History of Infant Jesus Church , Modankap, Bantwal

The small town at the banks of the river Netravati, called as Bantwal, was known for trade. Bantwal town is reverentially called as Vatapura Kshetra by some communities. Originally most of the people were agriculturists and they were hard working and known for their ability. So it is also called as the place of Heroes. The name Bantwal itself originated from the Bunts, because of two prominent Bunt communities existed with their two famous temples around the place, at Amptady and Kanapady. The place in between these two places is called Bantwal. It is situated beside the National Highway-48, 23 km East of Mangalore. The parish dedicated to Infant Jesus, at Bantwal has a history of more than 3 centuries. But there undoubted belief that Christianity has existed here in the beginning of 17th century itself. It is the main church of Bantwal deanery headed by it’s parish priest as Vicar Vara or the dean, from the time when the Diocese of Mangalore was formed.

St. Thomas, one of the twelve Apostles of Lord Jesus Christ kindled the light of faith during the first century A.D. in the Southern Part of India. Alphonso-de-Albuquerque a Portuguese explorer conquered Goa and was its Viceroy of the Indies from 1510-1515. This made it easy to Portuguese King Immanuel to send missionaries to Kanara for evangelization. Later in the year 1542 St. Francis Xavier, a Spanish Jesuit arrived in Goa from Portugal and propagated Christianity. Due to several reasons a group of Catholics from Goa migrated to South Kanara. Many churches were built in South Kanara. The first Church in South Canara was built and dedicated to St. Francis of Assisi at a place called Arkula near Bantwal. More or less at the same time, Rosario Cathedral and Ullal-Panir were built. Later Agrar and many more churches were built. One of the renowned missionary named Fr. Joseph Vaz was deeply involved in the spreading Christianity in various parts of South Canara for nearly four years and later he returned back to Goa and there he joined the Oratory Congregation. Two priests namely Fr. Jachom Gonsalves and Fr. Joseph Mingual D’ Mello from the very same congregation were sent to South Canara to serve the Christian people. In 1702 Fr. Mingual D’Mello reached Bantwal and it was he who decided to built the Infant Jesus Church in Bantwal. He lived here for nearly six months rendering his service to the Christian people through his noble deeds and then left to Ceylon. Later in 1746 King Basavannappa Nayak II accused the missionaries and local Catholics who were constructing the church without the orders from the king. But then he realized that the land was not under his territory and it belonged to the Catholics and then he permitted them. Fr. Antonio Lobo De Serula was the first parish priest appointed for Bantwal church in 1752. In the years, Bantwal parish jurisdiction was extended as far as beyond the river Netravati, namely Puttur, Borimar Vittal and Uppinangady, and in later years Mogarnad(1775), Bellore (1920), Loretto(1939) and Bambil(1999) parishes were made independent. While Agrar parish remained under Padrovado (Goan Missionary Jurisdiction), Bantwal parish came under Propaganda(Missionary Jurisdiction from Rome). Later Bantwal Church came under Verapoly Bishop. When the Diocese of Mangalore was separated from Verapoly, Bantwal was given the status of the deanery main parish and the then parish priest Fr Antony John Coelho was made the dean or the Vicar Vara of the Bantwal deanery in 1888.

The period from 1784 to 1799 forms a misery and sad page in the history of the Christians in Kanara. On 30th January 1784 the British surrendered to Tippu Sultan’s Forces. Tippu Sultan was enraged by Christian communities whom he thought to be his enemies. He issued orders to his commanders to arrest all Christians in Kanara, confiscate their land and valuables and destroy their churches and force them as captives to Srirangapatnam. Their fate was sad and gloomy and many of them died because of starvation and fatigue on the way. The survivors who reached Srirangapatnam were rounded up and tortured to embrace Islam. During this period Tippu’s forces desecrated and destroyed, partially or fully, all 27 churches of Canara except one. Srirangapatnam was besieged and fell to the British forces in 1799. Thus ended the torture and captivity of Christians. After return from the captivity the Christians repaired the roof of Infant Jesus Church which was destroyed by the soldiers of Tippu. Though the people had donated vast land before Tippu’s captivity, most of it was encroached by the people who were left behind.

The great missionaries who toiled here had a far vision to educate the people to drive away the superstitious beliefs from the people. So they established educational institutions. The present Infant Jesus Aided Hr. Pry. School has its origin side by side with the Bantwal parish in 1702. The former residence of the priests’ was converted into the school, it is said. In 1928 another Hr. Pry. School at Thodambila, dedicated to the Sacred Heart of Jesus was the brain child of then parish priest, Fr Balthazar Aranha. In 1963 the arrival of Apostolic Carmel Sisters opened new avenues in the educational field with the establishment of Carmel High School for girls. The presence of Apostolic Sisters in the vicinity gave way for the birth of Pre-University and Degree Colleges, which contributed towards the education of the youngsters.

While the Sisters opened the High School for the girls, the far sighted Fr Edwin Castelino along with his Assistant Parish Priest Fr Stanly Pereira, with the similar visionaries like Aria Sri Laxminarayana Alva and others came together to give birth to Deepika High School in the vicinity for boys, in 1964. Another unique feather was added to the crown of educational hub at Bantwal with the dawn of Infant Jesus English Medium School by Fr Peter Noronha in 1995.

The priests who served the parish as parish priests and Assistant parish priests worked relentlessly for the all round growth of the parish and the parishioners. The progress of the parish is brought about very well by the cooperation of the parishioners. As a result the parish shines as a model to the whole diocese in all respect.

About Infant Jesus Church, Bantwal

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