History of Our Lady of Mercy Church of Ullal, Paneer

Our Lady of Mercy Church of Ullal, Paneer, presents itself at foremost on the pages of Mangalorean Catholic Church history. This church can be observed to be the first land point, from whence the Portuguese missionaries back in 15th century AD began to introduce the Catholic faith onto the Konkan coast of India. In the year 1521AD, with support from the Portuguese navy, the Franciscan missionaries arrived to Mangalore and introduced catholic faith among the local people.

Initially, for the benefit of the Portuguese catholic army, the first church Rosario as built at Pandeshwar. Secondly, the Our Lady of Mercy church located near Deralakatte junction, Ullal, Paneer was built to the South. Thirdly, another church dedicated to St. Fancis of Assisi was constructed near Farangpete in the East.

Our Lady of Mercy has ancient history associated with it. In the 17th century AD, the church gained importance as it was considered to be the largest in the Dakshina Kannada region. It is through this church’s existence; eventually ten more parishes took birth namely, Fajeru, Karopadi, Vijayadka, Manjeshwara, Bola, Permannuru, Ranipura, Aomeombala, Mudipu and Alyarpadav.

“He completely identified himself with him.”

Every parish has a history behind its creation. The reason for the attractive and famous history of Ullal-Paneer parish lies upon the shoulders of Blessed Rev.Fr.Joseph Vas. This bright star from Goa is the force behind the work put into resolving the religious puzzle along west coast of India. Accepting his elders decision, in 1681 he travelled barefoot along the coast spreading the gospel and first reached Honnavar. Later he carried on with his missionary work along the route of Basroor, Kundapur and Gangoli. Without any fear for his life, he spread the word the gospel. Rev.Fr.Joseph Vas became the main reason for the unison of Christian clergy through prayers and festivals. Also he spread the importance praying to Mother Mary. Indifferent to caste, creed, status and clans, he mixed with everyone and he carried on with his mission selflessly. He became one with them in their pain and sufferings.

In 1680, Rev.Fr.Joseph Vas arrived, filled with the spirit of missionary work to ‘Our Lady of Mercy’ parish of Ullal-Paneer. From 1681AD – !684AD Blessed Joseph Vaz carried on his work in Mangalore. In 1684, he met the Bishop of Mangalore and then left to Goa. He, later left for Sri Lanka, where he labored on with his missionary works for Twenty one yeas, elevating and enlightening the lives of people where ever he tread.

“There are those who cannot tolerate progress”.

The incident that took place on that one dark night with blessed Joseph Vaz, is a black spot on the sheets of history. In pretext to give final rites and confession, blessed Joseph Vaz was called for to the Mudipu hill. As he was reaching the summit of this secluded hill top, he realized that he was being brought here to be murdered. Surrounded under the glow of the flaming torches, as the assailants raised their weapons to strike down blessed Joseph Vaz, he was fearless of his approaching fate and stood his ground courageously. He merely requested them to give him some time to pray before they murdered him. He kneels down upon the bare rock, supporting himself with the walking stick he had carried along with him, looks up into the sky and starts praying. All of a sudden, there came an amazingly bright light from the skies.

Simultaneously, streams of water began to spurt out on the barren rocky hill top, from where Blessed Joseph Vaz was kneeling. Frightened by this sudden change in the environment, the assailants fled the scene. There goes a saying that after this incident, blessed Joseph Vaz on that dark lonely night came back from Mudipu to Paneer church. Jesus Christ who had come to this world for the uplifting of the people was crucified. His follower, Blessed Joseph Vas came to Paneer, followed in the footsteps of his master. Undeterred by the deceiving nature of the people he was surrounded by, he worked hard for their upliftment.

Tippu Sultan and the sufferings of the Christians in Canara

Tippu sultan initiated his agenda of torturing Christians in the 17th century. He believed that the Christian population where working along with the British to stand against him and cause his fall. So in February 24, 1784, he began his persecution for Christians. He captured more than 70,000 Christians from Kundapur, Udupi and Managalore and marched them through Belthangady to Srirangapatna in Mysore. He saw to it that no water or food was provided to the captured and hence, many captured Christians lost martyred their lives along the treacherous path due to exhaustion. He destroyed the many churches along with Milagres church and the Rosario Cathedral along his path. He also murdered as many youths as possible by pushing them off the table top cliff Bekal fort of Jamalabad, near Belthangady. Teen girls, patients and pregnant ladies martyred along the way unable to walk the distance. Many others martyred due to the tortured meted by the army. Our elders who suffered this persecution only with the rosary in their hands and strong faith is truly praiseworthy.

In September 4,1799, Tippu Sultan was captured and killed by the British in alliance with the Nizam of Heyderabad in the Fourth Anglo – Mysore war. This became the day of salvation for those few remaining Christian prisoners at Srirangapatna. Out of the 70,000 Christians taken prisoners, only 10,000 survived and returned back to their villages in Canara. Along the way they successively built churches to facilitate their faith.

