Revisiting our cradle

St Joseph's College, Prayagraj building

I marvel at the way people reach out in wondrous ways. I met Fr Alfonso Elengikal, the Chief Editor of The Teenager Today for the very first time at St Joseph’s College, Prayagraj (previously Allahabad), last month, when he was introduced to me by our Principal.

Within minutes, I could feel the passion on his face, the vibration of love for his work as a prolific writer and an editor. Talking to him, I could also easily understand that writing and reaching out to others is his sacred indulgence. As author of four best-selling books and Editor of The Teenager Today for nearly two decades, he has rendered invaluable service to the young people of the country. With him as the Editor, for the third time now, the magazine is reaching out to millions of readers, particularly young people, across the country.

It made me doubly happy to know that he was visiting our College (St Joseph’s College) to revive the golden memories of the Institution where The Teenager Today (The Teenager, till a decade ago) was born, and spread its wings to reach out to young people all over India, fifty-six years ago. Though I am a teacher at St Joseph’s College for more than twenty-five years now, the fact that our College was the birthplace of The Teenager was totally a new revelation to me and, I guess, to most of the teachers and students of the College, today. This is the context in which I am venturing to write this article, by way of revisiting the birthplace and the cradle of the oldest-surviving and the most popular magazine for teenagers in the country.

It was on 1 November 1963, that the magazine was released (printed and published by the then St Paul Publications, Allahahad) at St Joseph’s College, with Fr J. Maurus, popular author, and Fr Aloysius G. Rego, Headmaster, St Joseph’s College, as its founding fathers. As a true educator par excellence, Fr Rego, as he was fondly known, had initiated League of Goodness with the motto ‘Let Your Light Shine’ and a small publication titled Excelsior, which in a way became the forerunner of The Teenager. Fr J. Maurus was its printer and publisher while Fr Aloysius Rego, with his vast knowledge of English, took on the onus of being its editor. Before the office was shifted to Mumbai, the magazine continued to be printed at St Pauls Printing Press at Chatham Lines, Allahabad.

The infant magazine was nurtured in the hallowed portals of the institution founded in 1884 — St Joseph’s College, Allahabad, under the tutelage of Fr Aloysius Rego, a learned teacher and a humble human being, who though I’ve never met, of whom I’ve heard volumes. To sum up, he was a strict disciplinarian with an extraordinary knowledge of and love for English language, an unparalleled educationist and a great visionary. Having had many family members and friends pass through the portals of the College, I have been very fortunate to pick up valuable crumbs. This led me to take a sneak into his valuable contributions to the College by speaking to his old boys. He introduced the concept of a School Parliament — a complete replica of the original, at least as far as its functioning was concerned. When mired in uncertainty about the English Language, his students would turn to him knowing fully well that he had solutions to their problems at the tip of his tongue. Such was his mastery over the language.

St Mary's Convent College, Prayagraj building
St Mary’s Convent School, Prayagraj

When it came to the growth of the spread of The Teenager, Fr Rego had the full support of the Principals and teachers of the adjacent St Mary’s Convent School, my own alma mater, managed by the Institute of the Blessed Virgin Mary (IBMV), now known as the Congregation of Jesus (CJ). The Principals of the School, those days, not only saw that all the senior class students got a copy of the magazine, but also saw to it that The Teenager reached all the schools run by the IBMV Sisters: Kanpur, Lucknow, Sikkim, Kathmandu in Nepal, Patna, Jhansi and even Bombay of those days. As a former student of St Mary’s School, Allahabad, I still have vivid and fond memories of going around distributing the magazine to the students, every month. We even competed with each other as to who sold more copies! Many of us students also contributed poems, short articles on various topics, as we were encouraged to so by our teachers. Even today, I treasure some copies of the magazine in which my poems were published.

The history of the birthplace

Fr Thomas Kumar’s success as Principal in various educational institutions stems from his hard work that goes into making teaching an effective art and a valuable tool, igniting young minds to influence and touch lives. He is a firm believer in an educational system which gives not only mere information to students, but also works towards their formation, laying stress not just on academic excellence but more on “character formation with academic excellence”. According to him, no educationist, policy-maker, teacher or parent would argue for a value-less system of education.

St Joseph’s College, founded in 1884, by the Capuchin Friars of the Province of Ancona and Bologna, Italy, is an English Medium College owned and managed by the Roman Catholic Diocese of Allahabad. Though a minority institution for boys, its portals are open to all without discrimination of caste, creed and culture. The College has nurtured students through the 20th century and flourishes in the 21st century, with an unblemished service to the cause of education.

It began as a small school, first located in a rented house. The foundation stone for a new building was laid on 1 January 1884. Bishop Angelo Poli, the then Bishop of Allahabad, called this little school St Joseph’s Collegiate. In 1887, it became a Middle School recognized as ‘European High School’ affiliated to the Cambridge University. In 1907, it directly came under the Bishop of the Roman Catholic Diocese of Allahabad. It was handed over to the Irish Christian Brothers of Nainital in 1908, who looked after it till 1916. With a boarding of 26 students, the number went up to 63 in 1920. Fr Camilus, OFM Cap., extended the school building in 1922 and with the coming of Msgr. O’Hogan as the new Headmaster in 1921, the school reached the pinnacle of glory and continues to stand tall today owing to the hard work and dedication of all the Principals, Vice Principals, Headmasters and Teachers, who have left no stone unturned in imparting knowledge, through value-based instruction to over 5000 students.

St Joseph's College, Prayagraj, school captains

“We endeavour to mould young minds by strengthening them socially, morally, emotionally and intellectually, presenting to the society at large,” says Fr Thomas Kumar, the Principal of the College, a man of principles and firm conviction. He adds, “Every Josephite is trained to live up to the motto of the Institution, Semper Sursum, a Latin phrase which in English means ‘Always Aim High’.

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Linda Shane Gaffney regularly writes poetry, and also contributes articles to magazines and periodicals, besides editing books and magazines.

Linda Shane Gaffney

Linda Shane Gaffney regularly writes poetry, and also contributes articles to magazines and periodicals, besides editing books and magazines.