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The architect of various Churches, Schools, Hospitals and Colleges…..Msgr Denis Jerome D’Souza..

By March 19, 2024Articles
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By P. Archibald Furtado,
Retired Asst Professor Dept of Commerce, Milagres College, Kallianpur.
(The writer of these few pages, acknowledge with thanks various writers and sources referred in preparing it).

Msgr Denis Jerome D’Souza- A man with a vision:

In Kannada there goes a saying  ‘Moorthi Chikkadadru Kirti Doddadu’  which means, even though the physical form is small, it holds a greater fame.

When I was a kid, my maternal grandparents home was in Kallianpur.  I had a rare opportunity to seek a blessing of one of the then spiritual monster Msgr Denis Jerome D’Souza, the then parish priest of Milagres Church Kallianpur. He was short in stature yet had a long beard and sparkling eyes.

I was in standard 3 and one significant incident which has left an indelible mark in my life. i.e. in the month of March, 1970, there was an event where Barkur parish priest celebrating his ‘Sacerdotal Diamond Jubilee’. He was also the then Vicar Forane of Kallianpur Deanery.  The cause of celebrating the event in Barkur is, the magnificent St Peter Church, a ‘Gothic architectural marvel’ was built by this priest when he was 38. It was a tribute. No wonder, till now the first ‘House of God’ took shape in his hands and still stands high, as it celebrated Centenary celebration this year (1923 – 2023).

It is a great honour to recall the event and the person’s capacity when one is clear in his thoughts – rest falls in line! Nevertheless, to say, Msgr DJ D’Souza had a strong devotion towards God and his duty. In his tenure as priest of God, he has built many churches, schools, colleges and hospitals. He is a tireless worker, always sound in mind, robust in health.

Msgr was a firm believer in serving others through the service towards God without expecting anything in return. To those who know him, one of his brain child is Milagres College Kallianpur which is his dream realization in its richness, a greatest gift to our society. One can say that he had a strong implicit faith in God and patroness Mother of Miracles as known to us as Our Lady of Miracles or Milagres. The Vicariate of Kallianpur even today cherished the moments of his hard work and dedication.

Early life and education:

He was born on 8th March, 1884, in Codialbail, in close vicinity of St Aloysius College where he had primary and High School education, in Mangalore, as the fourth child (four boys and two girls) of devout parents. In his younger days he manifested deep signs of piety, humility, obedience and love of God and neighbor.

The influence and association of Italian Jesuit Priests motivated Denis to renounce the world and decided to join St Joseph’s Inter diocesan Seminary, at Jeppu in the year 1901, which was then under the Jesuits management and administration.

God’s chosen one:

In the year 1910 on March 19th, the Catholic Church got a gift from above as Fr Denis Jerome D’Souza was ordained as priest, at the age of 26, in Mangalore.

His first posting was to distant Kallianpur, the heart of the then Northern Varado, as the Assistant parish priest to V. Rev. C. P Gonsalves, followed by V. Rev.  Fr Sebastian Noronha.

In those days, there were no churches in the vicinity from Brahmavar to Udupi. As a matter of fact even Thottam, Kemmannu and Kolalgiri churches weren’t in the existence, except chapels (Churches, substations were there in Barkur and in Udyavar around 1861).

It is during these five years 1910 – 1915, young Fr Denis travelled extensively and seen and experienced devotion simultaneously the plight and difficulties of people around, with no facilities for even primary education.

New Church in Barkur:

Rt Rev Bishop Paul Perini of Mangalore was a visionary. The young priest, Fr. D’Souza had just 5 years of experience in the vineyard of the Lord. At the age when he was 30, he was found the right man to steer the situation and was made the youngest Vicar of Barkur  a place with lot of trade and commercial activities with a herculean task to construct a new Church and God worked miracles through Fr D’Souza. Hence one of the most beautiful, artistic church was built and inaugurated on 28th May, 1923 dedicated to the patronage St. Peter the Apostle.

No doubt, Barkur is a historical place with more than 365 big and small temples and Jain Basadis. The church made a significant devout presence of the Catholics in the area. This church was also a centre of attraction as an eye catch to the admirers and to the visitors.

Fr Denis spent his precious youthful life for almost 14 years in Barkur till 27-04-1929 in which a lot of developmental works, including the present Local Fund Govt Hospital which sprout from his plan. Adjacent ‘New English School’ of the town, up to Class VIII, of the British standards had great influence of this visionary and few youngsters were specially accommodated and boarded in the church. The Barkur town Municipality respectfully allotted a permanent seat of honor in its governance, administration and settlement of disputes.

