Capuchin History in India

 

The arrival of the Capuchins in India dates back to the year 1632 when a band of foreign Capuchin Missionaries landed in Pondicherry as Chaplains to the French Trading Company. The friars left India when the company closed its branch in India in 1634. Re-establishment of the capuchin presence in India was in 1639 with the arrival of Father Zeno of Beauge and two companions in Goa. Their intention was to extend their missionary thrust to Tibet and Nepal; however, it turned out that they continued their missionary ventures in the Vicariate of Agra and Patna. After slogging as missionaries for about two and half centuries, the idea of implanting the Order in India was considered as a possibility. Hence, in 1880 a novitiate house was opened in Mussoorie. Just ten years later, however this novitiate was closed due to the lack of vocations. The appointment of Fr. John Baptist Trannanzi of Florence of the Province of Tuscany, as the first Commissary General paved the way to open a Novitiate House at Sardhana in 1922. This could be the cradle of Capuchin Order in India for many years. This first Indian unit of the Order was entrusted to the four Superior Regular of the North Indian Mission, namely, Agra, Ajmir, Allahabad and Lahore. The Indian Branch of the Order became Custody (Commissariat) of the Province of Paris on 21st February 1927. The early Capuchins were then sent to Europe to pursue their further studies with the French friars. The first batch of 12 clerics had left India on 22 June 1927, under the leadership of Fr. Marie Egide Uhlennuth of Ajmer.

The absence of a strong, vibrant and populous Christian community in the North and the unfavourable climatic conditions of the place called for a transfer of the novitiate from North to a more favourable location in South India. The Province of Paris was entrusted with this venture. The Capuchins were offered a little hill at Farangipet, called Monte Mariano, in the diocese of Mangalore and hence the decision to shift the novitiate was carried out on 1st May 1930. This resulted in a rapid growth of the Capuchins in South India, in 1932 a study house was set up in Quilon, Kerala, and most of the students who had not yet finished their studies abroad were brought back to continue their studies in Quilon.

Naming of Br. Guido Le Plontrieux of Province of Paris, as the General Commissary in 1933 marked the next phase of the growth of the Order in India. The influx of candidates was unabated and the Order grew from strength to strength. From 1948 to 1954, Fr. Richard Brunner from Calvary Province of USA was put in charge of the Indian Capuchin Mission. He was made Commissary Provincial in 1951. By 1954, the hands at the helms were changed and Fr. Cyril Andrade became the first Indian Commissary Provincial. In 1956, the Agra Archdiocese was entrusted to the Order and Fr. Dominic Athaide was consecrated as the first Indian Capuchin Bishop of Agra. In 1957, Fr. Cassian Timmins, a Canadian Missionary from Gorakhpur was appointed to guide the destiny of the Commissariat and he guided it during the next 6 years. The number of Capuchins by now had grown from 41 in 1933 to almost two hundred in 1960.

Formation of an Autonomous Indian Province.

Fr. Clement of Milwaukee, the General Minister, who had known the growth of the Capuchin jurisdiction in India already at the time of his first visit. He paid a second visit in 1962, especially for constituting the Indian unit into a full-pledged Capuchin Province. Fr. John Berchmans Puthuparambil was appointed as the first Provincial Minister of the Province of the Immaculate Heart of Mary, India. Moreover, in the first elective chapter in 1966, Fr. John Berchmans was elected as Provincial Minister.During the second elective chapter held in 1969, Fr. Jacob Acharuparambil was elected as the Provincial Minister.