PROVINCE OF INDIA - NORTH
2003 Membership - 1 bishop, 71 priests, 4 brothers, 31 in formation
The Indian Province of the C.M. has its origin in the arrival of a group of four Spanish Vincentians from the Madrid Province to Berhampur, on the 10th January 1922. They began their apostolate in the central and southern part of coastal Orissa, on the East Coast of India. At the time the pastoral administration of the area was entrusted to the Missionaries of St. Francis de Sales. As the enthusiastic Vincentian missionaries engaged themselves in active evangelization, they were joined by more confreres from Spain. The Confreres took over parishes and eventually the entire area, known as the Cuttack Mission.
The early missionaries set about spreading the message of the Gospel and strengthening the faith of the existing believers. Education of children, especially in the rural areas, was considered a top priority and to this effect schools, hostels and orphanages were started. Education and other developmental works were considered as essential components of active evangelization. Thus virtually there were no mission centres without an educational institution being attached to it. This emphasis on overall human development within the perspective of evangelization has remained to the present day.
In 1937 Cuttack was elevated to the status of a Diocese with Florencio Sanz, C.M. as its first Bishop. In 1974 Berhampur was bifurcated and made a diocese with Msgr.Thomas Thiruthalil, C. M. as its Bishop, while Cuttack was raised to the status of archdiocese. In the meantime in 1968 Balasore, in the northern part of coastal Orissa, was declared an Apostolic Prefecture and Jacob Vadakeveetil, C.M. was appointed as its administrator. Balasore was made a diocese in 1990. Thus the entire coastal Orissa, the work place of the Vincentian Missionaries, gained ecclesiastical status within the Church in India. However, the activities of the Missionaries had also spread far and wide, especially into the rural and mountain ranges of Orissa.
From 1922 till 1953 the Spanish Confreres who came to work in India numbered 55. Local vocations had been fostered in the meantime, as the missionaries concentrated also on the formation of indigenous candidates, and the first Indian Priest for the Congregation was ordained in 1959.
In 1925 the Cuttack Mission was declared a Vice-Province of Madrid and Fr.Jose Maria Fernandez C.M. was appointed the first Vice-Provincial of India, with Berhampur as the Provincial house. In 1970 it was elevated to a Province, with Fr.Thomas Urdangarin as its Provincial. The rein of leadership was passed on to Indians in 1973.
By the time of the silver jubilee of the Province's foundation in 1995, Vincentian confreres had been working in as many as 18 dioceses spread over 8 states in the Indian Sub-continent, besides helping out in international missions. At this point it was decided to divide the province into two, for more effective evangelization and for fostering local vocations. Accordingly after due consultations, in Oct.1997 Fr.Robert Maloney C.M. the Superior General, divided the Indian Province of the C.M. into two. While the Southern Indian Province is centred in Mysore, the Northern Indian Province continues to have its provincial house, named Vijoy Bhavan, in Berhampur, and currently Fr.John Ranasingh, C.M. is its Visitor.
The Northern Indian Province of the C.M. continues with enthusiasm the pastoral activities of the pioneers, while incorporating to its sphere missionary works which are necessary and in tune with the present day Indian context.
PERSONNEL OF THE PROVINCE
On the day of the division, on 25th Nov.1997, the Northern Indian Province had 62 confreres in it. Since then 9 confreres have joined us from the South, and with the latest addition of a newly ordained Deacon, we are now 72 in all.
Ministry-wise we are distributed broadly in the following manner:
Pastoral Work 30 School cum Pastoral Work 02 Social Work 02 Legal Aid 02 Seminary Formation 08 Retreat Centers and Faith Formation 03 Vocational training 04 Provincial Administrator 02 School 04
- Abroad 06
- India 01
Foreign Mission 02 Home Visit (Abroad) 01 Scholastics 03
Among the confreres only 4 are co-adjuctor Brothers, while the rest of them are priests. Except Fr.Vincent Urbaneja, the only Spanish Vincentian now in India, the rest of the confreres of the Northern Province are indigenous to India. Most of us (50) hail from the State of Kerala, and the rest are from Orissa (20) and Bihar (1).
The Vincentian Missionaries had originally and for a long period of time concentrated their missionary endeavour among the people of rural Orissa. However in the early eighties the Indian Province spread its branches to the Southern States, which now form part of the Southern Province. Currently the Northern Indian Province has canonical houses and communities spread over 5 Dioceses in the Indian States of Bengal and Manipur, besides Orissa.
Though the Spanish Vincentian Missionaries were in India from 1922, the first indigenous priest was ordained only in 1959. It was in the early fifties that the missionaries started concentrating on the promotion of local vocations. Even then for a number of years, candidates for priesthood were sent for their theological studies to Salamanca in Spain, till the mid sixties.
