GLIMPSE OF THE BIRTH AND GROWTH OF BENDUR-OUR PARISH FAMILY
When Rev. Fr Paul Perini S.J., Rector of St Aloysius College, Mangalore took over as the Bishop of Mangalore in 1910 there were only three parishes in Mangalore- Rosario, Milagres and Urwa. Just about that time Cordel Parish was started. Bolar, Codialbail, a major portion of Kadri, the whole of Bejai upto Kavoor, along with the present Cascia and Bajal parishes were under the Rosario Parish. Milagres, Falnir, Kankanady, Bendur, a part of Kadri, Bondel and the area up to Sheddie were under the Milagres Parish. Bishop Perini, along with other projects for the Diocese took up the task of dividing these huge parishes into smaller ones. Formation of Bejai Parish was first taken up. In 1912 a permanent Chaplain was appointed for Bejai and the areas of Bejai, Codialbail, Kavoor, Saag constituted the Bejai Parish.
The people of Bendur requested the Bishop to form a parish for them. As there was no objection from any quarters, Bishop Perini began the preliminaries for the formation of the Bendur Parish.
Towards the end of 1913 the Apostolic Carmel Congregation, bought around thirteen to fourteen acres of land with the idea of building a convent, schools and a college. Rev.Fr Piadade Saldanha, who because of his old age and ill health was residing at his residence at Balmatta used to offer daily Mass at Bendur for the seven or eight Sisters who had their residence at Bendur.
Early in February 1914, the Parish Priest of Rosario V. Rev. Henry Buzzoni S.J. arranged to preach a Retreat for the people of Bendur. Rev. Fr Salvadore, the then parish priest of Cordel preached the retreat and Fr Buzzoni offered Mass for the retreatants. On February 8th the closing day of the retreat Bishop Perini visited Bendur. At this time the people of Bendur presented him a petition and requested him to start a new parish, comprising parts of Bendur and Kadri which were far away from Rosario & Milagres. The Bishop was very pleased with the request.
Within a week after this, around three hundred catholics of Bendur and Kadri, called a meeting which was presided over by the Bishop and passed an unanimous resolution to start a parish at Bendur. It was decided that those who donated Rs.500/- would be Principals, those who donated Rs 250/- would be Founders and those who donated Rs. 125/- would be Benefactors. Msgr Frank Pereira, parish priest of Milagres, offered to be one of the Principals with the consent of the administrative board of the Milagres Parish. Messrs J. Lobo, Piad Machado, Victor Pinto, Gregory Mascarenhas and J.M. Pereira offered to be the founder members. The Bishop and parish priest of Rosario, also offered their financial help, and a committee was formed to raise donations from the public.
On February 20th another meeting was called. The parish priest of Rosario presided over this meeting. At this meeting, it was decided to buy a piece of land from the Apostolic Carmel Congregation from the plot they had already purchased to build a school and subsequently a college for girls. The Parish Priest of Rosario offered to arrange for the transaction. The committee also decided to give him the responsibility of collecting the donations from the public and to prepare a plan for the church building. In the meanwhile it was decided to build a thatched roof structure and go ahead with the formation of the parish. (As per church records, a plot of two acres and ninety cents of land was purchased on September 27th 1918 for a sum of Rs. 4,380/-.)
Around June 1914 a thatched roof structure was erected and Fr Piadade Saldanha started offering mass there. The sisters of St Agnes Convent started attending mass here. Subsequently a stronger and a larger structure with a tiled roof was erected and for about 15 years till the church building was completed, all liturgical services were held in this structure only.
At a meeting held in the Bishop’s house on August 8th 1914, the Bishop, Vicar General Fr Fraccatti and some other members of the clergy prepared the constitution of the Bendur Parish and decided that a twelve member administrative board, like that of Rosario and Milagres Parishes would look after the administration of the new Parish. It was also resolved to start the building work of the church and the parochial house immediately. Later, on August 21st, a decree announcing the formation of the Bendur Parish was published. In this decree, the parish boundaries were defined and St Sebastian was made the Patron of the Parish. Rev. Msgr Raymond Mascarenhas was nominated as the first parish priest.
On Sunday, August 23rd 1914, Fr Buzzoni along with the first parish priest Rev. Msgr Raymond Mascarenhas came to Bendur. The people of Bendur welcomed them joyfully with a brass band and fireworks. Fr Buzzoni read out the decree of the formation of the Bendur Parish and Msgr Mascarenhas offered Mass. That day started the unending work of the spiritual upliftment of the parishioners which is continuing even to this day.
The first administrative board approved by the Bishop had Messrs Joseph Lobo; Victor M. Pinto; Joseph R Pereira and John Emmanuel Vas (all of Upper Kadri) Abraham Farias and Piadado Machado (of Lower Kadri) Francis D’Sa (of Nod Kadri) John Salvadore Mascarenhas; Francis D’Souza and D.R. Baptist (of Lower Bendur); G.J Mascarenhas; (of Upper Bendur) along with the Parish Priest as the President of the board. This board at its first meeting held on September 11th 1914 elected Mr Victor M. Pinto as the Secretary cum treasurer of the board as well as the administrator of the parish.
Msgr Mascarenhas with his untiring zeal worked strenuously for the betterment of the parish and within a year started the altar servers sodality. Msgr Mascanenhas who was greatly attached to the children and the youth, influenced many of them to join the seminary and the girls to persue religious life through his instructions and good example.
Right from the commencement of the parish Msgr Mascarenhas started the devotion to the Sacred Heart of Jesus and Prayer Apostolate through the Marian Sodalities. He had great devotion to the patron, St Sebastian and fixed every Thursday as a day of devotion to St Sebastian. This devotion is continued even today, but lately the day has been changed to Wednesday. To instil in the parishioners a special devotion to their patron saint, he started the “Kompr” / “Irmaundad” (Confraternity of regular sponsors or donors).
Soon it was realized, that the temporary structure was not sufficient to accommodate the congregation on Sundays and feast days. Hence, it was decided to build a larger structure and started its construction without any delay and it was completed before the first Parish Feast that was celebrated in January 1915. Though there were no walls for this structure there were walls behind the altar for a compact and secure sacristy. The pillars were of stone and the structure had a tiled roof. All religious activities took place here till the new church was inaugurated on May 30th 1923. Notable among the various celebrations held in the old structure was the first parish feast held on January 13th 1915 when many parishioners and the Superior of St Agnes Convent generously donated many things required for the church and the main altar.
In the same year lenten services were held on all the Sundays and the statues for the passion of Christ were prepared. The Cross for Good Friday ceremonies, the wooden statue of Christ and the Sepulcher were received as donation from the parishioners.
As the above works were going on, a great need for a cemetery was felt, as the deceased parishioners were buried either in Jeppu or Bejai cemeteries. As the church was within municipal limits it was not permitted to have a cemetery close to the church. It was not easy to obtain land for a cemetery outside the municipal limits, yet not too far from the church. But through the great efforts of the parish priest and some parishioners it was possible to have the cemetery at the location which continues even now. This cemetery was blessed on Sunday the September 6th 1914.