History of Jesuits in Gujarat

History of Jesuits in Gujarat

Joseph Valiamangalam SJ

            The Jesuits were entrusted with the mission territory of what is now the Gujarat State in 1893. They have been instrumental in the birth and growth of the mission which has led to the formation of an inculturated local Church in Gujarat. This paper attempts to describe the historical development of the mission and the contribution of the Jesuits to the local church. It will also point out present and the future challenges faced by the Jesuits in Gujarat.     

1.      Jesuit Presence in Gujarat up to the Suppression of the Society in 1773

            From the second half of the 16th century, Diu and Daman had Jesuit residences and colleges under the jurididction of the Jesuit Province of Goa.[1] Cambay, another town, serving as Gujarat’s harbour for trade between China, Egypt, Ormuz and Europe, was the scene of the apostolic labours of two Jesuits, Fathers Antonio Machado and Pedro Paez, from 1590 onwards.  They were visited in 1594 by Fathers Jerome Xavier and his companion Manoel Pinheiro, who were on their way to the third mission to the court of Akbar, the Mughal Emperor.  In 1598, Akbar granted permission to the Fathers to build a church in Cambay.  There might have been a sizable number of Christians there since the Fathers mention 13000 people attending the Christmas procession in one of those years (Figuera 1972:3).

            The commander of the Mughal army in Ahmedabad called the Jesuits there in 1612-13.  Fathers Antonio de Andrade had served there previously.  Sometime later, in 1624, he went on to explore Tibet.  In 1716 another missionary, Hippolito Desideri, passed through Ahmedabad on his way to Tibet on foot (Figuera 1972:5).

            During the second half of the 17th century, mission work was started in Surat.  The town and harbour were occupied first by the Portuguese, followed by the Marathas, the Mughals, the Dutch, the French and finally by the English.  The Jesuit pioneers were later replaced by the French Capuchins.  In 1647 Father Alexander de Rhodes visited Surat on his way back from China.  Father Manoel Godhino stayed with the French Capuchins when he visited Surat.  In 1664 three Jesuits: Faure, Gobert and Peyronnene reached Surat after a voyage of at least seventeen days from Ormuz (Figuera 1972:10).

2. The Birth of the Ahmedabad Mission: Pioneering Period (1893-1934)

            Pope Leo XIII issued a missionary encyclical in 1892. On March 19, 1893, the Sacred Congregation of Propaganda Fide instructed the Bishops of Mission countries under its care urging them to reactivate the work of evangelization in their territories and asked them to report back within six months about the action taken in this regard. 

            Msgr. Dalhoff, who was consecrated Archbishop of Bombay on January 31, 1892, received this instruction.  Archbishop Dalhoff immediately called a Metropolitan Council in Bombay to discuss practical ways of opening new Missions.  Two German Jesuits were to be sent to Gujarat without delay, it was decided, to start the new Mission.  But since the Jesuit Superior had no men at hand who could be sent immediately, the Archbishop asked a young diocesan priest, Father Manuel Xavier Gomes, who was Parish Priest at Karachi, to proceed to Gujarat and to begin mission work without delay.  The home villages of those baptized at Bandra by the Sisters[2], in Kheda District would provide a good opening.

            Father Gomes, born in Goa and was working in Karachi, reached Gujarat in July of 1893.  He was 28 years old.  Since it was  monsoon season, the villages were inaccessible.  So he remained in Ahmedabad, and spent the monsoon months studying Gujarati.

            After four months of language study, Father Gomes went to visit the villages Mogri and Napad, the places of origin of the Bandra converts.  He spent two days and nights under a big banyan tree, near the present Parish compound of Karamsad.  He stayed a few weeks in Petland, another village nearby.  He faced opposition from the local caste Hindus and was expelled from there after being robbed and ill-treated by the caste people.  He then roamed about for some time through Kheda District.  For a considerable period he had no convenient place to say Mass, so he had to return to Ahmedabad or Baroda to celebrate Mass.  He tried for some time to work with the Kolis, in Sabarmati, Ahmedabad, but without much success.  There he was joined by two Jesuits, in December 1894.  They were Father Aloysius Gyr, a Swiss, as Superior of the new Mission and Father Martin, a German, sent to begin the Mission in Gujarat.  They remained in Ahmedabad to study Gujarati.

            After the arrival of the Jesuits, Father Gomes again went to Kheda District.  He rented a house at the village of Gamdi, near Anand.  He called upon Theodore, one of the first men who had received baptism at Bombay  to help him.  He then sent Theodore to the villages to get some boys, so that he might begin a boarding school for them.  After visiting several villages unsuccessfully, Theodore finally gathered together seven or eight boys.  A master, who was not very well educated, was employed to teach the children arithmetic and other secular skills.  The master turned out to be inefficient and a trouble maker.  He misused the money given for the children’s food.  When he was dismissed he persuaded the children to run away, by spreading the rumour that the missionary had kept them to be sold in Europe.  So all the boys ran away.

Theodore could convince fourteen parents to entrust their children to the new Guru, the Guru of their relatives at Bandra. In the meantime, with the help of Theodore, Father Gomes prepared 18 children for Baptism in the village of Mogri.   These 18 children were baptized by Father Gomes on December 11, 1893  thus they became the first Gujarati Catholics to be baptized on Gujarati soil.  The first one was named Francis.

