The Diocese of Rajkot stretches over the northwestern part of India, which is the peninsula of Saurashtra and Kutch; it has an area of 1, 09,990 sq. kms. and a population of 16 million. By the Papal Bull De Recta Fidelium of Pope Paul VI the Catholic Diocese of Rajkot came into being on 25 Feb, 1977. It comprises the civil districts of Amreli, Bhavnagar, Jamnagar, Junagadh, Porbandar, Rajkot and Surendranagar, jointly known popularly as Saurashtra and the district of Kutch in Gujarat State.

Faced with the shortage of priests the Jesuits invited the Carmelites of Mary Immaculate (CMI), the first indigenous religious congregation for men in India, to work and develop this mission territory in Saurashtra and Kutch. In 1972 the then Superior General Rev. Fr Theobald Pothanikat CMI accepted the invitation and sent a few pioneering missionaries.

In 1977 Bishop Jonas Thaliath CMI was appointed the first Bishop of the newly created diocese of Rajkot. With a dream of integral development, he led the diocese for four years. He was called to his eternal rest on November 7, 1981. On April 24, 1983, Mar Gregory Karotemprel CMI was ordained Bishop to succeed Bishop Jonas and he has been guiding the destinies of the Diocese ever since.

Gujarat State : The Land and the People 
This state was formed on 1st May 1960. The name Gujarat is believed to be derived from Prakrit Gujar Ratta or Gujjar Rashtra, which means the land of Gujjars, a tribe that entered India in ancient times. Even before the invasion of Aryans, Gujarat had trade links with ancient centres like Babylon and Egypt.

And the State is a part of the main mosaic, India: multi-religious and multi-ethnic. The largest chunk of the population in Saurashtra is Hindu 80%. Jains may come up to 10% and Muslims 8%. Christians are a tiny minority 0.07%.

Saurashtra and Kutch is a land with strong socio-political moorings and with a people proud of their ancient culture and of their involvement in promoting trade and commerce. It is also a land haunted by natural calamities like cyclones, earthquakes, droughts, floods, etc., and political conflicts like Indo-Pak wars and communal conflicts.

Many historical monuments in this area stand as mute testimony of a glorious era. But to the modern world, Porbandar, a coastal township in Saurashtra, is the birth place of the last of the secular saints to walk on our earth: the father of the Nation, Mohandas Karamchand Gandhi, the Mahatma, who upheld the Christian values of non-violence and love as an answer to hatred. Gir Forest in Junagadh is the only habitat of Asiatic Lions in whole of Asia

Gujarat is abuzz with business and industrial activities; but agriculture is the main source of income for the majority of people. The entire region, though arid from scarce rainfall, about 450 mm/per annum, is famous for its oil-seed cultivation, especially groundnuts. Horticulture and pastoral activities are the other occupations.

The Mission of the Diocese 
In the beginning, the diocese had just eight schools and six chapels in some important towns. But, with the arrival of zealous priests and nuns from different parts of India, the diocese became alive with mission activities. The objectives include:

  • To be the presence of Jesus Christ, the manifestation of God the Father, in the land of 
    Saurashtra and Kutch.

  • To work for the realization of the mission of Christ as enunciated in the Gospels.

  • To be effective messengers of the Good News of Jesus and His Kingdom.

Education for Social Change 
The diocese has Gujarati and English medium schools for formal education. There are institutions for the physically handicapped and mentally retarded children. The non-formal education programmes include balawadies, tuition classes, literacy programmes and village libraries. Vocational training is given to the youth in type-writing, tailoring and embroidery, etc. For the welfare of the handicapped, the diocese runs integrated education centres for the physically and mentally disabled.

The BEST Programme! 
Basic Education for Social Transformation (BEST) is a programme instituted by Bishop Gregory Karotemprel CMI to provide elementary education for the poor children from the villages and slums of Saurashtra and Kutch, irrespective of their caste or religion. Every village development committee under the diocese identifies and adopts 25 economically weak students, who enter the first standard each year. The sponsored children are helped in their education from the first standard to the seventh standard by providing uniforms, school fees, text books, note books; the diocese is helping 3600 children for their basic education. The diocesan personnel are also in constant contact with the childrens families and schools for the integrated development of the children. People are urged to sponsor children by contributing certain sum (Rs. 3000/- for five years and Rs. 750/- for one year).

