Special Correspondent

Commemorating three events of importance for the mission

It is the 350th death anniversary of Robert De Nobili, founder of the Madurai Jesuit mission Jesuit mission in Tamil Nadu runs four colleges The jubilee year to see a consolidation of the mission's activities

CHENNAI: The Jesuit community in Chennai will come together on Saturday to commemorate three important events in the history of the mission in South India: the 450th death anniversary of Ignatius Loyola, the founder of the movement, the 400th founding year of the Madurai Jesuit mission (the first such mission in this part of the country) and the 350th death anniversary of Robert De Nobili, the founder of the mission.

The event will be marked by a memorial walk to the Santhome Basilica and a series of events throughout the year. The event will also commemorate the fifth birth centennaries of both Francis Xavier and Peter Faber, the companions of Loyola.

The Jesuit mission in Tamil Nadu runs four colleges - the Loyola College in Chennai; the St. Xavier's College in Palayamkottai, Tirunelveli; the St. Joseph's College in Tiruchirappalli and the Arulanandar College in Karumathur, Madurai - apart from ten high schools and a college offering B.Ed in Palayamkottai.

"The Jesuit community today is spread over 120 countries and more than 500 missionaries are working in Tamil Nadu alone. On Saturday, we hope to observe the jubilee year by making the pilgrimage and rededicate ourselves to the spirit of our founding fathers," Alphonse Manickam, vice-principal, Loyola College, said.

The pilgrimage will start from the statue of Veeramamunivar (the assumed Tamil name of Italian Jesuit Constantine Joseph Besky, who went on to become a Tamil poet and grammarian) at the Marina Beach and end at the basilica, where St. Xavier is believed to have offered prayers.

First Jesuit college

The Jesuit mission can be traced back to 1542 with the arrival of the Portuguese missionary Francis Xavier, followed by the Italian Robert De Nobili, who founded the Madurai mission in 1606. After a long hiatus, French missionaries started arriving in 1837 and founded the New Madurai mission.

One of the mission's aims was higher education and the first Jesuit college in India, St Joseph's College, was started in Nagapattinam in 1844 and later shifted to Tiruchi.