History of DivyaKripa in the words of Mr. Clifford D’souza Having a separate parish of Kharghar was a dream we all had for a long time, and in June 2009 it became a reality with the formation of the Divya Kripa Parish with Fr. Gerald Fernandes as our Priest-in-charge.We thank Bishop Agnello Gracias and the Archdiocese of Bombay.
It is good to look back over the years and see how the formation of the parish took place.In June 2003, Kharghar was not so populated but Sector 12 and 21 and the villages of Belpada, Kharghar, Morbe and Ove had a few Catholics residing. The Convent of Jesus and Mary High School had started and was the only building in Sector 6. Till May 2003 there were only 18 Latin Catholic families in Kharghar. Attending mass at CBD-Belapur was very difficult since there was no direct transport to St. Joseph’s Church. Fr. Ralph Fernandes, the parish priest of Sacred Heart Church, Vashi and Dean of Navi Mumbai took the initiative of starting mass for the laity at Kharghar. We thank the Convent of Jesus and Mary and Sr. Madeline for allowing the use of their hall. Mass was celebrated on Saturday evening at 7 pm. Sr. Nirmala helped out with the liturgy and the mass.
Fr. Ryan Fernandes was the parish priest at St. Joseph Church, Belapur. Kharghar was a unit of St. Joseph’s parish. Since there was only one priest at Belapur and there was evening mass on Saturdays at the church, the priests from Vashi celebrated mass on three Saturdays of the month and Fr. Ryan celebrated mass for us on the fourth Saturday.
The Small Christian Communities started in July 2003 in Kharghar. I was requested to be co-ordinator of Kharghar. We became the E-zone community of St. Joseph’s Parish. There were 25 Catholic families in Kharghar at that time.During the latter months of 2004 the Indian economy improved and building activity restarted in Kharghar. Since then an average of 40 to 50 catholic families have moved in. In 2006 we had 120 families. We then decided to split the E zone into 3 smaller communities and numbered them E1, E2 & E3. Community E1 included Sectors 3, 4, 5. Community E2 included Sec. 7, 11, 12 & 15. Community E3 included Secs. 14, 20 & 21. Sector 2 & 8 were still under development. The construction of Kharghar Railway Station, and Spagetti Complex was also underway. We organized the first Nativity Novena to our Lady in September 2004, and with the exception of a year we have continued this tradition. All 3 communities joined together to put posters of the theme for each day of the Novena. Since there was only one priest at St. Jpseph’s we could not have a mass each day. On the feast day we had a get-together for the community. One year we had only vegetarian dishes, as is done in many places on the Nativity feast day of our Lady, this every one enjoyed the variety prepared by our ladies. The get-together not only helped build up the community but also facilitated the newcomers too in making new acquaintances and friends.
Since it was becoming very difficult for the Kharghar community to commute to St. Joseph’s Church at Belapur, we had discussions with our parish priest, Fr. Ryan Fernandes, regarding formation of a separate parish at Kharghar. Fr. Ryan agreed that it needs to be done, we therefore decided to talk to Bishop Agnello Gracias, the regional bishop of Navi Mumbai. We started a signature campaign and got prepared an appeal. Three of our Kharghar parishioners met him when he came for instituting the rite of confirmations at St. Joseph’s Church in April 2005. At that time Bishop Agnello wasn’t in favour of a separate parish for Kharghar since a sum of nearly Rs.1.10 crore had been spent on the St. Joseph’s Church building. He told us to send the appeal to Archbishop’s house and he would go through it. We then decided that the next time Bishop Agnello visited Belapur, he should be taken around Kharghar to keep him abreast with the development taking place and the difficulty of travelling to the church in Belapur.
The next time Bishop Agnello came directly to Kharghar and asked us to meet him at Prem Dan. After he was taken around Kharghar by us, accompanied by Frs. Ralph and Ryan Fernandes and Sunder Albuquerque, his outlook changed. He called the animators present for a meeting immediately and informed us that we should work towards formation of a separate parish in Kharghar. Our long cherished dream became a reality on June 1st 2009. Many of our community members worked on Saturday’s and found it difficult to attend 7.00p.m mass at Kharghar. They attended the 8.30 a.m. at St. Joseph’s on Sundays. This kept the community divided and planning various activities difficult.
We therefore requested for the mass at Kharghar to be changed to Sunday morning at 10.00 a.m. We also said we would provide transport for the priest but Fr. Ryan was not in favour of the change due to activities of the church during the same time. Mass at Kharghar was not celebrated on major feasts days, the two big holiday period, Holy Week and Christmas. The laity at Kharghar found it difficult to travel to Belapur due to lack of buses and rickshaws, especially in the morning. Many walked 10 Km. back to Kharghar even late at night. Hiring a bus was out of question as no contractor was available at Kharghar. When the laity from Kharghar attended mass at Belapur the crowd overflowed on to the road at the rear creating a traffic problem.
Soon only those having vehicles and a few staying near the bus stops were attending mass at Belapur. Rickshaws charged up to Rs. 150 from Kharghar to St.Joseph’s and back. Many of the laity decided to attend mass at Belapur only on big feast days. We decided to speak to Bishop. Agnello regarding these problems and see if he could help in getting the mass timing at Kharghar or appoint another priest at Belapur to help out at Kharghar. Bishop Agnello said that it will be difficult to appoint a 2nd priest due to shortage but he will get the mass timing at Kharghar changed to Sunday 10.00 a.m.
Bp. Agnello, our regional bishop, accepted our request for a second priest at St Joseph’s Parish, Belapur, and appointed Fr. Peter Drego in June 2006. This initiated the mass on Sundays at Prem Dan in the morning.Till 2005 children from Kharghar went to Belapur for catechism and we found that many of the children did not attend the classes. In 2006 we discussed the possibility of having the classes in Kharghar and a number of ladies agreed to teach the children. With the support and approval of Fr. Ryan we started Catechism classes at Prem Dan in June 2006.
By 2006, with the support and encouragement of Fr. Ryan and Fr. Peter and the active participation of the various communities in Kharghar, we were able to conduct the Christmas and Lenten services at Prem Dan. The Parish Choir also flourished under the guidance of Fr. Peter. Since then there has been no looking back and community continues to grow.