower and untouchable castes. But often they had no other alternative as during those days there were no other institutions offering formal education to children.
The SPG appointed Rev Narayanshastri Sheshadri to its Jalna mission centre in 1862. Rev Sheshadri expanded the missionary activities in this part of the Marathwada region.  Under his leadership, 1011 people belonging to the untouchable castes embraced Christianity in 1868. These Dalits (the depressed people) included people belonging to the  untouchable Mang, Mahar and Chambar (cobbler) castes. Along with his religious apostolate, Rev Sheshadri also worked for the social upliftment of the untouchables. He was one of the veteran social reformers of his age.
Rev Sheshadri had obtained from Sir Salarjung, the then prime minister of the Nizam, the ruler of Hyderabad state, 800 acres of land on 25 years lease without any taxes. On this barren land, Rev Sheshadri established a new village, Bethel, also called Bethelwadi. There, he built a colony for the people who had converted to Christianity, all of whom were untouchables. There he dug up six wells, built a market place, a church and also a  mosque for the new settlement. Dr L Y Aucharmal who has written history of the Dalit liberation movement in Nizam’s Hyderabad state, has said that the establishment of an independent colony for the untouchable community was indeed a revolutionary step taken by Rev Sheshadri. He has said that this independent colony was a big slap for the prevailing social inequality. An independent colony for the untouchables was indeed a better option for these people who otherwise were leading a banished life outside the boundary of the village. 3
When Fr Jacquier arrived in Ghogargaon, Christianity had already made its presence felt in the Nizam’s Hyderabad princely  state. The Catholic Church’s work in Marathwada was, however, confined to the military officers and soldiers employed in the British camps. Fr Marian Thomas, founder of Ghogargaon mission, and his successor Fr Jacquier were the pioneer missionaries working among the local populace in the Marathwada region.     


1) Catholic Diocese of Pune  – Directory 2006, Published by Bishop’s House, Pune  (Page 13)

2) Fr Ernest R Hull (S J ) ‘Bombay Mission History – With a special study of the Padroado question’, Examiner Press, Mumbai, Retailed by B X Furtado and Sons, Mumbai (page 201)

3) Dr L Y Aucharmal, ‘Ambedkari Chalwal Aani Hyderabad Sansthanateel Dalit Mukti Sangram’, (Ambedkarite movement and participation of Dalits in liberation of Hyderabad princely state),  Publisher: Usha Wagh, Sugawa Prakashan, 861/1, Sadashiv Peth, Pune 411 030 (1997)
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Fr Gurien Jacquier of Ghogargaon - A pilgrimage

A pilgrimage to Ghogargaon

First chapter of 'Fr  Gurien Jacquier of Ghogargaon

 (Catholic mission in Aurangabad diocese - 1892  onwards)' 

