Udupi: The newly built Christ Church at Manipal is all set for inauguration on December 5
The name ‘Manipal’ is derived from the word ‘Mannu’ and ‘Palla’ which means ‘mud’ and ‘lake’ in the Tulu language. This lake, to which Manipal owes its name, is place of pride for the people in this university town. The city, which was once a barren hill with few trees, came into the limelight in the 1950s, when Dr TMA Pai, a doctor, banker, educator, industrialist and philanthropist, transformed this barren hillock into a world-famous university town. The place also has religious significance as it is very close to Udupi. Udupi has been a very imperative pilgrim spot in India and is noted for the wide array of temples and churches. The history of Manipal Christ Church goes back to the history of Christianity in this part of the region. The Church of Nossa Senhora de Milagres, now popularly called the Milagres Church of Kallianpur, reveals the history of Christianity in Udupi district today. The church, built with the help of the local queen, gradually grew to accommodate more and more Christians in and around Udupi and Manipal.
Today, Manipal is known globally and has become the abode of an international community. With the opening of the Kasturba Medical College in 1953, a few Catholic students arrived here. Later, when the Engineering College came up, the number of Catholic students increased. They had to travel to Udupi to attend Sunday Service and to fulfill their religious needs. Most of them were non-Konkani speaking people and the service in Udupi Church was in Konkani. It was Fr Sylvester D’Souza, the then Chaplain of St Cecily’s Convent, who realized the need of religious services in English. When he approached Dr TMA Pai with this problem, permission was granted to him to conduct the Holy Eucharistic Service on Sundays and other days of obligation in the Kannada Primary School, Manipal. Such a service was celebrated for the first time on 12th July, 1959. Thus, the Catholic Community of Manipal came into existence officially on that day.
Within a year, there arose the need for a church in Manipal. Fr Sylvester moved from pillar to post to get some land at a convenient distance from the centre of Manipal. Late R M Andrade, Convent View, Udupi was generous enough to donate 12 cents of land opposite to the English Primary School, Manipal to build the church. Even the foundation stone was laid at this site. But due to certain difficulties, an alternate site had to be obtained. Overcoming all hurdles, he finally managed to get the present site of Christ Church, a two acre plot, from the Government of Karnataka.
The plans for the construction of a church were finalized, and on Palm Sunday, 22-3-1964, the foundation stone was laid. Hoping for co-operation and liberal donations from the student community, their parents and well wishers from in and around Manipal and with trust in providence, Fr Sylvester went ahead with the construction.
Through the mediation of John, Sripapthy Acharya of Bharath Construction Udupi agreed to complete the church building without any advance payment. Without their help, the building of Christ Church would not have been a reality.
The church was inaugurated on 17th January 1967 by late Cardinal Valerian Gracias, Archbishop of Bombay. The church was ready but the presbytery had to be built. This work was also undertaken by Fr Sylvester. The building with six rooms and a kitchen came up soon. Finally, from 1st May 1968, Fr Sylvester took residence in Manipal.
Fr Sylvester now dreamt of a Youth Centre for various activities for the youth of Manipal. With a donation from the Propagation of Faith, the foundation stone of the Youth Centre was laid on 11th January, 1970. With the amount available and personal loans, Fr Sylvester could complete the first phase of the Youth Centre Building.
In the meantime, the work of improving the two acre plot was undertaken at a considerable cost. Just at this juncture, at the invitation of the parents and the old boys of Manipal, from Malaysia, Singapore and Brunei, Fr Sylvester went on a three month tour. On his return, the second phase of the Youth Centre Building was completed in December 1978. The Youth Centre was formally inaugurated on 3rd December 1978 by His Grace Tan Sri Dominic Vendargon, former Archbishop of Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia.
Fr Sylvester was transferred from Manipal on 26th May 1979 and Fr Stany Tauro came to Manipal as the next parish priest. Fr Stany happened to be an ideal person in the midst of the youth of Manipal. He revived the Youth Centre.
Fr John Mendonca took charge of this parish as the parish priest on 14th May 1983, on Fr Stany’s transfer to Fr Muller Hospital as Asst. Director. Fr John built the community with diverse socio-spiritual activities. It was during the tenure of Fr John that the Christ Church completed the Silver Chapter.
Fr Walter D’Mello took over from Fr John in the year 1987. The Parochial House and the Universal Counseling Centre is the result of his hard work. Fr Harold Mascarenhas succeeded Fr Walter in 1994. He dreamt of an English Medium School and made a small beginning. The Youth Centre swelled with students. Fr Joseph Cardoza then took charge from Fr Harold in the year 2001. Fr Joseph, a trained counselor, revived the Universal Counseling Centre. Christ School, an English medium school under the State Board, also came into existence.
Fr Francis Lewis succeeded Fr Joseph in the year 2008. The whole campus was given a new outlook. Christ School was upgraded from State Board to Central Board. The infrastructure of the school gave a new look. An Adoration Chapel was built to help people to spend more time with the Lord.
The Church was now renovated to accommodate more people. Due to the increasing number of parishioners in the community, the church faced constraint of space especially during the Sunday congregation. Thus, a need for a bigger church was felt by the parish council and the parishioners. The Foundation stone for this new church was laid by the Bishop of Udupi on November 13, 2014. In a record time of less than a year, the church was built. The new church is now ready for inauguration.
On December 5, at 5 pm, Bishop of Udupi Dr Gerald Isaac Lobo and Bishop of Shivamogga Dr Francis Serrao will take part in the inauguration, blessing and Holy Eucharist.