St. Lawrence Parish of Belle Through the Century - II

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By Dr. Eugene DSouza, Moodubelle
Adapted from: The Brief History of St. Lawrence Parish, Belle(in Konkani) by Boniface Barboza
Bellevision Media Network


2. Foundation of  St. Lawrence Parish at Belle


Moodubelle, 10 November 2010: As seen in the previous episode, there were two churches in Shirva, one dedicated to Our Lady of Health also known the Lower Church and the Upper Church dedicated to St. Francis Xavier. While the Lower Church was under the jurisdiction of Padroado of Goa, the Upper Church was under charge of the Bishop of Verapoly in Kerala. Thus, the Catholics of Shirva were divided into two groups and there was a need to bring these two rival groups under one church and parish in order to foster unity and solidarity among them. Meanwhile, Belle that was affiliated to the Lower Church had a chapel for Sunday Mass and other religious functions.


It was during the tenure of Fr. Gregory D’Souza and Fr. Casmir Fernandes as the parish priests of the Lower and Upper Churches respectively that a serious attempt was made for the unification of both the churches. Both these priests being broadminded decided to work together to bring about the unification of both these parishes which were hardly two furlongs apart. Thus, both Fr. D’Souza and Fr. Fernandes worked out measures to amalgamate these two churches  into one parish.


The proposed solution as visualised by Fr. Gregory D’Souza and Fr. Casmir Fernandes to the age old problem comprised constitution of a united parish under the church dedicated to Our Lady of Health (Lower Church), cancellation of the Upper Church dedicated to St. Francis Xavier and raising the chapel at Belle into a full-fledged parish dedicated to St. Lawrence and transferring the religious articles from the Upper Church to that of Belle.


As per the decision taken by the ‘zuntha’, both the Lower and Upper churches at Shirva were pulled down and the foundation for the new church dedicated to Our Lady of Health at the present location was laid on 9 November 1911by Bishop Paul Perini. The chief mason of the new church was Mathias D’Silva of Katapady. The church building was completed in February 1915 and on 9 February 1915, Bishop Paul Perini blessed and inaugurated the new church.


Present Shirva Church


Being appointed as the first parish priest of St. Lawrence Church, Belle, Fr. Casmir Fernandes took charge of the parish on 15 November 1910. In order to assist him in church activities as sacristan, a fifteen years young boy named Salvador Barboza, son of Francis Xavier Barboza who was the sacristan at Shirva, accompanied Fr. Casmir Fernandes to Belle.


As the earlier chapel had become old and dilapidated, Fr. Casmir Fernandes got a new make shift chapel with thatched roof and mud-walls (govol) built. Bishop Most Rev. Paul Perini visited Belle for the first time on 12 and 13 November 1911 and administered the sacrament of Chrism (Confirmation) to a number of young children as well as adults. As there was a need for the residence for priests, foundation stone for the same was laid on 26 February 1912.


For nearly five years, Fr. Casmir Fernandes conducted Sunday and weekdays Masses in the thatched roofed ‘govol’ for nearly five years. By that time the number of parishioners gradually began to increase and it was felt that a new and a more spacious church has to be built. After completing the preliminary planning and preparations, on 2 February 1915 Bishop Paul Perini blessed and laid the foundation stone for the new church building.


Bishop Paul Perini


There are a number of anecdotes that are related to the construction of the church building which have become folklore. The pious and selfless life and words of Fr. Casmir Fernandes influenced and impacted not only the Christians but also the non-Christians in and around Belle. As a result of this, irrespective of their religious beliefs and caste differences, people of the village offered their contribution in whatever manner possible. Some of them donated huge trees for the construction of the church. As there were no roads and vehicles, the mutts loaned their elephants to transport the huge timber to Belle.


At that time money was a scarce commodity. However, there were few enterprising and well-to-do persons who donated cash to the construction of the church. One well-known person named Lawrence Gaga donated Rs.1000, which was considered as a large amount at that time. The tile manufacturers from Mangalore gave thousands of tiles as donation. Lime was brought from Udyavar and sand was transported by the people as head-loads from the Belle River.


The contract for the building of the church was given to Monthu Mesth of Bajpe and David Mesth of Goa who worked on the construction of the church building along with their assistants and the people of Belle. Sacristan Salvador Barboza and others helped Fr. Casmir Fernandes by shouldering the responsibility of supervising the construction of the church. After three years of continuous work, the church building was ready by the end of 1918 and was blessed by Bishop Paul Perini on 31 December 1918.


