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St.Joseph’s Parish – Hirebile - A brief history

Published On : 28 Apr 2023


IVAN D COSTA

Tucked amidst the ever-green Tea and Coffee Estates in the western ghats of Chickmagalur district of Karnataka shines a small village viz: Hirebile which was formerly known as Hirebalalu as per recorded history.

Amidst the beautiful scenic beauty of Chickmagalur district, surrounded by vales and dales, hills and mountains and with eye-catching greenery of Coffee and Tea Estates, there appears a boat-shaped structure, around seventy kilometres away from the District centre, which is St.Joseph’s Church on an elevated landscape. Nature’s natural bounty is thriving here and that indeed is the beautiful Hirebile, one of the large Parishes of Chickmagaluru Diocese. It stands at a height of 900 metres above Mean Sea Level.

There is evidence to prove that in 1909 itself Christianity was thriving at Hirebile as history says there was a Church here and that, in 1907 itself Rev.Fr.Guiraud of French Foreign Mission (M.E.P.) of Chickmagalur Parish had laid the foundation stone for the same.

From 1909 to 1935, Hirebile was part of then Mudigere Parish and that Rev.Fr. Guiraud, Fr.Faisandire and specially Fr. J.Koehl learnt local language and were rendering yeoman service to Christians living in those hilly regions and coffee Estates.

Later, the native priests who arrived from Mudigere continued the same good work and became harbingers of Good News among those Christians. From 1935 to 1943, Fr.A.J.Noronha, Fr.I.B.Pinto, Fr. Augustine D’Souza and Fr,M.Noronha took active part in spreading the Good News.

The present Mudigere was then Chickmagalur Parish’s sub-station. Mudigere was formed as Mudigere – Balehonnur – Edehalli which lie in western direction. Again, from 1915 to 1919 this entire portion was linked to Chickmagalur. Thereafter, this was made a separate Parish unit by including Balooru, Hirebile, Kalasa, Balehonnuru, Sulibele, Shringeri and also Koppa (for sometime). Excluding the portions belonging to Balehonnuru, the Mudigere Parish was formed.

During 1940, all the places which were away from Kottigehara were Catholic Parishes. Balooru, Javali, Kondadahalli, Maalinganaadu, Kelagooru, Sunkasale, Oorvinkhan, Mastikhaan, Sampigekhaan, Abrugudige, Hirebile and the surrounding four villages viz: Gummankhan, Chennaadlu, Malleshanagudda, Kagganahalla, Kuchchinhaklu (two Estates), Kalasa, Heradkekhaan, Attigonda, Kalkudi - Jakkankudige, Kalasa, Maavinakere and Hinaarikhaaan which were on the outer range of Kottigehaara, were handed over to the administration of Kottigehara. Baalooru and Baalooru – Kalasa Road Estates which were on its either side, also came under Mudigere. (This is as recorded by Fr,Noronha on 27-04-1940).

During 1940, a new Church was built here in Hirebyle. Till then, being a Sub-station of Mudigere, this place was declared as an independent Parish in 1943 and Rev.Fr.A.Lopez was appointed as its first Parish Priest.

After becoming an independent Parish, its range extended till Jaavali, Kelaguru, Hirebile, Kalasa and Samse. In all these places, the Parish Priest of Hirebile was looking after the worshipping and fulfilling the spiritual obligations of Christians. On 18 November 1948, a Chapel St.Sartunin Church within Kelaguru Tea Estate was inaugurated.

In 1952, Fr.Fidelis Pinto was appointed as its second Parish Priest. Later, when this Church structure was deteriorating, in 1953 Fr.Pinto took up the project to erect a second new Church and completed it in 1958. Most Rev. Rene Feuga , the then Bishop of Mysore, sanctified it. During the year 1960, the Sisters of ursuline Franciscan Order{UFS}, established their Convent and opened a School. In the same year, Most Rev. A.V.D’Souza, Bishop of Mysore blessed the Grotto of Our Lady Lourdes. which is located in front of the Church.

Afterwards, in 1966, Fr.Joe Mary Lobo, an young priest took charge of the Parish, made contact with all the religious of the Parish, established a Sarva Seva Sangha and paid keen attention to develop youth and children of the Parish. He also commenced Adult Catechism, established a good Choir Group and laid emphasis on the development of histrionics (Drama), art and culture.

Thereafter, in 1971, Fr.Patrick D’Souza took charge as Parish Priest, served here for nine long years and toiled continuously for the empowerment of economically and physically weaker sections of the Parish. When the new Land Reforms Act came into being, he apprised land-less and poor peasants about this and through legal means enabled them to possess lands.

In 1980, Kudremukh was made an independent Parish. Kalasa and Samse which were hitherto sub-stations of Hirebile were then ceded to Kudremukh Parish.

