History of Pallottines in India

The Origin

The origin of the Pallottine mission in India could be traced back to the South African mission of the South German Province of the Sacred Heart. The Sacred Heart Province had offered its services in this mission of the Limburg Province when the restructuring of the whole mission in 1935 had required more missionaries.

However, the results of the South African undertaking were not too encouraging. After years of arduous work it offered only very poor prospects of further growth. This generated some discussions in the Province as to the wisdom of continuing to engage in the mission. In addition, the fact that it was, after all, a mission of the Limburg Province, dampened the interest of many confreres for any further involvement. Subsequently, the Conference of the Rectors of the Sacred Heart Province in 1946 opted for withdrawing the members of the Province working there. The Provincial Assembly of the same year also recommended the termination of the South African engagement for the added reason that the Bishop of Cape Town had expressed his confidence in managing the diocese on his own. The South African mission of the Sacred Heart Province came to an end in 1948.


The search for a new mission tilted towards India for several reasons. The late Mgr. Werner Hunold, who then worked in the South African mission of the Province, had expressed his desire to go to India. Fr. Faller who worked in the Pallottine Generalate during this period had also come into contact with Indian Priests studying in Rome. His contact with Fr. Vincent Castellino and Fr. Gerson Mascarehnes of the Nagpur diocese put him in touch with the Bishop of Nagpur, Mgr. Louis F. Gayet MSFS. These contacts proved providential as Mgr. Gayet was, at this time, already contemplating the bifurcation of his vast diocese, entrusting one part to some willing Religious Order. The ensuing discussions and correspondence with the ecclesiastical authorities in India and in Rome culminated in the Sacred Heart Province being entrusted with the Raipur mission in 1950 by the Sacred Congregation of the Propaganda Fide.


The Raipur Mission

The first Pallottine missionaries for India, Fr. Werner Hunold and Fr. Lorenz Scheu began their journey by ship from the Italian port of Trieste on April 28,1951and arrived in Bombay, India, after thirty two days on May 30th. Two days later they arrived in Raipur and had a glimpse of their future mission. The oppressive summer heat of Raipur forced them to make a temporary retreat to the Hill Station of Chicalda near Nagpur.

The official history of the Indian delegature began with the formal installation of Fr. Lorenz Scheu as the Parish Priest of St. Joseph’s church Raipur on July 25, 1951. Already prior to his departure from Germany he was appointed the first delegate superior. Consequently, Raipur also became the seat of the delegate Superior. Fr. Hunold was entrusted with the Kutela mission on February 2, 1952. Both the missions had required the untiring effort of the missionaries to restore their Christian vitality. By March 1953 Fr. Hunold had additional help. Fr. Joseph Strittmatter who was well-versed in carpentry and masonry, was also an able architect and engineer. Together these pioneer missionaries laid the foundation for the Indian Pallottine mission. They continued to function under the jurisdiction of the Archbishop of Nagpur.


The work of the missionaries, however, did not have a smooth sail. Working in an alien country and culture, with little knowledge of the local language, illness and with too few hands to assist, the endeavor proved too hard and seemed to offer very little chances of success. The situation seemed so hopeless that, by 1954, the ecclesiastical authorities themselves recommended the closure of the mission. The words of the Apostolic Internuncio to India, Archbishop Leo Kierkels, were representative of their general skepticism about the ability of the Society to fulfill her mission in India: “send your Fathers back; it is a hope less beginning”. But the missionaries stuck to their determination to remain and continue the work for which they had come. Several options were considered to get more missionaries into the field but none of them offered an immediate solution to the shortage of personnel. Finally help was sought from the Australian Region of the Pallottines. The Australians could find easy access to India as Australia formed part of the Common Wealth Nations. The Germans would replace them in Australia.


Fr.Bruno Kupke and Bryan Tiernen arrived in India by September 1956. Soon Fr. Tiernen replaced Fr. Scheu who was forced to return to Germany due to ill health. Under him the Raipur mission grew. Fr. Kupke opened the first ever novitiate in India in 1956 though he did not remain in the country long. He was replaced by Fr. Roger McGinley. The help from the Australians helped stabilize the tottering Indian mission and gave it a new lease of life.


A new phase in the history of the Pallottines in India began with the arrival of Fr. Hanns Weidner in India in August 1959. He was an officer in the German army and was a man of vision, and a good leader and organizer. Appointed to succeed Fr. Werner Hunold as the Delegate Superior, he led the Delegature with efficiency and foresight. Under him the Pallottine work and mission in India extended beyond the boundaries of Raipur. Houses were opened in Pachmarhi, Goa and Kerala.


Raipur itself became an independent Apostolic Prefecture in 1964 and Mgr. Weidner was appointed its first Prefect Apostolic. He relinquished his office of the delegate Superior and was succeeded by Fr. Werner Hunold. Under Mgr. Weidner the Raipur mission grew rapidly. in 1974 it was raised to a diocese and Mgr. Weidner was appointed the Apostolic Administrator.


