Our Pioneers

The First Four Pioneers who Started Jesuit

Santal Mission

Fr. Anthony Debono SJ

Fr. Benjamin Cauchi SJ

Fr. Grech Cumbo SJ

Fr. Giuseppe Cordaro SJ

Fr. Anthony Debono was born at Victoria, Gozo (Malta) in the pious family of Giovanni Maria and Rosa Maria (nee Cauchi) Debono. He completed his High School studies at the Seminary at Victoria. He was popular among his classmates and he was loved for his joviality and sense of humor. He never missed an occasion to take part in a joke, and generally he was the leader.

He crossed the sea and sailed to Sicily where he joined the Jesuits at Bagheria (Palermo) on the 15th September, 1904. Also here the irrepressible cheerful spirit of Br. Debono was in evidence. St. Ignatius would have loved the innocent pranks of the young Novice and Junior as he enjoyed those of the young Ribadeneira in his time. He studied philosophy at Jersey and had four years of Regency at St. Aloysius’ College, Birkirkara, Malta. For theology he was first sent to Wales (U.K.) and he completed it at Naples (Italy), where he was ordained priest on 25th July, 1920. Tertianship followed at Florence (Italy) and in 1923 he was appointed as the Spiritual Father of the boys at Gonzaga College in Palermo (Italy) where on the 2nd February 1924, he pronounced his Final Vows as a Jesuit.

After his arrival in India, Fr. Debono went to Dinajpur (today in Bangladesh) and spent some months with the Italian P.I.M.E. Fathers who were working with the Santals there. In a shor time the Pioneer managed to pick up Santali and when he visited the Santals at Majlispur, several Santals from neighboring villages came to meet him and requested him to be received into the Church Besides they also sought his protection against their Muslim Zamindars “landlords”. Fr. Debono’s readiness to help won over many friends. On 9th March, 1925, the Pioneer settled for good in Majlispur village.

Fr. Debono continued his day to day duties in building up and developing the Mission, but much more in terms of persons. The small school which existed before the Pioneer arrived at Majlispur was expanded. Fr. Debono had a strong conviction that education held the key to solving many of the problems he encountered and it would eventually lead to an improvement of the social and economic condition of the people. In the course of time a new school building was constructed and blessed on the 26th December 1931. With the increasing number of the faithful the need arose to have a permanent and bigger place of worship. A spacious church was constructed with the generous financial help of the Archbishop Perier. The villagers also lent helping hand. The Dean, Fr. E. Van Tichlen, S.J., blessed the new church on 2nd December 1930.