By Camil Parkhe
Published by: SFS Publications, Bangalore

The year is 2005. I have reached Ghogargaon where well over a century back a French missionary, Fr Gurien Jacquier, had arrived  to make this place his permanent abode. For thousands of Christians in Marathwada region and neighbouring Ahmednagar district of Maharashtra, Ghogargaon is synonymous with Fr Jacquier -  affectionately called as Jacquirbaba.
I have especially come from Chinchwad in Pune on a pilgrimage to Ghogargaon to trace the footmarks left behind by this frail, six-feet- tall Frenchman responsible for sowing the seeds of Christianity in Aurangabad district. The large number of Christians from the district, formerly belonging to the Mahar community - an untouchable caste of Hindu society - owe their religious and social transformation to this Fransalian religious congregation priest.
Of course, the travel to Ghogargaon has not been a smooth ride. As compared to any average villages in the progressive state of  Maharashtra, Ghogargaon can be rightly called as one of the most backward areas. Hundred years back, this village was the hub of missionary activities with bishops and priests from Nagpur, Aurangabad and Pune traveling there regularly on horse back and in horse carts to administer sacraments to people in neighbouring villages assembled there. Now, Ghogargaon seems to have lost its prominence and glory as it lies in a remote area, far away from the taluka or district headquarters.
Although the village is in India’s most progressive and industrial state, Maharashtra, it is not accessible by a descent  tar road. And therefore even the government-owned buses do not ply there in 2008, some six decades after India won its independence from the British regime. The 13-km muddy, dusty road  from Mahalgaon to Ghogargaon with its so many pot-holes is at most best suited for the ancient transport mode of bullock carts and the tough, heavy vehicles like trucks, tempos and jeeps and two-wheelers like motorcycles. Urban folks will be advised not to venture on this road with their cars which are best suited for smooth, tarred roads.
Before reaching here from Pune, I had gone to my home town, Shrirampur, to bring along my mother to this village. My mother, Marthabai, by now almost octogenarian hails from this village. Though all her brothers are dead now, bai  has kept in touch with her nephews residing in the village. When I decided to undertake this pilgrimage to Ghogargaon, it was most natural for me to ask Bai, my mother, to accompany me to birthplace and to meet the sons, grandchildren and even great grandchildren of her siblings there.
After traveling from Shrirampur to Vaijapur by a government transport bus, we inquire about the goods carrier tempos which leave for Ghogargaon. We are told that there is only one tempo which would leave in the evening. Three hours later, we travel in the vehicle fully packed with people carrying with them grains, vegetables and various materials purchased in Vaijapur’s weekly bazaar. There is no slightest place to move any of our limbs. I tell myself, “Ghogargaon was perhaps easily accessible three decades ago when my mother and my siblings traveled from Shrirampur to this village in bullock carts driven by my maternal uncles.”              
As the goods carrier approaches Ghogargaon, I try to search in the horizon for the tall tower of the Christ the King Church  Jacquierbaba had built on this village.
We have now reached Ghogargaon.  We have to first cross the Fatherbadi - the church complex which includes the church, the residences of the priests and the nuns, the secondary school and the hostels for the boys and girls - to reach to my uncles’ houses. My mother and all of us get out of the vehicle near the church. The church doors are closed at this hour. Bai then heads straight to a small memorial on the eastern side of the church. It houses the tombs of two former head priests of this parish. Bai adjusts her saree’s end corner over her head reverentially, makes the sign of the cross and utters a short prayer in Marathi language in front of the tomb of Fr Jacquier. The other tomb is of  Fr Jacquier’s disciple and the first son of the soil priest in Maharashtra (excluding the Mumbai and Vasai region) Fr Joseph Monteiro. After the prayer, Bai reverentially places her right hand on the tomb and then touches her head. Then she completes a Pradakshina  (circumambulation),  a local tradition of paying obeisance, around the tomb. 
I am visiting this place of my ancestors after a gap of over 30 years and I am filled with nostalgia. I understand my mother’s feelings towards Jacquierbaba. The local church records may perhaps reveal that this French missionary had baptised her in early 1930s when she was an infant. It was Fr Jacquier who had solemnised my parents’  marriage in early 1940s. Fr Jacquier is venerated by people in this region as a saint although the Catholic Church has not yet initiated the process to canonise this MSFS priest. A memorial around the tombs of the two MSFS priests was erected in 1997 on the occasion of the 50th death anniversary of Fr Jacquier. The bullock cart in which Jacquierbaba travelled to preach the gospel in nearby rural areas also been kept in the memorial. 
I have come to Ghogargaon on a pilgrimage, to pay homage to this extraordinary missionary. Jacquierbaba  had  almost single-handedly tried to transform the lives of the people in Gangapur and Vaijapur talukas of the district. After spending a few moment in silence at the monument, I am now able to recover from the fatigue of the day-long journey to this obscure village.
Not many people outside the Aurangabad diocese have heard of this missionary who almost single-handedly sowed seeds of Christianity in this region. He had also offered educational facilities to children of the Christians and non-Christians for over four decades when schools were non-existent in the rural areas in early 20th century. Like Ghogargaon, Jacquierbaba this mission centre’s parish priest for four decades, too now has moved away from the limelight and may as well soon fade into the oblivion. This book is an attempt to highlight the contribution of this pioneer missionary and social reformer belonging to the pre-Independence era.

