The Congregation of the Propagation of Faith erected the Prefecture of Tibet – Hindustan in 1703 and entrusted it to the Capuchin Fathers of the Italian Province of Picenum in the Marches of Ancona. Father john Francis of Camerion, O.F.M. Cap., was appointed its Prefect. He started his journey to ndia with five Capuchins, but died on the way. Only two of the six missionaries reached Lhasa in 1707 to begin a mission there. Father Dominic of Fano,O.F.M. Cap., was appointed Prefect Apostolic in 1714. Rome allowed him to establish five stations, Chandanagore, Patna, Bhatgaon in Nepal, Tragone and Lhasa in Tibet. In 1725 Father Horace Penna, O.F.M. Cap., succeeded Father Dominic as Prefect. He would labour for 33 years in Lhasa and wrote two large Tibetan Italian and Italian Tibetan dictionaries, besides numerous articles and translations in Tibetan language. The mission found itself in a tragic state because of lack of personnel and financial support. Father Horace traveled to Rome and retuned in 1739 with ten missionaries and promise of larger subsidies from the Propaganda. On Pentecost Day 1742 five Tibetans were baptized and many more taking instruction. Alarmed at the new religion taking root in their land, some Lamas rose in protest and a persecution of Christians began. The missionaries were forbidden to preach. Rome left it to the Capuchin Missionaries to decide to remain or leave Tibet. Finding their efforts frustrated everywhere and opposition mounting, the missionaries left Tibet in 1744 and moved to Nepal. Father Horace died in Kathmandu on July 20, 145 and Father Tranquillo, O.F.M. Cap., succeeded him as Prefect. He made Kathmandu his head-quarter.
Nepal had seen Capuchin Missionaries with varying fortunes in Kathmandu or Bhatgaon from 1715-1735. In 1738 the King of Bhatgaon in a royal decree granted the missionaries ‘leave to preach, teach and draw to Christianity people subject to us’. A third station at Patna was established in 1745 at the request of the King of Kathmandu who had inherited Patna. The missionaries were given houses, land and the subsidies by the kings. However, an eight-year war by a conqueror put an end to the Nepal mission. Raja Prithvi Narayan conquered all the three kingdoms of he valley, and rearing that the foreign missionaries might help the British in india against him, stopped all the royal subsidies for their support. Not having other means of support for their apostolate, the only way open to the Fathers was to abandon Nepal. On February 10, 1769 the five missionaries left Nepal for Bettiah, India, with sixty two Nepalese Christians and five Catechumens. The Christians and Catechumens settled down in Chuhari near Bettiah.
Then the scene of the Capuchin Mission shifted to the Indian soil. A saintly Capuchin father Joseph Mary who had worded in 1740. The king of Bettiah Dhruva Singh wrote two letters to Pope Benedict the XIV requesting that missionaries be allowed to open a station in Bettiah. The Pope sent a reply to the king on May 1, 1742 that he was allowing Capuchins to stay and preach the Gospel in his kingdom. Father Joseph Mary thus founded Bettiah Mission in 1745. Raja Dhruva Singh granted a house, land and helped the Father in building a church close to his palace walls. In 1760 December when Father Joseph Mary died, Bettiah had forty Christians.
After the suppression of the Society of Jesus in 1773, the Jesuit Mission of North Western India was attached to the Tibet-Hindustan Prefecture. Thus a handful of Capuchins found themselves responsible for almost entire Northern Indian Church.
Rome erected the Prefecture of Tibet-Hindustan into a Vicariate in 1820 with its headquarter at Agra and nominated Father Zenobio Maria de Florence. O.F.M. Cap., as its first Vicar. Father Zenobio was ordained Bishop in Brazil and set out for India. He reached Calcutta in October 1823 but died of fever in Agra in June next year. Pope Leo XII ordained Father Anthony Pezzoni Bishop in 1825 for the Vicariate. The new Vicar Apostolic had worked in Bettiah and Lucknow and had translated the New Testament in Hindustani. A few years later Father Borghi, O.F.M. Cap., was ordained Coadjutor Bishop to Bishop Pezzoni. In 1842 Bishop Pezzoni, due to ill health, returned to Italy and died shortly after.