In October 1976, the Pallottines celebrated the silver jubilee of their arrival in India. The sacrifices of the pioneers had borne immense fruit. Mgr. Weidner had died on August 17, 1974. Raipur diocese was under the inspiring guidance of Mgr. Werner Hunold. The Delegature was in the able and confident hands of Fr. Toni M. Kolb. The large number of students in the formation held out a bright future for the Society in India.


The Prabhu Prakash Region and Province

During the tenure of Fr. Kolb as the delegate Superior, the work of the Society extended to more areas. This enviable growth earned her the status of a Region. The Prabhu Prakash (Epiphany of Our Lord) Region was established on September 15, 1980. It was the first Region in Asia. Fr. Kolb was appointed the first Regional Rector. He continued to hold the office until 1984.

The increased autonomy resulting from the new status brought with it even faster growth. Already by 1986 views were expressed that the Region should be raised to the status of a Province. The Regional Assembly of 1987 also made a strong case for the establishment of the province. The new Province was formally erected on January 11, 1989. Fr. Joseph Tharakunnel became the first Provincial Rector.


Consolidation

Simultaneous to these developments there began to be felt in the Province the need to consolidate what was already being done. Efforts aimed at streamlining the formation and apostolate gained momentum. Commissions were established for Formation, Apostolate and finance since 1984. From 1987, Vocation Orientation Centres were established in various parts of the country to promote vocations from all areas. Already from 1987, discussions had begun concerning the establishment of a Pallottine Theologate in India. The Apostolate commission sought to promote a greater understanding of the Pallottine charism and apostolate. Greater financial self sufficiency was sought for a more sustained growth.

The Pallottine charism began to find increasing acceptance among the Indian clergy. Several of the Indian Bishops showed interest in the work of the Pallottines in promoting the apostolate of the laity, and invited them to work in their dioceses. In 1988, Fr. Thomas Vijay was appointed Secretary to the Commission for the Laity of the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of India, a post that continues to be held by the Pallottines unto this day.


The 1990s was distinguished by some of the important land marks in the history of the Pallottines in India. In 1993 Fr. Christudhas was elected Provincial. In 1994 the Pallottines took over the administration of the Krist Premalaya Theologate at Ashta. It was the inter-diocesan house of theology for all the dioceses of Madhya Pradesh. By assuming charge of the institute, the province also realized one of the original dreams of Pallotti - to train priests for the missions. The extraordinary Provincial Assembly on formation in the same year made the final decision on the establishment of a Pallottine theologate in India. The first ever Pallottine Congress took place in 1995. It had reflected in depth upon the role of the Pallottines in the mission of the Church in India and emphasized the urgent need to form the laity and to formulate a uniform Pastoral plan for the Province.


The Transformation

The growing number of members and the vastness of the Province had prompted discussions on the possible division of the Province as early as 1992and it was expressed in the Provincial Assembly of that year. However, it was temporarily deferred by establishing Local Communities. But Local Communities could not effectively deal with all the factors that had necessitated a division. The dissatisfaction over its functioning was evident in the Congress of 1995. The Congress suggested the constitution of a commission to study the matter in depth. The duly formed commission then forwarded its suggestions to the Provincial Council. The meeting of the Provincial Council on May 3, 1996 recommended to the General Council the division of the of the Prabhu Prakash Province.

From 1999, Fr. Mathew Panakal led the Province and ably guided the difficult process of transformation. In July 1999 the Transformation Commission was appointed to work out the modalities and details of the transformation. The work proved to be a cumbersome and long drawn out process. In the meantime the Province celebrated the golden Jubilee of the Pallottine presence in India. It was a momentous occasion. The Province was at a defining moment of its history. The toils and struggles of the pioneers had borne fruit a hundredfold; the hopes and promises they held forth for the future was in full bloom; their dreams for the generations that were to come after them had come true. The Prabhu Prakash Province had reached enviable heights in fifty years. In 2000, there were 204 finally professed members in the Province and more than three hundred students in the formation. The Province had nine houses of formation, and fifty seven houses and parishes under its care.


The Millennium Assembly

The Provincial Assembly of October 2000 was a historical event. It was convoked to finalize the proposal for the division of the Province. The theme of the Assembly ‘Transformation of the Province and Creative Fidelity to the Pallottine Ethos’ revealed its preoccupation – to keep intact the Pallottine identity and mission in India in spite of and after the division. The Assembly proposed a division into three units. The General Administration issued the decree of transformation on the feast of the Pentecost, June 3, 2001. The new administrations assumed charge on January 6, 2002. The tiny seed sown in 1951 had grown and branched out.

Conclusion

The growth of the Indian Mission has few equals in the history of the Society. The humble beginnings of 1951 assumed large proportions in just fifty years. Today India has two provinces namely Prabhu Prakash Province and Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary Province and a region Khrist Jyothi RegionPrabhu

Prakash Province has its Provincialate in Nagpur and Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary Province has its Provincialate in Bangalore and a region Khrist Jyothi Region has its regional house in Raipur. St. Vincent pallotti church, Marol belongs to the Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary Province.


Copyright © Vinpal Parish 2016
Designed & Developed by Quantum Designs Quantum Designs