            Father Martin, after studying Gujarati, reached Anand after the monsoon of 1895.  He visited the villages and brought the boys back to the boarding school.  Again they ran away, and some came back later.  Those who remained became the first batch of catechists and masters of the Mission in the villages.

            Shortly after the arrival of Father Martin, Father Gomes was transferred to Bhavanagar in Kathiawar as Parish Priest and railway chaplain, while Father Martin took his place at Gamdi, Anand.  Father Gyr remained in Ahmedabad as Superior of the Mission.  In 1898 he shifted his residence to Anand.

            Soon more German Jesuit missionaries reached Gujarat.  Their patient, systematic and zealous work began to bear fruit.  Their apostolic endeavours became the corner-stone of the new Ahmedabad Mission by those who followed them.  Little by little more and more mission centres were established in the following order: Anand (1896), Vadtal (1897), Karamsad (1907), Nadiad (1911) and Amod (1912).

2.1. The Vankars, the people who responded to the call of the Gospel

            The people who responded to the missionaries in Kheda district belonged to the Vankar caste, who were considered as outcasts by the caste Hindus. The degree of untouchability they suffered depended on the occupations they followed.  Many of them followed the traditional occupation of weaving on the handloom at home. When the British introduced cotton mills at Bombay and Ahmedabad, they could not compete and so many were forced to become farm labourers (Campbell 1988:340). Because of their skill in weaving, many migrated to the cities and were employed as weavers in the newly established cotton mills in Ahmedabad, Surat and Bombay.  Very few owned land to cultivate.  So in the villages most of them became farm labourers in the fields of upper caste farmers under the jajmani system. These labourers were expected to carry loads for the farmer, fire wood to his house for domestic use, and mud to plaster his house, as extra services without pay. What makes them 'unclean' in the eyes of the caste Hindus is their habit of eating the meat of dead animals. When a buffalo or a cow of the farmer dies, the Vankars and Chamars are informed to drag the carcass away. They divide the meat of the animal among themselves, with a share for the Bhangis or sweepers.

            Besides doing forced labour[3] for the farmers the Vankars were expected to serve government officials when they toured the villages by putting up tents and collecting firewood for their use and bundles of grass for the horses.  

            The Vankars were denied the right to enter the Hindu temples and worship.  They were considered spiritual convicts who were undergoing penal servitude for the whole of their life for unknown sins committed in their previous births.  Their mere presence was supposed to pollute their fellow-worshippers as well as their gods themselves.  They could not send their children to school.  Even if the headmaster was willing to admit them, the caste children and their parents would not want to be contaminated by their sitting next to  the 'outcaste' children.  

            The 'outcasts' could not draw water from the village well meant for the caste people.  They had to draw water from a separate well set apart for them and marked off with a bone hung near it to warn the high caste Hindu not to draw water from this contaminated and contaminating source.  If there is no such well for them in the village, then they had to stand and wait till some member of a higher caste condescended to draw water and pour it into the vessels of the untouchables. Not only the actual touch of an outcaste was polluting, even his mere shadow was supposed to pollute those on whom the shadow would fall (Suria 1990:71). 

            After Independence, special privileges like government support to weaver's co-operatives and reservation in education and government jobs were given to Hindu Vankars. But the Christian converts were denied these privileges because they were supposed to be free from the ill effects of caste discrimination.  Later on the Hindu Vankars and other Scheduled castes came to be identified as dalits while the converted Christians as Gujarati Christians with a separate identity for themselves. 

2.2 The Growth of the Mission Centres

            The Gamdi centre in Anand was the first to grow rapidly, and later became the mother house of the whole Mission in Kheda District.  At the age of 34, Father Martin took up the work of the school begun by Father Gomes, and also toured the nearby villages.  Soon he moved to Vadtal, to develop a separate centre there.  His place was taken by Father Einsiedler who looked after the school and toured the villages on foot.  He opened additional schools in the villages.  He also got a plot nearby and built a Church in honour of St. Francis Xavier, together with a mission residence and a boarding house for the children.  His friends in Germany made a gift of the famous Munich Crucifixion figures for the Church.  When they were installed in the Church, word went round that “a new god had arrived”, and this drew crowds to the Church.  The Fathers used the occasion to explain the mysteries of the Faith which the statues represented, and to preach a series of mission sermons.  Though conversions did not follow immediately, the seeds were sown; more people from Gamdi and Anand attended the Sunday services, and at Christmas 1898 a number of them were baptized.

            In 1899-1900 there was a great famine in Gujarat and it was followed by plague and typhoid.  One of the missionaries, Father Kummer, fell victim to the fever and died in 1901.  Of the two other missionaries sent to replace him, one died and the other was forced to return to Bombay.

            In 1903, Father Gyr was recalled to Bombay and Father Kroner took his place as Superior from 1904  to 1920.  He started two new mission centres: Karamsad and Nadiad. Father Zurhausen as Parish Priest of Anand from 1905-10 started the Gujarati Messenger of the Sacred Heart, ‘Doot’, and the Anand Credit Co-operative Society.

