the church of the sacred heart

The only information we had on the church was given to us by the little book Fr. Sinha brought out in the 50s. AS the centenary is coming up. we needed to know much more. The God sent opportunity came to us thanks to the net! An Italian art historian Tommaso Mozzati was working on tracing the works of the artist Giuseppe Catani Chiti in India and wanted to get in touch with members of the Tajpur family. He was fortunate in being able to consult Fr. Romulu’s dairies in the archives of the Capuchin order in Florence. Mozzati’s article has been published in an Italian review called ‘Arte christiani’. His contribution bring light and analyzes circumstances in 1900 when the Tuscan painter worked with the Indian Missions. Very little was known about the artist and Mozzati’s work brings authenticity to what we were looking for.

Catani worked in the Agra Cathedral and Tajpur church. The only existing proof of this engagement was published in 1990 in a Prato review written by Catani’s children Stlella and Guuseppe

We here bring in Tomasso Mozzati’s entire article.

In 1908 Fr. Romulus formed a committee with the Raja of Tajpur to build a church. The marble was mined and sculpted in Carrara and left the Italian port of Liguria at the end of 1911 or the beginning of 1912. The order included an ornate tabernacle with gold and lapis-lazuli and an oil painting representing the Sacred Heart of Jesus, St. Thereasa of Avilla and St Margaret Mary Alacopque (Paray le Monial France). The story is indeed complicating and curious regarding the artistic implications.

The artiste’s children made mention of Fr. Romulus. He was born on the 31st July 1866 in Pistoia. His name was Luigi Della Santa. He was took the religious name of Romulus Prato (Prato being his home town) He left for the Indian Mission, Agra to be precise around Christmas of 1894. He died in Indian in 1943 and is buried in Mussouri.

The North Indian dioceses were constituted in 1886 and were instrumented by the ‘Propagation of Faith’ by the Tuscan province. under a decree dated 14th December 1891, the diocese covered a very large territory: bordered in the north by Kashmir, in the south by Allahabad, to the west by Punjab and Rajasthan, to the north easy by the Tibetan mountains and to the east by Nepal. This area was mainly governed by the British. The population was 20 million. Christians evangelization was pacifically enroot except in the state of Gwalior, Dholpur Bharatpur, Alwar, Rampur and Tehri which remained under the local rulers and therefore indifferent to the accidental churches.

Fr. Romulus was in Charge of the radical recorganising of the area: building or repairing churches as well as the direction of the capuchin order at the end of the 19th and early 20th century.

In 1899 the main Altar of the Cathedral of Agra had to be renovated due to damage caused during the Munity in 1859. The original alter was built in 1845 in a neo classic style under the Bishop Giuseppe Antonio Borghi based on a design by Fr. Bonaventure. The administrative centre of the diocese and the furniture had to be restored.

In 1897 young Fr. Romulus arrived in Tehri full of his apostolic fervor with the firm intension of converting souls and building great monuments for this new god he wanted to impose on the local population. He covered the 50 miles by foot which took him just two days, the hope of the meeting the local Raja to obtain the authorization of opening a new mission. The reply was a very cold no.

In September 1899 Fr. Romulus received Kunvar Shiv Singh into the catholic church and baptized him in Mussourie. We will now refer to Kanvar Shiv Nath Singh as Kunvar Sylvester Norbert Rikh as this was the new name he took. Kunvar Sylvester Norbert Knew Fr. Sylvester de Castel del Piano (the Italian priest who instructed him in the new faith. This may have been the reason why Kunvar Shiv Nath chose the name: a very common practice in India at the time among the new converts, the choice was often the priest’s name as the exigency of the Catholic Church was that a saint’s name had to chosen at the christening)

All these facts were brought to face by Tommaso Mazzati based on Fr. Romulus’ diaries in the Florentine convent at Montughi.

By then the plan was working out beautifully for Fr. Romulus. His friendship with Kunvar Sylvester Norbert would now permit him to meet our grandfather Raja Shiam Singh under better condition. Their meeting took place in 1900 on a trip they both made to Moradabad. The very first conversations were based on improving ones lives by following the precepts of Jesus Christ, and the Catholic Church could supply all the answers! We remind you that our grand father was a member of the Anglican Church at the time.

