' St. Aloysius High School Kanpur


Founder's Words

History: The founder of the school is Rev. Fr. Balthassar J. Pereira. He started the school with twenty students and five teachers with permission of then Bishop of Allahabad Rt. Rev Dr. Leonard Raymond. Initial history of the school is found chronicled in the Founder's own words in the letters he wrote to the principals to be published in the souvenirs at the time of Silver and Golden Jubilees of the school. These were his letters.

On an occasion like the Silver Jubilee I shall be only too happy to touch on the historical background of the School for gratitude to God and men. Not in the form of an article, but rather as an informal letter to you: a grateful musing in my declining years, literally living in the clouds, masses of lovely, white, wavy clouds, clouds to my right and clouds to my left, clouds poising over the roof and clouds below the ridge of this abode forming an endless ocean with a few peaks like little black rocks jetting out of it, clouds at this very moment, while typing these lines, gently enveloping me in the house. (How beautiful and uplifting is thy mighty creation, Oh Lord!)

A problem and a headache: It was sometime around the first week of March 1947 that I took charge of the work in Kanpur. It then included also the Ashok Nagar and Chakeri areas. It did not take me too long to see the plight of many parents who could ill afford to send their boys to English Schools outside Kanpur. The result was disastrous: after finishing the fourth Standard (or was it the fifth?) at St. Mary’s Convent School these boys would be seen roaming about the streets seeking admission in some school or other. Bishop Poli had already resigned. One man had declined the bishopric of Allahabad and another was expected; meanwhile “nihil novi”, “no new financial burdens.” It was a problem for patience and a headache.

However, it was not too long before the Diocese of Allahabad got a new Bishop. At his very first official visit to Kanpur in August of that year Bishop Raymond, now Archbishop of Nagpur, not only approved of my idea for a school for boys "but also encouraged it". He was fresh from a High School in Bombay; in fact, he was the diocesan inspector of schools there, and, so, education was his forte. But, granting me the permission, he added, as most good bishops do, “provided you do not ask me for money.”

Money? About six months earlier, I had taken charge with only about Rs.200/- (?) It was hardly sufficient to cover the expenses of that month. Even the furniture in the Presbytery was on hire from M/s. Stanwill and Co., Nevertheless, after having obtained Bishop’s permission, nothing stopped me from going ahead. To me, his permission was a sign of God’s will; and “If God’s will, money will come!”

A meeting was held with some parishioners at the Presbytery. One or two, wondered why time and energy and money should be frittered away for a school. But. these good parishioners were intelligent and kind enough to accept my view point while the rest of the participants showed much enthusiasm right from the beginning of the meeting. (A couple of years later one of these spontaneously donated Rs. 10,000/- for the school building).

A Fancy Fete was enthusiastically organized and patronized by the parishioners of St. Patrick’s Church. Its profits brought in furniture and other requisites for the School.

A sympathetic parishioner loaned Rs.5,000/- without interest or a receipt, to pay the teachers.

The Place: The Parish Priest vacated most of the presbytery and a small store room became also his office room, bedroom and drawing room.

The Birth: The School started in January, 1948. I thought it was a good idea to recommend our boys to the care of St. Aloysius. If I remember right, there were about twenty pupils on the first day in five classes under five teachers. About eight of these pupils – all from poorer and distant homes – were daily brought to School and taken home by the Principal himself in his own little old Opel, which was months earlier presented by Bishop Raymond for the parish work.

The Teachers: Can I forget the late Mrs. Farrell, Miss Maurice Mona, Mrs. M. Peters and Miss Sheila Franklin? Inspite of a low salary and lack of even elementary amenities or facilities they gave themselves whole heartedly to the school. They are its real founders. My heart goes all out to them. Not that I have forgotten the teachers that came later on: these too helped the baby to grow healthy and strong; eighteen years have cut me off from the scene and I am miles away in the heights of the Himalayas, yet from above these clouds, I still visualize them all giving their very best according to their ability. God reward them generously.

And the Baby began to grow beyond expectations: Little by little, non-Christian parents began trickling in; some from as far as Chakeri and Ashok Nagar, which by then was dismembered from the mother parish and had its own school with a Hindi medium. To my question,” Why do you wish to enroll your child in St. Aloysius’ School so far from your home”? (and to those of Ashoknagar "when you have a Catholic School there"?), the parents would reply: “the English people are known for discipline, their language is the best means to learn it”; some others” “we know that our children will have a better moral education in your school and a better future.”

Numbers kept on increasing though at a very slow pace, and the three porches of St. Patrick’s Church were utilized – with much inconvenience to the people that came for worship on Sundays. And, finally, the school extended into the Catholic Club, later occupied by the Ursuline Sisters who converted it into a maternity ward. An exclusive and adequate building for the school became a necessity.

Funds for the Building: A rough plan for a double storied edifice had already been approved by Bishop Raymond, who, by the way, an educationist as he was, always had a word of encouragement. Mr. Edward Souter studied the rough plan and in a few days he submitted a tentative blue print. The cost? Over a lakh and a half only for the ground floor. “If the school is in keeping with God’s will, and it is, because the Bishop has given permission for it, funds will come.” I assured myself.

No doubt, Fancy Fetes, Dances – on high and small scales – Raffles (private among friends and well wishers) were being held regularly by our parishioners in the Catholic Club Hall; also the Regal Cinema authorities generously showed pictures in aid of the school. Yet it was nothing more than a paltry sum.

Once again the parishioners met at the Presbytery. “Father start a building with whatever little money you have” said one lady, “once you start it, money will come in.” The suggestion was like a breath of fresh air for me. I took it up.