Saturday, June 2, 2012

Kirtankar Satyavan Namdeo Suryavanshi

Journalist, kirtankar  Satyavan Namdeo Suryavanshi

Baba Padmanji, Rev. Narayan Vaman Tilak, Pandita Ramabai and Laxmibai Tilak, all Christians, have contributed a great deal to the social transformation in Maharashtra during the pre-Independence era. Satyavan Namdeo Suryavanshi, the editor of 'Aapan (We)' weekly and a prolific author, carried forward this tradition in independent India. He successfully explored several fields- journalism, literature, kirtan, social awareness and spiritualism, and won acclaim across Maharashtra.
Suryavanshi edited a Marathi weekly 'Aapan' established by the Jesuits. Though run by Christian priests, it was popular among readers of all religions. The credit goes to Suryavanshi's editorial skills and aggressive writing. In the past 175 years, Christian missionaries have published many Marathi periodicals. However, 'Aapan' has been the only periodical, which found wide acceptance among non-Christian readers besides a place in the government and semi- government public libraries. Those familiar with 'Aapan' at its peak would agree that the wide acceptance was only because of Suryavanshi’s firebrand editorship.
Suryavanshi wrote over 300 books in Marathi literature- some 25 novels, translations, biographies, plays, songs and research publications. He was also popular as a Kirtankar, delivering the traditional kirtans. Kirtan is an old tradition in Maharashtra wherein spiritual leaders deliver religious discourses, interspersed with stories, hymns and accompanied by musical instruments like harmonium, cymbals etc.

Suryavanshi's kirtans got tremendous applause from the Marathi Christian community of western and northern Maharashtra. The neo-Christians of western Maharashtra and Marathwada, Konkani-speaking 'Bardeskar' Christians from border areas of Kolhapur, Belgaum, Sindhudurg districts, and the Christians from Mumbai-Vasai area – come from varied cultural and religious backgrounds. Suryavanshi had won an award for one of his books from Maharashtra government and his three books won awards instituted by the Government of India.

Satyavan Suryavanshi was born in Hange village of Parner taluka in Ahmednagar district on 31 March 1916. His father was a teacher in a school run by the American Marathi Mission. Although his family had embraced Christianity, in the eyes of the majority of local population they were still 'Mahar', an untouchable caste, and were treated with contempt. Young Satyavan was educated in Ahmednagar. Despite appearing twice, he could not clear his matriculation examination and came to Mumbai in search of work. He used to work during the day and spend the nights on the open footpaths.
The job was that of a lowly servant in a Christian bookshop run by the Bombay Tract and Book Society. He motivated himself to write a Marathi play on the birth of Lord Jesus, entitled Yeshu Balacha Janma and sent it for publication to Devdatt Tilak, son of veteran poet Rev Narayan Vaman Tilak, at Nashik. A few days later, Devdatt Tilak came to the bookshop in Mumbai, searching for the author of the play. It was then that the bookshop's manager, Elizabeth Morland, came to know that the boy who swept the floor of the shop was an author as well. Morland promoted him to the post of a salesman in the shop. She also made Suryavanshi to write several books for the Protestant Mission. Moreland molded him into a writer- journalist.

Instead of rushing his writings for publication, Moreland advised him to read them carefully and rewrite them repeatedly. He followed her advice even after becoming the editor of 'Aapan' and later having made a name as a writer.

Suryavanshi got married at Ghodnadi town (Shirur) on 1 January 1940. He and his wife, Mira, lived in a chawl at Mazgaon in Mumbai, from where he began writing for various Marathi periodicals and started performing kirtans.

After 1945, Suryavanshi worked at the Karnataka Press owned by Marathi publisher B G Dhavale for a year and a half. Thereafter he worked for the 'Tatvavivechak' of Madhusudan Mehta and at the British India Press for seven years each. His experience in the printing business helped him immensely later as the editor of 'Aapan'.

During his stay in Mumbai, Suryavanshi wrote in various reputed Marathi periodicals like - Mauj, Navyug, Navakal, and Kirloskar. He also wrote Marathi plays for the All India Radio for several years.

While working at the British India Press, he became a member of the Bombay Labour Union and formed a close association with socialist leaders George Fernandes (who later rose to become India's Defence Minister), Madhu Limaye and Mrinal Gore. He was a deputy to George Fernandes who was then president of the union. Recalling those days, Suryavanshi wrote in his autobiography, "George Fernandes was of the view that I should quit my job at the British India Press and work fulltime at the union office and participate in politics. But I was not keen to become a socialist and I did not want to give up my writing to join politics. I had valid reasons to fear for my faith in God and religion if I had joined these people.''

