Parish Priest's Message
History of the Parish
It is history that makes a place significant. History is a series of events that takes place over the years. Kalena Agrahara, a place (earlier a village) which is located 16 kms South of Bangalore has its little history because of the presence of the religious. The Jesuits acquired 46 acres of land in that village in 1955 to build the Jesuit Novitiate. Archbishop Thomas Pothacamury entrusted this region entirely to the care of the Jesuits for pastoral ministry and 4kms from this village is Chikkakammanahalli, situated on the top of a plateau where St Francis Xavier Church was started. Since, people found it difficult to travel to St Francis Xavier Church, Jesuit Fr Eligio Cantoni, started a small chapel in Kalena Agrahara in the year 1956.
During that time there were 300 people of which only 60 were Catholics. They are said to be the descendants of a single progenitor who had settled down there from Chikkakammanahalli. When Fr Cantoni (architect and builder of Mount St Joseph) and Br Angelo Bignami arrived there, they had erected a simple one room structure for a chapel for them to celebrate Mass, in which they had accommodated the people of the village on Sundays. In 1959, the Jesuit Novitiate was shifted from Calicut to Mount St Joseph where they had a chapel dedicated to Immaculate Heart of Mary and so the same name continued here. Then it became a substation of Chikkakammanahalli. For the first five years after the inauguration of Mount St Joseph, Fr Cantoni was marked in the Jesuit Catalogue as Asst Parish Priest of Kalena Agrahara. He died of facial cancer in his native land, Italy on 26th May 1988, whereas Br Bignami died at Mt St Joseph on 2nd Dec 1969, a victim of partial stroke.
Then Fr Ligoury Castelino (1966-70), Fr Austin D'Souza (1971-72 and Fr Denis D'Souza (1972-75) served consecutively. The fifth Asst PP was Fr Ferdinand M.Veigas, a popular preacher, who with his sonorous voice could keep the congregation spell-bound for any length of time. Being a great devotee of Mary whose name he bore, Fr Veigas put up a nice grotto and continued to serve for the second term from 1982 -84.
Fr Biscaro along with Br Morosin put up the present building which is used as parish office now, as a primary school and social service centre where mid-day meals were served to the poor children of the parish. That was the time when social concern was highlighted as an integral part of a Jesuit's vocation. The Holy Spirit Sisters (Sr Rosmina & others) along with the MSJ brothers used the same social centre as a dispensary and also to conduct cultural activities.
Thereafter, Fr Maxim Rasquinha (1979-80), Fr Deepak Nayak (1980-81), Fr Cyprian Lobo (1981-82), Fr Chinappa Mariaraj (1985-88) served the parish.
So far, the Rectors would appoint priests from Mount St Joseph to serve in the parish, but Fr Ronnie Prabhu who was the Rector took keen interest in the parish to organise the youth and brought in lot of enthusiasm among the parishioners than ever before. The Jesuit novices helped in conducting various activities in the parish and also participated in the morning Mass. The daily liturgy was conducted in a novel and fruitful way. Copies of the Bible stories in comic form (Jesuit Fr CCA Pai's translation) were bought and kept in the church. During the Gospel time, one episode a day was enacted. Sch. Mohan Joseph conducted this exercise. The children could easily grasp the meaning and absorb the moral. They enjoyed the Mass and profited from it. Attendance at Mass was excellent.
As the state of the Govt Primary School in Kalena Agrahara was miserable, Fr Ronnie worked for and succeeded in getting permission to start a private Primary School. As proper building was not ready, classes began in the Social Service Center, which later got shifted to Loyola Primary school. In the parish for the first time a crib was prepared and left unprotected in the open by the youth, and yet nothing was lost.
When Fr Anand Prabhu became the rector of MSJ, he too, took keen interest in Parish life. Parishioners were sent in groups to Potta for the charismatic retreat. When they returned they put new life in the parish. Attendance at Mass improved, and consequently the existing chapel was found insufficient to hold the faithful. Besides, the strength of the parish had grown because of new settlers in the area. Hence, the need of constructing a new church was the need of the hour. Fr Anand took up the project with earnest interest and completed constructing the present church along with the compound wall for the entire property of Mount St Joseph of which the parish is part of. It was inaugurated by the Provincial, Fr Terence Farias, and blessed by Archbishop Ignatius Pinto on 2nd Dec.1998. Over 25 people receiving their First Holy Communion and Confirmation on the same day added to the solemnity.
The spiritual life of the parish improved with the formation of Basic Christian communities and Bible Classes held on every Thursday. The first Friday devotion enhanced the faith of the faithful in the Sacred Heart of Jesus.
Fr Maxim Rasquinha (1999-02) serving in the parish for the second term, was the first canonically appointed Parish priest. He converted the Social Service Centre into a hostel for Loyola ITI students as well as the office of the parish priest. He also installed the present Grotto at the entrance of the Church. He was succeeded by Fr Archibald Fernandes (2002-2004), who erected a flag poll, repaired the Church terrace and gathered funds for the future development of the parish. He was succeeded by Fr Mohan Joseph (2004-2008) who began the English Mass at 07AM on Sundays. The church can easily accommodate about 600 people, which help neighbouring Catholics and the religious including the Jesuit Novices (who were until recently going to MSJ chapel for the Sunday English Masses) to now come to this parish.
Fr Mohan, then built the compound wall of the cemetery and obtained the legal documents. He was succeeded by Fr Francis Noronha (2008- 2011) who introduced the second English mass at 10:30 AM on Sundays. He also constructed toilets adjacent to the church. Vincent de Paul Society was started; the wooden benches and pews were placed in side the Church during his term.
The fifth Parish Priest was Fr John D'Souza who served for 5 years (2011 -2016). He initiated the construction of the road from Church to Bannerghatta Road through Mount St Joseph. He introduced New Family Book and printed parish ward books. He also started the Church as well as Wards' WhatsApp groups. Mahila Sangha and Legion of Mary were introduced. He started “The Jesuit Volunteers” group along with Fr Jossie D'mello. He also built a storeroom above the sacristy and in the cemetery.
The present Parish Priest Fr Arun Kumar was installed on 15th May 2016. He rebuilt one part of the Church Compound wall as it was falling apart. The 3rd English Mass on Saturday evening (Sunday obligatory Mass) was approved by Archbishop Peter Machado. Fr Arun visited the houses of the parishioners and listened to their stories and counselled wherever it was necessary. He was instrumental in building a new Ward and clearly demarcated the 6 Wards of the parish. Due to migration and development of the region, people flocked into the parish and the number of people for Masses as well as number of children for catechism went up.
In 2019, 209 students were enrolled into the English and 35 for Kannada Sunday Catechism. Interlocking of the road between Mount St Joseph and the parish gate was completed. Presbytery and classrooms were renovated along with a new stage in front and a simple hall behind. Water sump was constructed along with the toilet in the cemetery. The Katha for the church was obtained and the computerisation and filling of all parish records were completed. English Youth group was formed for the first time.
And thus, the small chapel planted then, has grown to be a magnificent structure filled with life of parishioners from all corners of the world. Gratefulness is expressed by the parishioners to the following litany of Jesuit Priests. Because of their yester years, we see a vibrant parish today. Our hearts sing a hymn of gratitude for all the generous donors who made a difference to Immaculate Heart of Mary Church all these years.
- From the archives of the Karnataka Jesuit Province, from the memory of Fr Richard Sequeira, SJ and Fr Olvin Veigas, SJ, the Editor iCatholic.