Diocese of Darjeeling
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In a land area of 46,021 square kilometers, the diocesan territory covers the three hill sub-divisions of Darjeeling district of West Bengal: Darjeeling, Kurseong and Kalimpong, besides the state of Sikkim and Bhutan.

The diocese is located in the sub Himalayan mountainous region. The area is the foothill of Himalaya. Sikkim is the highest Indian region.

Population

In Darjeeling diocese, the population is 2,300,000 at the end of 2005.

Various tribes of Nepalis, Lepchas, the Bhutiya and Sherpa tribals are living here.

Language

The languages spoken in the diocesan territory are Hindi, Nepali, Bengali, Bhutanese (Dzongksha), Lepcha, Sikkimese, Tibetan, English.

History

The church first came to Darjeeling with the arrival of Irish Loreto Sisters in 1846, soon after opening the hill station of Darjeeling. The area was then under Patna diocese and was staffed mostly by Italian Capuchins. In 1886 with the establishment of Calcutta archdiocese, the areas of Darjeeling, Kurseong and Siliguri and the state of Sikkim were transferred to Calcutta archdiocese and were cared by the Belgian Jesuits. The Jesuit's St. Mary's Theologate at Kurseong, which had been started in 1889, contributed much to the church expansion. In 1971 the theologate had been transferred to Delhi. In 1947 the Jesuits of Upper Canada province came to assist the Belgian fathers. Gradually they took over and in 1956 it became an independent Jesuit region. On Oct. 14, 1997 the Region became a full-fledged Darjeeling Jesuit Province. The work in Kalimpong started in 1883, when the Fathers of the Foreign Mission of Paris settled down in Pedong with the hope of getting into Tibet. Fr. A. Desgodins, the founder of Pedong, was a pioneer missionary and a scholar of Tibetan.

In 1929 this area was separated from Tibet and erected as an independent mission within the ecclesial province of Calcutta. In 1931 Sikkim was added to it and the Prefecture Apostolic of Kalimpong-Sikkim came into existence, with Msgr Jules Douenels as its first Prefect Apostolic. In 1935 the French Fathers handed the area to the Canons Regular of St. Augustine of St. Maurice, Switzerland, and in 1937 Msgr. A. Gainer was appointed its new Prefect Apostolic 25 years later he handed the territory over to Bishop Eric Benjamin, who became the first bishop of the newly erected Darjeeling diocese. Darjeeling diocese was erected on Nov. 25, 1962

The kingdom of Bhutan was separated from the diocese of Tezpur and included to Darjeeling Diocese on Jan. 21, 1975. After the death of Bishop Eric Benjamin on May 12, 1994, the See of Darjeeling remained vacant for 3 years. On Nov. 4, 1997 Pope John Paul II divided the diocese and established the new diocese of Bagdogra covering the sub division of Siliguri and part of Kurseong subdivision. On the same day Fr. Stephen Lepcha was appointed the second bishop of Darjeeling diocese.

The first bishop Eric Benjamin served the diocese from 1962-1994, he was from Tamang tribe.

Most Catholics are Nepalese of various tribes. The second highest number of the Catholics is Lepchas, one of the original tribes of the area, and they are animists and are open to Christianity. Most of them are Buddhists. Bishop Stephen Lepcha is from this community. About 20 priests are also from this community.

Third highest number of Catholics is from the Bhutiya and Sherpa tribal communities.

Kalimpong sub-division has many local vocations. 1/3 diocesan priests are Nepalese, 1/3 are Lepchas &1/3 are from the southern Mangalore diocese ( and two from Kerala State)

Patronesses of the diocese: Immaculate Conception & St. Teresa of Child Jesus

Since Nepali is the common language, liturgical services are mostly held in Nepali.
Buddhism being the state religion of Bhutan, priests and sisters had to leave that country some 20 years back. Since only a few Catholics are there, mostly Nepalese, no Christian activity is carried on there. They hope to have Christian presence there after the establishment of democracy, hopefully by 2008. Jesuit Father William Mackey died there. The Bhutan government has honored him with the title 'Son of Bhutan".

Economy

In the Darjeeling, Kurseong sub-division: Tea, tourism, fruits and vegetables.

In the Kalimpong sub-division: tourism, agriculture (paddy, fruits).

In Sikkim state: tourism, agriculture, and fruits.

Most of the people are poor. Being not future-oriented, they live a day today life.

Major industries are tea, tourism, transport.

Agriculture: paddy, fruits, wheat, pulse, cardamom

Jesuit's St. Joseph school, North point, Darjeeling

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