President Ram Baran Yadav of Nepal, left, attends the 60th anniversary celebration of the Jesuits' service in the country
The Nepal Jesuit Society yesterday celebrated a milestone in its service when the Republic of Nepal’s first president Ram Baran Yadav graced the 60th anniversary function on the St Xavier’s School grounds in Jawalakhel, Kathmandu. Sixty years after Jesuit Frs Marshall D Moran, Francis Murphy and Ed Saxton first arrived in Kathmandu and set up the St Xavier’s School with 65 students in Godavari, 15km north of Kathmandu, there has been no looking back for the Nepal Jesuit Society (NJS). Owing to the steady growth in the number of students, the primary section of the Godavari school was shifted to Jawalakhel in 1954. “The NJS sapling planted by the three Fathers in 1951 has today grown into a beautiful tree with branches spread all over Nepal,” said Fr Amrit Rai SJ, the principal of St Xavier’s School. The past 60 years have not always been kind to the society, Fr Rai noted. “If the country is soaked in the sweat of the [Jesuit] Fathers and Brothers, the land is also soaked in Fr Gafney’s blood,” he said, referring to Fr Thomas E Gafney, an American-born Jesuit priest who was found murdered at his residence in Kathmandu in December 1997. In an address during yesterday’s celebration, President Yadav lauded the work of the Jesuits and said the NJS brought about a revolution in the education system of the country. “Nepal has always been a land of tolerance and religious harmony ... with people allowed to practice the faith of their choice without fear,” he said. The Maoists in Nepal waged a 10-year-long insurgency that ended with the government and the former rebels signing a peace accord in 2006. Subsequently, a freshly elected assembly in 2008 abolished the 239-year-old monarchy in Nepal and declared the then Hindu kingdom a republic. Apart from the two schools in Godavari and Jawalakhel and two more in Jhapa district in Eastern Nepal, the Jesuits run a social service centre, a drug rehabilitation centre, a centre for the sick and elderly, and the Human Resource Development Centre in Kathmandu. They also run a child care centre in Pokhara in western Nepal, while around 3,500 students pursue higher education at the St Xavier’s College in Kathmandu.