. HISTORY OF THE DIOCESE

THE BEGININGS

The Augustinians and the Jesuits were the first missionaries who ventured new mission what is today Krishnagar Diocese looking for the souls for Christ in the beginning of the 17th Century. Around 1620 they established a catholic center at Berhampur in Murshidabad district to minister to the European Catholics. Their labour bore fruits. The statistics reveal that there were 125 Catholics in Berhampur by 1851.

Fr. Thomas Zubiburu, a Portuguese Carmelite, was the first Catholic priest to come to Krishnagar in May 1845 from Chitagong. At that time there was a flourishing community of Protestants in Krishnagar. The first Catholics were from Protestantism. He blessed the first Church of Krishnagar in 1846. It was dedicated to Our Lady of Carmel. There were no resident priests after he was forced to withdraw due to illness. The municipality took over the church and the residence which they turned into a dispensary. Krishnagar was then looked after by the Archbishop of Calcutta, Mgr. Patrick Joseph Carew, who was also the apostolic vicar of Bengal. In 1845 the Vicariate Apostolic of Dhaka was erected. In 1855 he felt it imperative to divide the vast territory once again into various units. He formed the central Bengal Mission consisting of the whole of Assam, part of present Bangladesh and the present Krishnagar diocese. The Pontifical Institute for Foreign Missions in Milan (PIME, the Milan Fathers) accepted the new mission.

THE MILAN FATHERS

Three priests and a Brother landed at Berhampur on 17thJune 1855. As soon as they arrived they started the work of evangelization with great enthusiasm. They divided the mission among themselves. Fr. Albino Parietti, the superior, remained at Berhampur which was also made the headquarter of the Central Bengal Mission. Fr. Luigi Limana came to Krishnagar and Fr. Antonio Marietii went to Jessore. Fr. Parietti went to his eternal reward on 30th November 1864. At that time there were 600 Catholics excluding the soldiers, 7 sisters and 2 European Catechists. The arrival of the Sisters of Charity of Sts. Bartholomea Capitanio and Vincenza Gerosa (Sisters of Maria Bambina) in Krishnagar on 17th March 1860 was a significant event in the history of the Central Bengal Mission.

THE APOSTOLIC PREFECTURE OF KRISHNAGAR

When Fr. Limana came to Krishnagar he found that the Christians had either scattered or lapsed to Protestantism. He claimed the Church and the residence from the municipality, which handed them over to him. Once again a community of Catholics began to group up in Krishnagar. In 19th July, 1870 the Holy See erected Krishnagar into a Prefecture Apostolic and Fr Mareitti was appointed its first Prefect Apostolic. In 1879 owing to ill health unable to carry the burden of the Prefecture, he resigned and went to Jessorr, Msgr. Marietti died of Pneumonea at Jessore on 27th November 1892.

There were 1191 Catholics, 9 priests, and 12 Sisters at this time. He resigned in 1879 and Mgr. Pozzi from Hyderabad succeeded him. He brought back the headquarters from Jessore to Krishnagar.

THE DIOCESE OF KRISHNAGAR

The diocese of Krishnagar was erected on 1st September 1886 and Mgr. Pozzi was appointed its first bishop. He built thefirst cathedral in the site of the old church (at present the Sadar Hospital situated) which was destroyed in the earthquake of 1897. He was consecrated in the Chapel of St. Xavier's College, Calcutta. In 1897 a great earthquake destroyed the old church. Bishop Pozzi decided to build a real Cathedral on a design prepared by Fr. Armanasco. The work proceeded so fast that on 29th March, 1899 the cathedral was rebuilt in the present site and was blessed under his care. .In the same year Assam was detached from the diocese of Krishnagar. He died on 22nd October 1905. Msgr. Santino Taveggia was Bishop Pozzi's own Vicar General and succeeded the care of the diocese after his death as the 2nd bishop of Krishnagar Diocese. He had arrived in Bengal in November 1878. His first field of work was Jessore and Sunderbans under Msgr. Marietti. In 1884 he went to Bhavarpara. In 1892 he founded a small congregation under the title of "Catechists Sister of Mary Immaculate", popularly called the "Bhoginis" and placed them under the direction of the Sisters of Charity. On 8th April 1932, in an impressive ceremony, three girls received the religious habit, which was an adaptation of the Indian Sari. He consecreated them on 4th November, 1906.

The great progress made during the period forced the bishop to request the Holy See to divide the diocese. The diocese of Dinajpur was erected on 20th June 1928. The Milan Fathers took charge of the new diocese and handed over Krishnagar to the Salesians of Don Bosco. There were 6259 catholics, 19 churches, 37 chapels and 23 schools looked after by 8 priests and 34 sisters in Krishnagar Diocese. In April 1928, Bishop Taveggia moved into Dinajpur and on 2nd June, 1928, he passed into eternity.

THE SALESIANS

When Msgr. Taveggia was transfered to Dinajpur, the Krishnagar Diocese became a Salesian Diocese by the announcement of the Holy See. In 1928 three Salesians, Fr. Piesuir, Fr. Pisano and Msgr. Emmanuel Bars, first set foot in Krishnagar. Msgr. Emmanuel Bars sdb, Was elected the Apostolic Administrator in the diocese. He was born at Torroella de Montgri, Spain, on 20th October 1889. He stayed at Krishnagar for a period of 6 years (1928-1934). He died at Shillong on 4th April 1974. Msgr. Stephen Ferrando, who was appointed the first Salesian Bishop and the 3rd bishop of Diocese of Krishnagar on 24th November, 1934 and was triumphantly welcomed to Krishnagar by 1500 local christians. At that time in the Diocese there were only 9 priests, 5 clerics and the Sisters of Charity. In his pastoral visits the new Bishop reported that he had visited 61 centres where there were christians. When he was transferred to Shilong in the following year, Mgr. Vincent Scuderi succeeded him as Apostolic Administrator.

