can never sum up in such a short article what the entire Patna Mission means to me, nor the incredible growth that has occurred in the past 100 years. Here are a few of my heroes and memories from 1964-1994.
First, the zealous missionary priest who preached the Gospel all over India without leaving Kerala. I never had the honor of meeting the Monsignor, but I “grew up” in Patna surrounded by stories about him. There is no measuring the impact of Monsignor Jacob Vellaringatt on the Church in India. He creatively started “The Mission Home” in Palai, Kerala, and prepared young men to be missionary brothers and priests in the North generally, but he had a particular love for Patna Mission. These men became outstanding missionaries, educators and pastors, including 2020 platinum jubilarian Fr. Thomas Kunnunkal of Delhi province, whose contribution at the level of both Jesuit and All-India schools is legendary.
Meanwhile, others beat the drum too for Patna. Born in Kentucky, Fr. Vince Mc Glinchy came to India in 1932, and landed in Bettiah after theology and ordination in Kurseong, and served for many years as assistant parish priest and headmaster of the Mission’s Middle School. Fr. Mac directed an active Boy Scout troop and believed in keeping the lads busy. But he was first and foremost a priest and always made room for confessions and visiting the sick. His encouraging words helped young men discern their future. Two examples of many: Benedict J. Osta, SJ, and John Baptist Thakur, SJ, (both of them were made bishops in 1980). They returned to Khrist Raja High School soon after their ordinations to pay tribute to their guru. I was stationed at Khrist Raja in those days and had the privilege of making Fr. Mac my guru too and accompanied him through his final illness. He died on 10th October, 1980.
Then, there was the amazing Fr. Paul Dent, who went to India in 1926, developed a brain tumor and had to return to the US around 1935 for surgery. The success of the surgery was questionable and doctors advised that he remain in Chicago for observation. The observation went on for 30 years, as he petitioned four different provincials (in vain) to return to India. He wrote a history of the mission and gave Hindi tutorials. I joined a class of five philosophers who came under his spell, on Thursday evenings after dinner. We soon got familiar with the Devanagri script and the basics of Hindi.
In time, Fr. Dent was allowed to “return” – not to India but to Nepal (July 18th, 1975). For the next five years he served in Nepal, flying south to Patna on a tourist visa for the harsh winter months. I saw him briefly at XTTI, the week he died. Fulfilling his dream, he was buried in Patna on March 25th, 1980. Margaret Roche Macey wrote beautifully in America magazine (Nov 14th, 2005) about her encounter with Fr. Dent in Chicago in 1975. The finest brief profile is by Fr. Jim Cox in We Band of Brothers (vol 2). His name belongs in the Centenary Hall of Fame, by reason of his prayers and life-long devotion to Patna and the people of India.
- Paul Faulstich, SJ
- The author is a member of the Delhi Jesuit Province, currently residing at Arrupe House in Chicago, USA. Contact: email@example.com