The path treaded by Valencia parish

St Vincent Ferrar parish of Valencia situated at Kankanady locality of Mangaluru city has been very popular parish because of its distinct identity.  The key objective of this article lies in giving a brief history of parish that is at the threshold of diamond jubilee celebrations.

Although, the history of a community usually based on an individual’s contributions, it unravels only during social backdrop, adverse situations; it’s nurtured and fostered.  The immense contributions of several individuals left their legacy in facing constant challenges of changing times, sustaining belongingness in its journey of 75 years history of Valencia parish that has seen steady progress.  

Founding the church and early years

It’s during the early twentieth century that Kankanady and Jappinamogaru were the remote villages depended on Our Lady of Milagres parish, Milagres and Rosario Cathedral for their spiritual needs.  It was surrounded by dense forest, while the people lived in harmony of nature.  The existing modern Valencia church complex was once upon a time a burial ground, known as ‘Bearypalke.’  Meanwhile, the Madras government that governed Mangaluru at that time issued an order to municipal council to allot 5.73 acres in Bearypalke to bishop with waiver of taxes for burying the dead Catholics.  The municipal council handed over the possession to the bishop on the condition – 1) to build a boundary wall around the cemetery, to follow the rules specified for cemetery.  The municipal council officially handed over the plot to bishop when the latter signed the deeds.

The bishop had handed over the charge of cemetery to Rosario Cathedral who built a boundary wall around the cemetery at its cost.  It also granted permission to burry the dead of parishioners of Milagres parish.  Meanwhile, Milagres parish authorities rebuilt a part of the cemetery and renovated during 1923.  Rosario Cathedral erected a wooden cross at the cemetery during 1928.

Bearypalke burial ground was a hillock without the scent of modernity, which served only to burry the dead, to baptize the newborn as per Catholic religious practices, in an era of superstitious beliefs.  The people gossiped on citing burning tendu leaves in the middle of night, hearing strange noises of spirits talking to each others, etc.  The new born were baptized within a few days of delivery was followed, as the people believed it would lead to good health and save newborn from early death and salvation of its soul.  

The people living in Kankanady and Jappinamogaru who were hitherto dependant on either Rosario Cathedral and Milagres parishes for their spiritual needs and to burry their dead, pleaded the then Italian bishop Perini to establish a separate church and assured of pooling their resources by means of voluntary labor and money in this regard.  The people once again pleaded the bishop with their demand and assured of monetary support to restore their identity by means of a church of their own, to meet their spiritual needs and burry their dead.  A few religious orders that had their bases long established in the vicinity also supported their cause.  The seminary of secular clergies, monastery of cloistered nuns, Bethany sisters of charity already briefed the bishop about the congregation of people gathering at their chapels for Eucharistic Celebrations and at Jeppu parish which has been causing inconvenience to seminarians and religious nuns.  A few surviving parishioners recall such incidents of displeasure that has been expressed in a scuttle way.  