We do not know whether Suryavanshi would have become a major political leader or successfully led a labour movement had he continued his association with Fernandes and the socialists. His resolve to never enter politics nonetheless proved a boon for the Marathi-speaking Christian community, which got a great writer, journalist and a kirtankar in him.

Suryavanshi served as a bridge between Catholics and Protestants. Till his middle age, he had absolutely no association with the Catholics. He was associated only with the Protestant community as a student and also as an employee of a Protestant Mission. He also performed kirtans for gatherings and functions of Protestants. He first came in contact with the Catholic community much later but maintained the association till his death.

While working in the British India Press, Suryavanshi was once invited by Fr J S Miranda, a social worker from Vasai in Thane district, to perform a kirtan at the famous Mount Mary Church in Bandra. Suryavanshi was taken aback by the invitation to deliver a kirtan at a Catholic Church. Suryavanshi performed kirtan at the church for four hours to the accompaniment of a tabla and a harmonium. The tradition of performing kirtans was prevalent among the Marathi Christians, thanks to Rev Tilak and other Protestant missionaries. But this was fro the first time a kirtan was performed in a Catholic Church. And the performer was a Protestant! This was indeed a historical event. Suryavanshi's kirtan at Mount Mary Church took place even before the second Vatican Council, which advocated ecumenical dialogue. In his autobiography, Suryavanshi described the event symbolising unity of the two sects in the following words: 'On that night, a strong wall collapsed with a big bang!'

As soon as the kirtan in Bandra church was over, another Catholic priest who was present there invited Suryavanshi to perform at his church in Vasai. This priest was Fr Dominic Abreo, parish priest of the church at Papadi in Vasai near Thane. Fr Abreo was also the editor of a Marathi magazine 'Suvarta (The Good News), published by the Mumbai archdiocese. Fr Abreo was later to become the bishop of Aurangabad diocese and also to preside over the Marathi Khristi Sahitya Sammelan (Marathi Christian literary conference). Repeat invitations extended to Suryavanshi to perform kirtans at Catholic churches meant recognition to his talent. He himself wrote later that "since then, new avenues were opened to me.''

The Bandra and Vasai kirtans brought Suryavanshi closer to the Catholics and Catholic priests. The Jesuit priests later entrusted him with the responsibility of the editorship of the Marathi weekly 'Aapan'.

A young European Jesuit, Fr Joaquim Barranco, once called on Suryavanshi at the British India Press. Fr Barranco was well versed with Marathi literature. Barranco and Suryavanshi became close friends. When Fr Barranco moved from Pune to Nashik, he invited Suryavanshi to work with him there. Suryavanshi bid adieu to Mumbai - the city where he had lived for 28-years- and went to Nashik to work with the Catholic missionary. The close ties between this Protestant kirtankar and a Catholic priest shocked many and caused dismay among some. But the friendship lasted till Fr Barranco's accidental death a few years later. Because of Fr Barranco, Suryavanshi also came in close contact with Fr Vincent Ferrer of Manmad.

Fr Barranco had brought Suryavanshi to Nashik for a specific mission. He had very well judged the literary talent and writing skills of Suryavanshi. Among the Catholics, there was no one like Suryavanshi who was gifted with a literary genius and the ability to communicate through his kirtans so effectively!

Fr Barranco had decided to take help of his talented Protestant friend in his missionary work. He started the Marathi weekly 'Aapan’, which was owned and published by the Jesuits. Suryavanshi ran the periodical successfully for nearly a decade and did full justice to the faith reposed by Fr Barranco in him.

Before coming to Mumbai in search for a job, Suryavanshi had once heard a kirtan by Gadge Baba, a veteran social reformer in Maharashtra. Gadge Baba who had cast a spell even on great persons like Dr Babasaheb Ambedkar preached the message of cleanliness, personal hygiene, education, etc., through his kirtans at various places in Maharashtra. Gadge Maharaj who spoke the dialect of the local people delivered the kirtans in his typical rustic style. This style highly impressed Suryavanshi. Later in his autobiography, he wrote about Gadge Baba, "His dialect accent was easy to understand, had meaningful discourse, typical tune, the Abhangas, and the exclusive clap, which only Baba could do. I remember all this ditto." Gadge Baba referred to various Hindu deities in his kirtan but Suryavanshi could sense Christ in his kirtan. He further added, "For me, kirtan never got over. It kept on ringing in my ears throughout my life". Suryavanshi took inspiration from Gadge Baba and became a successful kirtankar.

