Debono, Anthony (25.2.1887-14.7.1956)

Jesuit missionary

Debono was born at Victoria, Gozo and educated at the Gozo Seminary. He joined the Society of Jesus in 1904 and studied in Italy and the UK, being ordained priest in 1920. At his own request, in 1924 he was sent to thmissions in India and in 1925 he was posted to Majlispur. Here he began the Herculean task of building up the mission, inexperienced as he was and at first single-handed, in the face of opposition from many quarters. On one occasion he was forcibly detained. In spite of all this in 11 years he recovered the expropriated land, set the mission on its feet, built a church and a convent, and opened two schools, at the same time touring his vast parish on foot, on bicycle, or on bullock cart.

Debono's work was eventually recognized by the civil authorities: he was asked to sit on the district board and the education committee of Purnea District, and was also appointed an honorary magistrate.

In 1936, for reasons of health, a change became imperative and Debono was assigned to work in a parish in Calcutta. In 1947 he returned to Malta for a rest, but was back in India in 1948 when he took on the task of opening the mission of Calimpur. As before, his dynamism and love of the people worked wonders, but in 1956 his health broke down and he was taken to St Xavier's College in Calcutta where he spent his last days.

Source: Maltese Biographies of the Twentieth Century (1997), editors Michael J. Schiavone and Louis J. Scerri

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