The conversation led to a spiritual crisis and the Raja asked the priest to explain the words of Christ “I am the Way, the Truth and the Life “He also wanted to understand the idea of transubstantiation. The explanations provoked the now determined Raja to join the Catholic Church. His words were “As I think of the doctrine of the Eucharist of this Church, a ray of light clears my ignorance; I had a veil before my eyes and this veil is now torn; I understand immediately the sublimate truth of the Eucharistic mystery that the teachings bring us, If there is a true church of Jesus Christ it has to be the Catholic Church and now Father I am before you to be received”. This is very clearly mentioned in the priest’s diaries. The Raja was baptized and received into the Catholic Church in April 1990. We will now call him Francis Xavier as that was the name he chose in memory of, St. Francis of Assisi, a Saint whose life left a great impact on him.

With this conversion Fr Romulus was now able to open a mission and this was done in 1903. A house near the Raja’s was provided which had the providential name of ‘Sat Nivas’ the abode of truth!

Fr. Romulus rapidly gained the Raja’s confidence and met the entire family and specially the children. He befriended the eldest son being the next in succession. Their common interest was photography and Vishwa Nath taught the priest all he knew on the matter. The knowledge Fr. Romulus thus obtained as he said was more useful than all one learnt in books. The pretext of photography that Fr. Romulus used did not work on Vishwa Nath and he categorically refused conversion. Fr. Romulus was by then a good photographer and took a lot of photographs in India!

The little Chapel at Sat Nivas was by then becoming too small, the decision was made to build a new Church. The Raja lost his wife around that time. We do not know much about her, Except that they had four sons and one daughter.

Fr. Romulus stepped in again and decided that the Raja should re-marry. We must give the priest his dues on the enchanting narration in his diaries, worthy of Pierre Liti!

Fr Romulus tells the Raja that he should re-marry: the Raja agrees but there is a condition: the girl has to belong to the Brahman caste! This was impossible in North India: the priest then thought of South India and promptly wrote to the Jesuits in Mangalore. The Jesuits agreed to help on the condition the Raja travelled down to Mangalore to meet the girl. The Raja agreed but desires the priest to travel along with him. On their arrival, they meet the Substitute General Fr. Franchetti who had by then three girls lined up! the first declined the offer as she was an orphan and had two young brothers to bring up. The second declines as well giving no reason. That leaves us with the third, Margaret, the daughter of Mr Joseph Francis Coelho and Clara nee Saldanha. Margaret Mary was the eldest of nine children. The meeting place was decided on; three miles away from the town in a beautiful garden with a lot of trees, statutes of the stations of the Cross; all this under perfectly beautiful sky ! An aunt accompanies the girl (there is no mention of her mother Clara, we presume thus that she had passed away) Fr. Romulus and the Jesuit priest were there as well. The two priest discreetly decide on visiting the garden along with the aunt leaving Francis Xavier and Margaret Mary on their own. On their return Fr. Romulus asks the Raja what he thought of the girl, the reply was quick “I like her but I wonder what she thinks of me” (we recall here that Margaret Mary was born in 1884 and Francis Xavier in 1856: there was a great difference of age)

The marriage took place at the Milagres Church in Mangalore in 1905. During his stay in Mangalore Francis Xavier visited some churches and in particular struck his eye, the church adjacent to the seminary that had been designed by Fr. Diamonti Francis. He was by then determined to build a bigger church in Tajpur worthy of lodging the body Christ.

The first stone was laid in 1907 which met with great opposition from the local population and a letter of protest was sent Fr. Romulus. Nevertheless the construction continued as an exact replica of the Mangalore church which by then had become an obsession with the Raja. On the 18th November 1913 the church and the presbytery were completed and the consecration was done the archbishop of Agra Monsignor Carlo Gentili.

The style of the church was a compromise between the Italian churches of the 13th century and the Norman style. This was a controversial reply to the Neo gothic style of the Anglican churches and government building that were being construction all over Indian and in particular around Bombay ever since 1880. The exterior of the churches was rather austere and conflicted with the interior depicting artistic decoration harmonizing the two grand style the ogival of the middle ages on the hand and the Florentine renaissance on the other. Fr Romulus recalls in his diaries Catani’s desire make the church a ‘jewel’

The interior of the church had been entirely left to Catani who at that time was becoming very well known in Italy and especially in Tuscany where he was considered by then a famous painter of sacred art. Catani had been recommended by his Professor Alexandro Franchi to Fr. Romulus as early as in 1902. “I can assure you that Catani has shown a rare aptitude among all my students at the Belle Arti Academy in Sienna” Catani was considered the most talented artist of religious art as was proven by the competition that took place in Tuin in 1898.

