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FATHER LOUIS CARDON (1857 – 1946)

Posted on: 1 Dec, 2014

Modified on: 1 Dec, 2014

By webmaster

Louis Cardon was born at Maurage (Hainaut) on December 25, 1857. Entered the Society of Jesus on October 25, 1876. Arrived in India on November 25, 1884. Died at Samtoli on February 11, 1946.

Father Louis Cardon was the founder of the Biru Mission. He was one of those last Jesuits trained in the theologate of the Mission at Asansol. In January 1889, at the age of 31, he was assigned to Tetra. With the permission of Constant Lievens, the Director of the Mission, acquired a young white horse whom he called Bijou. Soon after his arrival at Tetra, in February 1889 Father Cardon went to look for a village, the inhabitants of which had expressed their desire to become Christians. On his way he spent the night at Barwadih . As he was about to leave the village, there came a deputation from Biru which wanted to become Christians. After meeting the deputation he proceeded eastward and then crossing the forest landed at Tingina where he found out that it was not the village to which he had been sent by Father Lievens. On his return to Tetra, Fr. Cardon found another deputation from Paikpara seeking to be received in the catholic Church. Within a fortnight of his stay at Tetra there were 800 families which expressed their desire to be received in the Church.

Fr. Cardon set out for Biru with his coolies. On the next day they arrived at Takba where they were received very well by the villagers. On the second day following their arrival at Takba, they went to meet the Raja of Biru who received them with full honour and kindness. He told the Raja about the purpose of his visit, namely, visiting Christians and explaining the grievances of the people to the Raja.

In 1889 the zamindars and the police together plotted a conspiracy against the missionaries. They complained that the Catholic missionaries in Chotanagpur were inciting people to revolt. Fr. Cardon tried to explain the truth but the D.C. would not listen. D.C. threatened Fr. Cardon of his expulsion. The reports and the biased judgements had done incalculable damage to the reputation of the Jesuit missionaries. The Catholic Mission decided to make an appeal either in Calcutta Court or a barrister to be sent to Ranchi. In February 1890, the appeal was taken up at Ranchi by Mr. Cowley, the Judicial Commissioner of Chotanagpur. Mr. Man Mohan Ghosh, an eminent barrister of Calcutta pleaded with a result that those who had been taken prisoner during the so called rebellion were set free and punishment of may prisoners were reduced. The Leutenant Governor of Bengal arrived Ranchi on March 8, 1890. he criticized the proceedings and offensive conduct of Messrs Renny and Lillingston. The peace was restored and the missionaries resumed their missionary endeavours.

Fr. Cardon together with Father Dehon visited Biru in April-May 1890. This visit after the final and favourable judgment of the lawsuit had strengthened the tribals of Biru and they returned to the Chruch and promised not to fall back to paganism. Father Cardon had so valiantly fought by the side of gallant Father C. Lievens to win the tribals of Chotanagpur for Christ. During three years he was not only one of the pioneers but also one of Father Lievens’ most valued lieutenant, traveling throughout the length and breadth of Chotangpur, preaching, baptizing, gaining new villages, confirming the wavers, defending the oppressed, ever battling for the cause of Christ.

In March 1892, there was an important consultation presided over by the Archbishop. He allowed Father Bodson, the new Superior Regular of the West Bengal Mission to open a mission station in Barway. Accordingly, on March 10, 1892, Fathers Cardon and Albert Maene and Brother Alfred Lemoine, a builder, were sent to Bendora. Father Cardon took charge of the whole of the barway Mission. At Katkahi a suitable ground was acquired for a school and a residence.

After his return from Barway, Father Cardon once again took charge of the vast area of Konbir-Noatoli and Biru. For the uplift of the tribals education was a must. This was the felt need of the time, thought Father Cardon. During his tour of the Biru region in 1895, he contacted some young children and on January 25, he returned to Konbir-Noatoli with 50 boys and 35 girls. The girls he sent to Ranchi to the Loreto Sisters for their education.

During the years 1896-97, Father Cardon toured extensively the villages which felt under Rengarih, Kurdeg and Samtoli. This time he baptized many people. in these years there was a severe famine in Chotanagpur because of the very weak monsoon. The Christians missionaries belonging to different denominations did an excellent relief work. They gave an idea of Christian Charity to the people of Chotanagpur during this difficult time.

In August 1900, Father Cardon bought the village of Rengarih which had been mortgaged by the Raja of Biru to the Government and was under the Encumbered State. On May 2, 1901, Father Cardon and Joseph Van Gerven set out for Biru and after two days’ journey arrived at Konpala where they built a mud-hut which would be their residence for a year and a half until a more permanent and beautiful residence was constructed at Rengarih.

Father cardon devoted 50 years of his life to the welfare and uplift of the tribals of Chotanagpur. In spite of his life in isolation and life spent in the wilds of the countryside, he was a man of wide knowledge and remarkable cultural attainments, a skilful architect and a botanist of considerable reputation. He loved the tribals with his whole heart; and they in turn adopted him into their clans. Father Cardon had lived long enough to see the result of his labours. During the night of February 10 and 11 he suffered a stroke causing unconsciousness. He did not regain his consciousness; and in the evening of February 11, surrounded by his confreres he expired at Samtoli.