Afterwards, during 1989, Rev.Fr.George D’Souza, a Kannada Litterateur and a Scholar in Bible arrived as the new Parish Priest and paid more attention to liturgy and Catechism. During his tenure, the youngsters of the Parish could shine at Parish level, Diocesan, State and also at national levels excelling in various fields. In order to halt migration of poor homeless Christians, he built, with the active collaboration of local parishioners, twenty houses on the Church land for them. During Fr George time Infant Jesus Chapel Hemmakki was included as sub-station. All this was possible owing to the timely aid of local devotees, evincing personal interest and putting in hard labour by the Parish Priest.

Thereafter, Fr.G.V.D’Souza came as the Parish Priest and served here for seven years during which time, he earned laurels for his effective Sermons and for encouraging Church music by forming their own Choir Group.

In 2002, Rev.Fr.Francis Rasquina arrived as the Parish Priest. Serving here for six years he strived for the all-round development of the Parish. He also put up a new Priest’s residence with the active help from Parishioners after demolishing the hundred-year old structure.
Later, in 2008, Rev.Fr.Rajendra took over as Parish Priest. He served here for six years during which time, he organised the children and youngsters and gave more attention to their education. He also initiated new ways to attract devotees towards the Church. He also built the St.Joseph’s Entrace Gate (Pravesha Dwara ) opposite the Church.

Afterwards, Fr.Gilbert Pinto served for just one year and did what best he could in that short span.


In 2015, Rev.Fr.George Andrade arrived as Parish Priest and stayed for seven long years and rendered his valuable service and retired from parish priesthood. During his tenure, he commenced new spiritual renewal exercises. Through the local Panchayat, he got Hi-tech public toilets constructed for the residents of Hirebyle.,

In Athletics, Relay Run is very attractive. In this event, every runner has to pass on the baton to the next one. Similarly, every Parish Priest of Hirebile have done their duty to their fullest by passing on their good work to the next incumbent. After establishing Hirebile Parish, many local parishioners have excelled in several fields. There were Bible Scholars, Catechism experts, Kannada litteratures and liturgy developers and also have served in music field and thus brought laurels to Hirebile. It will not be out of place to mention here that the famous Christian Philanthropist and an N.R.I. Sri Ronald Colaco did his primary education at Sacred Heart Higher Primary School, Hirebile. Many of the Parish Priests have empowered the poor and economically backward Christians and enabled them attain good status in the society..

Under the able guidance of present Parish Priest Rev.Fr.David Prakash, Hirebile is progressing well. He is striving hard to put his dreams into practice for the welfare of the Parish. He is displaying keen attention to develop the Parish spiritually, socially and economically. Under his effective leadership, the Eightieth Anniversary celebrations of Hirebile’s St.Joseph’s Church and Parish are being held impressively..

In the course of all these years, owing to spiritual leadership displayed by the Parish Priests, many priestly vocations have occurred in Hirebile Parish. Seven youngsters have been ordained as Catholic Priests and two youngsters are undergoing training in the Seminary. Besides, Ten young Girls have taken their final vows as Nuns and are serving in different Religious Congregations.

Presently, Kelagooru and Hemmakki are the two sub-stations of Hirebile. Totally, there are seven wards under this Parish and they are: Hirebyle, Christian Layout (Site), Marasanige, Hemmakki, Edooru, Sunkasaale and Kelagooru. There are 164 catholic families numbering a a total of 605 Catholics.

Having been established as an independent Parish, in Hirebile, fifteen Priests and five Assistant Priests have served here. Their Names are as under:-

Parish Priests who served:
1.Rev.Fr.A.F.Lopez* - 1953-1944 2. Rev.Fr.M.Noronha* - 1944-1945 3. Rev. Fr. L.Lobo* - 1945-1946 4. Rev.Fr. J.A.Pereira* - 1946-1952 5. Rev.Fr.Fidelis Pinto* - 1952-1966 6. Rev.Fr.Joe Mary Lobo* - 1966-1971 7. Rev.Fr. Patrick D’Souza - 1971–1980 8. Rev.Fr.Daniel D’Souza - 1980-1989 9. Rev.Fr. George D’Souza - 1989-1995 10. Rev.Fr.G.V.D’Souza * - 1995-2002 11. Rev. Fr. Francis Rasquina - 2002-2008 12. Rev.Fr.R.Rajendra - 2008-2014 13. Rev.Fr.Gilbert Pinto* - 2014-2015 14. Rev.Fr.George Andrade - 2015-2022 15. Rev.Fr. David Prakash - 2022 –
Assistant Parish Priests
01. Rev.Fr, Felix Walter Pinto* - 1975-1978
02. Rev.Fr.J.B.Castellino - 1978-1980
03. 03. Rev.Fr. A.Shantappa* – 1991-1993
04. Rev.Fr.Sunil Prakash Rodrigues - 2014-2015
05. Rev.Fr.Aavin Michael - 2021-2022

* - These Priests have since deceased.

