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☇ History of Hazaribag Jesuits


An Unknown Dreamland

In May 1949 Father General Jean-Baptist Janssens wrote to Father Austin Kelly, the Vice-Provincial of Australia asking him to take up a mission in the two Districts of the Ranchi Mission, Hazaribag and Palamu. This came about because during the Second World War and in the years that followed, the resources of the Ranchi mission were overstretched. Already the Ranchi Mission had in 1948 ceded a large southern area to the SVD Fathers, and in 1951 an area of the then Madhya Pradesh to form the new diocese of Raigarh-Ambikapur, and later the Province of Madhya Pradesh.

Tilling and Seeding

At the same time the bishop of Ranchi,(who was to be transferred to the new diocese of Raigarh-Ambikapur) Oscar Sevrin SJ, had made an appeal to Rome. He cited some reasons for getting help from another Province. He cited the newly developing industrial areas of Hazaribag needed new men. The new missionaries would need to be financially independent of Ranchi. He also pointed to the need for English speaking Jesuits to open a quality English medium school in either Hazaribag or Bokaro to deal with the new middle class an industrial area produces. This was what we now call Bokaro Thermal. Bokaro Steel was still far in the future. In the event Hazaribag won out, and St Xavier's opened in Hazaribag in February 1952.

By 1950 the Australian Province had accepted the mission and at the beginning of 1951 six priests were missioned to what began to be called the Hazaribag Mission, to work alongside the Belgian Jesuits with a view to accepting full responsibility for the two Districts.

Sprouting and rooting

The Hazaribag mission grew into its own identity, was declared a Region in 1957 and a Province in 1992. The year 1992 was a turning point in the history of the Hazaribag mission. In March Fr. R.C.Chacko finished his term as the last Superior of the Region, and Fr. Edward Mudavassery was appointed the first Provincial of the new Province. At the same time the Ranchi Province handed over the whole property of St Stanislaus College, Sitagarha, to the new born Province to become the Hazaribag Province's novitiate and Juniorate. The Hazaribag Mission had come of age, Indianised in its governance and with an increasing number of Indian born personnel. The Australian baby had grown into an adult Indian. Within a few years Fr. General was to decide that the Hazaribag Province could financially stand on its own feet with sufficient funds to be able to help other Jesuit Provinces of the Assistancy, and offer help to other Congregations working in collaboration with the Jesuits of the Province. The last decades of the 20th century were years of relative financial security in the Province. Later the curtailment of donations from Australian benefactors and the world financial recession constrained us to practice a stricter economy.

From 1952 the Australian Province had started sending scholastics, and a few priests and brothers to Hazaribag. In the ensuing 25 years the Australian Province was to send 58 Jesuits to India. It is worth noting that in the course of the development of the Province two dioceses, Daltonganj and Hazaribag, were formed in the area covered by the Province. As the number of diocesan priests increased eleven parishes or 'stations' inherited from Ranchi or later started by the Province were handed over to the dioceses. In addition, the area north and east of the Grand Trunk Road, which included the parishes of Giridih and Maheshmunda, were ceded to Bhagalpur diocese. There are now twelve Jesuit communities in the Province. Of the present 170 Jesuits in the Province only 10 are former members of the Province of Australia, and their average age is around 81.

Growth and Development
There are some notable milestones in our history. The first missionaries arrived in 1951 and in 1952 the first group of scholastics arrived to continue their formation in India. Our first Indian vocation joined in 1954, followed by many others, among them tribals from Chotanagpur and a steady number from Kerala, Tamil Nadu and the west coast Catholic communities. The mission was declared a Region in 1956. We opened a full scale pre-novitiate Vivek Sadan in Shahpur in collaboration with Jamshedpur Province in 1982; an earlier pre-novitiate for the Region had been running in Daltonganj town. For some years Hazaribag novices were with Jamshedpur novices in Lupungutu and later in Mango, in both cases with the Novice Master supplied by Hazaribag. Hazaribag Jesuits made their contribution to the common works in the Assistancy by giving a scripture professor to Vidyajyoti, two tertian directors to the Assistancy, and later a POSA.

In 1992 when Hazaribag became a Province, the Province of Ranchi handed over to Hazaribag the whole complex of St Stanislaus College, Sitagarha, with its Novitiate, Juniorate, Tertianship and farm. The novitiate was henceforward the Hazaribag novitiate taking in novices also from neighboring Provinces.

From 1958, with the official recognition of the Teachers Training Institute (now Primary Teachers Education College) in Sitagarha, the Hazaribag Mission was committed to tertiary education. In 2011 we opened our second college, St Xavier's College, Mahuadanr.

In 1971 diocese of Daltonganj was erected, covering what was then the districts of Palamu, and Hazaribag. Then in 1994 Hazaribag was declared a separate diocese. In 1970 the then Archdiocese of Ranchi had ceded the district of Giridih to Bhagalpur diocese. For the previous half century the parish of Maheshmunda in this district had been served by priests from Ranchi and latterly by Hazaribag Jesuits. Under the Hazaribag Jesuits there had been some evangelization openings among the Santals of the area. This was handed over to the TOR Fathers. At the time little was known about the Santals of Hazaribag district. But soon the focus had shifted to the Santals around Charhi, and then in the area around the Konar dam, which has resulted in a small but flourishing Santal Church.

New ground was broken in the 80's of the last century among the "dalits" of Hazaribag district, and the Korwas of Garhwa district.

The new parish of Pakripath near Netarhat now caters not only for the Oraons and Mundas but is in contact, through the school, with the Asurs, one of the smallest of the minor tribes.

From the beginning of the Ranchi mission the priests had worked side by side with Sisters - Loreto, Daughters of Saint Anne, Ursulines, and Holy Cross Sisters, to mention only the main ones.

When the new St Xavier's was opened in Bokaro Steel City, in 1966, the Clarist Sisters (FCC) came to teach in the new co-educational school, and like the Jesuits lived in Bokaro Steel Ltd. company quarters. This was the first coeducational Jesuit school in India and probably the first to have Sisters on the staff. This started a movement of collaboration which has developed and has become an important feature of the history of the Province. For example, Hazaribag St. Xavier's now has six Sisters from three different Congregations, two of them in administrative posts. A number of Jesuit Middle and Primary Schools are completely in the care of Sisters. It is envisaged that the St Xavier's High School and Loyola English Medium in Sitagarha will be partly staffed by Sisters.

Today ................
At present the hazaribag Jesuits work in 7 districts of Jharkhand serving the poorest of the poor and the needy by imparting education, socio -pastoral work and faith formation among the tribes of Oraons, Santhals, Asurs, Korwas, Nagesia, Birjia, Munda, Kharia, Bhuiyans and Dalits.....

Challenges of the Hazaribag Jesuits today:
1. Continuously helping the socially deprived people.
2. Recruiting and training of young men to continue the ongoing ministerial works.
3. Spirituality of prayer and discernment in Socio- pastoral and educational ministry of Jesuits.
4. To become vibrant and active like the veterans and willing to toil in all the ministerial works of the society
5. Ready to face the harshness of socio- economical situations of the people and live with them.
6. Accept the realties life and go forward with hope in the Lord
7. Creeping of individualism among Jesuits.
8. Imbibing Jesuit Leadership quality and excel in MAGIS

“The Jesuits are called to be Companions of Jesus and of one another”

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