After the transfer of Bishop Stephen Ferrando, Fr. Vincent Scuderi sdb became the Apostolic Adminstrator of Krishnagar Diocese. The first work of the new Apostolic Administrator was to begin a school for training the Catechists in Jessore which had once been the first Prefecture Apostolic in Bengal and abandoned later because lack of personel. It was the city which was the first missionary in 1856 and witnessed on 31st January, 1937 the installation of its first Catechist aspirants. He stayed in Krishnagar till 1939. On 25th May 1939 Mgr. L. R. Morrow was appointed Bishop. Under his dynamic leadership of Krishnagar , the evangelization progressed in spite of the war and the famine. The literacy rate which was 41/2% of the Catholic populatin of Krishnagar in 1941 rise to more than 60% at the time of his retirement in 1969.In 1952 he enlarged and embellished the cathedral. It still stands in chaste beauty as a noble landmark and a magnetic centre of attraction of many of all faiths, which had been built in 1899 to triple its former size. The most significant pastoral work of the bishop was the founding of the religious institute the Sisters of Mary Immaculate on 12th December 1948. Since then the SMIs have been working zealously in the Diocese.

After the partition of Bengal, Krishnagar diocese was divided once again and the diocese of Khulna was erected on 16th July 1950. There were 4578 Catholics, 12 priests, 4 Brothers and 31 Sisters in Krishnagar diocese after the partition. Bishop Morrow worked for the welfare of all and his service to the people of Krishnagar was duly recognized by them. When they elected him as member of the executive committee of the Krishnagar Municipality in 1952. And re-elected for another three terms, totalling 14 years.

RECENT TIMES

Fr. Louis Gobetti governed the diocese as Vicar Capitular after Bishop Morrow resigned in 1969. He was succeeded by Mgr. Mathew Baroi as his Apostolic Administrator on 19th October 1970. Mgr. Baroi was elected as the 5th bishop on 6th October 1973. at that time there were 15,000 Catholics in 10 parishes looked after by 25 priests, 144 Sisters and 50 catechists.

Bishop Baroi worked selflessly to uplift the living conditions of the flock entrusted to him. He will be remembered for his enthusiastic support for the evangelization work among the Santals in the district of Murshidabad. The Bongaon parish was detached from Krishnagar diocese and joined to Kolkata in 1976.

He felt the need of diocesan priests in order to go to the depth of evangelization. He, therefore, catered the candidates for diocesan priesthood sending them out of diocese for formation. It bore fruits in the person of Fr. Santosh Mondol , Fr. Robin K. Mondol , Fr. Prosanto Biswas and Fr. Subhash D. Baroi. In response to the Bishops invitation the Daughters of Mary Help of Christians (The Salesian Sisters) began to work in the diocese in 1980, in the newly erected parish of Kalyani. Bishop Baroi passed away on 4th April 1983. On 5th April 1983 Fr. Varkey Padamattumel was elected Vicar Capitular of the diocese. Rt. Rev. Lucas Sirkar was appointed bishop of Krishnagar on 16th July 1984 and consecrated on 22nd September 1984. Since then he shepherded the diocese with love and care. He was born on 24th September 1936. He became a Salesian on 24th May 1958 and he was ordained a priest on 29th April 1968. The administration of the Cathedral Rectory and the Pastoral care of the Cathedral Parish was officially handed over to the Diocesan Clergy on 24th May 1988.

On 20th April 2000 Rt. Rev. Lucas Sirkar was appointed Co-adjutor Archbishop of Calcutta and on 1st June 2000 he was installed as such in Kolkata's Cathedral.

Besides seeing to an increase in the Diocesan clergy Bishop Lucas invited several Congregations to work in the diocese, like the Congregation of Teresian Carmelites (CTC), the Congregation of Jesus and Mary Sisters (JMR), the Congregation of the Holy Family Sisters, the Missionaries of Charity Sisters (MC), The Daughters of St. Anne (DSA), the Congregation of the Redemptrists Fathers (CssR). He himself founded a diocesan congregation for the sisters. He opened a Minor Seminary in 1986 at Amghata to foster local vocation for diocesan clergy.

On 2nd June 2000 Fr. Luciano Colussi was elected Diocesan Administrator of Krishnagar Diocese. He very efficiently looked after the diocese for two years. He took keen interest in evangelization of the people for which he organized one-week courses for catechists every month. In his tenure also flourished all the commissions and associations, such as 'Christo Parishad', SCC, Family Commission, Liturgical Commission, and so on. On 24th May 2001, the feast of Mary Help of Christians, the Salesians officially handed over the Bishop's House to the Diocesan Clergy. Until this day Salesian community used to reside in Bishop's House.

On 17th April, 2002 Fr. Joseph Suren Gomes sdb, was appointed as the 7th bishop of Krishnagar. He was consecrated a Bishop on 31st May 2002 by Most Rev. Lucas Sirkar adb, Archbishop of Kolkata, Rt. Rev. Dominic Jala of Shillong, Rt. Rev. Thomas Manaparamppil of Guwahati and 10 other bishops witnessed the event in the Most Holy Redeemer’s Cathedral Church with festivity.

© 2016 Roman Catholic Diocese of Krishnagar