Appointment as Vicar of Coondapur – Holy Rosary Church:

Whenever Fr Denis D’Souza was transferred to a new place by the then Bishop Valerian D’Souza, every time there was a task hinged to it to be fulfilled.

Goan and local traders contributed in different measures to see Holy Rosary Coondapur Church was one of the earliest to flourish, and the port town was centre for education to the nearby places…and often visited by Europeans and a trade centre rightly utilized for offering prayers.

In Coondapur there was a need of a High School especially for Girls and with the spontaneous cooperation from Apostolic Carmelite Sisters, (who were successfully running St Agnes College in Mangalore) the challenging dream project, during the time when the doors of learning centers restricted primarily to males, was started and since then imparting value based education to both poor and elite alike. Interestingly a point to be noted over here is the local non Catholic community, wholeheartedly come forward to extend their support to this revolutionary project.

Vicar vara of Milagres Church Kallianpur in 1934:

Fr DJ D’Souza’s arrival to Kallianpur for the second time and his nine years tenure as Vicar forane, truly ushered a new era of development, especially in the field of education. During his tenure ‘Milagres High school’ came to existence in 1931, infant institution, and needed lot of infra structure facilities… The schools Library Hall, Laboratories, Academy Hall, Boarding facilities were promptly added.

The second milestone during this period is that Fr Denis acquired LVP Primary School near Ambagilu – Puttur being under the dynamic administration of the MIlagres church and its educational Institutions.

The reliable sources authenticate that his ambitious plan of starting a College during his tenure at a spacious location near Nejar – about 20 acres of land was under negotiation and a corpus fund was also mobilized. However Fr Denis was forced to change his priorities, as the old Milagres Church Building called for a repair as there was a need for renovation and expansion to accommodate ever increasing Catholic population in the locality. With the help of reserve fund to begin, Fr DJ D’Souza planned to build altogether new Church and today’s ‘Milagres Cathedral’ is one of the master piece works with a mix of Basque and Gothic style, with most beautiful and artistic wooden high altar which was designed in 1942.

As the Milagres Church work was in progress, there felt genuine need to have Chapels and Churches in the deanery. St Anne’s Church in Thottam was constructed and the foundation was laid and was dedicated to the patronage of St Theresa- Little flower Church in Kemmannu. Isolated and located away from the town, the Brahmavar Holy Family Church was established in 1934, was very poor and Fr DJDS being the Dean supported them all best ways possible.

As Parish Priest of Milagres Church Mangalore – 1942 – 1954:

While looking at the successful implementation of various projects, Bishop Victor Fernandes deigned V. Rev. DJ D’Souza in the city Milagres Church in Mangalore which is located at the heart of the city stands tall and landmark artistic structure.

What one can see today is the 5th Church built and rebuilt again and again on the same location which too has a history of 340 great years. (Established in 1680) Very Rev. Fr Denis J D’Souza served here for 8 long years and his unstinted service of these years has been recorded in the Church History.

During his time the Milagres Primary School converted into a High School and today its well known College He also started Padua High School which is now grown to be a popular degree College in Mangalore.

Third time Msgr DJ D’Souza’s arrival to Kallianpur as Vicar Forane in 1954:

Fr DJ D’Souza was sent to Kallianpur for a record third time at the evening of his life. He was 70. Life is a choice between age and growing. Here is a man believed aging is just adding years to life, while growing it is adding life to year, and exactly he has done so in the following  17 odd great years and saw a great revolution with his systematic plans for this parish in particular and deanery in general.

People of Kallianpur welcomed their best loved and respected priest in May, 1954, with great joy and exultation. As Vicar he saw many needs and pending works. The first thing Fr Denis did on coming back to Kallianpur was to get three fine chiming bells for the Church from Germany and built a suitable belfry. Immediately he added a suitable portico to the gigantic Church. He went on adding good works like a separate school building was constructed for the girls of the High School, and lend it to the care of Apostolic Carmelites sisters.

Looking at the challenges, trials and tribulations of Brahmavar Church, Msgr DJDS convinced the then Rt Rev Basil Peris, Bishop of Mangalore to handover the parish to the care and custody of devout Capuchins and his pet and devout Rev Fr Alfred Roche OFM Cap (now Servant of God) was made the first Capuchin Vicar on 4th April, 1956.

Having no stone left unturned, there was a need of the locals and the vision of the Diocese to have a full fledged Hospital in Kallianpur and Goretti Hospital was the next project Fr DJ D’Souza who entrusted the same to the SRA Sisters from Banaras who took charge of running and developing this charitable work since 1958.

