History of Immaculate Conception Church, Mulki

The history of the Mulki Parish can be traced back to the first half of the 17th century. According to Prof. A.P.L. D’souza, there was no catholic population along the Canara coast before 1560. There is a historical evidence to show that in the 16th and 17th centuries catholic families from Goa started migrating to the south due to religious, social and economic reasons. Details of these can be found in Fr.Pius Fidelis Pinto’s book ” Desaantar thaun bandhaddek”. Prof.A.P.L. D’souza opines that the catholic families migrated southwards in waves. The first group arrived towards the middle of the 16th century at Mangalore and settled around the bunder area. Subsequent groups came towards the beginning of the 17th century, and landed at Gangolli, Kallianpur, Mulki and again Mangalore. The group thatcame to mulki settled in Ghazani area. As in all other groups the catholics were sufficiently educated. The Ghazani group took to agriculture. They must have endeared themselves to the local population and lived a peaceful and harmonious life. In the year 1678 Rani Chennamma of Ikkeri endowed land to this community, on which a church was built the very next year. In a letter written in 1681, by venerable Fr. Juze Vas has stated that he visited Mulki church and rendered spiritual service.

The History of the Diocese clearly states “The church of the Immaculate Conception at Mulki is one of the most ancient churches” of the Diocese. Mgr. Juliana D’souza in his historical notes writes: In the year 1816, there were 21 churches and four varados along Canara. The varodos were: 1. Onore (Honnavar), 2. Barcelore (Basrur), 3. Mulki and 4. Mangalore. By these notes and writings we can understand that Mulki was one was the four main important ancient churches. There must have been a harmonious spiritual body of catholics at Ghazani.

However, the peace and tranquility did not last long as, in the year 1784 the scourge of the captivity descended on 27 parishes of canara. In the wee hours of the morning of 24th February 1784, (ash Wednesday) the soldiers of Tippu Sultan raided the churches in Canara. In Mulki all catholics were rounded up without giving them any time to collect their belongings and were marched to a collecting point at Markunje near Karnad and later they were taken to a common point at Mangalore – Nanthoor Padav – where across difficult terrain, scarcity of water and food, non-availibility of medical aid, harassment and atrocities, ill health and deaths of loved ones and finally the group landed at Shrirangapatna.

The Mulki batch of catholics did the parish proud by their sacrifies. This day we, the present generation salute our ancestor heroes. The priests however were not taken captive. They were either forewarned and asked to leave or were arrested and released to avoid conflict with the Portuguese Government with whom Tippu Sultan had just concluded a treaty against the British.

There, at Shrirangapatna they suffered the captivity for 15 long years and finally returned to Mulki. What could have happened at Mulki between 1784 to 1799? Even though it is written that all were arrested and were left behind. According to Prof. D’souza, one family was hidden by a kindly Hindu neighbor. It is possible that these might have hidden themselves; Some clever and crafty made good their escape on the way and came back to Mulki. Some of these identified themselves as agricultural workers, being wary of the neighbours, lest they be betrayed. It is also possible that some more families might have come down from Goa.

Those who returned in 1799 took up residence at Hejamady. According to a tradition, the first thing they did was to erect a makeshift structure to serve as a place of worship. This however lasted only for 3 years due to the fury of nature. From then on, the catholics of Mulki went to Kirem for their spiritual needs. Rev.Fr. Lawrence Rodrigues has written in his “Saga of Kirem Church” that the re-roofed church was demolished by Tippu’s men and not re-erected by then. However the Mulki people had their own priest, mass and parish register etc. Thus a peculiar situation of parish within a parish was created which gave rise to some friction and compelled the catholics of Mulki to build a church of their own. The people of Mulki helped to build to build Kinnigoli church in 1804. In fact this church was meant to be built at Mulki and not at Kinnigoli. A certain Fr.Nolasco Baretto was sent from Goa to build a church at Mulki. His brother Fr.Narcissus Piadade Baretto was the parish priest at Kirem at that time.

These two Goan brothers were attached to each other and wanted to be close together. The newly built Kinnigoli church was placed under an interdict by Ach Bishop of Goa for changing the site of the church building from Mulki to Kinnigoli without prior permission of Arch-Bishop. The interdict was later revoked on certain conditions not known. The Mulki people were duped of their right to have their own church at Mulki.

Almost at the same time, the churches of Mulki varado were involved unknowingly in the Padroado and Propaganda de Fide controversy. The Mulki parish was all along under Propaganda de Fide. The parish priest of Kirem and about half the catholic population of Kirem were under Padroado system. The other half was under the Prapaganda de Fide. The parish of Pezar was Padroado. This situation caused constant conflicts between the people and it is recorded that there was a hand to hand fight between the people of Mulki and Pezar in which a Mulki parishioner was injured.(Bicentennial Jubilee Sovenir, Kirem History of Mangalore Diocese – Prof.A.P.L. D’souza.)

Apart from these events narrated above, we have hardly any historical information of 18th century, relating to Mulki Parish. Dejected perhaps, Mulki people came back to Ghazani area and built a new church in 1856 at Ghazani which became dilapidated after 40 years.

Around 1892, six acres and 80 cents of land was purchased from Mr. Mallya at Karnad through Mr. Nicholas Britto of Mangalore. On 19th February1893 a foundation stone was blessed by very Rev.Fr.J.B Rossi, S.J., Vicar General and the new church building at Karnad was blessed in the year 1895. The first male child baptized in this church became Rev.Fr. Boniface D’souza S.J. Sadly enough this date (1895) has been recorded in the Diocesan Directory as the establishment of the Mulki parish, thereby erasing nearly 200 years of our precious history.

Due to long distance and difficulty in crossing the river, which caused great inconvenience to the people of the two distant wards, lying to the north-east of the church, to attend the Mulki church regularly, Bishop Basil Peres dismembered those wards from the mother church on January 30th 1956 and erected a new church at Palimar. By about 1990, the need for a new church was felt by Rev.Fr.Robert M. Pinto. Due to his ill-health, this project could not be materialized, He donated Rs. 2000/- for the new church building fund. His successor Rev.Fr. William Martis continued the fund-raising campain and at the time of his departure, consolidated that fund to Rs.400000/- (Four Lakhs).

In 1999, the present Parish Priest Rev.Fr. Mathias Pereira, with his efforts and earnest co-operation of the parishioners and well-wishers, completed the magnificent edifice of the new church, the presbytery and the belfry. That was blessed and consecrated on 25th October 2001. On taking charge of the parish in 1998 Rev.Fr. Mathias Pereira, was briefed about the pending project of the new church. The following year, a time schedule was set for dismantling of the old structure. The sudden demise of Prof. A.P.L. D’souza, the historian of this parish preceded the final thanksgiving Mass on 24th January, 1999, after which as a token, the said roof of the old structure was dismantled. While recalling the history of Mulki parish of nearly 325 years, let us reverently salute our forefathers, for fostering and sustaining the Catholic faith which came down to us from Goa, with a call to the present and future generations, to live a life of redemption and love, bestowed by our Lord, Jesus Christ.

- Source : mulkichurch.com

About Immaculate Conception Church, Mulki

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