According to Fr. Romulus, Catani took on the entire responsibility of decorating the interior of the church starting with the floor, the balustrades, the windows with the angels, the painting on copper for the exterior, the ceramics for the five doors of the façade, the candelabras, the crucifix, the two side Altars, the pulpit, the sacristy, the holy water and the baptismal font.

Sadly all these works were not completed as Francis Xavier had limited funds: he had decided on 100.000 rupees just the interior. This is probably why matters turned our between the Raja, the priest and the artist concerning the main Altar.

Catani had decided on using Carrara marble. In his letter to the priest dated the 3rd September 1910, the artist assured the priest that the marble would be transported under excellent condition to avoid all damage. By the summer of 1910 the sculpturing of the marble had been completed in Carrara. This very large piece marble arrived in India in the summer of 1912. The container was opened by the site engineer Labati who discovered quite a few cracks. This raised discord between the painter and the Raja and confirmed by his collaborators that all further payments would be held back. Fr. Romulus did not agree on the new financial restrictions concerning the realization of the painting for the main Altar, The exactitude of the situation was clearly resumed by Catani in a letter to the priest : the artist mentions his worry on the non payment of the marble as he held the responsibility. The building committee complained that the marble was of an inferior quality.

Fr. Romulus took the defense of the artist saying that good pure white marble was only used for statues and that the commoner red and green veined marble was only used for statues and that the commoner red and green veined marble was used for other items. The pure white marble if used would appear like plaster!

Labanti very carefully placed the marble blocks hiding the cracks. The other reasons for the damaged marble could have been caused by un-proper packing and unpacking.

The main Altar was erected in all its splendor with a perfusion of decorations in gold, with angles on either side of the tabernacle and not forgetting the painting inspired by the church of the Holy Spirit in Florence built during the renaissance.

This critical situation caused a delay in the painting destined for the main altar under the crown of angels. The choice of the painting had been modified by the Raja due to controversial facts. In one of Catani’s previous letters to the priest dated July 2910, he mentioned having started a painting depicting fifteen principal figures and various other secondary ones, Jesus was represented in the mid-sky of Jerusalem surrounded by good souls who had followed his precepts and were saved from damnation and taken up to heaven. The Raja and the Rani were on the right track avoiding the worldly ambushes. This did not please the Raja perhaps due to his Christian humility as he could not imagine his impure self so close to Jesus. I would like to open a bracket here.

We as children were told that the painting represented heaven and hell: the catholic members were the angels in heaven and the non-believers as devils going down to hell. This version does not contradict with what is mentioned above; I here close the bracket with just the mention that Tommaso Mozzati gave me. The panting did exist but was never sent to Tajpur. Mozzati has not been able to trace it.

The painting had been completed and drew the admiration of the various visitors to Catani’s workshop. Catani then started the second painting which was very much similar: representing the Sacred Heart of Jesus with St. Theresa of Avila on one side sand St. Margaret Mary Alacoque on the other. The painting was further enriched with various secondary elements of decoration; the dove figuring the Holy Spirit, the lamb seated on the book of life surmounted by a cross, an anchor and a heart on flame standing for Faith, Hope and Charity. The figure of Our Lord with his arms out stretched in terms of submission and the open heart depicting the explosion of charity. Catani later did quite a few paintings on the same them. One is in the Romanesque Sacred Heart Church in Suffragio (between 1916 and 1920) and another for the chapel of the palazzo Clementini Piccolomini in Sienna in 1910 but signed by Catani’s son Alessandro. This was Catani’s way of launching his son.

The Catani paintings sent to Tajpur and Agra were the works of a painter who had reached his pinnacle between the first and the third decade of the last centaur and therefore important in the evolution of the artist.

The culminating point in Catani’s career took place in 1898 when the pope Leo XIII commissioned a painting of the Holy Family. This panting was exposed at a religious art exhibition for which he received national recognition for his immense talent

In spite of this and some imperfects results of his art, Catani was acknowledged as an important painter of religious art influenced by English painting. Catani re-valued his ambitions shown in the painting ‘kermesse’

In accordance with these influences, Catani had to reset his artistic inspiration: even if faithful to the English pre Raphael style (particular to Holman Hunt considered the most spiritual among the artists of the Brotherhood.) and the formal experience suggested by Ludovico Seitz.