            From 1911-14 Father Zurhausen became Superior.  He soon realized the critical importance of training catechists and so a catechetical school was started by him. He selected the most talented boys from the 17 schools of the Mission and trained them to be catechists.  He also composed a Catechism based on a German one. 

            From 1895 to 1912 Anand Centre had opened 17 schools in different villages to educate the Catholics.[4]  In 1914, one of the school buildings became the cause of contention between the caste people and the Catholics.  The caste people could not suffer a two storied brick school building for Vankars to have a door and a balcony facing the village square.  They saw it as an insult, and a violation of their old traditions.  So the leaders engaged ruffians and the door of the school was set on fire.  Father Zurhausen soon reached the scene with the District Magistrate, who arrested the leaders of the Patels and the Banias and put them in jail.  Only after they asked forgiveness from Father Zurhausen were they freed (Suria 1974:1).

2.3 The Crisis in the Mission: Internment of German Jesuits

            The breaking of the First World War and the subsequent internment and deportation of the German Jesuit missionaries by the British government arrested the growth of the Gujarat Mission. By that time the Fathers were conducting 63 Gujarati schools (Hull 1915:23). Two Swiss Jesuits were allowed to remain and they had to look after the entire Mission. The Bombay Archdiocese appealed to Goa, and shortly the Goan diocesan clergy were assigned to fill the vacant posts at Amod, Vadtal, Karamsad and Nadiad (Echaniz 1979).

            The First World War came to an end in 1918 and the Mission celebrated the Silver Jubilee of its foundation. During the War, owing to lack of funds, the missionaries had been obliged to limit their activities.  In December 1919, Alban Goodier, S.J. became the Archbishop of Bombay.  He encouraged Father Umbricht to expand the mission work.  

3. The Coming of the Spanish Jesuits

            In the meantime, the Jesuit Superior General had asked the American Maryland Province to assume the responsibility for Bombay Mission (which included Gujarat). But the British Government denied visas to those who applied[5].  So finally the Jesuit missionaries of Aragon Province in the Philippines were asked to proceed to Gujarat Mission while the Americans were sent to the Philippines. The first Spanish Missionary, 36 years old Father Raymond Grau landed in Anand on 10 December, 1921 and remained in the country till his death in 1978.

            The Sacred Congregation of Propaganda Fide, In order to further the work of evangelization, divided the Bombay Archdiocese into three, in 1933. Cardinal Peter Fumasoni-Biondi, Prefect of the Congregation, wrote to the then Archbishop Lima on July 13, 1933:

“It is the will of the Holy Father that, the Canonical position of the Archdiocese and its territorial extension remaining the same, the Most. Rev. Archbishop of Bombay should grant the zone of Sind-Baluchistan to the Franciscan Fathers and the zone of Gujarat (including Kutch and Kathiawar) to the Spanish Jesuits.  At the head of the two zones, let him place two religious of their Congregations as Vicars General, residing respectively in Karachi and Ahmedabad, giving them all the faculties necessary, and facilitating, with the means at his disposal, the evangelization of the peoples of the said places” (The Ahmedabad Diocesan Chronicle 1938:1).

The Jesuit Superior of the Bombay Mission, Father JoaquinVilallonga was appointed the first Ecclesiastical Superior of the newly created Ahmedabad “Ecclesiastical Unit”[6]. He took possession of the new Unit on July 19, 1934 at a simple religious ceremony in Anand Church. The Ahmedabad Mission in 1934 consisted of an area of 138,750 Sq. Kms [7]with a population of eight million. The Catholics numbered around 12,000.  The Mission personnel consisted of 12 Priests: 7 Jesuits and 5 Diocesans, 1 Scholastic and 2 Brothers, 10 Sisters and 80 Catechists.

The main work of establishing and running the Mission Centres was the responsibility of the Missionaries.           The Jesuit Brothers also played an important and vital part in the Mission field by sharing the work, ideals, doubts and difficulties and joys of the missionaries.  They were the ones who built churches and schools.  They looked after dispensaries, kept the accounts, taught in the elementary schools, repaired furniture, clothes and buildings.  They managed the printing press, trained boys in sports and games and handed innumerable other odd jobs.  Thus they provided heroic example by their silent, dedicated and efficient support to the mission work (Valiamangalam 1989:46)

            What did the people who had never known a missionary personally, think of the Catholic missionary?  A missionary himself gives the answer from his own experience: “Some think I am a Parsee Priest; perhaps it is the sash that strikes this sort of people.  Others think I am a mullah.  Some have taken me for a physician, others for a cricket umpire” (D’Souza 1943:3). He completes his description, thus; “Little children say  “Bava, Bava”  which means sadhu or Hindu holy man.  By now of course the people have come to know me as a Catholic Priest.  One old ticket-collector wishes me: “Good morning, Priest”! Little children occasionally pay a compliment, saying “Jesus has come”... Whether it is the distance that lends enchantment to the view, some greet me with “Good morning, Sister”.  But the climax came one day when an old lady, who was fit to be my grandmother, called me “Papa”, to the great astonishment of the nearby youngsters” (D’Souza 1943:3).

