St.Fidelis Province, North India - History of St. Fidelis Province

Implantation of Order in India
The arrival of the Capuchins in India dates back to the year 1632 when a band of foreign Capuchin missionaries landed in Pondicherry. The Capuchins continued their missionary labour in Tibet, Nepal and in the Vicariate of Agra and Patna. However the idea of implanting of the Order in India was considered as a possibility only in 1880, when a novitiate house was started in Mussoorie. Ten years later this novitiate was closed down for want of vocations. It was on February 26, 1922 that the then General Minister of the Order, Br Joseph Antony of Persiceto, again inaugurated the novitiate personally at Sardhana, which was to be the cradle of the Capuchin Order for many years to come. Two Indian novices were vested on this occasion in the novitiate named after St Fidelis of Sigmaringen.
The Superiors Regular of Agra, Ajmer, Allahabad and Lahore were jointly responsible for the success of this venture. Vocations to the Order came from many dioceses of India both in the north and in the south. The novitiate was later placed under the care of the Superior Regular of Ajmer to overcome the difficulties in the area of formation. To continue the post novitiate formation, a study house was started at St Francis Monastery, Mussoorie. From there the students were sent to Europe to study with the French friars at Breust, Tours and Nantes. The first batch of 12 clerics left India on June 22, 1927.

Transfer of Novitiate to South
The absence of strong, vibrant Christian communities in north India as well as the extreme climate of the place called for a transfer of the novitiate to a more favourable location in the south. As the decision was carried out in May 1930, the little hill at Farangipet, called Monte Mariano, became the second cradle of the Capuchins in India. In 1932 a study house was set up in Quilon and most of the students who had not yet finished their studies abroad were brought back to continue their studies at Quilon. Naming of Br Guido Le Floch as the Commissary General in 1935 marked the first stage of the growth of the Order in India. From 1948 to 1954, Br Richard Brunner from Calvary Province of USA was appointed as overall incharge of the Indian Capuchin Mission. He was made Commissary Provincial in 1951. In 1954, Br Cyril Andrade became the first Indian to head the unit as Commissary Provincial. In 1956, the Agra Archdiocese was entrusted to the Order. In 1957, Br Cassian Timmins, a Canadian Missionary from Gorakhpur, was appointed to guide the Commissariat during the 6 years he was in the office.

Formation of an Autonomous Indian Province
Br Clement of Milwaukee, during his second term as General Minister, visited India for a second time in 1962 and formed the Indian unit into a full-fledged Capuchin Province, appointing Br Berchmans Puthuparabil as its first Provincial. In 1966 the first Provincial Chapter was held and Br Berchmans was elected as Provincial. Br Jacob Acharuparambil became the second and the last Provincial of the single Indian Province.

Division of the Indian Province
Ever since the novitiate was shifted to Monte Mariano, the Province had a steady and rapid growth, so it could count about 500 friars distributed among 40 houses in five states of Karnataka, Goa, Maharashtra, Kerala, and Tamilnadu, including some others as missionaries in other States. Some had reached as far as Malaysia. The need of creating smaller jurisdictions, in view of greater efficiency and deeper implantation of the Order in the various regions in India, surfaced during the provincial chapter in 1969 for the first time. The General Councillors sent Br Aloysius Ward to conduct a thorough study of the situation prevailing in the Province. He made his visitation from November 1971 to February 1972. His visit was followed by that of the Minister General, Br Paschal Rywalski. At the end of March 1972 a decision was taken by the General Councillors to divide the Province into four units, namely: the Provinces of Kerala, Karnataka-Goa-Maharashtra, Tamilnadu, and the Vice Province of Kerala.
The decree to this effect, signed on May 9, 1972, was promulgated at St Joseph’s Friary, Kotagiri, on the 17th of May by Br Aloysius Ward, along with the names of the new Provincial Superiors and their Councillors.

Birth of Agra-Lucknow-Ranchi Mission
The missions in North India, which were entrusted to several European and Canadian Provinces, eventually, with the decrease in number of foreign missionaries, passed its care into the hands of indigenous friars. The single Indian Capuchin Province of the Immaculate Heart took care of these missions up to the year 1972. With the division of the single Indian Province into four jurisdictions, the missions in the north had to be entrusted to the four jurisdictions in the south. In this restructuring process, the mission stations in the dioceses of Agra and Lucknow were taken over by the Holy Trinity Province because most of the Capuchin friars working in these two dioceses belonged to the Holy Trinity Province (Karnataka-Goa-Maharashtra). The extension of the missionary presence to Ranchi came about later.
After the extraordinary chapter of the Holy Trinity Province, held in 1973, the provincial Councillors decided to send Br Vincent Lobo to the north, in the capacity of Provincial Delegate, in June 1973, to organize the missionary activity in Agra and Lucknow, and to eventually prepare the friars for a mission chapter in which they could elect their own Superior Regular. The first mission consultation, held in October 1973 in Lucknow, decided that Br Vincent Lobo should continue as Provincial Delegate for one more year and elected Br John Joseph D’Almeida and Br Arnold Rebello as his two Councilors.
The first mission chapter was held in October 1974 at St Fidelis Ashram, Lucknow, which elected Br John Joseph as Superior Regular, with Brs Francis Lobo and Columban Gomes as Councilors.
In the second mission chapter held in 1977 Br John Joseph was re-elected as Superior Regular, with Fr Francis Lobo and Br Oliver Mendes as Councilors.
In the third mission chapter, held in May 1980, Br Francis Lobo was elected as Superior Regular, with Br John Lewis and Br Ruben as his Councilors.