The seminary at Jeppu that was managed by Jesuits was handed over to the diocesan authorities in 1928 and the then local bishop V R Fernandes who was convinced of the need for a church approved the proposal to establish the church at Bearypalke on March 2 1935.  The bishop also decreed to dedicate the church in honor of St Vincent Ferrar, who was born in Valencia City of Spain.  The European identity of Valencia indeed changed the landmark of Bearypalke forever.   Fr Monthu Menezes became the first parish priest of this new Valencia church.  No sooner the church was built and consecrated to St Vincent Ferrar, its administration was transferred from Rosario Cathedral to Valencia parish priest by the bishop.  Fr Vincent Rebello generously contributed towards building a chapel at the western side of the cemetery to burry the diocesan clergies which was inaugurated on February 10 1935.  The mortal remains of diocesan clergy Fr S A Tellis was first buried at the chapel.
As Valencia parish lacked a building, the Eucharistic Celebrations on Sundays was temporarily held at the same chapel.  Meanwhile, the parish priest had written a letter to the government to approve an acre of plot within the cemetery to build a church.  It was an uphill task to get approval from the government that has originally allotted the plot for cemetery.  A few parishioners whose ancestors were buried in Milagres parish cemetery opposed to construct a separate church by a series of letters to the government, municipal council and revenue department, to deny permission in this regard.  They highlighted it’s not appropriate to grant permission to build a church, citing the cemetery was granted to burry the dead of poor families.  Despite the government clarified that cemetery is under the administration of bishop, a few opponents of Valencia parish, went so far as demanding to stall the Eucharistic Celebrations that are being held at the chapel in the cemetery and also to demolish the chapel.  They further forwarded their petitions to the government to oppose the temporary arrangement of bishop to offer Eucharistic Celebration at the chapel.  The government demanded the clarification from the bishop who called a meeting of leaders and it was decided to stall the Eucharistic Celebrations that are held at the chapel.  However, Eucharistic Celebrations were held at the residence of Salvador Lobo (Salu Master) and later at the residence of Cyril Monteiro which was in the vicinity.  

In spite of revenue authorities and municipal council granted permission to build the church on 1 acre plot out of 5.73 acres of cemetery, a few rebellions of Valencia parish filed a criminal case against the government secretary and bishop during August 1935.  The proceedings of the case went on till 1941, while the case was closed during 12-day hearing and paved the way for smooth transition.  The entire parish community rejoiced on this landmark judgment.  A few parishioners cherish the sweet memory of this historical event that their elderly family members shared with them while living.  The foundation for the church was laid and blessed on September 24 1942.  The Eucharistic Celebrations began at the new church since January 1944.  The parish community strengthened with the contributions of poor but generous parishioners who were inspired by their spiritual mentor Fr Monthu Menzes.

Fr Monthu Menezes was destined to be architect of Valencia parish.  It was during the World War II, the building materials – steel and cement was in short supply.  The cement was sourced from Bunder and transported to the site with the voluntary labor of parishioners and a boulder located besides the chapel was also cleared.  A makeshift was made using tendu leaves, plastering the floor with cow-dung, where the Eucharistic Celebrations began to hold.  It has come a long way since then where the Masses are held in the new gothic church building now.

It was the times, when the Christmas and Easter were held at midnights.  The parishioners’ houses were adorned with big altar and portraits of saints hung on the walls.  Although the parishioners were poor living in small houses, they were united by loving and caring for their neighbors. The parishioners were simple, where the girls played a simple game of ‘Jibli’ in their courtyards. There was a dense forest owned by a rich parishioner named Shresta on the existing plot of Roshni Nilaya, where the students of Jeppu School would go to savor wild fruits and try catching butterflies.  Those were the carefree childhood days.  The parishioners would sweep the church, to hold Eucharistic Celebration.  The parishioners were hard working, while perhaps a very few of them had horse-carts or an automobile. Despite their poverty, they contributed generously of their fruit of labor to the church.  Fr Monthu Menezes shouldered the heavy responsibility of building the church.  The parishioners acknowledge Fr Menezes was the architect of Valencia church and respect him as a devout priest.

The parish grew in every aspect of religious fervor.  The first annual feast of the parish was held on December 20 1944.  The diocesan authorities had organized several programmes to foster unity when the Jesuits handed over the administration to erstwhile Mangaluru diocese.  The hundreds and thousands of faithful partaken in the Eucharistic procession in 3 decades and veneration of Our Lady of Fatima when Mother Mary’s statue arrived in Mangaluru.  The parishioners of Valencia significantly contributed in the celebrations of 1955 that was dedicated to Mother Mary.  

