Fr. Peter Paul Van Nuffel S.J. (1929-2013)
Fr. Peter Paul Van Nuffle, S.J. was popularly known as ‘BANFAL’ born on February 11, 1929, in Aalst, a small town in east Flanders, Belgium. He completed his primary and High school education form Aalst, Belgium during the years 1942-1947.
Fr. Van Nuffel became a Jesuits and applied to be sent as a missionary to the far off India. He did his Novitiate from Drongen, Belgium and pronounced his first Vows on 08-09-1949. He completed his juniorate studies from Louvain, Belgium in the year 1949-1950.
Mission to India
In Louvain itself he completed the first half of his college studies in the year 1950-1951 as well as his classical philosophy during the year 1951-1952. His request to come to India as a missionary was granted. He left for India in the year 1952 together with Brother De Bock, S.J. by cargo ship. It took five full weeks for them to reach Mumbai. Once in India, with a view to learn Hindi language, he continued his college studies from St. Xavier’s College, Ranchi (I.A. Hindi)b in the years 1952-1954 and during this period he also completed his philosophy studies from Sacred Heart College, Shembaganur (1953- 1954).
He was in St. Albert’s College in 1954 for a short period of regency before completing his B.A. in Hindi and Sanskrit from St. Xavier’s College, Bombay. After he had finished his college studies and philosophy, he did one year of regency in Apostolic School , Gumla in the Year 1956-1957. He was in De Nobili college, Pune for his theology during the years 1958- 1962. He was ordained a priest on 24 March 1961 in St. Mary’s Cathedral, Ranchi and took his final vows on 2 February, 1966 in St. Ignatius’ High School, Gumla.
He was 84 years old. He was 65 years a Jesuit and was able to offer 52 valuable years of service as priest. Of the 52 years of his Priestly career, he spent 48 memorable years in St. Ignatius’ High school, Gumla. Gumla was his love. It is here that he worked in different capacities: as the director of Apostolic School (1965-1973), as the Rector and Headmaster of St. Ignatius ‘ High School, and as the headmaster of St. Ignatius’ High School (1982-1987) and as the Director, AROUSE and Jeevan Pravesh (1987-2013).
As a visionary and educationist
He was a great visionary and educationist. He saw visions of excellence and of offering quality service to the students and the people of the area in general. In his methodology and approach to education, promoting the confidence of the Students through extra-curricular activities found an important place. It was during his tenure as a Headmaster, the students not only started shining academically but also Gumla came to be known as “Krira Nagri” (City of sports and Games) at the national and international levels. For him value education and social outreach were important aspects of any education. On the occasion of his birthday on 2 February, 2012, he said in his sermon, “All through life have been an inveterate visionary and a stubborn dreamer, so in order to make sure that I took the correct approach to my apostolic endeavour I opted even when I was the headmaster of St. Ignatius’ High School, to start AROUSE, the Social outreach programme for the uplift of the neighboring aboriginal villagers, as I had come to realize they where “the last, the least and the lost”, the most in need of my preferential attention. I also took care to revamp the school itself, brushing it up and making it a quality school with a clear social service orientation.”
As a sportsmanship
For the general public of Gumla, he was a great sportsperson as well. It was a joy to see him on the football ground umpiring in big matches which he did so very efficiently and skillfully.
“Chakravyudha” (Inter School Athletic Competition) was started by him way back in 1969 which was instrumental in promoting many athletes, both men and women of quality from the area who made for themselves a name in the national and international arena. In the year 1978, he hosted all India rural games which earned national and international reputation. It was because of his interests and efforts that the hockey and football teams of St. Ignatius’ High School, Gumla won many laurels for the school between the years 1987 to 2006. The year 1993 will remain unforgettable in the history of games of St. Ignatius’ High School, Gumla when it had defeated Uzbekistan and clinched the most coveted “Subroto Mukharjee Cup” football trophy. In whichever capacity he worked, he had a knack of identifying talents and promoting them. It was due to his efforts that many students got favourable opportunities to shine and flourish in their life.
As Multifaceted person
Fr. Peter Paul Van Nuffel himself was a multi-faceted personality, an artist, a dramatist (Kele ke Chilke’, ‘Badalta Kila’, ‘Bujho Re Thatholi’, ‘Utha Toofan Jaga Insan’ and Tote Daine’ are the popular plays in Hindi that he himself has written), a musician, a thinker, a scholar and writer, a photographer, a sportsman, a very good administrator and a disciplinarian and a man who had a lot love for “the last, lost and the least”. In the last years of his life he had been thinking a lot about doing something for the development of the ‘Asur’ tribals who are on the verge of extinction from the history of humanity and to that effect a project had already been planned out by him.
