HISTORY OF THE CATHOLIC DIOCESE OF ASANSOL

The Catholic Diocese of Asansol has its Ecclesiastical Administrative headquarters in the city of Asansol which is known as the city of the "Brotherhood".
1. The Civil City of Asansol
Asansol City is in Bardhaman District in the Indian state of West Bengal. It is the third-largest city in West Bengal after th Kolkata and the 39 largest urban agglomeration in India. According to a 2010 report released by the International Institute for Environment and

Development, a UK-based policy research non-governmental body, Asansol was ranked th 11 among Indian cities and 42nd in the world in its list of 100 fastest-growing cities. Asansol-Durgapur Development Authority (ADDA) was established in April 1980 by the merger of the Asansol Planning Organisation and the Durgapur Development Authority. [The Grand Trunk Road (National Highway 2) runs across Burdwan- Durgapur- Asansol. From its earliest days, Asansol has been the hub of railway transport in the region. The Asansol Railway Division is currently a part of the Eastern Railway Zone. It includes important stations such as Andal, Raniganj and Durgapur. Kazi Nazrul Islam Airport at Durgapur is the nearest domestic airport. It commenced operations in May 2015 and is roughly 25 kilometres from Asansol City Bus Terminus. The nearest international airport is Netaji Subhas Chandra Bose International Airport at Dum Dum in Kolkata.
2. Origin of Christianity in Asansol Diocese
2.1 Coal Belt Area
To capture the lucrative business of coal transportation, the East Indian Railway laid the rail lines up to Raniganj in 1855. It succeeded in its motive and so this line was extended upto Asansol in 1863. Fr. Jude Henry SJ began organizing Catholic Worship around Burdwan and Raniganj for the Catholics. In 1873 Fr. Jaques SJ opened a mission station at Asansol and built a presbytery and a pretty Chruch. Asansol had become an important railway centre and had a large Catholic Population. The Jesuit Fathers had built a fine Church and a Seminary and moved the Scholastics into St. Joseph's Seminary, Asansol.

Vidyajothi College of Theology of the Jesuits in Delhi, India was started in Asansol in 1870. This theologate of Jesuits functioned from 1879-1889. The Apostle of Chotanagpur, Fr. Constant Lievens SJ was sent to Asansol to complete his theological training in 1880. Fr. Louis Cardon SJ, the Founder of Biru Mission was one of those last Jesuits trained in the theologate of the Mission at Asansol. In 1890 the Archbishop Goethals called Irish Christian Brothers and was anxious that a school be started there.

In 1891 the School was started and this was St. Patrick's School, Asansol and Br. Paul Kinnear was appointed as the Director. The School had its humble beginning with 4 brothers and 13 boys. The Loreto nuns came in response to a request from the Parish Priest Rev. F. Jacques SJ. The first five Sisters came with Mother Delphine Hart in response to a request from Fr. Jacques S.J. They began the school with 35 pupils in the presbytery. Boys and girls were admitted at first. Later the present property was acquired, and in 1885 a boarding school for girls only was started in a three-storied building facing the railway tank. The top floor was damaged by an earthquake in 1897. From the Cathedral parish other parishes were created.

St. John's Social Centre is a Centenary Memorial of Sacred Heart Church, Asansol, built by Fr. John Dubois S. J. assisted by Fr. R. Drugman S. J., in 1975. Archbishop of Calcutta Most. Rev. Ferdinard Perrier SJ obtained land in Burnpur from Indian Iron & Steel Company under the Company Act, leased for 99 years from 01.07.1947. Fr. Poncelet, S. J. started the building of the Church in Burnpur in 1949.

2.2 Rice Belt Area
The Church in the Burdwan Area spread like this. From 1865 Burdwan was regularly visited by priests from St. Xavier's college, Calcutta. A Chapel was built in 1870 mainly for the railway staff then living in Burdwan on the land donated by Raja of Burdwan. From 1880 to 1884 the room behind the Chapel was the Burdwan Municipality Office for a monthly rent of Rs. 25. Raja Bijoy Chand Mahatab erected a marble altar in the same Chapel in 1904, which adorns the tabernacle altar even today. In 1960 Fr. Mangal Das SJ while teaching in St. Xavier's School, Burdwan, took keen interest in the vast mission field. From Sacred Heart Parish, Burdwan there emerged various parishes in the Rice Belt area in the Burdwan District.

