Brief History of Christians in Kallianpur Varado

Unfortunate schism of 1888 and its effects….
Mission union and communion….
A special reference to the tireless efforts Fr. Alfred Roche and others…..

During my youthful College days, in early 80’s at Milagres, Kallianpur, a question always haunting me was ‘why there are two churches within a furlong distance in Brahmmavar…..? Many a times I raised this question to my parents as well as priests… and didn’t get the convincing answer. It all happened in December 1981, when the grand Tri-Centenary Celebrations of Milagres Church, Kallianpur was held, and on the Thanksgiving Day, Thursday, 10th December, the Chief Guest was V. Rev. Fr. K. K.Kuriakose the Vicar General of the St. Mary’s Syrian Church, Brahmmavar……..yet again, on such a historic occasion a great importance to Brahmmavr Syrian priest…..? What is the link or relationship for this honored gesture….? Lately new artistic Syrian Cathedral was built in Brahmmavar and for the inauguration ceremony on 11th January, 2018, the Bishop of Udupi Rt. Rev. Dr. Gerald Issac Lobo was there as Honorable Guest on the dais…..! 

   Over the years, I tried to understand as to why there are Syrian Christians in large number only in Brahmmavar, Giri, Sastan….? Whether their ancestors are from Syria…? They all speak Konkani like all of us but why these few churches in the Diocese of Mangalore are served by Malayalam / English speaking Priests from Kerala…?

Yes, such questions and above doubts may be there in the minds of many of you and feel it appropriate to bring the following to the notice of curious minds……

Some authenticated Facts:

   Most of the Christians in the undivided South Canara are immigrants from Goa, speaking Konkani language and bearing mainly Portuguese and Spanish surnames, since 1550, and a small number of local people who embraced the religion by virtue of the Missionary services of Portuguese, Basel Mission, French and Spanish, German etc. in 17th and 18th centuries. There is a sizable number of Protestants normally using Kannada and Tulu language, around us….

   As our ancestors, the Konkani speaking Christians community is from Goa, arrived here in search of better pastures, lured by the promise of land and subsidy because of their industry and improved knowledge of cultivation, to an extent prevailing political insecurity in Goa, Inquisition imposed by Goan Church authorities, especially for not allowing to follow some age old customs and rituals…..Economic compulsions like the continued famines in Goa, in 1553, 1570 and 1582, also prompted enterprising lot to look for new means for livelihood. They carried their new found faith in one living God intact with them and worship of Mother Mary was very dear to their hearts.

   When these emigrants formed to be a sizable number, especially who settled on the shores of rivers and low-lying, risky and difficult to live islands, these small communities used to gather in leaders house to pray, socialize….. and with their age old relationship with Goa, their roots, occasionally thereafter regularly some Goan priests were invited to preach and celebrate the Holy Mass and other Sacraments.

   About two to three generations of early emigrants had no proper spiritual guidance, say from 1550 till 1678, as many of them working as labor, peasants, fishermen, Copper smiths…. and mainly in fields and coconut plantation work or so….. For their hard work and sincerity they won the hearts of landlords of the time and gradually allowed to cultivate as tenants, both Moolageni and Chalgeni…..Few who had bit of capital saved from Goa, purchased land and property….Few started working in Tile Factories started by Portuguese around this time and some having trade with Goan counterparts. 

   As a result of a Treaty between Portuguese and Rani Chennammaji, relict of Soma Shekara I of Bednore who ruled Kanara from 1671 – 1697, the Milagres Church Kallianpur was established, by the Portuguese Hierarchy of Goa, later known as Pedro ado, in the year 1678 and around same time the Milagres Church at Mangalore with the Inam lands, generously sanctioned by the throne. The peace loving progressive community made progress economically, socially and practicing their religion without any hindrances, except a few years of darkness and instability in 1784 till 1799 during the reign of Tippu Sultan and infamous captivity of Christians in Srirangapattana, the days were peaceful.

   As the years gone by, needs of more Churches were felt where the Christians were localized, such as Barkur in 1861, Udyavar 1863, Mount Rosary Kallianpur, 1882, Petre etc. and these new Churches were built under the supervision of Milagres Kallianpur, the mother Church, the nerve center of religious activities for the whole of the then Northern Varado.