When Suryavanshi started performing kirtans, he gradually made several changes in his style. Initially, he used to play ektari, a musical instrument with a single string. The tunes used to be of folk songs. Later he introduced the use of other musical instruments like cymbals and mrudung for rhythm. There were times when people interested in his kirtans could not afford an orchestra for accompaniment. He, therefore, used to sing with accompaniment of harmonium and tabala only. Wherever he was invited, he used to take help of local artists for playing the musical instruments. Such an accompaniment was easily available as Marathi Christian community in Maharashtra used these musical instruments in their religious ceremonies.

Suryavanshi never accepted any honorarium for his kirtans. He was also not in favour of passing around a hat or a plate for collecting donations. He has written in this context, "I charge money for writing because that is my profession. But I do not charge for kirtan as I consider it worship. Delivering the kirtan is my way of thanking God for whatever he has given me. My only expectation is that I should be paid third class tariff for my to and fro journey. I will not charge for kirtan. That is a commitment I have made with God!"

The editor of Marathi monthly ‘Niropya’, Fr. Prabhudhar, who was based at Ajra in Kolhapur district, once invited Suryavanshi for delivering a kirtan for the Bardeskar community living in the border area of Maharashtra - Karnataka. The Bardeskars are Catholics who had migrated from the Bardez taluka of Goa in late 19th century and settled in Kolhapur and Sindhudurg districts of Maharashtra and Belgaum district of Karnataka. Suryavanshi, accompanied by his wife Mira, toured the areas and delivered several kirtans in February 1980. Fr Prabhudhar, who was Ajra parish priest at that time, had offered his own jeep to the Suryavanshi couple for this purpose. As Suryavanshi used the medium of kirtan for religious worships in various villages during the month-long period, the Jesuit parish priest traveled by State Transport buses to carry out his routine functions.

There was an overwhelming response to Suryavanshi's kirtan from the Bardeskar community. A few months later, Suryavanshi wrote a series of articles in 'Niropya' describing his experiences of performing at the base of the Sahyadri range of mountains in western Maharashtra and about the Bardeskars who have retained their distinct cultural identity.

At the end of the series, he wrote, "Fr Prabhudhar utilised my services as a kirtankar for a whole month. If any one utilises my services for religious purpose in this fashion for eleven months, I will be ever thankful to God".

S N Suryavanshi was the first person to acquire respect of the Catholic and Protestant sects in Maharashtra. With his writings and kirtans he crossed all sectarian boundaries. Many people who were acquainted with him were not aware whether he was a Catholic or a Protestant. Both the Catholics and Protestants strongly felt that he was one of them. Suryavanshi himself used to say that he was only a Christian and thus used to mingle freely between the two sects.

Pune Khristi Sahitya Sangh honoured him with the title 'Sahitya Bhushan ' (Pride of Literature)a few months before his demise. Several leaders of the Protestant community in Maharashtra like Sudhir Sharma, then President of Marathi Khristi Sahitya Parishad and editor of 'Dnyanoday' Marathi monthly, poet Niranjan Ujagare, and educationist Jayantkumar Tribhuvan, were present at the function to felicitate this literary giant and kirtankar. Suryavanshi who traveled from Nashik to Pune for the function stayed at ‘Snehasadan’, an institute run by the Jesuits. He stayed there as a guest of Fr Joe Gaikwad, the then editor of 'Niropya' monthly. Suryavanshi's personality was such that he could win admiration of people belonging to both the sects of Christianity.

In his autobiography 'Aga Je Kalpile Nahi’, Suryavanshi has said- 'I am a Protestant for the Protestants, and a Catholic for the Catholics! I have fans in both communities and they shower equal love on me. For the sake of Christ, I treat them alike.'