All our parishioners rallied together. Those, who could gave generous donations. Some gave loans without interest. And on what guarantee? On their own kindly personal trust in my – should I say “good looks” or good will. Many others continued to help most generously with Fancy Fetes, Balls, and other activities. Their names are a Legion. Fancy Fetes, Balls etc! It is so easily said! Those that were involved in these activities will remember the hard labour and anxiety that went in them. Those who remember those days will justly accuse me of ingratitude if I do not single out the Legionaries of Mary of St. Patrick’s Church and among them their leader, the late Mr. Peter C. deNoronha, subsequently honored by the Holy Father with Knighthood. The Legion of Mary never knew to say “No”; The Legionaries of Mary were behind all our activities; social, religious, socio-religious; indeed, far ahead of the Vatican documents on lay-apostolate ecumenism and social work; without them I could have done nothing. And so, with the help of God and men, the Funds went up from a literally blank page to about a lakh and a half. Let me now confess that when the building was going up, finding me a little stranded, Bishop Raymond did finally give a loan of Rs.25,000/- to complete the building, with a smiling caution “Don’t mention this at the Bishop’s Council Meeting”!!

And the Crisis: The blue print with all the necessary details was approved by the Cantonment Board of Kanpur. The Board was always encouraging and helpful. With glowing terms it forwarded the Blueprint for the approval by the Military Estates Officer at Lucknow. In the first instance, the latter promised approval without mentioning any liabilities on the part of the Church; subsequently, however, I was asked to make a fresh lease of the land in view of the change of the purpose of the land and to pay an annual rent of Rs.2,000/- and a premium of Rs.1,000/-. This was a big fortune in those days for a man without a pie to start a school. Nothing would change the attitude of the Lucknow authorities even though the Cantonment Board of Kanpur pleaded on my behalf. Instead, subsequently, I received a note from the Military Estates Office in Lucknow ordering me to close down the school immediately – it having been opened without due permission to change the purpose of the existing buildings. Till then, I was ignorant of this Rule. The order was repeated with a threat of legal prosecution, followed by a final warning either to make a fresh lease as notified earlier or to stop forthwith the functioning of the school in the church premises, failing which legal action would be launched.

When at Allahabad I had the opportunity of knowing the late Jawaharlal Nehru before the Independence of India. Also when he was President of the Congress, while travelling by train from Bombay to Allahabad, I was given an interview with him in his compartment. With an attitude that displayed respect and consideration to my person, he gave me a kindly assurance for the future of the Catholic Church in an Independent India. He had given me an impression of a kindly man. “Why not write to him now that he is the Prime Minister of India?” And I did write.

And the Answer: Before my own direct approach to Nehru I thought of my Bishop. Bishop Raymond was far from being sanguine about help in this matter from the Central Government. The Apostolic Delegate, the late Archbishop Kierkels, whom I approached subsequently, was sympathy personified but explained that the Delegation did not undertake with the Government matters at the Parish level. All human help appeared negative. There was nothing else left than to abandon the project in the hands of the Mother of Jesus Christ.

It was a Sunday evening. After the benediction of the Blessed Sacrament, the members of the Catholic Club had gathered for the evening Social. In those days the social was interspersed with decades of the Rosary and dances around a little statue of the Mother of Jesus Christ and a talk. In the course of the social, I asked the members to offer a part of the Rosary for my success in Delhi, and off I went with my plaintive petition to Jawaharlal Nehru. The following day I returned home.

Hardly a few days had passed when a telegram arrived from Delhi. The School building was sanctioned without any obligations on the part of the Church to the Government (the Military Department in our case).

Well! Well! Our Lady, the Immaculate Mother of Jesus Christ, did the trick! The prayers, the Rosary recited around the statue of the Mother of Jesus Christ by our youthful members were not in vain.

By the time I left Kanpur viz. in November 1955, I had started repaying the loans and I left Kanpur with my heart at ease and peace, fully certain that within another two years all the remaining loans could be repaid by the School.

The School, with the top story added by my successor of the immortal renowned Msgr. A. Rodrigues, stands now a glowing tribute of Christ’s immaculate Mother’s love for Kanpur. A tribute of gratitude to all the Parishioners of St. Patrick’s Church, especially the Legionaries of Mary who with prayers and sweat enthusiastically rallied round the project. A tribute of gratitude to the then Prime Minister of India – Late Jawaharlal Nehru -, to the Kanpur Cantonment Board, to the various civil departments of the Government in Kanpur that gladly helped with various permits and words of encouragement and to M/s. Ford and Macdonald and last, but not the least, an affectionate tribute to the teacher that truly laid the foundations of the school, to Archbishop Raymond’s love of education and of the poor, and to my ecclesiastical co-labourers, especially Father John C. deSouza, Father Germain Ferreira and Father Phillip Noronha who helped generously in various ways. I rejoice with Kanpur and with the diocese of Allahabad and sing with them: a humble “Thank you” to God. A humble “Thank You” to the Mother of Jesus Christ and the mother of all men and women on earth. A brotherly and respectful “Thank you” to all

“All thy works shall give thanks to thee, O Lord, and all thy saints shall bless thee! They shall speak of the glory of thy Kingdom, and tell of thy power, to make known to the sons of men the mighty deeds, and the glorious splendour of thy kingdom.” (Ps. 145, 10 – 12)

I have not mentioned names of the benefactors of the School; they are so many that a letter like this cannot do justice to them. They need a Golden Book. They have one Golden Book in the Museum of Heaven. I would like however to stress that I remember them with much prayerful gratitude and pleasure.

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