   In 1839, Pope Gregory XVI issued the Bull ‘Multa Praeclare’. By this document the spiritual jurisdiction of the Arch-Diocese of Goa (Pedro ado) over Canara was transferred to the Propaganda Mission of the Vicar Apostolic of Verapoly. At this time a great majority of the Catholics in these places, preferred the jurisdiction of Pedroado Goa along with its Goan Vicar and priests.

   After the promulgation of the bull ‘Multa Praeclare’, in 1839 there was maneuvering and behind the scenes struggle for promoting the causes of both the Padroado and the Propaganda jurisdictions from either side. The Portuguese power in India had declined and they were trying to preserve their influence: consequently a great majority of the parishioners of Milagres, because of their long association with the ministry of the Goan priests who gave them guidance over the centuries, as the common Konkani language and culture being the binding thread, yet again preferred to be under the Pardroado hoping that they would be accommodated as previously. However the situation was allowed to continue, that is dual jurisdiction of Pedro ado Goa and Propaganda Mission of Verapoly till 1885.

   In 1885, Pope Leo XIII, established the hierarchy of India, with due discussion and agreement with the Portuguese crown, by his Apostolic Letter Humane Salutis Auctor, finally bringing an end to the dual jurisdiction in South Canara, after signing the Concordat of 1886, between Holy See and Portugal, by which eleven parishes of South Canara, including Milagres Kallianpur, Barkur, Udyavar….given under the authority of Mangalore jurisdiction, under Propaganda Mission. This development prompted to erect new Diocese of Mangalore in the same year and the Apostolic delegate, in Bangalore, Msgr. Aligardi, issued the Order from Bangalore in 1887, and the same was published by the Vicar Apostolic of Mangalore, Most Rev. Nicholas Maria Pagani, S.J. who was consecrated as the First Bishop of Mangalore on 25th October, 1885, and took charge on 1st September, 1886.

   Coming to Kallianpur, when the Goan priests suddenly withdrew and left for Goa in compliance with the above Order, the faithful were left without right leadership or guidance, in the Milagres Church, Kallianpur. (It’s worth a mention that Rev. Fr. Julius A. Torrado, originally from Goa, the Vicar of Barkur Church voluntarily stayed back, as the switch over was smooth, over here and was serving here from 19.01.1888 till 08.11.1908)  The vast majority of the parishioners in Milagres appealed to the Holy See to remain under the Padroado. There was a dispute over the temporalities of the Milagres church, to preserve the status quo, when the priests of the Propaganda Mission arrived here. It was insubordination, but no ideology or doctrine was involved or in question until this moment. In the litigation that followed, supporters of Pedroado lost their suit in the court against the Propaganda Mission, by then known as Diocese of Mangalore. Following this, the desparate dissidents, driven emotionally, built a church of their own dedicated to our Lady of Milagres at Brahmavar. The enthusiasm was at its peak and people donated more than their purse permitted and this enabled them to purchase almost 25 acres of land in Brahmmavar to make a new house for Almighty Lord….under the Patroness Mother Mary….

   This separated group was very huge at the early stage, but with no authorized priest, from Goa, the sheep without shepherd, for how long…? Ultimately took the guidance of a suspended priest of the Arch-Diocese of Goa, in young and energetic, Rev. Fr. R. Zephrin Noronha – (20.10.1850 to 23.07.1936). Though reluctant at first attempt, one Mr. David Passanha from Uppur, an influential parishioner of erstwhile Milagres Church, Kallianpur, convinced him to lead the flock. He was an outstanding Biblical scholar, young and energetic, about 37 years of age, at that time, simple and humble in nature. Today’s Syrian community retained its identity mainly because of the early dedicated services, a lonely life of sacrifice and devotion of Fr. Noronha, a theologian, a physician and a spiritual healer,  who almost single handedly looked after the needs of the community, for more than 50 long years, since 1888 till his death on 23.07.1936. Elders observe that, during this period there were no hierarchical contacts with Syrian Orthodox Church in Kerala or elsewhere…. Almost all religious ceremonies, prayers, were in Latin and devotion of Mother Mary was continued in Konkani, as it was inherited from forefathers in Milagres Kallianpur and ancestors…..from Goa.

