Friday, December 16, 2011



By M. Diaz-Garriz SJ


The Italian steam-ship Ugolini Vivaldi weighed anchors at the Bombay harbour in the early hours of 21 December 1951.  On board were 12 young Jesuits from the Province of East Castille (Spain) bound for Gujarat: Francisco Zubeldia, Juan G. Jordana, Luis M. Moreta, Isudas Cueli, Luis M. Zavala, Salaberria, Manuel Diaz-Garriz, Ignacio Galdos, Juan J. Morondo, Joaquim Bandres, Pedro Nagore, Jose A. Arroyo.

This year we celebrate the 60th anniversary of the arrival of these missionary diamonds to our land and soil.


The Spanish Jesuit province of Castille was established by St Ignatius himself.  On 16 July 1948 it was divided into East Castille and West Castille, when it counted more than one thousand members. The Castille Province had been sending missionaries to China from the beginning of the 20th century. At the end of World War II (1939-1945), when China became independent of Japanese occupation, the Jesuits were looking forward to a very bright future in the Chinese missions. Unfortunately, under their legendary leader Mao-Tse-Tung the Chinese communists had started a long and bloody civil war. The continuous advance of the communist troops made it impossible for new missionaries to enter China.

Under these circumstances Fr J. B. Janssens, the General of the Society of Jesus, directed that the newly established East Castille Province should take up missionary work  in Gujarat, which was dependent on the missionaries of the Bombay Mission who were sent from the province of Aragon (Spain).

Spanish Missionaries in Gujarat

The first batch of six Jesuits (all of whom had previously received the formal appointment to China) arrived in Ahmedabad city in February 1949.

Since there were no direct international flights from Europe to Asia at the time, the Jesuits had to change flights several times on their itinerary: Madrid-Rome, Rome-Athens, Athens-Karachi, Karachi-Ahmedabad. The 6 pioneers are: Hilario Azpitarte, Miguel Angel Urrutia, Ignacio Ordonez, Jose Luis Lopetegui, Ramon Eizaguirre and Felix Ilarraz. Of this group, only Fr I. Ordonez is still happily with us.

The second group that came to Gujarat comprised of 22 members. They came by plane in November of that same year, 1949. Accompanying them was the Provincial of East Catille, Fr Fernando Arellano. On that flight with them was the first bishop of Ahmedabad diocese, Edwin Pinto SJ, who had chosen to be consecrated in Zaragoza, Spain, as a symbol of solidarity with the large number of Spanish Jesuits working in Gujarat. Bishop Pinto had been nominated in May 1949 as the first bishop of the newly established Diocese of Ahmedabad, separated from the Archdiocese of Bombay.

The third batch programmed to arrive during the year 1950, in fact was slightly delayed and arrived in India by boat in January 1951.

The diamond jubilarians

The fourth batch is that of this year’s jubilarians.

The 12 Spanish stalwarts from the East Castile Province appointed to the then Ahmedabad Mission, had to first cross the international Bridge between Spain and France at Irun on foot. The European Union did not exist at that time and the international frontiers were taken very seriously. Boarding a train at Hendaya, they travelled the whole length of France to arrive at Genova in Italy 36 hours later.

They left Spain by crossing on foot the international Bridge between Spain and France at Irun. The European Union did not exist at that time and the international frontiers were taken very seriously. They received a warm welcome from the Jesuit community in Genova. On 1 December 1951 they embarked for India on the Italian Steamer Ugolini Vivaldi. On the feast of St Francis Xavier the vessel docked for a day in Naples and the travellers were allowed to go on land and spend the day with their Jesuit brethren there. Then en route the 21-day voyage, the ship had stop-overs at Alexandria, Egypt and Karachi, Pakistan. They finally arrived in Bombay on 21 December 1951.

The group proceeded to Vinayalaya, the Jesuit Noviciate-Juniorate of the Bombay province. The rector, historian Fr Jerome Aixala, joyfully welcomed these very important reinforcements for the Gujarat Mission. He also informed them about a very significant event that had taken place on the feast of the Patron of the Missions, St Francus Xavier, in Anand, Gujarat: the ordination to the priesthood of the first-ever Gujarati priest Fr Basil Lalabhai Parmar!

Brief biodata

(Note: The names are listed according to the order in the photo, from left to right.)