Belle Old Church


Though the church building was dominated the landscape of Belle, there were no other facilities that were available for the people of Belle. Gradually, it was due to the efforts of Fr. Casmir Fernandes that Belle gradually developed as a township (peth). Even before the construction of the church building, in 1913, the primary school that was conducted by Dasapayya (grandfather of B.Sadananda Rao) was transferred to the Belle parish so that it could be managed in a better way. Dasapayya continued as its headmaster till 1919. Thereafter, Salvador Barboza doubled as the sacristan and headmaster of the primary school for few years.


Elementary School


Realising the need of the people of the village, Fr. Casmir Fernandes took efforts to introduce a weekly market to be held on every Tuesday that led to the growth of the present ‘Santhe-katte’, a post office and petty shops to sell various provisions needed by the people on day-to-day basis. As there was no transport facility, Fr. Casmir Fernandes took initiative to lay the road that eventually connected Karkala and Udupi through Belle.


Since the time of Fr. Casmir Fernandes, the annual parish feast of the Belle has been celebrated during the first Tuesday and Wednesday in the month of January every year. Realising that a number of non-Catholics attended the Vespers on Tuesday on the eve of the annual feast especially to witness the fire-works, Fr. Casmir Fernandes introduced the practice of delivering sermon in the Tulu language during the Vespers.


As the health of Fr. Casmir Fernandes due to enormous amount of work began to deteriorate, on 14 April 1931, Fr. William Lewis was sent as the first assistant priest to Belle. He was instrumental in starting the Altar Servers and Men’s Sodalities in Belle.


Fr. William Lewis


Visualising the difficulties faced by the people of Bailoor, Kanajar, Palli and Ninjoor to attend Mass on Sundays and other important days and fulfil their other spiritual needs due to the great distance from these regions to Belle, Fr. William Lewis acquired a plot of land and built a chapel in 1932 at Kanajar and also raised a cross on the elevated rock known as Madmalekal (Brides’s Rock) where it still stands.


Few years later, Kanajar was raised as an independent parish on 28 May 1938 and Fr. William Lewis was sent there as the first parish priest. Thus, Kanajar became the first parish to be carved out of the Belle parish. Under the supervision of Fr. William Lewis a beautiful church dedicated to Our Lady of Lourdes was constructed that was blessed and inaugurated on 28 April 1948 by the then Bisop of Mangalore, Rt. Rev. Victor Fernandes. Earlier, in 1939, Fr. William Lewis had started the higher elementary school at Kanajar.


Kanajar church


After quarter of a century’s dedicated service during which he not only constructed the church building but also nurtured a strong parish community, Fr. Casmir Fernandes was transferred to Udyavar in 1935. On 25 May 1935, the grateful parish community of Belle gave a tearful farewell to Fr. Casmir Fernandes.



Fr. Casmir Fernandes was born on 22 April 1877 at Bajpe. He was ordained a priest on 7 February 1904. He served as the parish priest of Shirva from 1906 to 1910, Belle from 1910 to 1935 and Udyavar from 1935 to 1950. After retirement Fr. Casmir Fernandes stayed in the retired priests’ home at Kankanady, Mangalore. He celebrated the Golden Jubilee of his priesthood at Belle. He passed away on 18 May 1955. His body was brought to Belle on 19 May 1955 and was interred inside the church.



Comments on this Article
Bro.Felix Martis, Kattingeri/. Rome Sun, December-29-2013, 3:33
Benni master and Dr.Eugene it is an excellent work. Congratulations.
Bro.Felix Martis, Kattingeri. Sun, December-29-2013, 3:25
Congratulations. Your brief description is excellent and simple to understand. You must have really worked hard to dig out the past history.
Manoj, Moodubelle/Dubai Fri, November-12-2010, 11:01
Thank you Benny master and Dr. Eugene.
William Mendonca, USA Thu, November-11-2010, 1:37
Thanks Dr.Eugene for the detailed history of Moodubelle parish, a lot of facts I learnt only today from your article.
Melwyn D Souza, Shirva Wed, November-10-2010, 7:02
Dr. Eugene has narrated this part of history in such a beautiful way that for some time i felt i am visualizing these incidents in front of my eyes. Hats of to you Doctor.
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