Over the years, the spirituality and unity of parishioners strengthened in Valencia parish. The fests and other celebrations promoted unity and fellowship with poor parishioners of different wards.  It became a vibrant parish with the relentless efforts of parish priests and active involvement of parishioners who sacrificed their mite for the new church building.  The necessary items for offering Holy Mass were procured and the parish community was strengthened for taking active role in Eucharistic Celebrations.  The diocesan unity with different parishes also strengthened the bond with Valencia parish.  The temporary presbytery was built and priest began to live since April 1 1947. The bishop V R Fernandes offered the first Eucharistic Celebration at the new church for the first time on August 30 1953.  Fr Menezes who relentlessly served since 20 years suddenly became ill and retired by the end of 1955.  

Progressive path

Fr A P D’Souza served as parish priest from August 31 after the retirement of Fr Menezes.  Fr A P D’Souza resigned on August 31 and Fr Aloysius Rebello succeeded to become the next parish priest.  

It’s owing to the efforts of teachings by the Jesuits clergies the superstitious beliefs, such as seeking help of Hindu witchcrafts to forbid evil spirit, astrology were lessened, because Jesuits have laid emphasis on religiousness than pagan practices. They tried to motivate the parishioners to bless their homes instead of seeking witchcraft, reciting Holy Rosary and devotion to saints.  Although the parishioners were leaning towards much spirituality; a few of among them believed in superstitions.  There were parishioners who believed in Gulla, self styled witch practicing at Sooterpete, who has remedy for all of their sorrows.  At this situation, the novenas to saints were introduced to bring the stray sheep back to the flock.  Fr Rebello managed to complete the building, laid the floor, plastering the walls; raised the statues of saints on the bell fry and also constructed a grotto in honor of Our Lady of Fatima during 1958.  The modern church took its shape, while for the first time in Mangaluru, novenas of Our Lady of Succor began in the church on January 1 1956.  It was frequented by a large numbers of parishioners of Milagres and Bendore.  The devotion transformed Valencia church into major worship center.  The newly-built spacious presbytery was inaugurated during 1962.  The diocesan authorities appointed a full-pledged assistant parish priest.

The church got a modern look, complete with presbytery that is inclusive of dining hall and kitchen.  It got the electricity supply and municipal water.  The parishioners celebrated the silver jubilee of the church and sacerdotal silver jubilee of Fr Rebello during 1960.  The then bishop Raymond D’Mello lauded Valencia parish is the progressive parish.  Monsignor Fred V Pereira celebrated his first Holy Mass in his own Valencia church after his ordination on December 4 1962.  

The movement to create social change, women empowerment was at it’s unveiling.  Ladies Social Service League unit that was founded in the parish on October 14 1956 built Stree Samaj Mandir, in front of Jeppu Seminary with the contributions of others, in order to train girls on gainful employment.  The Mandir was inaugurated during 1964.

Fr Sewrine M Rasquinha who took charge as parish priest during May 1964 encouraged youth to take active role in choir and drama.  The upper deck in the church was repaired for the choir to join the congregation with melodious singing of hymns.  Fr Rasquinha took retirement owing to failing health and Fr Thomas D’Sa succeeded as temporary administrator (vicar Ekonomos) for 8 months.  

Fr John A P Miranda became the parish priest of Valencia during May 1967.  He embarked on beautification of church building, repairing the hall, building a compound around the cemetery.  The compound wall was built around the chapel where the diocesan clergies were buried, because youth were playing in front of the chapel.  The dairy farming that was launched by Caritas India to empower rural women was introduced in the parish.  The parishioners living in Sooterpete were offered a cow and Rs 500 to each family, with repayment provision of Rs 10 per month.  The exact number of families who benefited from this scheme is not available, but it’s clear that the parish tried to raise the living standards of families that needed utmost support.

