Dr. Alphonsus DSouza-Bishop of Raiganj Celebrates Seventy-fifth Birthday


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By Lester Martis
Bellevision Media Network

Moodubelle, Jul 12, 2014 : On 30  January 1986, His Grace Rev.Dr.Alphonsus D’Souza S.J.,  the then Jesuit Provincial had travelled all the way from Calcutta to Raiganj to conduct funeral proceedings of the then Late Bishop Leo Tigga S.J. as most of the priest were in Delhi. Little did he know that this wouldn’t be the last time he would see the place for on 18 February 1987 an announcement was made that he would be the next Bishop of the Diocese of Raiganj.

 

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Born on 4 July 1939 in Kattingere(Moodubelle), Udupi District in Karnataka, Alphonsus D’Souza was the son of a school teacher(Monnu Master) and had 12 other siblings. On  13 July 1971 he was ordained as a priest in the  Society of Jesus. From this period till 1987 he held the post of Rector and Principal, Dean of Studies, Professor of Indian and Western Philosophy and Systematic Theology and was also the Prefect for Deacons. His most happy moment during this period was teaching at ‘Morning Star Seminary” in Kolkata till he was ordained as a Bishop. When he received the letter announcing his appointment as the Bishop of Raiganj he was shocked at the prospect but he decided to take on the challenge since he believed it was the will of God to do so.

 

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Before his ordination on 17 May 1987, the Diocese of Raiganj had 9 Parishes and a total of 13 priests. However with his will and determination of facing any challenge put in front of him, Bishop Alphonsus D’Souza worked hard day and night tirelessly despite facing various health issues as a result of which the Diocese of Raiganj today has 35 parishes and 108 priests under it. His focus on fostering vocations led to the foundation of 14 different religious societies within the diocese excluding 5 Ecclesiastical Institutions. He worked hard to gather funds to build up these institutions, at times being helped by his friends from Germany where he spent 4 years while pursuing higher studies. 

 

Bishop AlphonsusD’Souza through his persistence and guidance had helped the diocese gather many vocations over the past 27 years one of them being Fr. M.V. Sunny, the Treasurer and Secretary of the Diocese who was greatly influenced by the charisma and determination of Bishop AlphonsusD’Souza who used to constantly communicate and guide him through letters, a fact that helped him to choose the Diocese of Raiganj as his home for the past 13 years.

 

On his arrival in Raiganjwhich comprised of 3 Administrative Districts, Bishop Alphonsus began the work of educating the locals as most of the parishes under the Diocese had been rural with the exception of Malda town for which he developed and established a unique system in which each parish used to run a school till standard 4 in which there were hostel facilities available. While the boys were looked after by the priests, the girls hostels were managed by the convent attached to the parish. This helped the local populace to go to school and as a result get educated and get better jobs beside the traditional jobs which in turn increased employment opportunities. Children who wished to study further were then enrolled in any one of the 4 high schools to study further. 

 

The greatest contribution of Bishop Alphonse was the construction of  the Cathedral dedicated to St. Joseph The Worker which is a masterpiece of different architectural  concepts.

 

Bishop Alphonsus faced many challenges during this time most of them being financial which he overcame. However,  the most dangerous challenge he faced was when on one night a group of 7-8 dacoits barged in the bishop’s house, tied and gagged  the Bishop and one of them held a gun on his shoulder while another held a grenade under his face. The dacoits robbed everything including a few lakhs of rupees which were to be used to build houses for the local tribal people along with all his rings and clothes. Despite this, the next morning, the  Bishop went for a confirmation ceremony borrowing a ring from one of the priests, dutifully continuing his service to others. The fact that the people of the Diocese love him for what he has done,  Bishop Alphonsus still claims that he has done nothing and is merely a tool in God’s great plan to help his people.


On 4 July 2014, Bishop Alphonsus celebrated 75th Birthday along with the congregation of the diocese. The celebrations began with a procession leading towards the Cathedral from the bishop’s house with ethnic dance and music being played followed by priests and family member who were followed by bishops from various neighbouring dioceses including Archbishop of Agra Rev.Dr.Albert D’Souza,  the younger brother of Bishop Alphonsus, Bishop Salvador Lobo of Buraipur Diocese who is also from Moodubelle and Bishop Clement Tirkey. Bishop Alphonsus was carried on a palanquin. The procession ended at the Cathedral where the jubilee mass was offered  with great attendance.Also in attendance were two brothers of  Bishop Alphonsus  along with their wives, four nephews with their families and four grandnephews.

 

Following the mass, the congregation and attendees walked towards the Bishop Alphonsus Jubilee Memorial Pastoral  Center which was inaugurated and blessed by the Bishop. The hall was built by the Bishop for the purpose of parishioners utilizing it to celebrate various occasions. The inauguration was followed by cultural programme performed by various congregations and also by school children. A special cake prepared by Natasha D’Souza,  the niece of the Bishop  was flown in specially for the occasion. The cultural programme was followed by lunch.

 

 

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Comments on this Article
Ronald Sabi, Moodubelle Sun, July-13-2014, 7:09
Congratulations Uncle Alphonse on your 75th Birthday. Thank you Lester for the wonderful report and pictures.
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