   The concern was what and how it will be after the aging Fr. Noronha…? Sometime in between, they developed links and associated with Jacobite Bishop Mar Julius II of Goa, India and Ceylon, who too was formerly a catholic priest by name Fr. Antony Alvares. He was earlier banned for defying the Ecclesiastical Authorities in Goa. He was kind enough to allocate one priest from Kerala, Rev. Fr. P.G. Koshi 1936 -1953, who continued the legacy of his predecessor and developed St. Mary’s Syrian educational institutions and later Rev. Fr. K.K Kuriakose, 1954 – 1986, to serve over here, account for almost 100 years, to their credit. With this, the Schism became more orderly with its base in Brahmmavar, became popular. The delicate situation called for tactful handling with understanding, accommodation and care. Earlier records state, in 1988, there were about 650 families with around 5000 parishioners. 

Mission unification with a humane touch:

The first Vicar of Milagres under the propaganda Mission after the Goan priests left, was very Rev. Fr. Albert D’Souza in 1887. Prior to this, he was the Vicar to Mount Rosary Church, Kallianpur. He was popular as a great preacher and being already familiar with the people was liked by all. After the first period of heat, recrimination and gradually confusion of the feud subsided, on second thoughts a great number of discerning and enlightened dissidents from all over came back to the mother church. It was evident therefore, that the dispute was not on the jurisdiction of the pope over the parishioners but purely as a wish to be under the Padroado on sentimental or emotional basis. The fact was almost 75% of the people once wanted to remain independent……But with the sustained efforts of many good shepherds of Kallianpur and Barkur and elsewhere in the region, the flock returned to Mother Church Milagres, into the Roman Catholic …..Only those leaders, who in the passions aroused at that time, became prejudiced and estranged during the long litigation and those not so enlightened, remained behind. The urgent and priority work of Fr. Albert D’Souza 1888 -1901, who had a long innings, in Kallianpur, was to win back the lost sheep which he ably did with patience and perseverance. 

   The mission unification was continued by Rev. Fr. Aloysius S.L.Fernandes 1901 – 1906 and Rev. Fr. Sebastian Noronha 1906 – 1911, who has put in best efforts to win back the Syrian Christians with the co-operation of laity who were trained in the seminary like, Ignatius P. Lewis, Xavier Lewis, Lawrence Lewis and Simon D’Souza. The records states he was able to convince as many as 61 families only in Giri and formed the Kolalagiri parish in 1907. The Vicar Rev. Fr. C.P.Gonsalves 1911 – 1916, continued to look after the welfare of all sister parishes under Milagres varado or Northern Varado of the Diocese, from Udyavar to Byndoor. While Fr. Francis M.C. Lyons 1917 – 1929, was Vicar of Kallianpur, he constituted Airody Sastan parish dedicated to St. Anthony, in 1921. During this time many families of this area returned and identified with this new church.

   Rev. Fr. Julian D’Souza 1929 – 1934, had very much at heart the conversion of the separated Brethren of Brahmmavar. In between Barkur and Kallianpur there was no Church, though there was a sizeable Catholic population. The faithful were relying on either Barkur or Kallianpur priests for their spiritual needs. In 1934, Brahmmavar parish, with a chapel, dedicated to Holy Family   was constituted and it was under the direct supervision of Milagres. In 1935, Rev. Fr. Sebastian Fernandes Vicar of Giri Church arrives Brahmmavar as chaplain and he brought hundreds back to the Roman Catholic fold. Its relevant to remember here he was in charge of Barkur Church for a short period 30.12.1935 – 16.02.1936. 

   Syrian brothers, coming back to Roman Catholic fold was a continuous process in Kolalagiri, Brahmmavar, Sastan and Barkur, Nilavara, Petri etc. and with this mission a native of Barkur, young, and dedicated Capuchin Priest in Rev. Fr. Alfred Roche was entrusted with the Holy Family Church, as its Vicar by the Bishop of Mangalore in 1956. Previously for 20 odd years, 1934 to 1955, the parish was handled by Diocesan priests. (Readers can refer other articles in this book, to understand the 16 long years of yeoman service of Rev. Fr. Alfred Roche)

Few words about the unique relationship of Monsignor Denis Jerome D’Souza and Rev. Fr. Alfred Roche:

   •    When Alfred was born on 3rd April, 1924,  Rev. Fr. D.J D’Souza was the Vicar of Barkur,  who then just finished the construction of present Gothic style Church, and he baptized baby Alfred, on the holy altar of St. Peter as Peter John.