Rural Welfare Our Driving Force 
The Diocese is running hospitals, village health centres and mobile clinics to provide preventive and curative health services. Apart from these health awareness programmes, treatment and rehabilitation of leprosy patients and treatment and care of the terminally ill patients are undertaken by the Diocese.

Rural development programmes include Agriculture development through irrigation, distribution of seeds and fertilizers and training of farmers, Formation of peoples organizations like farmers co-operative societies, Mahilamandals (Womens Groups), Village development committees, Youth clubs and Childrens clubs. Social awareness programmes are conducted through these groups. There are welfare schemes for the supply of drinking water, construction of low-cost houses for the poor, providing for the means of livelihood through self-employment, promotion of village arts and handicrafts, environmental protection, etc. The diocesan personnel are also engaged in pastoral and social care of the migrant workers.

We care for the HIV/AIDS patients 
Today in India, HIV and AIDS pandemic represents one of the most serious public health problems. The prevalence of the infection in all parts of the country highlights the spread from urban to rural areas and from high risk to the general population. Around the country, AIDS, is shattering peoples opportunities for healthy lives.

In 2004 the Diocese has undertaken comprehensive CARE AND SUPPORT PROGRAMMES for the People Living with HIV/AIDS (PLHAs) to improve their health and social status in the family and in their community. At present the organization has 5 Care & Support Centres in Gujarat State of India. The Care & Support Centres are situated in Rajkot, Jamnagar, Veraval, Bhavnagar and Ghandhidham. These cities are highly vulnerable to the HIV infection and there are at present 1700 PLHAs out of which 110 are infected children and more than 800 are affected children. We also have a residential centre in Hamirpar (Vada) for AIDS patients who are in the last stage of their life and are treated there.

Friends of Rajkot
 Friends of Rajkot is an association for the friends and well wishers of the mission of Rajkot. Its objectives are:-

To conscientize Catholic families all over the world to be partners in the work of Evangelization through information and soliciting their spiritual and material contribution.Friends of Rajkot will be in the mailing list of our Newsletter Deepti and will be remembered in the daily mass offered for them and their concerns. Would you like to join this Family of Friends? If yes, write to us:

Friends of Rajkot, PB. No. 1501, 
Bishops House, Kalawad Road, Rajkot 360 005
Fax: 0091-281-2563427
Website: www.rajkotdiocese.org

Our publications :

  • Third Millennium : AMissiological & Theological Quarterly.

  • Journal of St. Thomas Christians : A Quarterly Historical Documentation on 
    St. Thomas Christians.

  • Syro-Malabar Global Mission : A Mission News Letter in Malayalam.

  • Deepti : A quarterly for friends and benefactors in India and abroad.

  • Vidya Darshan: A quarterly Journal on Value Education for the School Children and Parents.

  • Saurastra Kutch Samachar : An in-house newsletter for the Diocese.

  • Nav Yuv: A Bi-annual for Catholic Youths.

  • Navjeevan Samachar : A Bi-annual by the Diocesan Social Work Departmentves include:

Face to Face with Natural Calamities 

The diocese faced successive natural calamities since 1998: the devastating cyclone in Kandla, Kutch of 1998, the drought of 2000, and the killer earthquake on Black Friday, 26 January, 2001. On the very day of the earthquake the Diocesan Social Service team left for Kutch to monitor rescue, relief, and rehabilitation operations. More than 5000 volunteers from different NGOs and religious communities joined hands with us for months in the field to supply food, drinking water, blankets, utensils kits, kerosene, candles, medicine, temporary shelters, etc., to the affected people. The Diocese and its major organs promptly engaged CARITAS, CRS, HelpAge India, and CARE in the herculean task of construction of 10,000 houses for quake victims of 100 villages.