Unity strengthened and parish emerges stronger in spirituality

A major incident that occurred on October 11 1968 indeed helped the parishioners to forge a strong bond in showing their solidarity.  On that night, the thieves entered the church and broke open the tabernacle, stole ciboriums, scattering the Blessed Sacrament in the parish cemetery and throwing the same at the temple lake of Kudroli.  Around 500 parishioners gathered in front of the church to condemn the sacrilege that showed their solidarity.  They have partaken in Eucharistic Celebration and prayer service in reparation of sacrilege act committed by miscreants.  It exemplified their unity in diversity to the people at large.

It was the era of Second Vatican Council; major changes were introduced to involve the laity in liturgical service that focused on spiritual growth of parishioners.  The liturgy was changed in forging the stronger bond of clergy and faithful.  In economic sphere, 1970 was significant because the parishioners living in small houses contemplated to reconstruct their homes.  The parishioners were working hard to improve their living conditions.   The Catholics owned businesses and were employed in plum jobs government departments.  It was vouched from the donations received by wealthy parishioners towards renovation of church building, constructing portico and beautification.

Fr Antony John D’Souza became the parish priest on September 15 1974.  He devoted his time to spread the devotion of Mother Mary among the parishioners.  He put his efforts in instilling love towards the parish among the youth and encouraged them to keep away from ill habits. He was indeed successful to persuade them in taking active role in parish activities.  He introduced children’s Sunday Mass before catechism and revived devotion to Our Lady of Perpetual Succor.  The Parish Day was celebrated with much fanfare on October 26.  Valencia Youngsters presented variety games and entertainment on Christmas Night, while the proceeds were donated to distribute Christmas goodies to children and other needs.  The statues of St Vincent Ferrar and Sacred Heart of Jesus were illuminated with the generous contributions of a few parishioners.  The belfry was illuminated and speakers were installed.  The copies of Holy Bible were distributed to each parish family.  Hymn books were printed and made available during the Holy Masses to involve the laity in praise and worship.

Fr Antony John D’Souza retired from service citing ill health during 1979, when Fr V M Fernandes took charge as parish priest.  He focused on spirituality among the parishioners.  He was a strict disciplinarian and maintained the church premises speck clean.  He procured steel chairs for the parish hall.  The parishioners of Valencia displayed a tableau during the diocesan Eucharistic procession.

Timoti Musical Concert was held in aid of building a new auditorium in the church on February 25 1981.  It was during the bishop’s visit to the parish during April 1982, the parish council raised the issue of parishioners of St Antony ward who were attending Eucharistic Celebrations at Jeppu church to include their ward under Valencia parish.  The bishop decreed that if the two-third of parishioners living in St Antony ward is willing to join Jeppu parish then it would be done.  However, the parishioners expressed their willingness to continue their loyalty to Valencia parish.  

It was decided during the council meeting to build a new hall for the parish.  As per the bishop’s instructions, it was decided to demolish presbytery and a small portion of southern part of the church, to build a new hall, presbytery on the ground floor and hall on first floor.

The Holy See declared 1983 – 84 is the year dedicated to Holy Redeemer.  The parishioners of Valencia took a walkathon to Rosario Cathedral as a penance and brought 4 consecrated crosses and venerated in different wards.   The Holy Cross was welcomed in a procession from Valencia Circle and venerated at the church with Passions of Cross.  The construction of presbytery began on April 14 1985.  It was completed with the relentless efforts of Fr Lawrence M Fernandes and active participation of parishioners.

1985 was the golden jubilee year of founding the Valencia parish.  A children’s play house was set up during July.  Variety cultural shows were held to mark the golden jubilee celebrations on December 15.  The new presbytery was blessed.  The golden jubilee celebration of founding Valencia parish coincided of beginning St Vincent De Paul Society that was also celebrated with much fanfare. A children’s nursery was set up during June 1986.  The children’s play house was shifted to Sooterpete School in 1988.  The parish council and youth staged a musical concert in Town Hall to raise funds for building parish hall.  The parish hall dedicated to St Vincent Ferrar with seating capacity of 800 people was constructed at a cost of Rs 14 lac and was inaugurated on May 31 1987.  It’s the testimony for the progress of Valencia parish.