3. 1 Further Growth of the Ahmedabad Mission: From Mission to Local Church

Father Vilallonga administered the Mission wisely and prepared for the eventual handing over of his charge to the first Bishop, Msgr. Edwin Pinto, S. J. (1901-1978), when the Ecclesiastical Unit was made a Diocese on May 5, 1949. At that time there were 46 Priests, 32 Scholastics, 12 Brothers, 25 Sisters and 173 Catechists in the new Diocese with the Catholics numbering more than 28000.  The diocese had 117 schools in 1949. On December 3,1951, Father Basil Lalbhai, the first native Jesuit was ordained a priest.

The Fifties and Sixties saw further growth and consolidation of the mission. During the Sixties, Jesuit missionaries expanded their mission from Kheda to the tribal areas of South Gujarat. Now it is a flourishing mission which has expanded to more than fifteen mission centres and parishes with boarding houses for boys and girls as well as excellent high schools.

 The region of South Gujarat comprising the civil districts of Panchamahals, Baroda, Bharuch, Surat, Valsad and Dangs was separated from the Bombay Jesuit Province and entrusted to the Gujarat Jesuit Province in 1956, while remaining at the same time ecclesiastically under the Bombay Archdiocese. Subsequently, in 1966, this area was separated from the Bombay Archdiocese and made into the Baroda Diocese, with Mgr. Ignatius D’Souza as its first Bishop. In 1987, Francis Braganza, SJ (1922-2011) became the second Bishop of Baroda. When he retired in 1997, Godfrey Rozario SJ, the then provincial of Gujarat Jesuits became the third Bishop of Baroda.  

Father Dindayanand Espasa (1912-1988)  began pioneering work among the Bhil tribes of Sabarkantha. His efforts have produced abundant fruits and now there are several mission centres and schools in the region which has promoted several vocations to priesthood and to religious life.

In 1964, Fr. Manuel Garriz, S.J. began work among the caste people of North Gujarat. Among the caste people, the Ravals, Koli Patels and Takors have responded. Fr. Garriz has paid special attention to promote an inculturated local church.  The mission policy of Fr. Garriz was not to uproot the people from their culture. He encouraged the newly baptized to value their caste customs and ways of life. He followed the guru-chela approach as distinct from a church-parish approach. They changed only their ishtadev, and accepted Jesus as their Guru and Master. These Christians are known as Isupanthis, those following the path of Jesus (Garriz, 1990:373).   He has built a beautiful shrine to Our Lady of Camels (Untewshari Mata Shrine) near Kadi which has become a pilgrim centre frequented by all Catholics.  

The ‘lost’ Catholics who were baptized by Dutch Franciscans and had migrated from Pakistan to North Gujarat during the partition were found by Fr. Garriz in 1971.  The mission centres at Deesa and Radhanpur were established for the care of these people who are called Majiranas.   

The Jesuits who were entrusted with the mission of the whole of Gujarat, in 1973, bifurcated the Saurashtra region from the Ahmedabad Diocese, and entrusted it to the Congregation of the Carmelites of Mary Immaculate and the new Diocese of Rajkot was formed with Mgr. Jonas Thaliath, C.M.I. as its first Bishop.

In 1974, the visionary missionary, Mgr. Charles Gomes was consecrated Bishop of Ahmedabad after the resignation of Mgr. Edwin Pinto.  Bishop Gomes paid special attention to foster vocations for the Diocese. On August 24th 1990, Bishop Stanislaus Fernandes took up the reins of the Ahmedabad diocese from Bishop Charles Gomes. On November 11, 2002, Gandhinagar, the capital of Gujarat, was established as an Archiepiscopal See and Bishop Stanislaus Fernandes, SJ, was named Archbishop and Bishop Thomas Macwan was consecrated as the Bishop of Ahmedabad Diocese.

3. 2 Opposition and persecution

            The missionaries faced opposition from the caste people from the beginning.  In 1897 Fr Martin was prevented from setting up a mission centre at Vadtal. There was an attempt to burn the school of Chikodra in 1922.  There was strong opposition from the National Movement for Freedom which considered Christianity as a foreign religion.  Then there was opposition from the Arya Samaj which was a reform movement within Hinduism.  The local government bodies, too, tried to obstruct the activities of the missionaries.  In 1934 the Kheda District School Board, for example, withdrew all grants-in-aid to the village and primary schools run by the missionaries.  A school inspector went to the extent of preaching against Christianity in the Mission school itself (Suria 1940:34).

            The new converts of Kalol and Sanand missions in North Gujarat were seriously harassed by the Arya Samaj sadhus in 1974 (Garriz, 1990:89). In 1981, 45 Christian houses were burned down by caste Hindus in Uttarsanda village in central Gujarat as a part of the anti-resevation agitation (Andrade 1981:1-3).

            Gujarat has been made the laboratory of Hindutva after the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) came to power in 1998 elections. Widespread violence against Christians and Christian institutions such as churches and schools took place from 1998 onwards (Valiamangalam, 2002:109). In the Dangs District, the Hindutva forces burned down some protestant churches, damaged the Deep Darshan school run by the Sisters at Ahwa, burned the Jeep of Fr. Antony Maila, S.J. and set fire to the boarding school (Dasan, 2009:288). In 2003, the BJP Government has passed a Freedom of Religion bill which is in fact an anti-conversion bill to further harass the Christians.