Rome by a decree in 1827 constituted an independent Patna Vicariate comprising of Bettiah, Chuhari, Patna City, Dinapore, Bhagalpur, Darjeeling, Sikkim, Nepal and adjacent territories. Father Anastasius Hartmann. O.F.M. Cap., was nominated its Vicar and ordained Bishop at Agra by Bishop Borghi. The saintly Vicar Apostolic came to Patna City in 1845 and wrote, “I began to weep like a child at the sight of such desolation. Everything had to be done; the old cathedral, blessed in 1779, was falling into ruins…. there were no schools anywhere in the whole Mission, no Sisters, no Brothers.” Four years later in 1849 Bishop Hartmann was asked to go to Bombay as peace-maker in the long standing dispute between Patroado and Propaganda. Father Anastasius Zuber, O.F.M. Cap., was ordained Bishop for the Vicariate. Bishop Zuber worked for five years in the Mission until failing health compelled him to return to Italy. In 1860 Bishop Hartmann returned to Patna Vicariate. At the time Bishop Hartmann died at Kurji on April 24, 1866, Patna Vicariate had a new church in Bankipore, a military church of Dinapore and two schools, one for boys at Kurji, later to be conducted by the Irish Christian Brothers and called St. Michael’s and another for girls at Bankiport, called St. Joseph’s and conducted by the Sisters of the Institute of Blessed Mary the Virgin. Patna Vicariate’s first Diocesan Priest, Father Cajetan Cesary of Bettiah was ordained Priest in Rome in 1861.
Father Paul Tossi, O.F.M. Cap., was ordained Bishop in June 1868 to succeed Bishop Hartmann. In 1880 due to ill health he returned to Italy and father Francis Pesci, O.F.M. Cap., was ordained Patna Vicariate’s new Bishop in August 1881. Pope Leo XIII erected most of the Indian Vicariates into dioceses and archdioceses. Thus Patna Vicariate became a part of Allahabad Diocese with Bishop Pesci as its shepherd in 1886.
In 1886 North Bihar Mission with its four stations of Bettiah, Chuhari, Chakhni and Latonah was entrusted to the tireless Capuchins and in May 1892 it was formed into the Prefecture of Bettiah-Nepal with Father Hilarion of Abtei, O.F.M. Cap., as its Prefect. Twenty years of intensive apostolic activities witnessed the opening of many stations such as Darbhanga, Khorea, Marpa, Muzaffarpur, Rampur and Samastipur. The Stisters of the Mercy of the Holy Cross (Ingenbohl) arrived in Bettiah and opened their first convent there in 1894. Father Hilarion returned to Europe in 1910. Fathers Remy, O.F.M. Cap and Felix, O.F.M. Cap., succeeded him. In 1919 the Prefecture was dissolved and joined to South Bihar to form Patna Diocese.
Pope Benedict XV issued a decree on 10 September 1919 dividing the Diocese of Allahabad into two. In this way the new Diocese of Patna was created. The Prefecture of Bettiah-Nepal was annexed to the Diocese of Patna. The New Diocese was entrusted to the American Missouri Province of the Society of Jesus. The Missouri Province was divided on July 2, 1923 and to the new unit, the Province of Chicago, Patna Mission was difnitely assigned on November 13, 1930. Father Louis Van Hoeck, S.J., of Ranchi Mission was ordained first Bishop of Patna Diocese on March 6, 1921. He founded the Diocesan Congregation of the Sisters of the Sacred Heart. After seven years of service, Bishop Van Hoeck was transferred to Ranchi as its first Bishop. Father Bernard J. Sullivan, S.J., a missionary in Patna since 1924, was ordained Bishop of Patna Diocese on March 17, 1929. At that time there were 4,688 Indian and 1,624 European Catholics in the diocese. The missionaries started intensive evangelization among Harijans in rural areas south of the Ganges and among the Santhals of Bhagalpur district. The Diocese witnessed a veteran missionary, Father Henry Westropp, S.J., pioneering in many parts of the Diocese, especially Bhojpur and Rohtas districts. Many primary, middle and high schools were opened in various stations. The Sisters of the Apostolic Carmel opened Patna Women’s College in 1940. The Medical Mission Sisters arrived in Patna in 1939 to start the Holy Family Hospital in Patna City. When Bishop Sullivan returned to U.S.A in 1947, the Diocese had about 22 thousand Catholics, 12 Diocesan and 62 Religious priests, 140 Sisters and 15 Brothers.