Suryavanshi's decade-long career as the editor of 'Aapan' was the zenith of his long writing career. His editorials, well-researched articles and hilarious columns like 'Narba Liwatoy' (Narba, a fictitious character, writes) won wide applause in the rural parts of Ahmednagar, Nashik and Aurangabad districts. Many Christian families, who could not afford to subscribe a daily newspaper, used to await the arrival of the weekly 'Aapan' and 'Niropya' monthly. Like all weeklies, 'Aapan' used to be released on Sundays and would hit the stands a day or two earlier. I still recall the Friday evenings when `Aapan' used to land in our house and how during meals I used to read aloud 'Narba Liwatoy' for everybody in the family. The conversation between the rustic Narba, his family members and an old lady next doors, used to be favourite reading for my mother, father and other members of our family. Over three decades have lapsed since 'Aapan' had to be closed down but Suryavanshi's Narba, his family and Jiji, the old lady in the neighbourhood are still alive in my mind. Such was the magic of his writing skills.

Suryavanshi's literary works include humour pieces, plays, novels, research papers, radio plays, translated literature, travel accounts, spiritual literature, biographies, poetry and an autobiography. He wrote biographies of some Christian missionaries in Maharashtra like the founder of Ahmednagar College, Dr. Bhaskarrao Hiwale, Sundarabai Pawar, Dr William Wanless of Miraj, poet Krishnaji Ratnaji Sangale, Rev H. G. Howard of Kodoli, and Rev Bhaskarrao Ujagare. He has authored about 300 books. His autobiography, 'Aga Je Kalpile Nahi!', published in early 1970s, is one of the first Dalit autobiographies of Maharashtra, a trend that virtually revolutionised Marathi literature in the last quarter of the 20th century.

During his lifetime, Suryavanshi was honoured with various awards and also presided over various literary gatherings. He was the president of the Marathi Khristi Sahitya Parishad held in Mumbai in July 1978 and also of the Marathi Khristi Sahitya Sammelan held at De Nobili College in Pune in the same year. He was also the president of the second Marathi Dalit Khristi Sahitya Sammelan, held at Jalna in May 1993.

This great litterateur and journalist passed away at Nashik on June 11, 2000 when he was 85. Suryavanshi used his pen aggressively to refute false allegations against the Christian community, such as it was not patriotic enough and its culture was not rooted in this soil.

The 'Aapan' weekly, published 30 years ago, used to pay honorarium to even novice contributors. It shows how much Suryavanshi respected the creativity and talent of his contributors. Prestigious periodicals even today do not follow this practice.

While I was in the 10th standard, 'Aapan' published two of my stories for children and the editor promptly sent me an honorarium of Rs five each by postal money order. It was a pleasant surprise for me. It was the first honorarium that I received for writing. It was also for the first time that I received a postal correspondence in my own name. In later years, writing became the only source of income as I opted for journalism and writing as a career. Nonetheless, I still remember the first postal money order that I received 30 years ago as payment for my writing

During his career as editor, writer and kirtankar for over four-decades, Suryavanshi motivated many Christian youngsters like me to take up writing and join various media. Although I have been a fervent admirer of Suryavanshi right from my childhood, I never got an opportunity to meet him or talk to him. I have always regretted it.

I never had the occasion to attend his kirtans, which were very popular in the 1970s and 1980s. I was in Goa, away from Maharashtra, for 14 years when Suryavanshi was at the peak of his career. This was one of the reasons why I did not get an opportunity to meet this great person.

A few months before his demise, Suryavanshi was felicitated in Pune and this was the first and the last time I had an opportunity to see him and hear him speak. Setting my eyes on him for the first time and noting his every word, I realised how much of an ardent admirer I was of him. I am sure there would be many more admirers like me in Maharashtra who admire and respect Suryavanshi.

References: -

1) 'Aga Je Kalpile Nahi!'- Satyavan Namdeo Suryavanshi. Sumant Dayanand Karandikar, Secretary, Bombay Tract and Book Society, 21 Hajarimal Somani Marg, Mumbai 400 001 (1975). For Mangal Sahitya Prakashan.

2) 'Suvartik’ (An evangelist) - Sahityik Acharya S. N. Suryavanshi', Philomina Bagul, Niropya Magazine, (August 2000).

3) 'Khristi Marathi Vangmay (Father Stephens Te 1960 Akher)' Dr. Gangadhar Narayan Morje, Publisher - Ahmednagar College, Ahmednagar and Snehasadan, Shanivar Peth, Pune 411 030. Distributor - A. J. Prabhu, Vidarbha Marathwada Book Company, 1334 Shukrawar Peth, Pune 411 002, (1984