When Monsignor Alexander F D’Souza took over as parish priest, he provided necessary items that are needed for the hall, chairs, backdrop, generator etc.  A manager was appointed along with an attendant to run the hall.  The parish youth took the charge of organizing the celebrations of Youth Day and parish annual feast.  The parish family welfare Committee was formed.   The plans were afoot to observe Maundy Thursday, in a meaningful manner on the basis of bishop’s letter to all parishes.  The Committee members allowed 5 members of a ward to wash their feet.  The families in discord with neighbors were encouraged to reconcile and wash one another’s feet and share food together once at their respective homes.  Six women got the chance during the washing of feet of apostles.  The procedure of annual fee that used to be collected during house blessings was changed to pay at the parish office.  The essential items were provided for children’s nursery.  A boundary wall was built for the cemetery behind the church building.

Fr Francis Serrao assumed the charge of parish priest on May 29 1988.  He streamlined the catechism classes and parish council.  He introduced the method to electing office bearers from each ward.  The feast of Our Lady of Perpetual Succor was celebrated with utmost religious fervor on July 3.  The novena books of Our Lady of Perpetual Succor were printed and released and distributed to parish family on Independent Day.  The devotion of Divine Mercy had also begun.  The parishioners in large numbers partaken in Eucharistic procession during 1989 from Rosario Cathedral to St Aloysius College Chapel.  Fr Serrao gave a facelift to the cemetery.  The parking slots in the church complex were marked to avoid zigzag parking.  Fr Serrao became ill and passed away owing to cardiac disease on June 10 1991.

Monsignor Alexander D’Souza once again became the parish priest on July 17 1991.  Fr Alexander resumed the task of laying ‘Kadapa’ to the church floor that Fr Serrao had begun.  It was completed giving a shining finish.  Charismatic Prayer Group was launched during 1991.  The small Christian community in each ward was formed in the parish to foster unity and brotherhood during 1992.     

Monsignor Alexander completed the erecting grill around the courtyard and repaired the tile roof that was approved by the parish council during the term of Fr Serrao.  However, the task of laying granite on the floor was delayed due to no consensus in the parish council. Meanwhile, the proposal got a new hope, when the parish council visited 9 churches across the district to study the best pattern to lay the granite.  It was laid as per the best design of that time, new benches placed in the main pews, the provision was made to place the hymnal behind the leaning benches, repaired the old benches, portico roof was laid with reinforced concrete, repaired the church roof etc.  The Eucharistic Celebrations were held at the parish hall when the granite was laid to the floor.  The church became elderly-friendly because the old parishioners managed to walk and sit inside the church to attend the Masses.

The parish bulletin ‘Ekvot’ was launched in 1993 to keep abreast with changing times of technological innovations and social progress.  Over the years, the bulletin has become a media to educate the parishioners on parish activities.  It’s noteworthy that the elders of families living nearby the church planted teakwood saplings around the cemetery to conserve nature during August 1994.

Fr Valerian Frank took charge as parish priest on June 18 1998 and led the parish community till May 5 2000. Ekvot, parish bulletin, small Christian communities, charismatic prayers, Kannada vigil on second Sunday of month were continued.  The catechism classes were held on Saturdays instead of Sundays. It was to the earlier mode as per the demands of majority of parishioners.  English Mass was introduced on Sunday.  Catholic Sabha – parish unit was formed during June 1999.

Basic Needs Committee was formed in the parish on the recommendation of parish council in relation to Christa Jayanti – 2000.  The Committee has been helping the poor parishioners in their needs.  It has been helping 24 such families by providing monthly rations.  

