It was in 1935 that the Jesuit Superiors felt that the existing Theological College at Kurseong could not accommodate the rising number of Jesuit Scholastics. Fr. Rauw, SJ of the Poona Mission purchased a large expanse of rocky land on the Poona-Ahmednagar Road. De Nobili College (DNC), the largest Jesuit House of Formation in the world today, and later the Papal Seminary, were built there over some decades. Its campus was barren except for a few wild thorny Babul trees growing in the rocky soil. Tree plantation in the campus started during the building of the second floor of the Theologate during 1942-44. The three Swiss Jesuit Coadjutor Brothers, Joseph Pfiffner, Anthon Herbert, and Otto Widmer, in-charge of building, planted two rows of trees in front of the house.
“I have heard from the older Jesuits a long time back that sticks of dynamite were used to break the hard rock while digging the pits,” recalls Fr. Theodore Bowling (Ted), a great lover of trees and the most senior among our community. In 1948, the scholastics were asked to dig pits for an hour and half every day.
During 1989-90, Fr. Ted, then Professor of Science along with the whole community launched an extensive tree planting campaign by planting 400 saplings with the help of the Social Forestry Department of the Government of Maharashtra. In subsequent years, more trees were planted across the campus.
In 2007, Fr. Jacob Kulangara, SJ, Minister of the Papal Seminary, a dedicated and creative farmer, spread 40,000 truckloads of good soil, 2-3 feet deep across all their cultivable land; he got it free of cost from building sites in Pune city. He also solved their perennial water scarcity through creative and ingenious ways, much of it by purifying the city’s gutter water passing through their campus. Cultivation bloomed in their campus, with good soil and plenty of water. Jacob is now replicating the green miracle at DNC as Minister!
The contribution of Fr. Zachaeus Dungdung, SJ, the Superior of the Philosophers, towards greening of DNC is significant. The beautiful gardens around the philosophers’ wing, the many flower pots of the newly named Arturo Sosa Baag, and the innumerable plants in the Philosopher’s Prashantivan garden have created a green paradise of serenity.
DNC Tarumitra was established as part of our ministries in 2014 by a group of scholastics committed to promote eco-consciousness. They began with small yet effective works in the house. With the encouragement and support of our Rector, Fr. Edward Modavassery, SJ, Br. Dominic Savio of Gandhinagar archdiocese and his team have created Pope Francis Herbal garden, with 61 varieties of medicinal plants, as part of DNC Tarumitra in 2015. By 2017, the ministry had branched out to various other concrete ecological activities under Br. Lumnesh Swaroop Kumar SJ of Karnataka province.
Tarumitra to Srishtimitra
Responding to the call of Pope Francis for ‘Ecological Conversion’ and the 36th Jesuit General Congregation to ‘Reconciliation with Creation’, DNC Tarumitra was rechristened as Srishtimitra, Friends of Creation, on 9 March, 2017. We are called to establish a deep relationship with oneself, with our neighbours and with the rest of creation. The motto of Srishtimitra draws its inspiration from call for ‘Reconciliation with Creation’ in GC 36. We are no more just a small part of DNC Ministry Group. Shrishtimitra facilitates and animates the whole community of DNC in the Mission of ‘Reconciliation with Creation’.
Reconciliation of our Spirit with Creation
Eco-spiritual activities such as Eco-Prayer Services, Eucharist, Rosary, Way of the Cross, etc. reconcile our spirit with Creation. An Eco-Eucharist with the Rector at the Herbal Garden this June initiated the newcomers into our ‘Reconciliation with Creation’ Mission.
Reconciliation of our Labour with Creation
We reconcile our labour with Creation through many activities. We had two ‘Van Mahotsavs’ in 2016 and 2017 during which we planted some 80 and 100 saplings respectively. We have been nurturing them through our ‘Living Groups’, with a monthly audit of their growth. The Farm Committee, led by our Minister, Fr. Jacob, has gone into organic cultivation which provides garden-fresh, health-enhancing organic vegetables to the community. Today, 30% of the community’s vegetables, onions and tomatoes for the whole year – all organically grown, come from a land that was once rocky and barren, totally unsuitable for agriculture! Pope Francis Herbal Garden with 61 varieties of herbal plants draws many visitors. It has inspired other religious houses on campus to start herbal gardens. The varieties of herbal plants are increasing every year. Some scholastics grow mushrooms for the community; they even organized workshops for other religious houses. We have also identified 90 varieties of birds on our campus with the help of our photographers and zoologists and have set up billboards for ten of birds found on the campus. Moreover, we have identified special ecological zones in DNC and given them evocative names in order to be more eco-sensitive towards these sacred spaces.
Reconciliation of our Lifestyle with Creation
We reconcile our lifestyle with Creation through waste segregation at source. The biodegradable waste is vermi-composted for our organic farming. All our waste water is collected, recycled through a three-stage ecological purification in a natural way, and used for farming. An Eco-Bulletin Board displays eco-notices, eco-initiatives, voices of the Church and Pope on ecology, eco-news, etc. to spread eco-awareness among our community members; we also circulate paper-free eco-materials through e-mail.
Reconciliation of the World around us with Creation
We have made attempts to reconcile the world around us with Creation, such as: dialogue and collaboration in Eco-programmes with neighbouring religious communities; planting seeds of Eco-awareness and action in youth. The team led by Bro. Lumnesh, SJ has visited many schools in Pune to motivate and guide them to start and run Eco-clubs. A year-long Eco-programme schedule with monthly Eco-themes helps students to convert Eco-talk into Eco-action. The team organizes ‘A Day with Nature’ at DNC with students from various institutions to ‘see, touch, feel, understand and experience’ the joy of nurturing Nature. Such experiences at a tender age could bloom into a close, life-long relationship with Mother Earth. Laudato Si’, the Ecological Encyclical of our Pope Francis, is the inspiration and guiding-light of Srishtimitra.
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