Work Among The Minor Tribes

The Jesuits are a religious order of priests and brothers in the Catholic Church,

committed to the service of Christ and his people.

☇ Chhechhari valley Mahuadanr Mission

Mahuadanr is the oldest parish in the diocese of Daltonganj. It is situated in the southern part of Palamu district known as Chhechhari valley. It is about 100 km south of Daltonganj. According to the history on Dec 23, 1890 the first light of Christianity came into Chhechhari valley with the arrival of Fr. Constant Lievens s.j. together with Fr. Dehon s.j. and Fr. Cardon s.j. They came to Chhechhari via Kurund at the request of 66 people of the area who met Fr. Lievens at Ranchi. These 66 people after hearing about the missionaries from the lips of Barway people and how these missionaries helped them for their land, these people decided to invite them to Chhechhari. The tribals were under the grip of land lords and the missionaries helped them. I the first visit itself about 1100 people received baptism fom the hands of Fr. Lievens and Fr. Cardon.

This event gave way to the evangelization and mission work began to grow. The missionaries made regular visits and helped them to solve their problems. This work brought 6 head catechists and 68 village catechists who taught prayer, catechism and prepared people for baptism. There were little churches and schools were opened in various villages. The second visit of Fr. Lievens was in 1891, and then there were 7000 Catholics.

In 1894, Fr. Paul Dehon s.j the first parish priest of Katkahi parish of Barway came to Mahuadanr and purchased the land for parish. Br. Lemoin s.j. was called from Ranchi for building works. First the existing hall was built and then the parish bungalow which was demolished in 21 cent and made a concrete building. In 1896 the church building was started under the supervision of Fr. Dehon himself. In between due to his ill health he went to China in 1901 or 1902. With his return sometime later, the church work went into full swing. In 1905, he went to Kolkota (Culcutta) to bring the stain glasses for the church windows which was donated from Belgium. While returning from Kolkota, he died somewhere near Daltonganj from heat stroke. He was buried in Daltonganj and later on his remains were shifted to Mahuadanr some times in 1908. In 1906 the church building was completed and a massive great church came alive bringing hope to the people. Around this time some catechists from Nagpur were brought in to evangelize people. By the end of the year quite many villages totally become Catholic.

Sometime around 1904, Fr. De Duve came to Mahuadanr to look after the schools. In 1911 Fr. Hoffman came to start the Catholic Co-operative bank in this area and 1913 government gave opening permission to 17 villages in the valley. They are Kurund, Bishrampur, Regain, Hami, Chatakpur, sarnadih, Chetma, mayapur, Aksi, Banskarcha, potmadih, Baheratoli, Pakripath, Chormunda, Chainpur, Sale and Garhburhni. Later primary schools were also opened in Khapurtala, Dumberdih and Champa. By the year 1915, Catholic population reached up to 7226.

A great set back came to the evangelization in the form of Tana Bhagat movement under the leadership of Jatra Oraon of Chingri village of Bishunpur Thana in 1916-1918. The purpose of the movement was to free the Oraons under the clutches of Landlords, recover the lands from them and to free them from the clutches of the missionaries. Due to this 4000 Christians embraced Tana Bhagats. The Tana Bhagats killed a magistrate in Surguja and also planned to attack Mahuadanr. But the parish priest gathered all the people and encouraged them to resist. This news went to the tana Bhagats and they went to Surkain and shot a police. This somehow forced the Tana Bhagats not to come back to Mahuadanr anymore. These 4000 Christians did not come back to Christianity till 1940's and with the arrival of the great missionary Fr. Turkenberg all of them returned back to Christianity. That is why he is known as Fr. Lievens of Chhechhari.

With the suppression of Tana Bhagat movement, more attention was given to the education of the children. In 1923, St. Anne's sisters from Ranchi came to look after the school in Mahuadanr. They helped in pastoral and catechetical works in the parish and opened a small dispensary too.

In 1934 with the arrival of a new parish priest, Fr. De Jaeghers.j. construction of the middle school building and divided the whole parish into five circles of Mahuadanr, Chatakpur, Bandua, Garburhini, and Kuro. He also appointed circle catechists and regularly met them every two months to evaluate the progress of the work and its outcome. He took special interest in the evangelization of Baraiks and kumhars.

In 1943 Fr. Turkenberg became the parish priest and he was very daring and courageous man. In the midst of opposition, he continued to fight against oppression and injustice done to the tribal. Fr. Turkenberg gave knowledge to the people about Chhotanagpur Tenancy Act and made them aware of their rights over trees and their produce, especially lac produce. He began again the co-operative society and separate market for the tribals. He also began the sirni-gola in every village. With all these evangelization also continued in full bloom. He gave special attention to Nagesia and Brijia. In 1944, The sisters of The Mercy of the Holy Cross came to work in the remote villages for a year. Next year, 1945, the St. Anne's sisters handed over them to the girls' primary school and the dispensary and went back to Ranchi. In 1946, Fr. Turkenberg became gravely ill and Br. Solo took him to Namkum military hospital where he died and was buried in Ranchi.

After the death of Fr. Turkenberg, Fr. Harrison became the parish priest who toured the villages and continued the pastoral work as well as educational work. He repaired the church and gave importance to Maria Sodality.

A new venture was waiting in Palamu with the Palamu - Hazaribag region separation and Ranchi province gave it to the Australian missionaries by the end of 1952. Fr. Lou Lachal s.j became the first Australian parish priest and 1953 Fr. Bolding was the first Australian Headmaster of St. Joseph Boys Middle school. With this new beginning education apostolate was given more priority. In the year 1952 St. Joseph High school was started was closed down due to lack of religious personnel. It was re-opened in 1960 but to get approval was very difficult and the chief minister gave orders to start a residential high school in Mahuadanr. However in 1966 St. Joseph High school was recognized and was approved by the government.