Father Augustine Wildermuth, S.J., who had been in the Mission since 1927, was ordained third Bishop of Patna on October 28, 1947 in Chicago and returned to Patna the following year. The missionary thrust towards evangelization, education and health care kept up its momentum. The diocese witnessed he arrival of many religious congregations – Sisters of Charity of Nazareth (1948), Sisters of Notre Dame (1949), Missionaries of Charity (Calcutta 1962), Clarist Sisters (1971), Teresian Carmelites (1975), Brothers of St. Gabriel (1969), Missionary Brothers of Charity (Calcutta 1974) and Mary knoll Fathers (1977). The forbidden Kingdom of Nepal opened its gated to missionaries once again n 1954, thanks to the efforts of Father Marshall Moran, S.J.
Bhagalpur Prefecture and Diocese
The Third Order Regular (T.O.R) Franciscan Fathers from Pennsylvania, U.S.A., came to Patna Diocese to assist the Jesuits in 1938. The Mission Stations of Bhagalpur, Gokhla, Poeryahat and Godda were assigned to them. In 1956 Bhagalpur was made a prefecture with Father Urban Mc Garry, T.O.R., as its Prefect. Nine years later the Prefecture was made a diocese and Msgr. Urban Mc Garry, T.O., was ordained its first Bishop on May 10, 1965.
Muzzaffarpur, Patna, Bettiah, Buxar Dioceses and Nepal
On March 28, 1980, Pope John Paul II accepted the resignation of Bishop Augustine Wildermuth, S.J., and divided Patna Diocese into two units, Patna and Muzaffarpur. Fr. Benedict J. Osta, S.J., was appointed the Bishop of Patna and Fr. John B. Thakur, S.J., Bishop of Muzaffarpur. On December 8, 1984 Rev. Fr. A. P. Sharma, S.J., was installed as the first Ecclesiastical Superior of ‘MISSIO SUI JURIS’ of the Kingdom of Nepal. Nepal thus became a separate, independent Ecclesiastical unit. On November 11, 1998 Pope John Paul II established the Diocese of Bettiah carved from the Diocese of Muzaffarpur and appointed Fr. Victor Henry Thakur as its first Bishop. On December 12, 005, Pope Benedict XVI further divided the Archdiocese of Patna two units, Patna and Buxar. The newly erected Diocese of Buxar consists of the civil districts of Buxar, Bhojpur, Bhabua and Rohtas; and is the suffragan diocese of the Archdiocese of Patna. Fr. William D’Souza, S.J., was ordained Bishop on the 25th of March, 2006 as the first Bishop of Buxar. Later he was elevated to be the Archbishop of Patna.
On16th March 1999, Pope John Paul II promoted the Diocese of Patna which was a suffragan of the Archdiocese of Ranchi into a new Archdiocese and appointed Bishop Benedict J. Osta S.J., as its first Archbishop who was installed as the Archbishop on the 11th of July 1999. Bettiah, Bhagalpur, Muzaffarpur and Purnea are the suffragan dioceses of the Archdiocese of Patna. Most Rev. William D’Souza, S.J. is the Metropolitan Archbishop of Patna from 1st October 2007. His motto is to serve and not to be served.
Today the Archdiocese of Patna Comprises the districts of Aurangabad, Patna, Nalanda, Nawada, Lakhisarai, Sheikhpura, Jamui, Gaya, Jehanabad and Munger in the State of Bihar (except Chakai, Jhajha, Jamui Sadar, Kharagpur and Soko Mission areas) with a population of 57,602 Catholics in 32 Parishes and Stations under the care of 56 Diocesan and 155 Religious Priests, 500 Religious sisters and 50 Religious Brothers.
“All for the Greater Glory of God.”
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Patna, 800 004,