4. Mission Methods of Jesuits

            4.1 Education

            The Jesuits are committed to the building up of a well educated and self-supporting and inculturated local Church. So from the beginning they spared no effort to open educational institutions such as schools, a college and technical schools. St. Xavier’s School was started in Ahmedabad in 1934 and later St. Xavier’s College in Ahmedabad in 1955 to make the Christian presence felt in the field of higher education. In the 1970 schools were started in all the mission centres. All the mission centres from the beginning made great efforts to run boarding houses for the children from the villages.

            Besides formal educational institutions, the Jesuits are involved in providing job oriented technical education to the socially backward students at Xavier Technical Institute, Sevasi, Baroda, Loyola Technical Institute at Nadiad, Xavier Industrial Training Centre at Ankleshwar and Xavier Institute of Technology and Community College at Linch in Mehsana District. The institute at Sevasi and Linch are also engaged in promoting environment friendly solar energy technology such as solar heating and solar lighting.

            4. 2 Human Promotion

            Fr. Zurhausen started the first co-operative society in 1914 in Anand, which has branches in the other centres in Kheda and Anand Districts. Fr. Martinez in Bochasan pioneered poultry co-operative society. Fr. Thomas Thannipara at Sagbara pioneered co-operative society in Animal husbandry which was later adopted by other mission centres. Fr. Heredero and the Behaviour Science Centre pioneered social forestry in Khambat area. He was awarded the Indira Vrikshamitra award for promoting social forestry in 1988.

            4. 3 Inculturation of the local church

The Gujarati translation of the complete Bible was entrusted in 1964 to by Fr. Isudas Cueli, with the help of Gujarati experts such as Mr. Nagindas Parekh, Niranjan Bhagat, Joseph Macwan and Prof. Raymond Parmar. The complete Bible was published as Sampurna Bible by the Jesuit Publishing House Gujarat Sahitya Prakash, Anand in 1981. The translation was most favourably reviewed in secular publications (Cueli, 2003:13).

All the liturgical texts are translated into Gujarati by Fr. Isudas Cueli with the help of Prof. Raymond Parmar. A Gujarati Hymnal was compiled by Fr. Michael Rayar, which was later expanded and edited by Fr. Isudas Cueli. The bhajans and hymns were set to easy and popular tunes by professional musicians and composers which add colour to liturgical celebrations.

            It is compulsory for all the Jesuit scholastics to study Gujarati for at least one year. Many of them do their college studies in Gujarati medium.

            Catholic literature plays an important part in building up an inculturated local Church.  The Messenger of the Sacred Heart “Doot” begun in 1911 has been instrumental in providing religious instruction and has helped in building up a strong and vibrant Christian community.

The new churches built after the Second Vatican Council are fine examples of inculturation. Fr. Garriz has built the Unteswari Mata Mandir at Kadi in North Gujarat. Fr. Igans Galdos built Isunath Mandir at Zhangvav and Fr. Berechi at Dediapada in South Gujarat with the help of local artisans and artists.

            With the blessings of Fr. Pedro Arrupe, the then General, the first Regional Theologate in India among the Jesuits was started by Fr. Joe Aizpun, the Provincial at that time with Fr. Joseph Mattam as the dean in 1978. In 1998, it was merged with a new Seminary, the Gujarat Vidya Deep, to train all the future priests who will work in Gujarat under the patronage of the Bishops and the major superiors of the Jesuits and Carmelites of Mary Immaculate. The Seminary is entrusted to the care of the Gujarat Jesuit Province. The Seminary strives to offer contextualized theological training to the students.

            4. 4 Social action: Legal aid, advocacy, Justice and Human Rights

            From the beginning of the mission, some of the Jesuits took up the cases in the civil courts to defend the rights of the poor. Fr. Umbricht was invited to serve on several district committees. Fr. Bastons fasted in public to protect the rights of the millworkers.

            Organized developmental work was started in the early sixties in South Gujarat, in answer to the needs of the people. Several areas of Gujarat were affected by severe drought in the late sixties. Later in 1971 disastrous floods affected Saurashtra and South Gujarat. Due to the efforts of Fr. Urrutia who co-ordinated the relief work, several international agencies such as CRS, Oxfam, Misereor, Campana and Caritas, came forward to help the affected people (Garriz, 1990:362). 

            In 1973, in the wake of the floods in Sabarmati river in Ahmedabad which destroyed the hutments of large number of slum dwellers on the riverbanks, Fr. Ramiro Erviti inspired several young architects and with their help built low-cost housing for them. Fr. Erviti founded the St. Xavier’s Social Service Society in 1976 to respond to the needs of the slums of the city and the villages of Gujarat.  He stressed on the four areas of education, health, organization and environment. He also pioneered to respond to the tribal migrants to the city by forming a tribal cooperative to provide them better job opportunities (Chakranarayan, 2012:23).

            Inspired by the ‘Faith that does Justice mandate of GC 32, Fr. Joseph Idiakunnel (1932-2000) who was convinced that a welfare approach could not bring social transformation and provide justice to the exploited Tribals, pioneered the popular Legal Aid programme at Rajpipla, which was later adopted by the Government of India. Frs. Mathew Kalathil and P.D. Mathew and many others became practicing Lawyers in the courts to defend the rights of the poor Dalits and Adivasis.