1963, Fr. Albert Verbracken became the parish priest and his special interest was faith formation of the existing Christian villagers especially Ahirpura, Rajdanda, Aksi, Regain-Bartoli, Sugi etc. He also opened a school for the illiterate young ladies known as Grihini in 1966. 1967-68 severe famine was sweeping throughout the Palamu district. CRS programme came to rescue the people at the time of famine. CRS build a godown for storing the food grains to help the people. After the famine FFW joined for the development works.

1968 Fr. Peter Lewis s.j became the parish priest who had an idea to shift the parish to a new place so that the area can be used by the school. He bought some land in Gurgurtoli on the bank of Naktiriver and later this idea of transferring the parish was abandoned due to unknown reasons.

In September 1968, the Sisters of Mother Carmel- CMC came to the frontline to take care of the sick through the dispensary earlier run by the Holy Cross Sisters. Their touring to the villages and health awareness programmes and medical aid helped many. Then they began a small hospital which was ready by 1977 and moved into it. They are teaching in the school as well as medical and catechetical work in the area.

The new down began with the appointment of Fr. Phil Crotty s.j. as the parish priest and Fr. Kenneth Mc Namara as the high school headmaster. A new innovative idea of Complex System of net-working to unite the three schools of the Valley St. Joseph, St. Teresa and Residential into one mode. To each high school a few middle schools and each middle school to nearby primary schools to be attached so that attention can be given in education. A managing committee was to be formed consisting of all the heads of the schools and a representation from the education department of the Government. The education minister appreciated the idea and approved it immediately. Buildings were needed so hostel buildings, science block and trade block were built. When the work began the whole valley was enthusiastic and the complex system brought another turning point in the education. Except St. Michael Middle School Sale, St. Xavier's middle school Mirgi, all the catholic schools will be handed over to the government so that teachers would get proper salaries within the system and each school could be better cared for. This complex system worked for a few years but it was not successful as thought. Later sometime between July 1984 with the coming of Fr.Tom keogh as a headmaster, it was upgraded to plus two.

The parish was two vast and proper pastoral care was very difficult due to long distances and large number of faithful. Kanjia parish was separated from Mahuadanr in 1935. Later Garu was separated in 1968 with the hope of Chhipadohar will look after it. In 1973 February, Gothgaon was separated from Mahuadanr and made into a parish.

In October 1974 with the arrival of Nazareth sisters in Kutuderi to teach in St. Michael school, catechetical and pastoral work with medical aid in November 1974 sale too became a separate parish.

1977 with the arrival of Fr. Gaudentius Kongari s.j. as the parish priest, some sisters from Sisters of St. Joseph of Apparition came to work. They stayed in Kapu village to assist pastoral and catechetical works. They started a small dispensary to help the nearby villages and later they assisted in Lievens Memorial Primary School Tundtoli which was opened in 1981 by Fr. Gaudentius Kongari. Later on it was upgraded to Middle school.

1985 with the arrival of Fr. Peter Jones as parish priest a new chapter began to form in the valley. Fr. Michael Eather almost eight years was doing his research on teaching English and mathematics to the tribal children especially at Lievens Memorial Primary school Tundtoli. He taught these subjects to the children and did a lot of analytical approach to the subject matters and came out with series of books for the schools especially English and mathematics. This is active in the diocese.

Once again in 1992 Fr. Phil Crotty was appointed as parish priest. During this time Franciscan Clarist sisters came to Mahuadanr. Staying in a village house the sisters helped in the school and catechism. They built a house in the land in Gurgurtoli on the bank of Nakti River bought by Fr. Peter Lewis for the parish in 1996. A new parish residence was built and the parish Tundtoli was separated in 1997.

List of parish priests:
1. Fr. Paul Dehon 1896
2. Fr. Ory 1905
3. Fr. A .d'Hoop 1906
4. Fr. Carbery 1909
5. Fr. Ernes 1911
6. Fr. Van Derlinden 1917
7. Fr. De Keyser 1921
8. Fr. Bressers 1925
9. Fr. Wilsis 1929
10. Fr. Rass 1932
11. Fr. De Jaegher 1934 -Dec 1943
12. Fr. Phelan Jan 1943-sept 1943
13. Fr. Turkenberg Sept 1943 - Dec 1946
14. Fr. Harrison Dec 1946 - Dec 1952
15. Fr. Lau LachalJan 1953 - Dec 1958
16. Fr. Steve Daly Dec 1958 - Oct 1959
17. Fr. E. B. O'Connor Oct 1959- Dec 1961
18. Fr. Philip Mc Inerney Dec 1961 - Jun 1963
19. Fr. Albert Verbraeken Jun 1963 - Jan 1968
20. Fr. Peter Lewis Jan 1968 - June 1970
21. Fr. Phil Crotty June 1970 - June 1977
22. Fr. G. Kongari June 1977 - Dec 1981
23. Fr. Camil Kujur Jan 1982 - June 1985
24. Fr. Peter Jones June 1985 - May 1982
25. Fr. Phil Crotty June 1992 - May 1998
26. Fr. Ignatius Barwa June 1998 - 2001
27. Fr. G. Kongari June 2002 - 2011
28. Fr. John Xaxa June 2011 - 2018

“For Ignatius being a Companion of Jesus in His Salvific mission gave direction and purpose to life. Companionship with Jesus in Mission is Central to Ignatian Spirituality.”

Keep up to date
Follow us on Facebook and Twitter for regular articles and updates.