His palette enlightened by the English influence of Hunt, turned towards an acid and psychedelic materiality according to the new influence of Previati, even in the holy panting starting from the Maternity in 1890. Catani’s allegories start with an orchestration full of pride inspired by a metaphorical and meticulous paintings as depicted in ‘Light of the world’ and the ‘triumph of the innocents’ bringing an organized composition which enlarges the dimensions of space and figures and suggested the various styles between the Tuscan renaissance and the neo baroque. Concrete examples of this amazing invention are seen in ‘The Sacred Heart’ by Lungotevere Prati in Rome where one sees the central turning movement of angles and human figures. There in another example in the circular painting done in 1911 on the dome of the basilica of St. Spehan’s at Lavagnia depicting Christ’s baptism in a neo Rubens style, disaccording colours resembling ‘Capro Espiatro’ by Hunt or the muscular composition of a scene among excited masses depicting the 16th century style: the sumptuous decorations of the ceiling with playful cupids, heavy purple drapes showing the influence of the 17th century Flemish style. Similar examples can be found in the decorations of the Blessed Sacrament Chapel in the basilica of the Holy Cross at Ostra started in 1914 and completed in 1917.

All this shows a stage of Catani’s artistic career. All these changes in style could be attributed to the golden age of painting in Genoa and Rome and in particular the eclectic cultural changes brought in by the Popes Pius X and Benedict XV and executed by the artist Eugenio Cisterna. Another example is Biagio Biagetti who continued Seitz’ work and decorated the pontifical museum.

With Catani’s financial problems after the Indian affair there was a complete rupture in his artistic career in comparison with his earlier favorable one. He missed out on an exhibition at the Vatican, an offer by Pope Della Chiesa in February 1916 and was excluded by the commission on the painting of the cupola of St. Luc’s Sanctuary in Bologna. He had earlier been appointed by Pope Benedict XV but the project was cancelled after the pope’s demise in 1922. These circumstances caused a rupture in Catani’s career and from then on he only worked on restorations as he had to bring up his numerous children.

All this information given in Fr. Romulus’ diaries is of utmost important as passages brought out facts on Catani’s hidden activities. The renowned artist who had painted wonderful religious themes was then down to forging renaissance painting on the black market between Florence and Sienna: a market for international collectors. There is evidence in the dairies of the artist’s ingenuity and the priest’s attempt Catani’s integrity. The priest only ambition was the completion of the Tajpur Church. Catani asked the priest to put him in touch with some rich Maharajas connoisseurs of ‘beaux arts’ interested in acquiring a unique and fabulous collection with Catani as the middle man. The priest’s words were “if had realized this sale, I would have received a considerable amount from Catani. I collected numerous photographs on these works but could not bring myself to materialize the sale knowing that they were all fakes done by Catani” Some of these have recently been expertise by Giancarlo Gentilini and Gianni Mazzoni snd as the letter feels that Catani’s contemporaries could have know about this fraud. Catani’s name is written on the rear of photographs kept at the photographical museum of Berenson. Catani was the artist who painted the ‘Annunciation’ sold as an original by the artist Pesellino. This painting is at the Nelson Atkins museum in Kansas City. ‘The Profile of a Lady’ with the fine arts school in Boston is also by Catani.

Without Tommaso Mozzati’s article written for the review ‘Arte Christiani we would not have been able to get all this information: the most important being his possibility to consult Fr. Romulus ‘diaries. Our grateful thanks go to Tommaso and also to Fr. Romulus who kept all this on record for the generations to come.

Today a hundred years later what can we say about illustrious family? They are now a part of history and will be remembered by what they left behind.

The battle against the Pindaris. A battle in 1857 (the great Mutiny), the railway station at Seohora built by Raja Pratap Singh and most of all the beautiful sacred Heart Church with its Carrara marble and painting by a well Known Italian artist.

The family is re-united for the centenary in memory of our ancestors, our parents and grand parents who gave us the education and the family spirit for which we will never stop thanking them.


The retired Bishop Nair of Meerut sent me a copy of the indenture made out on the 28th July 1915 which goes as follows.

Between the Honorable Raja Francis Xavier Shiam Rikh of Tajpur in the district of Bijnor in the United Provinces of India and his brother Kumar Sylvester Norbert Shiv Nath Rikh also of Tajpur aforesaid of the first part His Grace Doctor Charles Gentili of the order of Capuchin Minor, archbishop of the Romain Catholic dioceses of Agra (here in after called the Archbishop)and his successors in office of the second part and the Reverend Father Bonaventure OC. (here in after called the parish priest) and his successors in office of the third part.