Fr Paul Pinto became the parish priest on May 30 2000.  He focused his energies to enhance spirituality among the parish community by visiting their families.  Konkani choir became vibrant.  January 26 2004 was the milestone in the history of Valencia parish, because on that day the newly-built belfry that was donated by parishioners and other donors was inaugurated.  The melody of bell indeed strengthened the unity to attend daily Masses.  The entire parish celebrated the event, with community cooking and with a fellowship meal.  The Sunday Liturgy that was chosen with different themes motivated the laity to take active part in the liturgical service.  At the changed times, the people question whether the belfry is needed; the ringing of bell during Church attack indeed brought hundreds of parishioners to the church within a few minutes of the news broke out.  

The parish bought 25.5 cents plot @ Rs 30 lac to develop building block for little children on April 30 2006.  The interlock was laid to church compound.  Old benches were replaced with new.  The kindergarten school was inaugurated on January 26 2006.  The parish day was celebrated with much fanfare.  

Fr Bonaventure Nazareth became the parish priest on June 4 2007 and Fr Maxim Rosario assumed the charge as assistant parish priest helping the parish community.  A grotto of Our Lady of Fatima was erected in front of the church, to promote devotion to Mother Mary, interlock was laid to the compound of Kindergarten School and wall was built around during 2008.  Sodality of Mary and YCS units were launched in the parish.  Eucharistic Celebration was begun to celebrate in the parish cemetery on All Souls Day – November 1, to pray for the repose of parishioners who left for heavenly abode.  The parishioners were attending this Mass in a large numbers.  A stage is under construction in the cemetery to hold worship.  The total wards of 12 were subdivided into 18 wards to help the parish community to take leadership in parish activities.  A parishioner woman was elected as vice president of parish council for the first time in 2011.  

Several programmes were organized to promote unity and strengthen spirituality during platinum jubilee year.  The programmes for youth, children and elderly based on their profession were held to foster bond among the parishioners.  The parishioners have taken active role in platinum jubilee celebration that was held on Sunday January 26 2011, beginning from Friday worship, vespers and grand valedictory ceremony, nine-day novenas, head-load offerings procession.  The parishioners cooked the food and fellowship meal was savored by nearly 3,300 people during the valedictory ceremony of platinum jubilee at the parish.  The assistant parish priest Fr Roshan Crasta and the parish priest, parish council, parish community, YCS and other organizations are striving to take the parish to greater heights.  The works to expand the church is under way @ Rs 1.5 crore.  The borewell that was dug up yielded abundant of water with the intercession of St Vincent Ferrar.

The parish has 985 families, 18 wards and 10 different units.  The parishioners both young and old are active in liturgical service.  The convents of Holy Rosary, Cloistered nuns, St Anne, St Gerosa, Roshni Nilaya, St Vincent and St Vincent Home are serving under the parish.  Father Muller Charitable Institutions, Viannie Home, St Antony’s Orphanage and old age home are located within a few kilometers.  Asha Kiran and Fatima Retreat House, Jesuit Home, Roshni Nilaya Kindergarten, Roshni Nilaya School of Social Work, Vishwas Trust, St Jerosa Primary and High School are within the limits of Valencia parish.

The parish plays a key role in shaping the civil society.  The parish meets the spiritual needs of parishioners from the cradle to the burial.  The parish gets strength from parish community and contributes for the society.  The office bearers of parish council, parish priests, religious nuns, and laities including children, youth and elders play key role in transforming the parish into a vibrant parish community.  Although, this article was written during platinum jubilee celebrations, it sheds light on analytics based on community to educate.  The parishioners of Valencia parish that was founded in 1935 are settled across the globe and India.  

The parish opens up many chances that are not available in society such as leadership, promoting inherent talents of children, women and youth.  The parish gives opportunity to be bold in taking decisions, to resolve family feuds, mediation to improve neighborly relations, for the betterment of society, creating political awareness and to instill religious values to contribute for nation building.  The parishioners, whose characters were strengthened in parish level, are inspired to take active role in their future endeavors.  The breed of honest persons should rise, while Valencia parish gives such gifted to the world.

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