Believing the adage, ‘When in Rome, do as Romans do’, enterprising South Korean students and professionals who have made Pune their home have succeeded in ‘When in Pune, do as Koreans do’ when it comes to offering Sunday Mass, at least.
Interestingly, they have chosen one of the least known churches, tucked innocuously in the very heart of the city – the Deshpande Church located in 1365, Kasba Peth, which comes under the Church of North India (CNI).
Every Sunday morning, between 10 a m and 11 a m, 30 odd Koreans throng Deshpande Church where Mass is read out in Korean. For this, the priest too has been brought from South Korea. He is Rev Dr Mozes B.T Kim who has just left for his country for a sabbatical. In his place, Rev Steven Lee, who is also pursing his studies here, has taken over!
The story dates back to September 2003, until which time, the minuscule Korean community of Pune used to attend Sunday Mass in several churches specially the All Saint’s Church in Khadki, says Reverend Surendra Londha. However, they were unhappy to attend Mass in English and were looking around for a church which would hire out its premises for an hour or two on Sunday mornings.
Says Choi, former director, LG which has a huge set up in Ranjangaon, ‘‘I was in search of a church which would allow us to conduct Mass in Korean. When I was in Delhi, someone told me about the Deshpande Church. The trustees agreed to hire it out to us on Sunday mornings.’’ Thus was born the Korean Fellowship Church, the members of which congregated here on September 2003.
Adds Samuel Ohol, manager of the Deshpande Church, ‘‘We have our Sunday Marathi Mass on Sunday evenings, so we had no problems hiring it out, which is done at a very nominal rate. States Surendra Londhe, caretaker of the Church, ‘‘The Koreans also undertake philanthropic activity in several organisations.’’
‘‘The Christ Prem Seva in Shivajingar and a church in Sangvi also holds prayers in Korean, though Deshpande Church is the most sought after spot,” says Ohol. “This Korean community is very well knit and every Sunday, after the Mass, they meet at a place on Fergusson College Road, where they share an authentic Korean meal, flown by air, once a week.’’
Says present priest Steven Lee, ‘‘Deshpande Church has become a prime meeting place, where Koreans feel at home.”
Church came up in memory of Rev Deshpande
Reverend Ramchandra Prahlad Deshpande, the man behind the church, was was originally from Nagpur. He converted to Christianity and came to Pune in 1917. He worked as a priest with Christ Church in Rasta Peth and was known as a philanthropist. He died on June 25, 1949. Thereafter, the Christ Church split into two factions in 1959. In 1967, one of the factions established Brother Deshpande Memorial Church, in the memory of Reverend Deshpande. It became operational in 1969. —ENS