When the first Jesuit missionaries of the Sicilian Province arrived in India in 1924 and then in Santal Parganas in 1930, their aim was to announce the Lord Jesus Christ and to plant His Church among the Santals. Their work included proclamation, formation, caring, education, health care and social uplift. These strands are found in missionary activity up to the present times. It was only in 1984 that Fr.Joseph Borg was appointed for the first time in the history of the Santal Mission as the CONVENOR for the PASTORAL APOSTOLATE. The Pastoral Commission was set up in 1985 by the then Father Superior Emmanuel Stellini . In 1989 the Santal Region was elevated into the Province of Dumka-Raiganj and in 1990 Fr.Aloysius Zammit replaced Fr.Joe Borg as Convenor for the Pastoral Apostolate. When in 1995, the South Asia Assistency set up JEPASA (Jesuits in Pastoral Apostolate of South Asia), Fr.Zammit became the JEPASA Coordinator in the Province. During his tenure the Province Congregation sent a Postulatum to Fr. General seeking his help to foster Small Christian Communities; and the first National Convention of Jepasa took place at Pune. During the time when Fr.Marcus Murmu was the Province JEPASA Coordinator, from 2001-2005, a Vision and Mission Statement of the Pastoral Apostolate in the Province was formulated. It read : "We, the members of Dumka-Raiganj Province, through our Pastoral apostolate, motivated by a deep personal love of Christ in solidarity with all people, especially with the marginalized in their life and struggle, commit ourselves to their integral growth for a human society'. The Mission Statement listed 10 areas in the formation of the Christian community.
During the tenure of Fr.Benjamin Ekka as Province JEPASA Coordinator, (2006-2009), Santal Marriage Customs and Practices were discussed in the GBM 2008. Three resource persons guided the discussion, Fr.Susai Manikam (Prof.of Morning Star College, Fr.Peri Moses SJ, and Fr.Charles Soren of Dumka Diocese. In 2010 Fr.Ignatius Soren SJ took over as Province Coordinator. Fr.Provincial asked the Commission of the Pastoral to review and update the earlier Vision and Mission Statement. This was done in January 2010. The Statement reads as follows; "Faced with the challenges of today, we Jesuit Pastors of Dumka-Raiganj Province commit ourselves to the mission of Jesus Christ to reconcile men with God, witrh one another and with creation by building up a just and human society.” Ten areas in Mission were singled out for action. The GBM was held in June 2010 with the theme 'Santal Spirituality'. The recourse person was Fr.Hans Henricks SJ of Hazaribag Province. On the suggestion of Fr.Provincial GC 35 was taken up for consideration. The Province Coordinators faithfully attend the JEPASA National Convention which is held regularly every two-three years.
After the establishment of Dumka Diocese and with the increase of the diocesan clergy, the Society began making over the parishes and one high school to the diocese. In 2012, the Dumka-Raiganj Province Catalogue lists the following parishes or mission stations manned by the Jesuits:
Dumka Diocese : Bathbanga (Socio-pastoral) Banpokharia (Socio-Pastoral), Chilimpur, Deopur, Hathimara, Jibonpur, Karon, Mariampahar, Murguni, Nunbatta, Purana Kesari;
Raiganj Diocese : Jitarpur , Majlispur, Nichitpur , Nichamari;
Purnea Diocese : Baghmara.
Catechists' Training Centre - CTC Torai
At the first inter-diocesan Santal Qolloquium held at Bandel in 1972 , Bishops and missionaries working among Santals expressed a long felt desire to have a Catechists' School to help train santal catechists for mission. The Bishops requested Bishop Leo Tigga SJ of Dumka to undertake this project. The Bishop, in his turn, turned to the Superior of the Santal Region, Fr.Alfred Agius SJ, and requested him to provide for such an enterprise. He also offered land available at Torai. The Superior accepted willingly the offer together with the land and more adjacent land was acquired for the purpose by the parish priest at Torai, Fr.Joseph Gauci Sacco SJ. The building of the centre soon started under the management of Fr.Larry Caruana SJ. On September 15th, 1976, Catechists' Training Centre (CTC) was solemnlyblessed by Rt.Rev.Leo Tigga SJ of Dumka in the presence of the first batch of full-time catechists, hailing from various dioceses, who began a two month course under the direction of the first director, Fr.Paul Aquilina SJ. who remained at CTC for 20 years. As his assistant during his tenure was Brother Peter Marandi for a couple of years and then Francis Aind SJ who remained at CTC for several years.