It is apt to note over here that on 21st April, 1960, Rev Fr DJ D’Souza celebrated Sacerdotal Golden Jubilee (50 Years of Priestly life) with great éclat and involvement of parishioners. On this special occasion the Bishop Raymond D’Mello, announced the nomination of V Rev Fr DJ D’Souza as Privy Chamberlain by Pope John XXII, with the title – ‘Monsignor’.

  1. Rev Mgr. DJ D’Souza added another feather to his works to get the Milagres High School raised to standard XI in 1965. It was inaugurated on 14th June, 1965, with this; a new building was put up to accommodate PUC students.

Birth of Milagres First grade College in 1967:

“The dream is not a dream unless it is realized” says our former President of India A.P.J. Kalam. Thus Msgr DJ D’Souza’s felt that another dream has to be realized. Hence he took every opportunity to apprise the authorities the genuine need which an utter desideration was pending since 1934. What next once the first batch of Matriculates passed out from Milagres High School – bothered this great visionary?

The strongest people are not always the people who win, but the people who don’t give up when they lose in their earlier attempts! As the circumstances were conducive as 1965 –  new young and dynamic Bishop Rt Rev Dr Basil S D’Souza took over charge (22nd March, 1965) and Msgr William Anthony Lewis a native son of the soil of Kallianpur was then Vicar General of the Diocese of Mangalore, who assisted in all possible ways and means to start the College in Kallianpur. As the octogenarian Msgr DJ D’Souza at his evening of his life i.e. at the age of 83, succeeded in his mission impossible pending since three long decades…! The Mysore University granted permission to begin with BA and B.Com courses. He made every effort to see the infra-structure in place. Then HM of Milagres High School Rev Fr William Gonsalves, Advocate S William Pinto and the generous parishioners, old students of MHS and many donors extended their cooperation in this venture. The great scholar, a man with vision and determination, a historian Dr. P. Gururaja Bhatt who was serving in MGM College was appointed to be the first Principal of this reputed Milagres College, Kallianpur.

In these past 56 years, thousands graduated from this temple of learning.  Various Principals, numerous lecturers and other staff served over the years and many for a life time.

In recognition of his service ‘Academy of General Science, Manipal’ conferred upon him its highest honour in 1968. No doubt, actions speak louder than words. The same is experienced in the case of Msgnr Denis J. D’Souza.

To Conclude:

On March 19th, 1970 Msgr DJ D’Souza celebrated his Sacerdotal Diamond Jubilee in a place where he spent 32 long years along with his parishioners, students and staff of the Milagrean Institutions. Today we are the beneficiaries of this Alma Mater grown and settled down in every nook and corner of this planet. It has been a trend in the young that to forget the initial pain and difficulties faced by the beginners whose sweat and sacrifice which led us that we have the present comfort and ease in various situations.

As a catholic priest, Msgr Denis has a long and versatile list of achievements to his credit but he never boasted of doing it all alone but he did it to his Master’s glory and to the service of the people of God.

When inability causes a human he has to surrender and prepare for the next life and hence, his last five and more years he was under the care of sisters of SRA in Goretti Hospital where he retired for rest and seclusion.

On June 4th in 1975, he peacefully breathed his last after an eventful epoch making and most importantly a saintly life of 92 great years. He was a man of few words, a simple human being, and soft in dealings. He was ever smiling, intelligent to understand the person quickly and had friends and people who were ready to oblige and work with him.

Wherever Msgr DJ D’Souza served, he left monumental legacies behind in the form of Houses of God, Temples of learning, Hospitals etc on one hand and most importantly touched hundreds in different ways to be better human beings.

Things and people leave, time passes, memories fade, feelings change and life have to go on… A great legendary holy man lived amidst of us about 50 years ago and to commemorate Monsignor’s blessed memories the Milagres College, Kallianpur has deservedly given its Founder and Architect’s name to its Library as ‘Msgr DJ D’Souza Memorial Gyana Mandhira’.  A stage and pavilion is built in the playground to perpetuate his contribution. Every year the College conducts various competitions, especially University level Inter College Elocution and awards prizes to deserving students.

The present Principal of the Milagres college, Dr Vincent Alva suggests, that soon the College will compile an exhaustive ‘Msgr Denis J D’Souza’s Biography’ which will give his portrait, life philosophy and personality to our readers in the days to come.

Success does not always come to the person who is most qualified but entrusted to the one who is most motivated, excited and active. Very truly in the life of Msgr Denis, the one chosen by the Almighty God….!

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