Whereas the aforesaid the Hon. Raja F.X.S Rikh and kumar S. N. S. Rikh did build and construct the church known and consecrated by the Archbishop on the eighteenth day of November 1913 as the Sacred Heart of Jesus together with all those building known as the Presbytery and kitchen and the two ranges of the tiled building known as Christian quarters adjoining here to all situated on land measuring approximately eighteen bighas and five biswas pucca boundaries of which a plan of site are hereto attached and marked A the said land by privet partition between the Hon. F. X. S. Rikh and his brother Kumar S. N. S Rikh being now in the sole possession of the Hon. F. X. S Rikh and situation in the village of Tajpur formerly known as Nasirpur of the land church and other building mentioned above together with all the furniture, fitting, pictures, vestments, lamps, candlesticks, place and line in and belonging to the said Church and the presbytery all valued approximately at Rupees 75037-8-0 are anxious to settle the same for the purpose of perpetuating and securing Divine Worship in the church and to provide for the interment of persons of the Roman Catholic church Faith who may die at Tajpur.

And whereas the said the Hon. Raja F. X. S Rikh and Kumar S. N. S. rich are desirous of settling the landed property detailed in schedule I and II for the purpose of providing for the maintenance of the church and for the consolation and consideration of having Masses said for themselves and their families now and in the future and for the propagation of the Roman Catholic Faith among the people of this country and the neighborhood and for providing a stipend for the parish priest and otherwise as hereinafter described.

Now this indenture witnessed and it is hereby agreed and declared as follows that is to say:

1. The Hon. F.X S. Rikh and Kumar S. N. S. Rikh herby freely and voluntarily convey unto the Archbishop and the parish priest and their successors in office the Church of the Sacred heart of Jesus aforesaid together with all the building above mentioned and all that is contained in the said Church and Building and the cemetery land measuring eight biswas pucca valued about Rupees fifty situation in the North corner of the grove called Lal Bagh shown in plan marked B aforesaid upon trust that they and their survivors and them hold the same upon the trust hereinafter declared concerning the same. Kumar S. N. S. Rikh is sole owner and in sole possession of the grove called Lal Bagh at Tajpur aforesaid plan.

2. And whereas the said the Hon. Raja F. X. S. Rikh and Kumar S. N. S. Rikh hitherto used for the benefit of those Roman Catholics present attending the Church and those who may come and form a larger congregation in future and shall permit the building herein before mentioned attached thereto to be used for the purpose of a school or residence for poor Roman Catholics who might come to visit the church or be employed by the parish priest and shall permit the cemetery land aforesaid after it has consecrated to be used for the interment of Roman Catholics dying at Tajpur aforesaid.

3. The Archbishop may personally or by any person acting under his authority examine into regulate and control the working of the Mission of the church of the Sacred Heart of Jesus and any schools or poor house or orphanage which may be founded or come into existence hereafter and may regulate the mode of instruction and the salaries which will be paid by the parish priest in charge for the time being the salary of the said priest shall however not be less than Rupees one hundred per men sum exclusive of any other charges except that pertaining to the church services.

4. The Hon. Raja F. X. S. Rikh herby conveys the landed property detailed in Schedule I hereto upon the said Archbishop and parish priest and their successors in office to hold the same upon trust in concert with the Hon. Raja F. X. S. Rikh and his Roman Catholic heirs or whomsoever he may appoint by will or otherwise the lambardari to vest in the Raja or his heir or heirs who after payment of the Government Revenue will pay in the profit in four installments that is to say on the 20th January, 20th February, 20th May 20th November of each year to the parish or to this account in the Allahabad Bank in Moradabad and in the event of delay of more than three months when any instalments falls due interest at the rate of five per cent annum will be due on each such instalment in addition.

5. Kumar S. N. S. Rikh herby conveys the landed property detailed in Schedule 11 hereto upto the said Archbishop and the parish priest and their successors in office to hold the same upon trust in concert with Kumar S. N. S. Rikh and his Roman Catholic heirs or, whomsoever he may appoint by will or otherwise the lambadari to vest in Kumar S. N. S. Rikh or his heir who after payment of the government Revenue will pay in the profits in four instalments that is to say the 20th January, 20th February May 20th November of each year to the parish priest or to his account in the Allahabad Bank at Moradabad and in the event of a delay of more than three months when any such instalments fall due interest at rate of five per cent per annum will be due on each such instalments in addition.

