VAKOLA (VANKOLA)

 

Antique Photo of the St. Anthony Church, Vankola (Courtesy Walter Murzello)

 


 

For three centuries, Vankola formed part of the Kalina Parish which was founded in 1606. It was only in 1914 that through the initiative of Fr. C. A. Abreo who was at Kalina Church, that a chapel was contemplated to be built a Vankola. He set about requesting the people for gifting land for this purpose. Mr. John Rodrigues popularly know as Jamboo donated the land, and since the WW1 broke out at that time, building material was scarce to come by, and it took 7 years for the chapel building to come up. The Chapel was finally completed and dedicated to St. Anthony and Blessed on 1st January 1921, but was kept filial to the Kalina Church of Our Lady of Egypt.

During the seven long years from 1914 to 1921 mass was offered in a small hut in the village for the benefit of the predominantly farmer population who owned vast fields to the north of the village, which too like everywhere else were either acquired by the government or which the village people were compelled to sell off by the land sharks, all outsiders who were flooding Bombay. Practically all the villagers had relatives (brothers, sisters, in-laws) either at Kallina or at Vile Parle.

There was a small pond (one may call it) right in front of the Church, which was filled up in 1958 by Fr. Ayres Fernandes and this helped the extension and renovation of the church in 1960. As Santa Cruz East started growing rapidly a further extension that doubled the size of the Church was carried out in 1967 by Fr. Alfred Augiar.

With the increase in population of Catholics Fr. Mendes, a good administrator was appointed as the resident Priest in charge in 1937. With his good work he slowly led the place as a separate an autonomous Parish of St. Anthony's Vankola on the 1st July 1945. Fr. Cyril Pinto was then appointed the first Parish Priest and in this time the Parish had around 400 Catholic families. It was only after 1963 when the two storied Presbytery was built by Fr. Alfred Augiar, that the priests of this Parish got a proper residence as previously they resided in what are now classrooms.

The Church was remodeled in 1977 to suit the changed liturgical norms to promote an atmosphere of greater prayer and worship. Today St. Anthony is one of the largest parish in the Archdiocese in terms of catholic population, which is now around 23,000 souls. With the increase of the catholic population sub centers were created, one at Prabat Colony between the highway and the Railway Station and the other at Yogiraj Ashram near the University Campus.

The purely East Indian population was surpassed due to the heavy influx of Catholics from outside the state of Maharashtra, this has been a continuous affair from the late 18th century. It is not only the lay people but also the clergy that came in from outside. The East Indians now became a minority, as has happened in most of the parishes in North Konkan, as more and more Catholics took up residence in the numerous building societies that came up in the khar lands to the south of the village.

To the south of the village were a few fields and marshy lands reaching right up to the Mithi River on Bandra East that contained a lot of wild life, birds of all kinds and small animals. Vankola village being on a small rise, the land sloped downwards towards the marshes. All social activity of the people was centered at Kalina Village which was connected to Vakola by a small road skirting the Rye Hills, this small road is still in use and a short cut to Kalina via which most funerals pass to this day for burial at Kalina Church.

What the parish still lacks is a cemetery of its own to bury their dead, to this end no one seems to have done anything.

 

Courtesy: Teddie Rodrigues

 

 

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