Mangalore, India., Dec. 6 - It is celebration time for one of the oldest monumental structures in the city, as the St Joseph ’s Seminary, popularly known as Jeppu Seminary, is into its 125th year. This also coincides with the 125th anniversary of Jesuit priests taking over the seminary in Jeppu.
From December 1, the celebrations began.
The seminary building, which resembles 'Notre Dame de Paris,' has been designed and built along Roman architectural lines by Fr Augusto S.J., and is one of the few that are still standing today in its pristine glory.
Mangalore has for ages been called the 'Rome of the East' with a glorious history of Christianity, and its missionaries have contributed to the socio-economic and educational spheres of this coastal district. The Jeppu Seminary has a prominent place in it. The first seminary in Kanara district was set up by a Goan priest, Joackim Miranda, at Monte Mariano, 8 km east of Mangalore. Historians, though, cannot ascertain the exact date, and it is believed that the seminary started functioning sometime between 1763 and 1778.
But during the captivity of 200 Christians by Tipu Sultan, all the students were sent to Verapoly in Kerala. Later, Fr Augusto, an Italian Jesuit and also an architect, conceived the plan of the building and completed it in 1879. Which was also the time for the seminary to shift into the new building which today stands tall and imparts education in Christianity.
One of the important events in the life of this seminary is that Pope Leo XIII assigned the Kanara region to the care of the Jesuits of Venice-Milan province and Fr Nicholas Pagani was to be the first Jesuit Vicar Apostolic. He and his companions arrived in Mangalore on December 31, 1878. This elite group of Jesuits set up a University, today known as the St Aloysius College.
In the vast interiors of the seminary is a chapel, adorned with frescoes by Brother Moscheni, who was known for his paintings at the St Aloysius chapel.
The frescoes are of St Ignatius, founder of Jesuits, and Grotto of Our Lady and Lourdes. The impressive altar and chapel, built in 1879, have been maintained to this day with their original fittings and, according to rector Fr Lawrence Mendonca, in some places even the original paint has been maintained.
The Interdiocesan seminary provides education to young men hailing from various diocese in Karnataka and Kerala, and there are students from even the northern parts of the country. At present, the number of resident staff is 18 all of whom have either a Master’s or a doctorate in various disciplines. The syllabus consists of various philosophical trends and theological thinking. It does not confine itself to Christianity, and the students are made to study other religions, including Hinduism, Jainism, Buddhism and Islam. Humanities like psychology and sociology are given due importance too, says the dean Victor Machado. The seminary has so far produced 1,750 scholars, of who 35 have risen to be Bishops, adds Fr Machado.
To mark the 125th anniversary celebrations on December 1, the commemoration function witnessed Apostolic Nuncio Rev. Pedro Lopez Quintana, ambassador of the Vatican from Italy, Rev. Cyril Baselios, president of the Catholic Bishops Conference of India, and other leaders of the Christian community from all over the country participating.
Dedication of a new library block, felicitations to some past rectors, a light and sound presentation on the history of the seminary will be part of the festivities.