The history of Karnataka province began when nine Jesuits from Europe landed in Mangalore on December 31, 1878. They were Frs. Nicholas Pagani, Angelo Mutti, Augustus Muller, Angelo Maffei, Otto Erle, Quintinus Sani, Urban Stein, and Bros. Francis Zamboni and Matthew Maneghetti. The Catholics of Mangalore had been requesting the Pope to send them Jesuits mainly for the education of their children. Acceding to their requests, Pope Leo XIII carved out Mangalore and Calicut from the jurisdiction of Verapoly and Padroado in1878 and directed Fr General of the Society of Jesus to take up the territory. The General entrusted the work to the Jesuits of the Venetian Province. Till then the Carmelites had been serving the territory.
In the spirit of the first companions the early Jesuits began their work on the solid foundations inherited from the Carmelites, foundations of deep faith and solid piety. In 1879 the pioneers started St. Joseph’s Seminary for the formation of the diocesan clergy. It began with 10 students and Fr Maffei as its first superior. In 1880 January 12, St Aloysius College was opened in a rented house by Fr Mutti. On June 21 the foundation stone for the new building was laid with Fr Mutti as the architect and Fr. Joseph Willie as first Rector and Principal. In 1885, the new College building was inaugurated and in 1887 SAC became a first grade College.
In 1880 Fr Muller opened a Homeopathic Dispensary at SAC. It was shifted to Kankanady, Mangalore (present location) in 1891. In 1882 a Jesuit Novitiate was opened at Jeppu, Mangalore, with Fr. Zanetti as the Novice Master. A workshop cum orphanage for the poor was started at Jeppu in 1884 and St Joseph’s Church at Jeppu in 1890. In 1885, Msgr. Nicholas Pagani was appointed first Jesuit vicar apostolic of Mangalore and was installed as Bishop in 1886. He was succeeded by Msgr. Abundius Cavadini and Msgr. Paul Perini. In 1923, the Diocese of Calicut was carved out with Msgr. Perini as the first Bishop and Mangalore diocese was entrusted to the care of the diocesan clergy.
In 1928 the Mangalore Mission was named as Calicut Mission. In 1933 Christ Hall novitiate was opened at Calicut with Fr Aloysius Coelho as the novice master. In the same year Msgr. B. Ranzani became administrator at Calicut and Fr Ambruzzi of Mangalore. In 1937 the Jesuits took over the administration of St. Joseph’s Institutions, Bangalore from the French Foreign Mission Fathers. In 1948 Fr. A. Le Tellier established Fatima Retreat House in Mangalore. In 1955 the Calicut Mission became Mangalore Vice Province under Fr. Boniface D’Souza as the first vice provincial and a year later it was renamed as Karnataka Province.
Novitiate cum Juniorate was transferred from Calicut to Mount St. Joseph, Bangalore in 1959. In the same year St. Joseph’s High school and Industrial School, Ooty, were taken over by the Jesuits of Karnataka from the diocese of Ooty. Between 1960s and 1970s Karnataka took up several parishes/mission stations in Mysore, Bellary, and Bangalore dioceses.
In 1960 in the newly born Vice province, was started in Hassan the much needed High School, midway between Mangalore and Bangalore. With the blessing of Superiors and very little money Fr John Aranha put up a building that served the purpose for some years; later with better means a much bigger and stronger building was erected by Fr Sunith Prabhu that had to serve also the PU College; in course of time it developed into a degree college but on another campus some 6 Km away. In 1962 St. Joseph’s Indian high school and Loyola Mandir (Provincialate) came into existence at Lavelle Road Bangalore.
The African Mission
Karnataka got an opportunity to serve in foreign missions when in 1960 Bishop of Mwanza, Tanzania, asked for men to work among the Asian population living in his diocese. The first volunteer for the African Mission was Fr William Picardo, 60, who had served as Principal of IHS, Bangalore and as Rector of Christ Hall novitiate, Calicut. He was accompanied by Fr Mathew Lewis who had some missionary experience in the Mysore diocese. Later when the directive of Fr General came to the Province to take up the Nagaland Mission, it found it would be too much to manage two missions so far apart, and wanted to hand over the responsibility of the African Mission to some other Province; as Goa was ready to take it up, Karnataka had no more responsibility to further send men to the African Mission.
There was a request from Bishop Hubert Rosario SDB of Dibrugarh for Jesuits to open educational institutions in Nagaland. The Provincials of JCSA shifted the request to the Viceprovincial of Karnataka with a promise to stand by to help. Acceding to the request, Fr J.C. Pereira, the Provincial visited the place along with Fr Claude D’Souza to explore the possibilities. Frs. Stany Coelho, Ligoury Castelino and Br Raymond D’Souza were the pioneering team sent there with Fr Edwin Goveas to follow soon. The foundation stone of Loyola School at Jakhama was laid on July 31, 1970 by the Chief Minister. The Nagaland Mission which began with a single institution in the Jakhama village has now spread its activities in all the seven States, the Seven Sisters.
