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J. B. HOFFMANN, S.J. (1857 – 1928)

Posted on: 17 Jan, 2024 | Modified on: 28 Apr, 2024

J. B. Hoffmann was born at Wallendorf (Germany) on June 21, 1857. Entered the Society of Jesus on April 20, 1877. Arrived in India on December 04, 1877. He was ordained a priest on January 18, 1891. took his last vows on August 15, 1896. Repatriated to Germany on November 19, 1915. Died on November 19, 1928 at Trier, in Germany.

J. B. Hoffmann's early schooling was acquired in his village, then at Echternach and in Luxemberg, the capital of the Grand Duchy. At the age of twenty, after finishing his high school studies he joined the Belgian Province of the Society of Jesus in Arlon on April 20, 1877.

The Belgian Province of the Society of Jesus had been in charge of the West Bengal Mission, in India, since 1859. on July 10, 1869, the Jesuits had begun missionary work among the tribes of Chotanagpur, the Mundas, the Kharias, and the Oraons. Hoffmann still a novice, arrived in India on December 04, 1877. after finishing his novitiate in Hazaribag he went to Asansol where he finished the study of philosophy in 1882 and was assigned to St. Xavier's College in Calcutta. As a young regent he had the manner of a Prussian military officer. And right through the year he behaved like a drill sergeant with a company of raw recruits. He taught philosophy for four years in the College.

In 1888 he returned to Asansol for theology. It was during his stay that the Theologate was transferred to Kurseong, in Darjeeling. Hoffmann was ordained a priest in Calcutta on January 18, 1891, and then went back to Darjeeling to complete the theological studies. In 1892 he arrived in Ranchi to make his tertianship. After the Long retreat, during the spare time he taught Latin and English at St. John's School in Ranchi. All along his Jesuit formation Hoffmann had mastered Latin, French, English, all of which he spoke, and wrote with ease Greek and Hindi.

Hoffmann's only desire was to work for the uplift of the tribals of Chotanagpur, where Fr. Lievens had launched a mass movement of conversions. He was relieved to teach at St. John's and was asked to study British and agrarian laws.

During his study at Sarwada mission station Hoffmann made a thorough study of the khuntkatti and bhinhari rights of the tribals. Due to Birsa agitation Hoffmann could do very little missionary work. He spent in a further study of the munda language. He outlined the Grammar which was published in 1903 at Government Press under the title Munda Grammar.

Another major contribution of Hoffmann was the Catholic Co-operative Credit Society which was based on the Raiffeisen system but adapted to the laws, customs and social background of the tribals of Chotanagpur. The system was yielded an efficient capital which was supposed to serve as training for the tribals and thus equip them to manage later on the autonomous village or rural bank themselves. There was only one saving bank, which was directed from Ranchi. Once a month the members brought their money to the parish to deposit. The Missionary received the money and entered it into the register of the circle. The Chotanagpur Catholic Co-opertive Credit Society was egistered on December 02, 1909 and the Co-operative Stores in 1913. the Catholic Co-operative Credit Society met with great success. For the services rendered to the tribals of Chotanagpur, Hoffmann received an Honour Certificate, and then in 1913, he was awarded the Kaiser-i-Hind silver medal in the name of the King-Emperor for signal services rendered to the Government.

After the declaration of war against Great Britain in August 1914, all the German missionaries working in the British Raj were not allowed to stay. The British Government, in 1915 repatriated Hoffmann together with Fathers Hipp and Seitz to Germany.