Bijapur Jesuit Mission
As the Karnataka Jesuits were contemplating for a long time on northward thrust, there came an offer from the Bishop of Belgaum for the Province to take charge of St Anne’s parish of Bijapur whose territory comprised the entire Bijapur district minus the BagalkotTaluk that eventually became a district. The then Provincial,Fr Anand Prabhu SJ accepted the offer and sent Fr Ambrose D’Mello SJ as PP and Fr Denis Alvares SJ as his assistant in 1991. And to round off the mini community, Schs. Anand Pereira SJ, Melville Pereira SJ and Valerian Castelino SJ joined them too and pursued their graduate studies in the local colleges.
Bijapur parish was extensive, but numerically small with 24 Catholic families at the start - all of whom were non-locals, but come for employment. There is also a floating population of students from other states.
The ministry foreseen was mainly of two kinds:
a)Social ministry slum development, supplementing the educational opportunities with non-formal programs, balwadisetc, conscientizationto help people tackle the prevalent pernicious social evils like the devadasi system, alcoholism etc.
b)Pastoral ministry: Strengthening the faith of the people through celebration of the sacraments, catechizing the people, ecumenical programs, inter-religious dialogue, reaching out to people of other faiths through a Catholic Enquiry Centre etc.
Both these ministries are aspects of a single ministry of evangelization in a comprehensive sense. Christmas was a wonderful occasion to spread the message of Christ among the people of Bijapur – through a crib, carol singing, a Kannada play, Christmas Guest, cassettes narrating the Christmas story, a public function etc.
The Holy Week ceremonies conducted in the open air was a moving experience for all, Catholics and others. The active support of the scholastics, while doing their college studies from Bijapur for a year was a great blessing for Bijapur. SchsJossie D’Mello SJ and Edmund Lewis SJ were replaced by Victor Lobo SJ and Maxim Misquith SJ, focusing on studying Urdu in view of working for dialogue with the Muslims later on. Coaching in English drew many students from various religious backgrounds. While BCCs started in the parish helped to bring unity, strengthen the faith, deepen the knowledge of the Bible among Catholics, the inter-religious celebration of Christmas exposed the community to the wider public.
c) Collaborator Sisters: Soon various Religious Congregations came to collaborate in the work of the Mission by basing themselves sin Bijapur City, Indi, DevaraHipparagi, Talikote, MuddeBihal, Almel and Kanakal.
The church is in the heart of the City. It attracts a number of people. Children as they pass through the main road, see the church and come for a visit to the Blessed Sacrament. They are all Hindus. A lot of people see the Cross over the Church building and come to ask for literature on Christian religion. On Sundays a large number of Lambanis come to market in front of the Church and then come and meet the parish priest and ask him to visit their colonies.
Maitri Sadhana is the Social Action Centre working for Slum Development, Rehabilitation of Devadasis, and Education of the children who have dropped out of school, Conscientization, People’s Organization and development activities like building houses for the poor. Yomiuri School opened for the slum children and situated deliberately in the slum has grown to be a Junior College. Loyola ITI caters to poor youth by equipping them with skills and thus enhancing their employment potential.
In Sindagi, come 60 kms east of Bijapur we have Sangama from where Social Work in organized among the preferential groups in the surrounding villages and Loyola CBSE School which is growing by adding new classes each year.
In collaboration with Religious sisters we are working for the recuperation and rehabilitation of HIV/AIDS sufferers. There are two Community Care Centres:St. Anne’s CCC in the District Hospital with 20 beds and St. Joseph’s CCC at Toravi with 16 beds. The people who are admitted in these Centres are the most neglected, marginalized, unwanted and