‘Birth of Paneer Church’

Under the leadership of Fr. A H Andrade, in the year 1873AD, Paneer church building came into existence. At the beginning of the 19th century, scattered catholic clergy in the vast area of Kasargod were guided under the presence of the vicar of Paneer parish. With the goal to establish a prayer hall for the future, the vicar use to frequent the remote area of Kumble. Since the area was remote and sparsely populated, a narrow footway being the only rote for connectivity, the vicar had to walk alone along the long distance. This place was eventually named as ‘Kudre Hadi’, which continues to remain to this day. It is the very location where the present Our lady of Sorrows church came to be established. Thus, historically it became the primary parish of the Kasargod varado. Rev.Fr.Pascal Mascharenus became the first vicar of this new Bela parish in 1880.

From 1873AD – 2012AD, twenty eight priests have served in Paneer parish, uniting the people and hence strengthening the foundation of the parish. Presently, Fr. Vincent Dsouza is serving the people of this parish. In the location where existed the old church building, a new chapel dedicated to Blessed Joseph Vaz has been constructed.

The twenty nine vicars who served the parish are:

 Sl.No Name Years of Service
1. Rev. Fr. C. H. Andrade 1865-68
2. Rev. Fr. D. R. Telis 1868-70
3. Rev. Fr. J. B. Rebello 1870-78
4. Rev. Fr. P. Mascheranus 1878-81
5. Rev. Fr. A. Pinto 1881-82
6. Rev. Fr. Martin. F. Cohelo 1882-86
7. Rev. Fr. D. R. D’Souza 1887
8. Rev. Fr. R. Goveaus 1887-89
9. Rev. Fr. B. S. Furtado 1889-95
10. Rev. Fr. J. L. Menezes 1895-1900
11. Rev. Fr. C. P. Cohelo 1900-11
12. Rev. Fr. Joseph Menezes 1911-14
13. Rev. Fr. L. C. Fernandes 1914-15
14. Rev. Fr. Vincent Rebello 1915-18
15. Rev. Fr. J. A. Rodrigues 1918-23
16. Rev. Fr. F. X. Arhana 1923-31
17. Rev. Fr. A. S. D’Silva 1931-37
18. Rev. Fr. J. S. Lewis 1937-49
19. Rev. Fr. William Rebello 1949-50
20. Rev. Fr. Frank I Peris 1951-66
21. Rev. Fr. Rafael D’Silva 1966-68
22. Rev. Fr. C. J. Mathais 1968-75
23. Rev. Fr. C. J. Arhana 1975-83
24. Rev.Fr. Maurice D’Souza 1983-90
25. Rev. Fr. Charles Saldhana 1990-97
26. Rev. Fr. Marcel Saldhana !997-2004
27. Rev. Fr. Gerald Pinto 2004-05
28. Rev. Fr. Victor Gerald D’Souza 2005-10
29. Rev. Fr. Vincent D’souza 2010-15

Silver jubilee celebrations of the new church building

(1568 – 2012)(1987 – 2012)

The unwavering faith of the catholic people of Paneer, carries a history exceeding three hundred twenty five years. This resolute faith and belief of the people of Paneer is the main reason for the establishment of a deep rooted Catholic society. Since the old church building was in a dilapidating condition, in 1987, the then vicar of the parish Fr. Maurice F Dsouza, keeping faith in god, initiated and finished the construction of the new church building. Also, a house for the priests, a community hall, a playground, and a stage for cultural activities, making Paneer church a regular place for varied programmes and cultural activities.

To brighten up the faith of the people residing in the surrounding area of paneer parish, a beautiful chapel dedicated to Blessed Rev. Fr. Joseph Vas built by Rev. Fr. Vincent D’Souza. Along with this installation, other developmental works include promotion of rubber plantations. The surrounding hilly forest area and empty land was cleared and more than 4500, rubber saplings were planted. This helped in providing a financial support to the church.

For the religious development of the Paneer parish and its 17 wards, small Christian community is lively participated. The other organizations which enrich the parish include, Children and Women Sodality, ICYM, YCS, Stree Sanghatan, Catholic sabha, SVP, Youth SVP, Elders group and Church Choir group. These associations are supported and guided by Parish Pastoral Council, President and secretary.

Devoted to Our Lady of Mercy, Paneer churches administrative area includes Wolavina Halli, Kotekar, Paneer and ten other religious institutions. Some of the included institutions are, Paneer Church Primary school, De Mercy De Ashram, Fr. Mullers Homeopathy Hospital, Assisi school Bagambila and a college administered by the Society of Jesus, making Paneer a growing hub for education.

- Source : www.paneerchurch.com

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