            The Behavioural Science Centre at Ahmedabad was started by Fr. J. M. Heredero in 1977.  It began conscientization work among the Vankars of Khambat area. When the Dalits took up the fight to land which was allotted to them by the Government, the upper castes intimidated them and murdered some of the leaders of the Dalits in 1986.  The centre took up their case in the Supreme Court on behalf of the oppressed Dalits and Vankars, and succeeded in getting the upper castes convicted.

            Besides the above social centres, other centres were established to promote justice and human rights. Asha Deep Youth Centre at Vallabh Vidyanagar, in Anand District was started by Fr. Xavier Manjooran in 1979.  Fr. Vincent Mooken started Navsarjan in Surat in 1983 to improve the life of slum dwellers.  Sangath, Centre for Social Knowledge, Action and Development in Modasa was started by Fr. William Pius in 1988 who promoted dialogue between the leaders of Hindu and Muslim communities, besides social action through schemes to empower women and legal aid. Fr. Stanny Jebamalai pioneered legal aid work in Songadh area by founding “Shakti” Legal Aid and Human Right Centre. Fr. P.D. Mathew imparts training in Legal Aid and Human Rights at Nyayadarshan in Vadodara from 2008.  He publishes a monthly to promote human rights and legal awareness. He has published several books and booklets on various topics related to legal awareness which are very popular. Fr. Jolly Nadukudiyil has been engaged in providing education to the migrant children in and around Baroda city at Xavier Centre for Migrant Workers (XCMW) at Katamba village on the outskirts of the city.

            In 2001, Fr. Cedric Prakash founded Prashant, a centre dedicated to the promotion of human rights, justice and peace, based in Ahmedabad. Fr. Prakash was actively involved in mobilizing relief to the victims of earthquake in Kutch in Saurashtra in 2001 and to the victims of communal riots in Gujarat in 2002. He has been also involved in promoting the human rights of minorities, especially after the fundamentalist Hindutva forces began attacking Christians and their institutions and centres of worship from 1998 onwards. He has been receiving many prestigious awards in recognition of his services in promoting human rights and communal harmony.  

            One of the areas where the Jesuits in Gujarat are challenged to get involved is the promotion of dialogue with people of other faiths and communal harmony among various religious communities which are suspicious of each other resulting in communal riots. Fr. Ishanand Vempeny has been involved in the field from early 1970s with his research, publications and interacting with leaders of other faiths and ideologies. Recently, after the 2002 communal riots, Fr. William Pius has joined other peace activists to form a ‘Sadbhavana Forum’ (Forum for Communal Harmony), which is active in bringing intellectuals and social activists regularly by organizing regular meetings and publishing a journal to promote the values of peace and harmony.

            4. 5 Writing, Research and Intellectual Apostolate

            Frs, Ramon Grau (1885-1978), Carlos Suria (1990-1991),  , Fr. Basil Lalbhai Parmar (1914-1981), as editors of “Doot”, the Sacred Heart Messenger contributed to the promotion of Catholic literature.  Fr. John Khengar Dabhi (1923-1995) and Fr. Thomas Alphonse (1921-2009) were popular authors and translators.

            Father Carols Valles has been a highly respected and a widely read Gujarati author who contributed article to Gujarati newspapers and journals for many years. He has authored more than 75 books which have gone into several editions. As a mark of respect for his contribution to Gujarati literature, he was conferred Indian citizenship. He has the distinction of having received all the prestigious literary awards in Gujarat.

            Fr. Hedwig Lewis has authored several best sellers in the field of spirituality and specially in Ignatian spirituality and is also a regular contributor on Ignatian spirituality in journals and magazines. Fr. Varghese Paul has been writing books which are published in the secular press while Fr. Andrew Silveira has been writing books and articles of promoting base communities and Marriage counseling. Other writers who have been contributing to Catholic literature through articles include Frs. Isudas Cueli, Michael Aizpun, Francis Parmar, Vinayak Jadav, and Anil Severin have contributed through their articles. Fr. Raymond Chauhan has written and published several grammar books on Adivasi Languages for which he has received several prestigious awards. Frs. Devasia Muthuplakal, Rappai Poothokaran and Ashok Vaghela have been engaged in communication media through ‘Gurjarvani’ communication centre in Ahmedabad.

            The Gujarat Sahitya Prakash at Anand has been a leading publishing house publishing books mainly on Ignatian Spirituality and Gujarati Catholic literature. It was started in 1984 under the dynamic publisher Fr. Diaz Del Rio (1930-2001).

            In the field of research and intellectual ministry, the following Jesuits are engaged: Frs. Joseph Mattam, Ishanand Vempeny, J.M. Heredero, Fernandes Franco, Lancy Lobo, Vincent Braganza, Joseph Valiamangalam, Sebastian Vazhapilly, and Francis Gonsalves, Lancy D’Cruz, Robert Arokiasamy and Jose Panadan.