Transition from Mission to a Vice Province
In September 1980, Br Paschal Rywalski, Minister General of the Order, along with Br Claude, Councillor General, conducted the visitation of the Mission. It was during this visit of Br General that the question of raising the status of the Mission in the north to that of a Province or Vice Province, as recommended by the III PCO held at Mattli was seriously considered. The friars working in Agra-Lucknow-Ranchi Mission made known to Br General their earnest desire to be constituted into a Vice Province under the Holy Trinity Province of KGM.
The provincial chapter held at Monte de Guirim, Goa, in April 1981, unanimously expressed itself in favour of Agra-Lucknow-Ranchi Mission being raised to the status of a Vice Province. The Capuchin Conference of Major Superiors of South India, in its meeting held in May 1981 at Kotagiri, also gave its approval. The General Councillors, after having duly examined everything, decided on June 3, 1981 to constitute the Agra-Lucknow-Ranchi Mission into a Vice Province.

Formal Erection of St Fidelis Vice Province
Minister General, Br Paschal Rywalski, himself came to formally erect the new Vice Province on September 25, 1981. The Canadian friars working in Varanasi and the Italian friars of Bologna Province working in Lucknow also integrated themselves into the Vice Province.
According to the decree, the territory of the Vice Province was comprised of 12 dioceses, namely, Agra, Lucknow, Jhansi, Allahabad, Varanasi in the State of U.P.; Muzaffarpur, Ranchi, Jamshedpur in the State of Bihar; Ambikapur, Raigarh in the State of M.P.; and Rourkela, Sambalpur in the State of Orissa.
The General Councillors nominated Br Francis Lobo as the first Vice Provincial and Br John Joseph D’Almeida, Br Alain Picard, Br Oliver Mendes and Br Norbert Bucci as Councilors.
St Fidelis of Sigmaringen was chosen as the Patron of the North East Vice Province.

From Vice Province to Province
Seeing the progress of the Vice Province during the years 1981 to 1996, and hoping that it would make still greater and further progress, and realizing that it had fulfilled all the conditions required by the law and the Constitutions, Br John Corriveau, Minister General, raised the Vice Province of the North East to the status of a full-fledged, independent Province. Br General Minister and his Councillors, after consulting the friars of the Vice Province, nominated Br Joseph Prasad Pinto as the first Provincial, Br Thomas Quadros as Vicar Provincial, and Brs John Joseph D’Almeida, Dayakishore Ekka, and Aloysius Noronha as Councillors.
The second provincial chapter of this province was held in April 1999 where Fr John Joseph D’Almeida was elected as Provincial Minister. Brs Thomas Quadros, Vincent Paschal Sisto, Conrad D’Souza, and Carlus Toppo were elected as the first, second, third and fourth Councillors respectively.
On April 3, 2002 during the third ordinary provincial chapter Br Aloysius Noronha was elected as Provincial Minister. Br Wilson Andrade was elected as the first Councillor and Vicar Provincial and Brs Herman Minj, Maxim Cardoza, and Dayakishore Ekka as Councillors.
On April 5, 2005 during the fourth ordinary provincial chapter Br Aloysius Noronha was re-elected as the Provincial Minister. Br John Berchmans Barla was elected as First Councillor and Vicar Provincial, Brs Wilson Andrade, Richard Pinto, and Herman Minj as Councillors.
On March 25, 2008 during the fifth ordinary provincial chapter, Br John Berchmans Barla was elected as Provincial Minister. Br Paul Nag was elected as First Councillor and Vicar Provincial, Brs Richard Pinto, Prasad Pinto and Remish Ekka as Councillors.
On May 17, 2011 during the sixth provincial chapter, Br John Berchmans Barla was re-elected as Provincial Minister. Br Remish Ekka was elected as First Councillor and Vicar Provincial, Brs Richard Pinto, Gregory Bilung, and Albert Xalxo as Councillors.
On September 4, 2014 during the seventh provincial chapter, Br Remish Ekka was elected as Provincial Minister. Br Herman Minj was elected as First Councillor and Vicar Provincial, Brs Joachim Xess, Dominic Kerketta and Kalyan Paul Lakra as Councillors.


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