The Mission at Sahebdanga was founded by Fr. Poncelet S. J. in 1954 in view of making it a Centre between Bandel and Asansol as there were no parishes between these two. He built a small chapel dedicated to the Virgin of the poor. After Fr. Charles Poncelet's departure to Dhitpur in 1957, Sahebdanga was looked after from Asansol.

3. Birth Of Asansol Diocese
The tenure of Archbishop Albert D' Souza (1962-1969 AD) witnessed growth and expansions in the Calcutta Archdiocese. During the tenure of Archbishop Lawrence Cardinal Picachy, SJ the Archdiocese had a great growth in Evangelization. In 1986 Archbishop Henry Sebastian D'Souza was transferred from Cuttack- Bhuvaneshwar Archdiocese to Archdiocese of Kolkata. To assit Archbishop Henry in the pastoral care a simple pastor and missionary among the Santhals was appointed as his Auxiliary in 1994.

As the area was vast, to give greater pastoral care to the people of God, the Archdiocese was bifurcated, thus creating the diocese of Asansol. By a Roman Bull, Asansol was erected a diocese on 3 December 1997 by Pope John Paul II. Bishop Cyprain Monis was installed as the first bishop of Asanol on 12 March 1998 in the Sacred Heart Cathedreal Asansol.

4. The Boundaries Of The Diocese
The Diocese has the following territories in the State of West Bengal: the full Civil District of Burdwan, 9 police station areas of the District of Bankura viz., Saltora, Mejhia, Gangajalghat, Barjhor, Sonamukhi, Patrasari, Indua, Chhatna and Bankura and 10 police station areas of Birbhum District viz., Muhammadbazar, Rajnagar, Khoyrasole, Dubrajpur, Suri, Illambazar, Sainthia, Bolpur, Labpur and Nanoor. The total area is about 13, 300 sq. Kms.

5. The Population
It has a population of about 13.5 million of whom 30, 299 are Catholics. 60% of the Catholics are of Santhal Tribe, 35% are Hindi Speaking, while the remaining 5% are Bengali, English and other language speaking communities.

6. Rice Belt & Coal Belt
The Diocese has two distinct areas: the rice- belt (where rice is cultivated) and the coal-belt (where collieries are). The rice belt consists mainly of the Eastern part of the Burdwan District and the Birbum and Bankura Districts, where most of the Santhals live. Most of them are poor marginal farmers, laborers and daily wage earners. During the rainy season, most of them are usually terrible affected and the Church here stands as a sign of hope and support for these pious and 11 devout Santhals and people of other faiths too. They respond to the Gospel and give witness to the Call of Jesus in spite of the number of atrocities on them. The Diocese has the following rivers viz., Damodar, Ajoy, Mayurakshi and Haldi, the waters of which are used for irrigation. Thus this area is also known as the rice bowl of Bengal.

The Coal-belt comprises of Asansol subdivision and has mainly the Hindi speaking faithful of the Diocese. Most of them work in factories and offices; as there are many schools in Asansol and Durgapur areas, quite a few of them work in schools as well.

7. Attractions In The Diocese
The world famous International University, "Shantiniketan" (abode of Peace) founded by Nobel Laureate Kavi Guru Rabindranath Tagore, at Bolpur, is a special attraction in the Diocese of Asansol that draws students from all over the country and the world

The Chittaranjan Locomotive Plant at Chittaranjan is another attraction in our diocese. This plant builds Electric Engines for the Indian Railways. The Indian Iron & Steel Co,(IISCO) at Burnpur and the Dugapur Steel Plant (SDP) are some of the other attractions of our diocese. Maithan Dam is another tourist and picnic spot in the diocese.