At the first Province Sammelan held in 1973 at MSJ, when priorities for missionary activity were being discussed, while the younger men were undecided, it was felt by the older men that Nagaland appeared very distant, too far for them to venture upon, and a strong plea was made to secure another mission territory closer to Bangalore to be developed and evangelized. Anekal appeared to be such a region. When the proposal was placed before the Archbishop, he readily agreed to entrust the entire Anekal taluka to the Jesuits for this purpose under a fifteen year agreement. Soon Fr Mathew Lewis, a veteran missionary was given the role of Mission Coordinator. Anekal, Adigondanahalli, Basavanapura, Chikkammanahalli and Kalena Agrahara formed the units of this compact area.
In 1980 at the request of Bishop William D’Mello of Karwar to the Provincial, Fr. Mathew Lewis went as parish priest of St. Rita’s Church, Mundgod, with a small number of Catholics. In 1991 he with the help of the Sisters of Charity started a school in the Church premises to educate the tribals (Siddhis, Gollas, and Gowlies) and Dalits who live in small villages deep in the forest. Fr Mathew put up a new church in Mundgod and used the old one to start a library and reading room for the people – Catholics and others as well. In 1993 under the able leadership of Fr. Lawrence Pinto the school was shifted to the present location (Karaginakoppa). In 1994 the primary school turned into a High School and in 2003 it became a composite PU College. In view of preparing good teachers the Jesuits started a D. Ed College in 2004. However due to the changing policies of the government and lack of numbers it was closed down.
In 1991 at the request of the Diocese of Belgaum, the Jesuits of Karnataka Province started the mission in Bijapur. Prior to that, the Bijapur District and parish – in fact, that was the only one parish in the whole district – was looked after by a young priest of the Belgaum diocese, with the collaboration of Jesuits of Goa Province like Swami Prabhudhar. The main task of the Jesuits, as envisioned by the Diocese, was to take care of the Catholic community of St. Anne’s Church, Bijapur. The first Karnataka Jesuits who pioneered the mission were Fr. Ambrose D’Mello and Fr. Denis Alvares. Along with these two, three junior scholastics were to live in Bijapur to have their college studies –formation in mission – Anand Pereira, Melvil Pereira and Valerian Castelino. After the diocese of Gulbarga was established in 2005, Vijayapura became a Deanery with the Mission Superior as the Dean. In Bijapur and Sindagi, the Jesuits are involved in the following works: pastoral work through a parish, securing basic amenities for the slum dwellers in 65 slums, technical education for the rural school dropouts, rehabilitation of Devadasis and commercial sex workers and the education of their girl children, formal education of the children of the slum dwellers, Devadasis and migrants, ecumenical and interreligious dialogue, HIV/AIDS awareness in the slums of Bijapur and Community Care of the HIV/AIDS infected persons of North Karnataka districts.
The Pannur – Manvi Mission was officially started in the year 2002 with Frs. Eric Mathias, Joseph Monteiro and Maxim Rasquinha as pioneers. The mission was inaugurated in 2003. With the view of uplifting the poor and discriminated people of Manvi Taluka, Loyola School was started in the year 2004 with 40 students on the roll. Today this school has grown by leaps and bounds, having 395 students, mostly Dalits, studying in this school in English medium. Further another school called the Xavier School with CBSE scheme began in 2007. The aim of this school is to facilitate Dalits also to study under this scheme, hitherto considered elitist. The growth of Pannur Mission seems unstoppable as the Pre-University College came up in 2010 and the degree college in 2012. The Pannur Mission today has Loyola School, Xavier School, Loyola PU and Degree Colleges, Loyola Kapepaladi School, Loyola Hostels, Arrupe Boarding House, St Peter’s Church and a Social work Centre with 1744 students, 112 collaborators and 10 Jesuits.
In 2005 when the new diocese of Gulbarga was created, the Bishop approached the Jesuit Provincial of Karnataka seeking his help in the educational field by opening a college in his territory. As a positive response, a PU College was started in 2007 in Gulbarga by the Jesuits, dedicated to St Francis Xavier, with Fr Vincent Pinto as the first Principal.
Re-entry into the Mysore Diocese:
Mysore was once a flourishing mission of the Society, the base of what is now called the Kannada Church comprising the four dioceses of Mysore, Bengaluru, Chikmagaluru and Shivamogga. According to the Catalogue of the Departed of Goa Province 1720-21, Fr Antonio Platei (aka Pujya Rajendra Swamy) after arriving in India in 1703, was for a time Theology professor and House Minister in Goa, then for 14 years laboured strenuously in the Mysore Mission, serving successfully both Christians and others. A man of extraordinary virtue and constant austerity, after bearing patiently the ailments that tried him severely, died peacefully on 18 October 1719. He was buried in Chikkarasinakere. This year marks the 3rd centenary of his death. The bishop of Mysore has declared the place as a shrine of the Diocese. The Holy See has declared him Servant of God. It was solely Pujya Rajendra Swamy through the instrumentality of Fr William Pinto, the then PP of Maddur took us to the Mysore Diocese. Once we received positive signs, the provincial appointed committees and organized discernment. “In this context, we received two offers from nowhere: one Mr Andrews wanted to sell the Holy Angels School he was running in Panditahalli, and second, the Jesuit Provincial of Delhi expressed his desire to hand over their pre-novitiate building, Xavier Sadan, in Naguvanahalli to us. After a good discussion and discernment, we accepted the offers and moved into Holy Angels School and Xavier Sadhan, christening the former community after Fr Platei as Rajendra Swamy Nilaya.” Both these places have flourishing ministries.