6. The entire income of the property detailed in Schedule I hereto shall be applied towards the maintenance of the Church and incidental expenses of the Mission in charge of the parish priest at Tajpur: and in case of increase in the income the amount over and above shall be paid to the Hon. Raja F. X. S. Rikh or his heirs.

7. Out of the income of the property detailed in Schedule 11 hereto the sum of Rupees Twelve hundred annually shall be applied towards the maintenance of the Church and incidental expenses of the Mission in charge of the parish priest at Tajpur and the balance paid to Kumar S.N.S. Rikh and his heirs.

8. The Hon. Raja F.X.S. Rikh and Kumar S.N.S. Rikh hereby covenant with the Archbishop that they have not executed or done knowing in title estate or otherwise or whereby reason where of the donors are any wise hindered from conveying the said hereditaments or any part thereof in manner aforesaid.

IN WITNESS whereof the Archbishop and the parish have first hereunto set their hands seal in presence of two witnesses and the other parties have thereafter set their hands and seals.

Among these documents that I received there are picture taken on the day of the inauguration or blessing of the Church. One in particular shows the most certainly was put up later but we have no details at all.

I would in conclusion like to quote a part prayer my mother said:

“ And when the hour of parting comes, or when death shall bring bereavement to our home, we shall all both that go, and those that remain be resigned to the eternal decrees, one thought will uphold us, that a day will come when our family, reunited in Heaven, shall sing for ever They glories and bounties”.

We will then have all the answers!


4 December 2013 •


The Tajpur Link

A virtual prince, Father P.S. Sinha used to come all the way from Raja-ka-Tajpur in Bijnor district to collect oil for prayers from Delhi church. The Raja, Sir Francis Xavier Shiam Rikh was descended from the Choudhurys of Tajpur, who were Tyagi Brahmins. The Raja became a Catholic, along with his brother, Sir Sylvester Norman Shivnath Rikh towards the end of the 19th century. Father Sinha, the Raja's adopted son, was a clean-shaven priest, like Father Daniel. Now to sum up: Father Adeodatus was murdered at the age of 80 when he accosted burglars in the Begum's church at Sardhana. Another Italian priest, Father Leo too lost his life to a burglar. The other priests mentioned in this piece also are no more. But old timers still remember them and the way they made the church echo to the Gregorian chant - and recited the passion of Christ on Good Friday. Now the Mass is in English, Hindi, Tamil, Malayalam or in some other Indian language but the ritual is just as solemn at the Sacred Heart Cathedral, though one misses the haunting strains of the Gregorian chant, named after Pope Gregory I of the early years of the Christian Calendar.

However the old pulpit in the cathedral is still there as a reminder of the times when a priest climbed the stairs of the exquisite wooden structure to preach to the congregation. It is hardly used now after the installation of a mike on the altar. But the pulpit at the Agra church has unfortunately been pulled down in the zeal to impact a modernistic look to the church, though it was even more elaborately made and was much older, being a symbol of an age when loudspeakers were not even thought of.

Father Adeodatus, an Italian of the order of Friars Minor Capuchin, had become almost Indian by long association with the peasants and spoke the rural Delhi dialect to perfection. His hair-cut too was like them and he sang hymns in the Dehati baritone, clapping his hands in rhythm with the beat of the dholak, 70 miles from the Capital, where he ate thick rotis (tikkar) and onions for dinner and did not say "No" if the indulgent villagers offered him the local brew (tharra) on Sundays and feast days. A small man, he donned a saffron cassock and knew seven languages, including English, Latin and French, besides Urdu, Parsi, Hindi and Sanskrit. Along with Father Anthony Pearey Lal, he was brought up as an orphan by the Catholic Church.

Father Gabriel was handsome, who gave the impression of being a strict disciplinarian. His sturdy build, close-cropped beard and piercing blue eye added to his dignity. If memory serves right he was in charge of a church 250 miles from the Capital. He, however, came here often, especially to St. Mary's Church, near Delhi Main Station. Father Bonaventure was an Anglo-Indian who looked after the parish Gwalior. A tall, suave man he was educated at St. Peter's College, Agra and was conspicuous in Connaught Place in the sola topi and brown cassock he wore in all seasons. Another distinguishing feature was his long grey beard. His father, Father Juke, who supervised the construction of Delhi Cathedral, is remembered for the hot cross buns distributed by him on Good Frida