HISTORY OF RANCHI ARCHDIOCESE
The Archdiocese of Ranchi comprises of the Civil District of Ranchi (minus Khunti Subdivision) and the District of Lohardaga.
The first Belgian Jesuit to enter Chotanagpur was Fr. Auguste Stockman. He traveled by the bullock cart from Midnapur and after a difficult journey of a fortnight reached Chaibasa (now in the Diocese of Jamshedpur) on Nov. 25, 1868 for a brief visit. He settled down at Chaibasa on 10.07.1869. The first Munda converts were baptized on 08.11.1873. His work among the Ho tribe did not yield results, so he moved towards the Ranchi District in January 1875. Other Belgian Jesuits came to Ranchi in 1877 to act as military chaplains to the troops at Doranda (Ranchi). As the prospects of evangelization among the tribals of Chotanagpur were bright, the first mission stations were opened among the Mundas. However, the real impetus came from Fr. Constant Lievens, who arrived at Doranda on March 18,1885. He is often called Apostle of Chotanagpur.
To assist the missionaries, the Irish Loreto Sisters from Calcutta opened at Convent on Purulia Road, Ranchi. It was here that the Daughters of St. Anne, a Diocesan Congregation had their beginning in 1897. The Ursuline Sisters of Tildonk, Belgium replaced the Loreto nuns in the same compound in 1903. By 1927 the Ranchi Mission had developed to such an extent that by decree of the Holy See, dated May 25, 1927, it was separated from the Calcutta Archdiocese to form a new Diocese with Ranchi as its Episcopal seat and Msgr. Louis Van Hoeck as the first bishop. He was succeeded by Rt. Rev. O. Sevrin in 1934, who was pastor for 18 years (1934-1952).
As the faith spread and took firm root in Chotanagpur, the Catholic Church was being built up and developed, especially through parishes and schools. Soon the rapid growth of the mission made it imperative to call in other labourers, the S.V.D. Fathers, the Australian and American Jesuits, etc. For better pastoral care of the faithful, the vast Archdiocese of Ranchi was divided and on June 14,1951, the Diocese of Sambalpur and on December 13, 1951, the Diocese of Raigarh-Ambikapur were created.
On September 3, 1952, the Diocese of Ranchi was raised to the status of an Archdiocese with Sambalpur and Cuttack as its suffragans. On July 2, 1962, the Diocese of Jamshedpur was created. Then in 1968, the Diocese of Patna and Bhagalpur and the Prefecture of Balasore were made suffragans of Ranchi Archdiocese. Again in 1971, the Diocese of Daltonganj, comprising the civil districts of Hazaribag and Palamau was carved out of the Archdiocese of Ranchi. In 1980, Muzaffarpur Diocese was formed from a part of Patna Diocese and made suffragans of Ranchi Archdiocese.
The 350 Andamans and Nicobar Islands, formerly under Rangoon, became part of Ranchi only in 1947. They were, since 1966, under the care of the Pilar Fathers, and became a new diocese in 1984, on June 22nd. On July 1, 1993, two new Dioceses, Gumla and Simdega, were established with territories taken from the Ranchi Archdiocese.
On May 12, 1995 the new Diocese of Khunti was established with territories taken from the Archdiocese of Ranchi. It comprises the whole Khunti civil Sub-division. In the same year Hazaribag became separate Diocese. On March 16, 1999 the Ranchi Ecclesiastical Province was bifurcated when Patna was made a separate Archdiocese with Bettiah, Bhagalpur, Muzaffarpur and Purnea as its suffragans.
Thus the original Ranchi Mission has by now given birth to 11 Dioceses including the present Archdiocese of Ranchi, with at least one more being expected.