1. Francisco Zubeldia
Born 20-10-1919. Joined SJ 19-9-1935. Ordained 30-7-1950. Died 26-1-2000.
Pioneer of the South Gujarat Missions (Vyara, Mandal…)

Rector of Anand Community.
Parish Priest in Surat.
Secretary to the Baroda Bishop, Rt Rev Francis Braganza and Diocesan Procurator.
His very special and personal apostolate was the Explanation of the Act of Contrition to non-Catholic students. In this personal ministry, he was able to visit  several hundreds of schools and  High Schools and to contact no less than 400 thousand students of the upper  classes.

2. Br Juan G. Jordana (partly hidden by his own cap)
B. 27-12-1919. SJ. 27-3-1947. D. 26.5.2004.

He was a medical Doctor and Dentist and practised his profession for many years in our houses of Anand and Loyola Hall.
Went back to Spain for health reasons in 1982.

3. Luis Maria Moreta
B.10-12-1927. SJ. 26-9-1946. O. 24-3-1961.
Founder of the Ankleshwar Mission.

Assistant Director, Ankleshwar Technical.
He has had a special charism to deal with Youngsters.

4. Isudas Cueli
B. 24-12-1930. SJ. 3-9-1949. O. 24-3-1962.

His name is inseparable from that immense achievement of his, the Sampurna Bible…                           He was PCF for several years and for many more years spiritual Director of many of our Scholastics.

5. Luis Maria Zavala
B. 21-1-1914. SJ. -. O. 1944. D. 4-5-2000.

He joined the Society after being for several years a diocesan priest and personal secretary to the Bishop of Vitoria.
He began as assistant parish priest in Anand. Then parish priest of Mehendabad/ Khatlal. And then for many years assistant at Petlad. Everybody called him the Pavitra Father. He was a gentle saint, a living example of simple piety and union with God.

6. Salaberria
He left for Spain barely one year after his arrival.

7. Manuel Diaz-Garriz
B.  26-5-1932. SJ. 6-7-1949. O. 24-3-1962.
Pioneer in N.G. He thanks our Blessed Mother who inspired and helped him to build Unteshwari.

Assistant Parish Priest of Mandali.
For the last thirty years he has taught Church History in Newman Hall and Sevasi.

8. Ignacio Galdos
B. 31-7-1931. SJ. 3-9-1949. O. 24-3-1962
Founder of Zankhvav, Unai and Bardipada.
Pioneer of inculturation in the field of Adivasi culture in South Gujarat.          

Parish Priest of Bardipada.
9. Juan J. Morondo
B. 25-9-1928. SJ. 7-9-1947. O. 24-3-1961
Taught for 50 years in St Xavier’s – Loyola Hall
Best Teacher Award, Ekalvaya Life –Achievement Award
Harward university (USA) Award for Ideal Inspirer of young talents
Respected as Guru by His Holiness Acharya Tejendraprasad Pande, Supreme Head of the Swaminarayan (Kalupur).
Inmensely dear to his innumerable old students.

At present he is at Javier (Xavier’s Castle in Spain).

[Fr Valentin Oteiza, Director of the Gujarat mission Secretariat in Spain. He had accompanied the group up to Italy].

10. Br Joaquim Bandres
B. 23-8-1929.  SJ. 8-5-1946. D. 14.6.2008

A trained infirmarian who spent years of humble and dedicated service to ours and to the poor people of the surrounding areas in Nadiad and Anand. He was specially dear to our own scholastics in Premal Jyoti. He went back to Spain on medical advice due to a heart condition.  

11. Br Pedro Nagore

He was a specialist in agriculture. His first and only appointment was at Anand.
For health reasons he was compelled to go back to Spain after only 5 years in India.

12. Jose A. Arroyo
B. 28-9-1931. SJ. 14- 9 -1949. O. 24-3-1962

He was an eminent professor of Psychology at St Xavier’s College, Ahmedabad, and an equally eminent Sports Master. He also taught at XLRI Jamshedpur.
He spent many years as professor in several Jesuit Institutions in the US.
Presently he resides in Salvador College, Zaragoza, Spain.    

1 comment:

  1. They all bring to us happy memories .Their great dedication and commitment are exemplary.God bless. AMDG