Fr. Peter Van Nuffel himself was a great achiever and a man of action. Ignatian Magis was his motto. Whatever he put his hands on, he consistently worked hard towards achieving it with a great sense of love and devotion. The result was excellence. In 1977 he received the most coveted “the best School Principal of Bihar” award from Mr. Jagnnath Mishra, the then Chief Minister of Undivided Bihar for the excellent performance by the students in matriculation Examination He was honoured with the “Golden Man” award by Sangam Sanskrit Sansthan, Gumla in the year 2004. On 13 December, 2006 he was awarded with “Jharkhand Ratna” award by Lok Sewa Samiti, Ranchi on 13 December, 2006 for his Commendable service in the areas of education and Social Service. The Belgian Government conferred on him the “Knight of the Crown Order”, Through PM Guy Verhofstadt in New Delhi on 30 December, 2006 for his contribution to education and social work in New Delhi which is Belgium ‘s Highest Civilian Award.
Inception of AROUSE
In 1978, he started AROUSE (Animation Rural Outreach Service), Gumla as the Headmaster of the School as a unit of St. Ignatius High School, Gumla. Jeevan Pravesh (Life Orientation Workshops for class IX and X students) almost began simultaneously. The Jeevan Pravesh Seminar Team was formed also with a pronounced social outreach slant. He started ‘Injot Dahar’ (adult education) programme in 1978 with 30 adult literacy centers: an approach “each one Teach One” in the area. This was the birth of Animation Rural Outreach Service (AROUSE). At the beginning stage he had to run after the villagers but later on the children began to run after him. Slowly expanded its activities by establishing ‘Balwadis’ in different village, Organize village communities for their own development, creating awareness about values of their cultures through different programmes, skill training and entrepreneurship development projects, conducting legal literacy seminars/workshops, formation of Women Self Help Groups and bank linkage introducing micro-economic projects like sericulture cultivation, silk sari production, watershed management and allied economic activities, food processing unit, audio-video production unit, etc.
AROUSE Silk is still a brand name which enjoys recognition in the market all over the country. Our Late Prime Minister Rajiv Gandhi and Mrs. Sonia Gandhi paid a visit to Gumla and were much impressed by the sericulture cultivation in the area. Mr. Prabhat Kumar, the first Governor of Jharkhand had visited AROUSE and was in all praise for its silk processing unit. AROUSE was awarded National Baldeo Das Shah Award for the year 1998-1999 for its excellence in promoting sericulture. It is a unique gift from him and expression of his love for his tribal brothers and sisters in Jharkhand in the last years of his life he totally applied himself and saw to it that this dream comes true.
He believed that concrete step will be made in the direction of truly democratic, participative development: by the villagers for the villagers, of the, of the villagers. AROUSE will have to play its part by ear: the less the visibility of the organization the better for the programme. He said in voice AROUSE work as a facilitator and his dialog was “Aap karei Hum Saath Denge” (You do, We are with You”).
A true Indian
Though he was Belgian, he always considered himself an Indian and indeed dedicated his life entirely for the betterment of India “I was born in Belgian, but I am an Indian to my heart and bone and I wish to die in India”, said Fr. Peter Paul Van Nuffel, S.J. while talking to a writer who interviewed him in 1996 (profile: Jivan, July 2001). On his birth day on February 11, 2012, He told “the greatest gift India has given me and which I received through the intermediary of my tribal brothers and sisters, with whom I was privileged to spend my life all these sixty years. They imparted to me the gift of an active, all pervading community life. Tribal’s are community-people, it is ingrained in them they work, they relax, they enjoy, they celebrate and they grieve in community: the whole village shares in an individual’s life. In our present age of blatant individualism this is a priceless treasure, to be safeguarded by all means. I am convinced of the paramount importance of community life for our postmodern individualistic age and I regret that due to my diabetic constraints, I fail to be a better community man. I am not idealizing the tribal’s, I know their weakness: the booze, the evil eye and the occasional discords. But these are marginal. What stands out is the basic quality, the inborn care for justice, and the sense of hospitality shown to humans, animals and nature alike. This I believe is the most precious gift India has given me: the gift of an honest, welcoming community life, a life of appreciation and closeness to nature and its treasures, and last but not the least, a life of rootedness in the ancestral traditions. I am gratefully aware that I have received this gift via my tribal brothers and sisters of the Lievens Mission.”
End of Journey An era of great visions and accomplishments has come to an end with the sad demise of Fr. Peter Paul Van Nuffel, S.J. He suffered from diabetes for a long time. He was able to put up a good fight because of his discipline and regularity in life. He never compromised with his works on account of his sickness. He always gave his beat. He was admitted in Orchid Hospital on august 16, 2013 with high diabetes and respiratory problem from which he never recovered. Strengthened by the sacrament of the sick he expired on September 3, 2013 at 8.45 a.m. in the hospital. What he said to JIVAN (July, 2001), “I would tell my Jesuit friends, not to forget the way to the chapel and to the library, will always keep us inspiring According to him serious reading makes us knowledgeable and provides focus for our apostolate. More important still is our prayer-life, our moments with Jesus. From these we draw spirit’s strength that gives the truth to our vision and work. May he be blessed by God with eternal happiness in his kingdom.