            Fr. Joseph Mattam along with Fr. Joe Aizpun began the first Regional Theologate in the Indian Assistancey at Ahmedabad in 1978.Frs. Mattam and Ishanad Vempeny are emeriti professors of theology and have been contributing to contextual theology through books and articles in theological journals and presenting papers at national and international fora. Fr. Joseph Valiamanglam has been engaged in teaching, and research in Missiology, writing and publishing theological books and articles in Gujarati through the Gujarat Vidya Deep Publications. He is also engaged in social action and social movements. Frs. Mattam, Ishanand and Valiamangalam are members of the Indian Theological Association (ITA). Frs. Mattam and Valiamangalam are founding members of the Fellowship of Indian Missiologists (FOIM) and have contributed research papers and edited several volumes of the FOIM series of books. Fr. Francis Gonsalves has been contributing to theological research at the national level with his scholarly books and research papers. He has been the secretary of the Indian Theological Association.Fr. Sebastian Vazapilly has been teaching and researching in theology and has been engaged in dialogue with the intellectuals in the university circles and has been presenting papers. Many of his research papers are published in journals such as the Economic and Political Weekly.

                        Fr. Lancy Lobo founded the Centre for Culture and Development (CCD) at Sevasi, Baroda in 2001, and has been engaged in research and publications, with the aim of harnessing the knowledge of the social sciences to the service of the minorities, the tribals and the dalits. Fr. Vincent Braganza began the Xavier Research Foundation in the St. Xavier’s College campus in Ahmedabad in 1987 and has been involving the faculty and students in research and to reach out to rural schools and rural people through educational, motivational, agricultural initiatives. Based at St. Xavier’College, Ahmedabad, Fr. Lancy D’Cruz has been engaged in research in the field of medicinal plants in the tribal belt of South Gujarat. 

            Frs. M.I. Raj and James B. Dabhi as scripture scholars are contributing to the biblical apostolate through their teaching and pastoral involvement with the laity. Fr. George Kodithottam, a specialist in moral theology, and Fr. Richard Lopes, a specialist in Christology, have been contributing with teaching theology and pastoral involvement and theological reflection. 


            The Jesuits of the Gujarat Province have been engaged in the foundation and growth to maturity of an inculturated local church through preaching, catechizing and other pastoral ministries. They have established schools, colleges and technical institutes to provide quality education and training for the dalits, tribals and other weaker sections of society. They have been engaged in human promotion through organizing co-operative societies.  Some have pioneered to provide legal aid and justice to the oppressed. Some are engaged in advocacy in promoting human rights and communal harmony.

            In the changing political scenario of growing fundamentalism and fascism in Gujarat and India, as the Jesuits are searching for new frontiers, it is important for them to network with likeminded groups such as NGOs, social activists and intellectuals and persons of good will to work for a society where there will be inclusive development  and empowerment of the weaker sections of society, and where the poor and exploited will get justice and where there will be harmony and peace between various communities. 



Andrade, Cyprian, S.J. 1981. “Short Description of Uttarsanda Episode”, The Ahmedabad Missioary, 520:1-3.

Campbell, James (ed.). 1988.  Bombay Gazetteer, Hindu Cates and Tribes of Gujarat, Vol. II, Vintage Books, Gurgaon, Second edition, originally published in 1901.

Chakranarayan, Rajeev, SJ. 2012. “St. Xavier’s High School – Loyola Hall”, in Lewis Hedwig, SJ, Valiamangalam Joseph, SJ, & Daniel Arokiadass, SJ. 2012. Samooh Yatra: Community History, Gujarat Province of the Society of Jesus, Ahmedabad, 19-29.

Cueli, Isudas. 2003. “A Brief Account of the Genesis of the Sampurna Bible”, Navajuni, December, 5-16.

Dasan, Ebenezer. 2009. The Impact of the Gospel on the Adivasis of South Gujarat, Centre for Contemporary Christianity, Bangalore.

D’Souza, Stephen, SJ. 1943. The Ahmedabad Missionary, 70:3

Echaniz, I.M., SJ. 1972. Navajuni, Stories of the Gujarat Jesuit Family, Vol.1-11, Ahmedabad.

Echaniz, I.M. SJ. 1979. “The Rescue Team”, Navajuni, 5:59-80.

Figuera, F. SJ. 1972. “Old Days and Old Ways in the Mission of Gujarat”, Navajuni, 1:1-12.

Garriz, M.D. SJ. 1990. “Twenty Years of Growth (1953-1973)” in Carlos Suria, SJ, 1990. History of the Catholic Church in Gujarat, Gujarat Sahitya Prakash, Anand, 358-378;  “The Last Ten Years (1974-1984)”: 379-389.

Garriz, M.D,SJ. 2004. Mission in North Gujarat, Vol. I, The Beginnings (1964-1989), Vol. I, Published by the author. 

Garriz, M.D. 1998. “Inculturation: Notes on an Experiment, Indian Missiological Review, 10(4): 371-383.

Hull, E. R., SJ. (1915). The German Jesuit Fathers of Bombay, Examiner Press, Bombay.

Lewis, Hedwig, SJ. 2006. The Catholic Church in Gujarat, A Historical Survey 1934-1973, Gujarat Sahitya Prakash, Anand.  

Lewis, Hedwig, SJ. (Ed.). 2002. Gujarat Jesuits Remembered, Gujarat Sahitya Prakash, Anand.