From the beginning two courses were devised, one for full time catechists. It ran for six months, split up in 3 periods of two months each so that the catechists could return to their parishes and families without inconveniencing them. Then one month course was devised for Girga or village catechists who would conduct the Sunday Girja without priest .These courses aim at giving an integral formation to catechists and village leaders. The curriculum includes Catholic Doctrine, Liturgy, Scripture, Spirituality, Methods of Evangelization, Social Awareness, etc. For the long course, several priests from various dioceses come to give lectures. Fr.Charles Soren of Dumka diocese renders valuable service with his pastoral experience in giving classes. He had even spent five years at CTC itself. Fr.Hans Henricks SJ of Hazaribag conducts regularly the retreat in the third period of the long course. From the start one month course was reserved for women in order to tap women's talents in the service of the faith community. Dioceses with a Santal catholic population send their catechists and leaders to CTC for training: Asansol, Bhagalpur, Calcutta, Dumka, Hazaribag, Jamshedpur, Darjeeling, Patna, and one or two dioceses in Assam . Over many years missionaries in the field , bishops, priests, brothers, sisters, candidates to religious congregations and seminarians had the opportunity of going through a month's crush course in the Santali language and culture under the able 'guru' Fr.George Muscat SJ , who conducted the course, usually in the summer holidays.
In 2010 a CTC mobile team has been set up to conduct on-going training programmes to catechists by visiting parishes. In the course of time other courses have been introduced, such as:
1. Small Christian Community Training;
2. Renewal courses for Catechists;
3 Santali language course for missionaries.
Spirituality Centre - Jeevan Dhara
Land was acquired at Chotparua, near Raiganj and the buiding was cxompleted in 1991 under the care of Br.Emmanuel Ainul SJ. Thanks to the pioneering spirit of Fr.Cecil Azzopardi and Br.Ainul, more land was acquired for the centre. Fr.Cecil Azzopardi took up his mission as the first Director of Jeevan Dhara on 3rd January 1993. He began directing retreats at the Centre and giving recollections to religious in the parishes. Fr.Cecil was succeeded by other directors who did their best to enhance and deepen the Vision of the Spirituality Centre by offering to clergy, religious and faithful alike programmes for spiritual growth. Hence in the course of the year's Jeevan Dhara offered Ignatian retreats of one month or eigth days, Inner Healing Retreats, Seminars, Charismatic Retreats, Spiritual Direction, and Counselling. In 1996 Frs Bernard Murmu , Director and Tom Kottackal teamed up at the centre and for a number of years conducted Inner Healing Retreats, Charismatic and Ignatian Retreats, seminars, counseling in Santali, Hindi and English for priests, religious, sister, catechists, married couples and other groups. Particpants came from far and near , fromCalcutta, Patna, Ajmer, Delhi, North East, Purnea, Dumka, Darjeeling, Bhagalpur, etc.
Fr.Varghese Puthussery who became assistant director in 1998, preached charismatic retreats at the centre and in the parishes of various adjacent dioceses. An annual feature in the Jeevan Dhara schedule that has been running for years now is the month long Ignatian retreat for seminarians before theology. The Jesuits of Dumka-Raiganj Province hold their Province Days at the Centre in May, every year, and their annual province retreat during the Pujas holidays. Since July 2011 Fr.Varkey Chenakalyil has been director of Jeevan Dhara. Both at the centre and in parishes he preaches biblical and ignatian retreats to priests, religious, catechists and laity. He is ably helped by the Assistant Director Fr.A.Paul Raj SJ, the Minister and Treasurer Br.Francis Xavier Aind SJ and Fr.Thomas Kottackal SJ.
Spirituality Centre - Navjeevan
The first Bishop of Purnea, Mgr. Vincent Barwa invited the Jesuits of Dumka-Raiganj Province to open a Centre at Purnea to serve the diocese in the pastoral, spiritual and social fields. The building at Baghmara was inaugurated on 16th August 2007 by the second bishop of Purnea, Mgr Angelus Kujur SJ. The Centre was given the name of 'Navjeevan' Spirituality Centre and Frs Thomas Kuzhively and George Beck were assigned to it. The Spirituality Centre under its director,Fr.George Beck SJ is slowly growing by offering regularly courses, seminars, and retreats for the faithful, religious and clergy of the diocese.