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History of St. Joseph Church, Lonavala
Rev. Fr. Nicholas Pagani states in The Examiner of 9th March, 1867, that his predecessor had sent a petition to the Government requesting for a grant of land to build a Chapel at Lonavla formerly called Lonawli. He further states that he administered to a congregation of 150 Catholics.
The Chapel, which was named St. Joseph's Church, was handed over to Rev. Fr. Anaclete de Monte, a secular priest. In 1911, the Parish House and the school underwent complete renovation under the care of Rev. Fr. J. B. Sleen S.J. An English medium school started functioning sometime around 1883 and 1891, and was attended by about 55 students. Today the parish is proud of a primary school with classes from Std. I – IV, which was built in 1996.
The Parish has 200 Catholic families (900 Catholics). The Parish has a Christian cemetery near Ryewood Park, this also belongs to other Christian denominations of Lonavla.
Khandala consists as a sub-station to Lonavla, but today it belongs to the Archdiocese of Bombay. Between Khandala and Lonavla across a ravine is the Kune Kathkari tribal settlement, which grew out of a mission endeavor started in the jungles in 1900. This Kune village is looked after by the Jesuit Congregation and Salesian Sisters and comes under the Archdiocese of Bombay.
In 1971, Rev. Fr. Gregory Jose renovated the main altar and erected the large crucifix in the sanctuary. A 10 feet wooden loft which accommodated the choir was demolished and the entrance of the Church was reconstructed and extended and the compound was fenced. In 1978, Rev. Fr. Raul Dias renovated the sanctuary and built the permanent altar in marble. A modem grotto to the left of the Church was also constructed in the same year. In 1991, Rev. Fr. Fernando da Costa renovated the kitchen, the rectory, toilets and the facade. In 1994, under the guidance of Rev. Fr. William Fernandes, a primary school was built and completed in 1996. In 1999, the late Rev. Fr. John Joseph built a permanent concrete stage where all the major open-air Church services are held.
In the year 2001, Fr. Edwin Joseph renovated the Church and the Parish House viz. extension to the Church, change of roof, electrical wiring, and new aluminum windows, entrance door, temporary shed round the Church and Shahabad flooring round the Church.
The Parish school got three new classrooms with which the school building was completed, painted and was inaugurated by the Bishop on 20th February, 2002. A dome was built on the school building so that the center quadrangle with a stage provided; could be used for assembly, school competitions and functions even on rainy days.
In 2005 the Church Sanctuary was totally renovated with special places for both the Tabernacle and the Bible.
In 2007 the Grotto Statue was replaced with an identical Fiberglass statue so also the Statue of the Sacred Heart was replaced with an identical Fiberglass statue. Both the statues were made by Sr. Vimla of Prathanalaya, Bandra, Mumbai.
These following religious institutions are attached to the parish:
The present Clergy of the Parish is Rev. Fr. Wilfred Fernandes.