Brief History of Society of St Paul
The first two Paulines, Fr Domenico Ambrosio and Fr Guido Paganini arrived in Bombay by the Italian liner Victoria on April 10, 1935. But they could not stay long in Bombay as the Archdiocese was not open to religious other than the Jesuits.
After several attempts to get admitted into a diocese, they were allowed to stay in Delhi till they are admitted into another diocese. Here they maintained themselves by their hard work with a treadle machine. In December 1936 Fr Paganini left for Japan. He was replaced with Fr Vico Anselm who after a few months became sick and returned to Italy.
On August 2, 1937, Fr Alfonso Ferrero arrived in Bombay and rushed to Delhi to meet Fr Ambrosio before he left for South America. He found a new house in Court Road in the Civil Lines. There was a garage which soon became our mini-press with a treadle machine and a few sets of types. In October, 1937, two more paulines arrived – Fr Gabriel Colasanto and Br Bernardino Ruffoli.
In March 1938, Fr Alfonso Ferrero visited several Bishops with the hope of finding a place to settle down. Finally, Mons. Angelo Poli, the Bishop of Allahabad, was willing to accept us on the recommendation of Mons. De Vito, the then Rector of St Joseph’s Seminary, Allahabad. Bishop Poli offered us the Mission at Fidelispur, now known as Ranipur. However, Fr Ferrero was not impressed with the offer. On 13th October in 1938, Archbishop Mullighan officially admitted them into the diocese of Delhi.
Soon a difficulty arose: Italy sided with Germany in the second world war and the British authorities in Delhi began to grow suspicious of Italian Missionaries. Finally, they accepted the offer of Bishop Poli and moved to Allahabad on 21st June, 1939, and settled down at Fidelispur. Soon they recruited the first batch of aspirants from India.
In October 1939 Germany declared war on England and later Italy joined Germany. On 14th June 1940, Fr Alfonso Ferrero, being an Italian citizen, was arrested and brought to Agra, and later to Ahamednagar. Br Bernardino lost contact with the aspirants who were in holidays. He could not remain alone at Fidelispur. He became secretary to the Bishop and stayed at the Bishop’s house. Soon, the Bishop too was arrested along with Br Bernardino.
As the war got over in 1945, Bishop Poli and Br Bernardino were freed. Fr Ferrero was retained in the camp along with fifty other Missionaries for another year.
When they returned after the war, there was nothing left at Fidelispur. The house was occupied by refugees from Burma. All our belongings, including the mini-press, had disappeared.
In the winter of 1948-49 Fr Colasanto returned after his treatment. In the beginning of 1948 Br Pio Rizzo came, followed by Fr Bellanzon. They recruited a few aspirants, and thus once again we revived the regular Pauline life. In 1949 our founder, Blessed Giacomo Alberione (Primo Maestro) made his first visit to India. On 19 April, 1950 another member was added, Fr Ettore Diamantini.
In 1948 Mons. Valerian Gracias was elected Archbishop of Bombay and he invited Paulines to Bombay, requesting them to take over the Examiner Press Bookshop.
On 11th November, 1951, two more members arrived – Frs Maurus Ferrero to Bombay and Antonio Rossi to Allahabad. Fr Attilio Tempra came in February 1952 and was stationed in Bombay.
In 1953 Fr Diamantini came to Bombay to look after the formation of the aspirants. Around Christmas Br Pio also came to Bombay to manage the Bookshop which he did till he left for Ireland in 1981.
In 1955 Primo Maestro came on a second visit to India and his last visit was in 1963.
On 20 October, 1959, the first Indian Pauline Brothers (Timothy Tirkey, Angelo Pullokaran and Thomas Cornelio) made their perpetual profession and on 01 July, 1962 the first Indian Pauline priests (Albert Rego and Paul Vechoor) were ordained.
On 30 June, 1965, Society of St Paul, India, became a Province and Fr Alfonso Ferrero was appointed the first Provincial.
Eventually, Society of St Paul was spread to different parts of the country:
- New Delhi: In 1964 Fr Tempra and Br Angelo Pullokaran went to New Delhi.
- Bangalore (Karnataka): In 1968, Fr Gabriel Colasanto and Br Basil Chennamkulath were sent to pioneer the community of Bangalore.
- Madras (Tamil Nadu): In 1972 Fr Paul Maruthanakuzhy and Br Carmel Kizhakel sowed the seed of the community of Madras.
- Ernakulam (Kerala): In 1976 Br Carmel Kizhakel and Fr Abraham Nedumpuram pioneered the community of Ernakulam.
- Coimbatore (Tamil Nadu): The community of Coimbatore was inaugurated on 20th August 1982, with Fr Paul Maruthanakuzhy and Br Pancratius Tirkey as pioneers. This community was closed down in 1992.
- Calicut (Kerala): On 30 September, 1984, Fr Augustine and Br Leo Kocheelath were sent to open the community.
- Eluru (Andhra Pradesh): In December 1984, Fr Jose Pottayil pioneered the community of Eluru, which was later closed down on 9 June, 2001.
- Pune (Maharastra): On 26 November, 1988, Fr Vincent Gnarakatt, Fr Vincent Carmelbhavan pioneered the community of Pune.
- Jorhat (Assam): On 5 September, 1991 Br Jesudass and Fr Joe Narivelil were sent to Jorhat.
- Ibadan (Nigeria): On 6 October, 1991, Fr Renato Perino sent Br Basil Chennamkulam and Fr Leo Botavara III to Ibadan to initiate a new opening in Nigeria. The community was formally opened on 26 November, 1991. By a Decree dated 21 December 1995, Superior General Fr Silvio Pignotti instructed that Nigeria be part of the Indian Province with effect from 1 July 1996. An extension to this community was inaugurated at Enugu, on 3 November, 2007.
- Vijayawada (Andhra Pradesh): On 1 July, 1992, Fr Emmanuel became the pioneer of Vijayawada.
- Ranchi (Jharkhand): On 26 September, 2004, the house or Ranchi was blessed. Br Leo and Br Dungdung were the pioneers.
- Guwahati (Assam): On 22 October, 2006, the community of Guwahati was erected. Fr Vincent Carmelbhavan pioneered the project.
- Jalandhar (Punjab): The community was formally erected by the decree of 25 January, 2008.
Today the Indian Province of the Society of St Paul consists of 153 members in 14 communities and overseas. We spread the message of Christ to the 103 crores of God’s people spread in 33 states of the Indian subcontinent and 12 crores of Nigeria through:
3 Mobile Book-Centres
5 Whole-Sale Distribution Centres
Book-fairs and Book Exhibitions
An Outstanding Publishing House
8 Regional Language Publications
2 Modern Presses
Members of Society of St Paul, India, also serve overseas in 7 countries (Australia, Canada, England, Ireland, Italy, Nigeria and USA).
"The history of the Society of St Paul in India is a history of hardships and difficulties. But it is also a history of innumerable blessings of God, who in spite of our many errors and evident limitations has been very generous and merciful towards us. To Him be our thanks, in all humility. In him we trust for the future” (Fr Alfonso Ferrero)."