Mumbai: St Joseph’s Church, Mira Road at the threshold of decennial celebrations

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Mumbai, 15 January 2010: One of the largest parishes in Mumbai Diocese is St. Joseph’s church Mira Road. But this church is still a child of 10 years! Having more than 25,000 catholic members most of whom are Konkani speaking either from Mangalorean or Goan origin the parish is unique in entire diocese.

Cut to 1985, as fast trains whizzed past a marshy land filled with salt water, were a few tiled and asbestos sheds and a few shanty offices where salt was sold. At the time trains did not halt at Mira Road. It was only in 1986 that a few trains stopped at Mira Road, after the halt at Dahisar, to facilitate those working in the salt pans of Mira Road. With the exception of a single bungalow at Naya Nagar and a few buildings just coming up there, Mira Road was a virtual lake.

In response to a huge building plan and advertising blitz people from South Mumbai started migrating to this place. On 22nd October 1987, the Mira Road Catholic Association was founded. Late Bishop Simon Pimentha was contacted to meet the religious needs of the people. In 1987, Christmas Mass was celebrated from Goregaon Seminary.

1 acre 23 guntas land was located for the church and a boundary wall was constructed. A small chapel was built for celebrating the Mass. In the year 1988 Carmelites were contacted and Fr. Richard Castelino took up the responsibility to mee the spiritual needs of the people.

In 1988 Fr. Michael Morris Shenoy was transferred to Mira Road. He toiled a lot to protect the land, to plant, to irrigate, to fill and to make this water-filled, mosquito-infested land more habitable. On 1st June, 1988 a flat in Sheetal Dahra building was taken for rent and Fr. Michael Morris Shenoy began his pastoral ministry there. By then, approximately 100 Catholic families were present in Mira Road. In the same month, the foundation stone was laid for the new Church, on the present church foundation. The foundation stone was also dedicated to St. Joseph. By December of 1990, the Chapel was ready and the Christmas celebration was held in the new Church.

On August 27th, 1990 the Church was officially registered at Thane as a Trust, and in 1991, the first Parish Pastoral Council with Fr. Michael as President, Mr. Armando Aquino as Vice-President and Mr. P. X. Swami and Mr. Joe Rodrigues as Secretary and Jt. Secretary was formed. As soon as Carmelite Fathers took full charge of the Church, the Mira Road Catholic Association, having done their share of the work, Indianized the name as KRISTA SHANTI DHAM and receipts for payments were issued on this name and handed over charge to the priests.

By now, parish life had begun to blossom with many associations being formed, including the Altar Boys and Women’s Sodality and the Youth Group.

In 1990, war broke in Kuwait. Consequently, lot of people from Kuwait – having heard from the Carmelites there of the growing parish and economical housing - rushed to Mira Road to buy flats. Besides it was a safer destination for investment and residence. Rates in other parts of Mumbai were also skyrocketing. News also went around that the Sisters of Holy Cross had taken up construction of their School. The year was 1992.

In 1993 the Church at Mira Road was in the news with a live tabloid of Christmas, live music, cards and Carnival and hundreds of participants making news about it.

In 1998, as part of the fund-raising activities, the idea of the popular Mira Fest was born and took shape. In 1999, the Church edifice came to a shape, the residence of the fathers was ready, and a provision was made for a Community hall.

Archbishop Ivan Dias inaugurated the new Church on 5th December, 1999, the year dedicated to the jubilee year of Our Lord Jesus Christ with the symbol of “A New Beginning”.

Till date Fr Richard Castelino (1988), Fr Michael Morris Shenoy (1988), Fr Berchmans Pinto (1989), Fr Peter DSa 1990), Fr Gabriel Dias (1991), Fr Antony DSouza (1992), Fr Alfred Menezes (1995), Fr John Alex Pinto (1995), Fr Melvyn D’Cunha (1996), Fr Alexander Braganza (2000), Fr Rudolf V DSouza (2001-2002 Assistant, Priest incharge) Fr Antony DSouza (2002), Fr Henry Praveen (2002), Fr Elias DSouza (2003), Fr Boniface DSouza (2003), Fr Deepak Tomas KJ (2006), Fr Peter Rebello (2007), Fr Michael Morris Shenoy 2007)

Rev. Dr. Dominic Charles Vaz who has the Doctorate in Philosophy from Mysore University and was a Superior of Infant Jesus Shrine, Mangalore for 3 years is serving the church as Parish Priest of St. Josephs Church Mira Road and Director of Anubhav spirituality inter-religious centre since 1999. Fr Michael Morris Shenoy (1st Councillor of the carmelite province), Fr Deepak K J Thomas, Fr Ivan DSouza, Fr John Pinto serve the parish as Asst Parish Priests.

As the new church was erected and inaugurated on Dec 6 1999, this year is the decennial year of the church which bring back the memories of all events, the tears of joy and happiness of the inauguration of the church.

AS the decennial year of the church is celebrated, it is proposed to hold a Inter-religious diologue to mark this event 17th January 2010.

"Inter-religious harmony and peace is the present needs of India" says the young dynamic parish priest Fr. Dominic. "Inter-religious dialogue is a unique platform where the spiritual leaders and people of different faith come together to share their experiences. Organising of such event is for telling the world that differences don’t need to lead to disputes. The tragedies we have experienced throughout history were not the fault of religious but because of the extremism that has been adopted by some followers of the religions, and of political systems." he says.

"In this direction dialogue is the best way for mutual understanding and co-operation in human relations as well as in peaceful coexistence among all the peoples. It is an effort of bring together the members of different religions under one umbrella and to build a peaceful Mira road and promote communial harmony. In this direction we would like your supports and cooperation." he pleads.

Various church leaders are called for this inter-religious dialogue to be held on 17-Jan-2010 at 7pm at the church premises. Cardinal Oswald Gracias will preside over the function. Provincial Fr. Archibald Gonsalves ocd will release the souvenir. Pandit Prahalladacharya R Nagarahalli (Sarvajna Vidyapeeta Virar), Maulana Sayed Ather Ali (President All India Ulema Council) and Giani Sardar Satnam Singh Ji (Head Granthi, Gurudwara, Borivli) will speak during this occasion. Mr. Gilbert Mendonca MLA, Mr Muzzaffar Hussain, MLC, Mr Sanjeev Ganesh Naik MP, Mira-Bhayander Municipal Commissioner Shiv Murti Naik, Mayor Narendra Mehta, and the Corporators of the corporaton will participate in the function.

To mark this auspicious event a shrine dedicated to Infant Jesus will be also inaugurated by the Cardinal Dr Oswald Gracious. Fr Dominic expects thousands of people to witness this unique event.

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Comments on this Article
Godwin D’Souza, Mumbai Fri, January-15-2010, 11:47
Dear Ancy, thanks for your article on beautiful St. Joseph’s Church, Mira Road. This place is home for thousands of Mangaloreans, hence called as ’Mini Mangalore’. All the best to the inter-religious dialogue!
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