   •    While Mons Denis J. D’Souza was the Vicar Forane of Milagres Kallianpur, 1934 – 1942, Alfred joins Milagres High School, Kallianpur.

   •    When Alfred decided to join the Capuchins seminary, in 1944, in Farangipet, Mangalore, and Fr. D. D’Souza was Vicar of Milagres Church, Mangalore – 1942 – 1954 and Fr. Alfred was ordained Priest on 11th April, 1952.

   •    As a rare gesture, Very Rev. Fr. D.J.D’Souza comes back to Kallianpur third time and that too second time as Vicar in 1954 – 1971. 

   •    It was Mons. D.J.D’Souza who conceived the plan and gets it approved from the Bishop, to handover the Brahmmavar parish, to the special care of Capuchin Priests, being aware of the status, requirement, importance and sensitiveness, in 1956.

   •    They handpick young Priest Alfred Roche to be the first Capuchin Vicar of Brahmavar. As the head of Varado, Monsignor supports and guides young Fr. Alfred to finish the Construction work of the new Church and all other developmental works that takes place.

   •    Interestingly both Rev. Fr. Alfred gets transferred  as Vicar of St Anne’s Church, Binaga on 18th July, 1972, after 16 long years of great service and V. Rev Fr. D’J.D’Souza retired from priestly service in the year 1971, his second term, from 1954 – 1971, almost 17 years.

   The readers must have got a broad idea, what has happened during past 300 – 400 years of life of faith. The challenging years of captivity in Mysore Srirangapatna 1784 – 1799, a calamity encountered as one community and thereafter unfortunate misunderstanding within the same brethren, which led to schism, 1888, are really painful in our ancestor’s journey of faith in one living God.

   We Roman Catholics and Syrians bore same surnames and co-existing with perfect harmony, with almost same culture, rituals same Konkani language and beliefs. Almost our prayers were same till the 19th and mid-20th centuries, we have common feasts and celebrations…For our public functions and social gatherings eat food prepared by either of the Caterers. There are regular marriages taking place every year with former and latter and jointly attending social gatherings, students are studying and teaching in each other’s educational institutions…….!

   Rev. Fr. Alfred Roche, in his life time never criticized people of other faiths, but he lived what he preached, the highest Christian values of love thy neighbor, as thyself and that was an influential factor for convincing many to come close, listen and follow him. He born and lived in watery surroundings, of Moodahadu Kudru, and probably learnt from water to adjust himself in every situation and in any shape…but most importantly, found his own way to flow…..as water does…!

   We should learn from history, there was a time, less than a furlong away, from the Milagres Church Rosary church was set up by a disgruntled group in 1839 later shifted to Nejar Hills, in 1886, and now became Mount Rosary Catholic Church. When this can happen, let us be optimistic and we can foresee, a better understanding from both the sides unite us in days or years to come….!

   As explained in brief, there were no serious reasons what so ever to have two different identities…..In the event of leaders of both the sides, sitting across the table, a sincere attempt can be made to merge both the factions into one…. if not at least promote combined studies to understand  and co-operate with each other…and to exhibit our solidarity as a formidable community, in these current testing times, with Jesus Christ the Savior of the world as the center of our life over here.

References and Sources:
The Milagrean – The Milagres Church Kallianpur Tri Centenary Souvenir 1981
Archives of Barkuronline.com
St. Mary’s Orthodox Syrian Cathedral Brahmmavar – Centenary Memorial Souvenir 1888-1988.
Khadap – Post-Centenary Golden Jubilee Souvenir – St Peter Church Barkur 2013.
Mount Rosary Church Kallianpur – Santhekatte Souvenir 2015.
Souvenir – St. Peters Association Barkur – Mumbai Silver Jubilee 1988 -2013.
Pedruchi Chavi - Book 18, December 2017.


On behalf Team Barkuronline and ICYM Ex Members Association,
P. Archibald Furtado, 10th January, 2019.

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