Bengaluru: Rev. Fr Shantaraj A., parish priest of St Joseph’s Cathedral, Chikmagalur has been appointed the new Vicar General of the diocese of Chikmagalur. This was officially announced by Most Rev. Dr T. Anthony Swamy, the Bishop of Chikmagalur at the Bishop’s House at a meeting of the diocesan priests held on Thursday (October 5). Soon after, the Bishop felicitated him with a garland and a shawl.
Msgr Shantraj A., aged 66, hails from the very old parish of St. Ignatius, Gadenahalli of Hassan District. Born as the son of Mr. Arogyappa and Mrs Lourdamma, he did his studies in St Mary’s School, Shettihalli, St Joseph’s School, Hassan and St. Philomena’s School, Mysore. He did philosophical and theological studies at St Peter’s Pontifical Seminary, Bangalore and was ordained a priest in his home town by Most Rev. Dr. Alphonsus Mathias, the then Bishop of Chikmagalur on May 29, 1980. He served as assistant parish priest at Mary Immaculate Church, New Town, Bhadravathi. Later he served as parish priest at Assumption Church, Dasapura, St Thomas Church, Tarikere and St Mary’s Church, Arsikere. He was very much loved and his work appreciated by the people there as he worked for their welfare. For one term he worked as the Director of an Ashram at Theresapura. Presently, he works as the parish priest of St Joseph’s Cathedral, Chikmagalur.
Msgr Shantraj is a die-hard social worker who has helped hundreds of children for education. He has a special love for the poor and helped them in various ways to eradicate their poverty. He is also loved by many fellow priests since he has a special concern for the sick priests. He has served the diocese in various capacities such as consulter, youth director, vice-president of the diocesan education society and social service society. He is also well known preacher and he has to his credit many music cassettes and CDs. Msgr Shantraj’s new appointment as Vicar General would enable him to continue with his good works in a greater manner, felt some of his fellow priests and people. The people and all others wished him all the best and successin his new endeavour.
HISTORY OF THE DIOCESE
The Diocese of Chikmagalur, comprising the three civil districts of Shimoga, Chikmagalur and Hassan and was created by Pope Paul VI by the Apostolic Constitution, 'Indicae Regionis' dated November 16, 1963. Earlier this area was a part of the vast diocese of Mysore. It was canonically erected by Archbishop James Ronald Knox, the Apostolic internuncio on February 4, February, 1963 at St. Joseph's Cathedral Chikmagalur. The diocese has an area of 14,015 Sq. Kms and has a Catholic population of 39,558 out of a total population 29,17,234. Rev. Dr. Alphonsus Mathias J.U.D was consecrated on February 5, 1964 as the first Bishop. In January 1989, the District of Shimoga along with the District of Chitradurga of Bangalore Archdiocese, was formed into the Diocese of Shimoga.
Geographically the Diocese of Chikmagalur is situated in the Western Ghats and consists of hilly region where the main crop is coffee. Tea is grown in some places. Ragi, paddy, maize, sugar-cane, vegetables, pulses and coconut are grown in the plains. The greater part of the Catholic population forms the Konkanies, descendents of migrants from the South Canara District, who had come for work in coffee plantations and later on settled in the area of whom some are planters. The native Catholics are found in the plain of Hassan District, their ancestors had become Catholics in the beginning of the 18th century when the Jesuit missionaries evangelized the area. Later M.E.P Fathers continued this work of evangelization. After the erection of the Diocese only Indian Priests were working in the diocese. Descendants of the settlers from Tamil Nadu could also be found all over the diocese. The early history of evangelization of Chikmagalur diocese goes back to 16th century.
The Diocese of Chikmagalur had begun with 19 parishes and 18 Diocesan priests in the three districts has taken strides of Progress. Now there are 42 Parishes, one Shrine, three Independent Stations with resident priests and 59 active Diocesan Priests. Besides, there are a good number of religious Priests and Sisters. The number of educational institutions has increased and even first grade colleges have been started. The St. Joseph's Minor Seminary, Bridgetine convent and the Holy Cross Hospital at Chikmagalur, the Cloistered Carmel Convent, the Don Bosco Technical School and Seva Samsthe, the Diocesan Social Service Centre (C.M.S.S.S.) at Hassan are but a few of the many important institutions.
The stalwarts of faith include the late Bishop Rene Feuga of Mysore together with Late Monsignor Angelo Fernandes who were the main persons behind establishing Chikmagalur Diocese and are still remembered with gratitude. Under the young energetic and talented Bishop Alphonsus Mathias, the Diocese progressed steadily and was a pioneer in evangelization, Kannada music and writing. The dioces is proud to say that the first Kannada Cassettes and religious books were published by the Diocese. Bishop J.B Sequeira, the Rector of St. Peter's Pontifical Seminary succeeded Bishop Mathias, who became the Archbishop of Bangalore after serving the Diocese for 22 years. Bishop J.B. Sequeira was consecrated on June 11, 1987 as the Bishop of Chikmagalur and under him the present Minor Seminary was built. He retired after 18 years of active service. The Diocese is proud of giving two Bishops, Bishop Thomas Vazapilly, the present Bishop of Mysore and Bishop P .V. George of Madagascar, the M.E.P Superior General, Fr. Balthazar Castelino and Fr. Dorairaj, great Missionary and Rector in Madagascar.
Bihop Thomasappa Anthony Swamy D.D. succeeded Bishop J. B. Sequeira and was consecrated on February 6, 2007 as the third Bishop of Chikmagalur. He was the head of the Missiology Department at St. Peter's Pontifical Seminary in Bangalore before his Bishopric. Under his active leadership many new Churches and Presbyteries have been built. A new life and zeal has filled the Diocese which has made priests more active, zealous and enterprising.
The diocese remembers 25 Priests who have gone to the Lord after their active ministry in the Diocese.
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