Fr. Urban Stein S.J
The Early Years
Fr Urban Stein was born in Cologne on the Rhine, called German Rome on August 21, 1845, of John Stein and Anna Elizabeth Durst. Right in his early years his pious parents left an indelible impression on him of their own simple piety and profound faith. At the devotional level his Christian life was built on a double foundation: a tender love for the Blessed Virgin and a singularly personal love for the Saviour in the Eucharist.
Vocation And Mission
The boy Urban did his early studies at the Gymnasium of St Marcellus, formerly a Jesuit high School and at the age of 17 decided to join the Society of Jesus. On September 30, 1862 he joined the novitiate on the Friedrichsburg near Munster, Westphalia. His affability and refinement endeared him to all. Those who knew him well could also find in him a singleness of purpose, an unquestioning submission of himself to the demands of obedience and a burning zeal for the 'salvation of souls'. He pronounced his first vows on October 10, 1864 which was followed by further studies. He often exclaimed how privileged he would be if his Superiors thought fit to send him on foreign missions. His wish was fulfilled when on completion of his philosophical studies he was sent to Bombay, India. Urban worked incessantly combining active work with his theological studies and was ordained priest on December 22, 1876. On December 26, 1878 he came to Mangalore with the group of other Jesuits as Mangalore mission was then entrusted to the Jesuits. The youngest of the lot, hardly two years a priest, he had already proved his mettle to be entrusted with the responsibility of the largest and most important of the parishes in the vicariate - the Cathedral, dedicated to our Lady of Rosary.
Fr Stein had turned but thirty-four when he was made parish priest. Going round his parish and studying the state of affairs he did not have to wait long to realize that the neglect of spiritual life was the fountainhead of the evil in the parish. Day in and day out, using any means of contact at his disposal, he underscored the indispensability of the frequentation of the sacraments. Fr Stein's love of the Eucharist was so infectious that his flock responded with almost equal fervor. In a short period of time he brought about such a spiritual revival in his parish that it spread to other neighbouring parishes too.
Founding the Ursulines
He had a flock in his vast parish, with its multiple needs which must be attended to as effectively and expeditiously as possible. He needed others to join hands with him in this great task. There were a number of young Catholic ladies who on one hand unprepared to enter marital life and on the other unwilling for good reasons to enter a convent. It is to these he turned for help. His mind went back to his native city Cologne and the good work the Ursulines had been doing there. Obviously too he was conversant with the spirit and apostolate of Angela Merici realized so worthily by the Ursulines of Brescia and other places in Italy and Europe in general. Given his own Jusuit background which is apostolic through and through he started a pious association of ladies in the spirit of the Ursulines on Easter April 10, 1887.
His Last Days
Then the tragedy struck. His Superiors sent Fr Stein to Goa to obtain the documents and certificates from the Archbishop of Goa to pursue the case of the Padroadists who had refused to submit to the jurisdiction of the new Bishop appointed by the Propaganda namely Mgr Nicholas Maria Pagani. On his return to Mangalore he took a country boat as he could not secure a convenient ship. It was a fatal decision. His health broke down during the voyage. A relentlessly scorching and searing sun was too much for a Westerner. When he arrived in Mangalore on October 16, 1888 he was already in the jaws of death. Even to his last breath, however Fr Stein was a model of resignation and humility. He passed away on October 21, 1888, the feast of St Ursula.
PASTORAL WORKS OF FR STEIN
- Effective Teaching of Catechism
- Practice of Monthly Communion day, full day Adoration
- Regular participation in the Sacrament of Penance and Eucharist
- Visits to the sick
- Establishing the sodality of the Blessed Virgin Mary, Congregation of the Sacred Heart, Sodality of St Joseph for Tailors, Sodality of the Children of Mary for girls
- Library with Catholic literature
- Organizing Teachers for Christian Doctrine
- Promotion of Secular Education
- Founding the Company of St Ursula
- Solemnizing the ceremonies with festivities and several processions
- Repairs of the Cathedral
Mother Nympha Fernandez
Mother Nympha Fernandes is the first Superior of the nascent company, pioneer and a transformative as well as innovative leader. “Humanly speaking, no one perhaps has contributed to and deserved well of the Company, particularly in those years of its infancy, as much as Mother Nympha Fernandez.” (Branch of the vine, fruit of the Branch). These words impress us much and make us go back on how much Mother Nympha has contributed to the growth of the Company in its early years. True to her name she possessed the heart of a mother which she proved by her concern for each of the members. It was both fruit and cause of her inner spirit. She was drawing constant strength from the Eucharist. Her courage speaks louder and stronger in the manner she kept the little band alive and moving forward when Fr Urban Stein our founder died within a year.
Mother Nympha was born on October 25, 1850 in Mangalore. Her parents were John Francis Fernandes and Anna Lobo. All that we know of her early life is that she received her early education at the hands of the Sisters of St Joseph of the Apparition. When, however these Sisters left the Diocese and were replaced by the Carmelite Tertiaries Nympha carried on her schooling with the latter. The Sisters soon started the Sodality of the Children of Mary and we find Nympha as its first president. She gave proof of her leadership qualities so convincingly in this office that she was re-elected several times subsequently. She joined the pious association of St Ursula. As for generosity she was ready for any sacrifice for Christ. Perhaps here lay the secret of her decision. This and possibly also the personality of Fr Stein influenced and proved a challenge to this exceptionally generous soul.
The influence of Fr Stein personally wielded on Nympha must have been as deep as it was short-lived. Apparently it was he who was instrumental in the choice of her as the superior of the Company. The choice proved providential. When Fr Stein met untimely death the Company naturally felt orphaned. However it did not turn out to be a foundling, thanks to its young and wise Superior. She held the little band together and kept the rest of them, she moulded each in the ideal their founder had set the rest of them.