Lewis Hedwig, SJ., Valiamangalam Joseph, SJ. & Daniel Arokiadass, SJ. 2012. Samooh Yatra: Community History, Gujarat Province of the Society of Jesus, Ahmedabad.

Lewis, Hedwig & Valiamangalam Joseph (Editors). 2003. Navajuni, Gujarat Jesuit Parivar, 1-12 (2003-2008), Ahmedabad.

Mattam, Joseph. 1995. “Catholic Church in Gujarat”, Kanjamala, Augustine (Ed.), Integral Mission Dynamics, Intercultural Publications, New Delhi: 156-175.

Panadan, Jose, SJ. 2011. Mission in North Gujarat, Vol.II, The Way Ahead (1990-2011), Gujarat Sahitya Prakash, Anand.

Parmar, Joseph, SJ. 2011. “From Mission to Church in Gujarat: Jesuit Work in Gujarat since 1890s”, Indian Church History Review, June: 45-68.

Parmar, Joseph, SJ. 2014. “Christianity in Gujarat”, in A Copncise Encyclopaedia of Christianity in India, Errol D’Lima, S.J. (Ed.), Jnanadeepa Vidyadeep, Pune & St. Paul’s. Mumbai, 201-208.

Suria, C. S.J. 1940. "Ahmedabad Mission", in Xavier's Footsteps, Espasa Lluis, S.J. (ed.), Xavier’s Footsteps, Anand.

Suria, Carlos, SJ. 1974. “Kaira District”, The Ahmedabad Missionary, No.444:1-3.

Suria,Carlos, SJ. 1990. History of the Catholic Church in Gujarat, Gujarat Sahitya Prakash, Anand.

Valiamangalam Joseph SJ.1988. “Gujarat Jesuits and Church in Gujarat”, Indian Missiological Review, 10 (4): 332-343.

Valiamangalam, Joseph SJ. 1989. The Mission Methods of Fr. Joaquin Vilallonga, S.J., Gujarat Sahitya Prakash, Anand.

Valiamangalam, Joseph SJ. 2002. “Gujarat: The Hindutva Laboratory and the Christian Response”, In the Shadow of the Cross, Joseph Mattam & Reuben Gabriel (Editors), St. Pauls, Mumbai:108-135.

Valiamangalam, Joseph SJ. 2008. Community in Mission, GVD, Sevasi & ISPCK, Delhi.

Varghese Paul, SJ. & Macwan, Navin (Eds.).2011. Vikasna Hamsafar (Contribution of Christians to Development of Gujarat), Gujarat Sahitya Prakash, Anand.

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[1]  The Jesuits were expelled from the colleges in 1759 by order of the Marquis of Pombal.  These Jesuit foundations were located in territories that belong geographically to Gujarat but they have never been part of the civil or the ecclesiastical administration of Gujarat (M.D. Garriz, SJ, “The Suppression and Restoration of the Society of Jesus”, Navajuni, No.16, 2014, p.31,)


[2] The Sisters of the Daughters of the Cross, at Bandra had employed some vankars (weavers) from Mogri village of Kheda district as sweepers and gardeners.  They had baptized some of them in 1891 (J. Valiamangalam SJ, The Mission Methods of Fr. Joaquin Vilallonga, S.J., Gujarat Sahitya Prakash, Anand, 1989, p.11-13). 

[3] Veth pratha in Gujarati


[4]   The caste people did not want the Vankars who were converted to Christianity to be educated together with their children in the village schools.  So the missionaries opened village schools to educate the children of the Christian converts.

[5]   The American Jesuits who applied for visas had Irish names.  The Irish nationalist movement against the British Government made the authorities cautious and they did not want any sympathizers for the nationalist cause to create further trouble in India.  So the American Jesuits with Irish names were denied visas (Suria  1990:215).

[6]           When Portugal became a secular republic after the revolution of 1910, the Padroado or royal patronage granted by the Popes to the Iberian Kings became an anachronism.  The Padroado had ceased to exist as the Kings on whom this privilege was vested no longer had any power.  So the Concordat of 1886, instituting the Hierarchy of India and confirming the two-fold jurisdiction in Bombay and other Portuguese possessions was no more binding,  and so a new Concordat was signed in 1928 by the Congregation of the Propaganda Fide and the Protuguese Government which suppressed Double Jurisdiction. The negotiations required the resignations of the two Archbishops: Mgr. Alban Goodier from Propaganda and Mgr. Sebastiao d’Oliveira Xavier from the Padroado.  They resigned accordingly.  The Superior of the Portuguese Mission in India and the Rector of St. Paul’s High School, Belgaum, Father Joaquim Rodriguez Lima, was then made the Archbishop. While suppressing the Double Jurisdiction in the Concordat, Propaganda had agreed to have one Archbishop for an undivided Bombay Archdiocese.  So in order to honour this promise, while dividing the Archdiocese further, a new term “Ecclesiastical Unit” was coined for the newly separated units.  The newly appointed Ecclesiastical Superiors would have all the powers of Bishops and act as independent units, though they are not consecrated as Bishops so as to keep the Archdiocese of Bombay as a theoretically and canonically undivided Diocese.

[7]   The  territory included parts of Gujarat from the river Mahi to the north including Kutch and Kathiawar.