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Prabhu Jisu Residence, P.O. - Matigara, P.O. Box No. - 3, Siliguri, West Bengal, India - 734010

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Church History

Prabhu Jisu Girja

When Fr Cherian Padiyara was the Regional Superior of the Darjeeling Jesuits, he requested Bishop Eric Benjamin, the Bishop of Darjeeling, to start a parish with a multi-ethnic community at Matigara.  In response to this request Fr Thomas Vayalil, a diocesan priest, was sent as the first parish priest in 1992. He started the parish just with four Catholics who had settled in the area.

Initially, Sunday Mass and other liturgical celebrations were held in a small hall in the residence of the Jesuit Provincial. This situation was very inconvenient both for the Jesuit Headquarters and for the people of the parish. Fr Mike Hawkins, S.J., when parish priest, began the planning for the construction of a church at Matigara.  His dream materialized through the efforts of Fr Paulose Ezhakunnel, S.J., when the newly built church appeared on the campus.  With a capacity of about one thousand, it was inaugurated and blessed by Archbishop Thomas D’Souza of Kolkata, on May 5, 2013.  Soon after, Fr Fredrick Baraik took over as parish priest from Fr Paulose.

The parish has a Catholic population of five hundred and fifty today. The special characteristic of this parish is its multi-ethnicity and whose parishioners are highly literate in comparison with those in other parishes. The Diocese has entrusted this parish entirely to the Jesuits.

St Peter’s Canisius Church, Gayaganga

Fr Denis Truyen, S.J, an energetic and farsighted missionary, used to visit the Terai from 1921-31, travelling down from St Mary’s College, Kurseong, where he taught theology. Father was transferred to Calcutta at the end of 1931, but not before he had arranged, through Gayaganga TE, to have a small chapel-school building erected at Girja Line.

 After the departure of Father Truyen from St Mary’s, Father Fischer took over the Terai touring program for one year in 1932.  In January 1933, Fr August Bossaers, S.J, the founder of the mission, arrived in Gayaganga Tea Estate where Mr Alex Robertson, the manager, offered Father the use of the Assistant Manager’s bungalow as his residence and chapel. By November 1934 Father moved over from the tea garden bungalow to “a queer building” in Gayaganga. 

In 1938, Archbishop Perier, S.J. blessed the church building as we find it today and named it after St Peter Canisius who is remembered  for his defence of the faith and for his famous catechism. Father Bossaers died of black water fever (kala-azar) in 1945.  

In the years before the Church arrived in the Terai, it was the voluntary catechists who kept the flame of the faith alive, such as Dominic, Musa Marens, Athanase Beck, Philip Bara and Alois Lakra.  They literally bore the heat of the day in serving the scattered communities of the twenties and thirties. In recognition of their services, the last three catechists were awarded the Bene Merenti medal by Pope Pius XII.

In 1947, the Jesuits of Canada were invited to help their Belgian Jesuit brothers in the work of North Bengal. The first Canadian Jesuit parish priest to be assigned to Gayaganga and to the Terai was Father Vincent Curmi, S.J. In 1963 Fr Joseph Brennan became parish priest, to replace Father Curmi who was posted to Darjeeling.  Father Charles Durt, S.J. from Ranchi took over as parish priest from Father German in January 1970, and handed over to his successor Father Philip Xalxo, S.J. in January 1979. Father Xalxo, who was born and educated in the Terai, was appointed to continue the tradition that goes back to the first apostles being sent out in the name of the Lord they loved and followed. Father Telesphore Toppo was the second person of the Terai to get ordained in Gayaganga.

Hansqua, which was a part of St Peter’s Church, Gayangaga, was made a Quasi Parish on November 30, 2008, by Rt. Rev. Thomas D’Souza, the Bishop of Bagdogra Diocese and he appointed Fr Alex Minj, S.J. as the first Priest-in-charge. On June 17, 2002 Fr Marianus Kullu, S.J. replaced Fr Simon Kerketta, S.J. as the third Priest-in-charge. There are nearly 3,000 Catholics under this quasi parish. Almost all of them are tribal people, most of who work on the surrounding tea gardens.   

Fr K.A.Thomas is the present parish priest of St Peter’s Church, Gayaganga. This Parish has grown from a catholic population of thirty in 1921 to seven thousand in 2014, the majority of whose history is linked to Chota Nagpur.

St Paul’s Parish, Kurseong

St Paul’s Parish had its name even before the Church was actually built. This is evident from the writings of Fr Josson, S.J. in his French Book “La Mission du Bengal Occidental (1, p. 97)”. But the records show that it was on March 19, 1904, that Rev. Fr Bernard, S.J., the Rector of St Mary’s College, blessed the first stone of the parish church when all looked forward to the day when for Sunday Mass the ‘Dak-Bungalow’ would not be needed.

On January 15, 1905, the Parish Mass was celebrated for the first time in the new church. The bell-tower was erected only in July, 1906. The church building was blessed by Mgr Muelman, the Archbishop of Calcutta, on September 24, 1905. The Parish was named after the name of the first Archbishop of Calcutta, Msgr Paul Goethals. 

The Gayabari mission station was a part of this Parish since 1891 though the name of St Paul’s Parish appeared nowhere in any register at that time. It was in 1997 this mission station was declared a Quasi Parish and Fr Leslie Prabhu, S.J. was appointed as the first Priest-in-charge. This quasi parish has today 43 catholic families.

Initially St Paul’s parish was looked after by the priests from St Mary’s theologate. It was in 1919 Fr Van Tichlan was appointed parish priest.  The other great parish priests were: Fr Michael Wery from 1940-48; Fr William Mackey from 1948-57; Fr Jean Henrichs from 1959-61; Fr Lawrence Wimpenny from 1961-1964; Fr J.M. Abraham from 1964-1968; Fr Bernard Bruneau from 1873-1980. Fr Anthony Sharma, SJ was appointed the first Indian parish  priest  from 1968-1971,  and from 1980,  it is the Indian Jesuits who have been appointed.  

St Paul’s Church has contributed greatly towards the development of Nepali Christian Music. During Fr Wery’s tenure, many hymns were translated from Latin to Nepali.

The parish has today one thousand six hundred and fifty Catholics with Fr Peter Jong Lepcha, S.J. as the parish priest and the parish has been fully entrusted to the care of the Jesuits.


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