ASHTA-DASHAMANOTSAVA (80TH ANNIVERSARY CELEBRATIONS)

a slew of Programmes and activities are planned by the Hirebile Parish Council and Finance Committee Members of St.Joseph’s Church to celebrate the Ashta Dashamanotsava (80th Anniversary Celebrations) in a most befitting manner because it was in 1943, Hirebile became an independent Parish. The theme chosen for these celebrations is “Be My Witnesses” (Acts: 1 – 8).

While the entire Catholic Church celebrates first day of May every year as “St. Joseph’s – Workers’ Day” the world around us celebrates it as “May Day” in honour of all the Workers’ community around the world. It may be noted that the major chunk i.e. 75% of the Parishioners of Hirebyle are Coffee / Tea Estate workers and farm hands who toil day and night on mother Earth to earn a living.

Since 1966, First May of every year is being celebrated as Annual Feast Day of St.Joseph Church, Hirebile. On 19th March 2023, “Ashta dashamanotsava” celebrations was launched by Rev.Fr.Shanta Raj, Director – Chickmagalur Multipurpose Social Service Society with the release of Jubilee Logo, Prayer Card and the formal official Invitation. These celebrations will last the entire year till 19th March 2024.

For the first time in the history of Hirebile, Nine-day Novena prayers have commenced on 23rd April 2023 with very Rev.Fr.Paul D’Souza, Dean of Balehonnuru Deanery hoisted the Parish flag and offered the inaugural Holy Mass. Every following day, there will be a Holy Mass by Guest Priests followed by Novena prayers till 29th April 2023. 30th April 2023 being World Vocation Sunday, Hirebile Parish too would celebrate it as Vocation Sunday with Vespers and prayer programmes followed by Holy Mass. After the Mass, there will be a public Function wherein the local vocations i.e. Priests belonging to this Parish will be felicitated. After that, there will be decorated Car procession of the patron St.Joseph,in Hirebyle city followed by Jubilee meals for all.

In order to give new colour and image to this Ashtadhashamanotsava celebrations, very Rev.Fr. Valerian Mendonca, Rector – Milagris Cathedral, Udupi Diocese has composed a melodious Jubilee song in Konkani and Rev.Fr.Cyril Lobo, Director of Divya Vaani, Udupi Diocese has composed a Jubilee song in Kannada to suit the occasion. It is slated to be released on 30th April 2023.

Feast Day – Ashta Dashamanotsava Day – Celebrations
On 1st May 2023, Monday, “Ashta Dashamanotsava” grand Jubilee Mass will be offered in Kannada by Most Rev.Dr.Thomasappa Anthony Swamy, Bishop of Chickamagaluru Diocese alongwith sixty Catholic Priests in the presence of more than two thousand devotees.

After the Holy Eucharistic celebrations, there will be a Public Function organized, where the reverred Bishop will release “Ashta Dasha” Parish Directory and a Kannada Book on the life sketch of St.Joseph, the Patron Saint and prayers pertaining to St.Joseph. This book has been penned by Kannada Litterateur priest Monsignor George D’Souza, former Vicar General of Chickmagaluru Diocese. Later, the Bishop will also inaugurate the Parish Website viz: www.hirebilechurch.com. The Bishop will take this opportunity to felicitate all the former Priests and Asstt. :Priests who served Hirebyle parish and also other Religious personnel. The Divya Vani channel and The Divine Word channels will be telecasting live the entire Ashta Dashamanotsav celebrations to be organized on 30th April and 01st May 2023. This occasion also happens to be the 38th Dedication Anniversary of the present Church building.

To make Ashtadashamanotsav celebrations a huge success, the Parish ;priest aided by all the Parishioners and various Committee Members are working vigorously. To mark the Feast Day, the Church compound will be completely illuminated by “Yuv Mitra” Youth group.and others. Fr.David Prakash, Parish Priest is leaving no stone un-turned to make these celebrations memorable with the active backing of the Parish Council and Finance Committee Members.

Plans are afoot to release a Souvenir in memory of this great occasion and the Parishioners with the active backing are planning to put up a Multi-purpose Hall for the benefit of the Parishioners. In days to come, there are also plans to bring together all the natives of Hirebile i.e. all Hirebilites who were born, received baptism rites and Holy communion and also those who entered into matrimonial alliances here and received primary and higher secondary education in Hirebile Schools.
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