Indigenous vocations to the C.M. have been good and so the overall formation of the candidates was given top priority in the Northern Indian Province, with a well planned programme. The programme of formation begins with the acceptance of the candidates into initial stage, called the minor seminary.
Most of the candidates recruited by us are those who have passed matriculation. They are generally around 16 to 18 years of age. They have 3 years of formation in the minor seminary, located at Baripada, Orissa. During this time the candidates are given the opportunity to master the local language and 2 years of college studies, then they proceed to the next stage, i.e., an year of pre-novitiate and another year of canonical novitiate (at Stella Maris, Gopalpur-on-sea, Orissa).
Our observation is that at present time adolescence begins earlier and ends later than in former generations. Earlier the age around 16 meant the end of adolescence and the beginning of adulthood, while today adolescence lasts up to several years more. It means that in the pre-novitiate and novitiate stages formation most of our candidates are with the typical problems of the adolescents. Though legally they may be adults, emotionally they are still adolescents. Some of the notable features of the adolescents are reluctance to make self-initiated acts and inability to form a permanent commitment. Thus our formation programme takes maximum care to provide especially during pre-novitiate stages of formation ample opportunities for self initiated acts, decision-making and commitment. During this time of their formation the candidates get the opportunity to experience life in the communities at various mission stations, and thus have a pre-view of their future life.
At the end of the novitiate, our candidates for priesthood are given the opportunity to have 3 years of philosophical studies during which they are also expected to take a bachelor's degree from the university. At this stage of formation due importance is given for widening the intellectual horizon of our candidates. We believe that knowledge has intrinsic value and not merely instrumental value. In other words, knowledge is valuable not merely because it is useful to us, but because it is the virtue of the intellect, the highest faculty of man. Students are advised not to depend solely on the lectures of the professors but to spend a large chunk of their time and energy for reflection, personal study and integration of what they have studied. Thus maximum care is taken at the preparation of the curriculum lest an overcrowded program and a syllabus-based system of instruction leave the student with very little time for reflection, personal study and integration of what he has studied. The Northern province has its Philosophical Institute named Aquinas College, at Gopalpur-on-sea, Orissa.
At the successful completion of 3 years of philosophy, students are sent for one year of regency to different parishes. It is the need of the hour to form the seminarians in close contact with the concrete situations of the people. Regency provides an opportunity for our students to acquaint themselves with the real conditions of the world and the expectations of the people concerning their future ministry. After an year of regency, candidates are sent to various institutes in India for 4 years of theological studies, during which they are also expected to obtain a masters' degree from the university. During the final years of theological studies, the candidates make their vows and are definitively incorporated in the Congregation. The major Orders closely follow this. Thus starting with the minor seminary till the Priestly Ordination, we have 13 years of formation.
At present The Northern Indian Province has the following number of candidates :
Minor Seminary : 73 Novitiate : 15 Philosophy : 9 Regency : 1 Theology : 5
Total number : 103
In keeping with the charism of the Congregation, in the sphere of the formation of the local clergy, the Northern Indian Province has accepted the responsibility of running the Institute of Philosophy which caters also to the need of the local clegy. Aquinas College, at Gopalpur-on-sea, Orissa was for many years a philosophate exclusively meant for the C.M. students. However, from 1987 it was thrown open to the candidates of the local diocese. At present there are 20 students from 7 Indian diocese studying in our institute, besides our own. The future prospect in this endeavour of the Northern Province seems to be bright. It may be mentioned that some oof our Confreres who are trained in various academic disciplines teach at various Theological and Philosophical Institutes in India, thus joining the mainstream of the Formation Programme of the church in India.
Vincentian apostolate in North India is multi-faceted. Essential components of these are, Pioneer evangelization efforts, Parish ministry, Popular missions, Retreats, Renewal programs, Formation of pious associations, Media apostolate, Educational measures and Welfare and Development activities. In all these endeavors, the typical Vincentian fundamental option for the rural poor has always been maintained. These all are Evangelization efforts in the true sense of the word with its closely correlated activities. The need of thepeople of Orissa, living in poverty and ignorance, called for this kind of an approach and our pioneer missionaries, responded to them with a clear foresight. This foresight of the Missionaries developed into a vision propelling and animating us in our apostolic endevours to the present day. Looking back, we can not but admire the sagacity, foresight, and the spirit of sacrifice of the veteran missionaries.
Ministry of the Word
Pioneer works:- Perhaps this is the most difficult part of ministry . Villages are situated in the interior high mountain terrain. Accessibility to them is by trekking mountain foot paths and only in dry season. In the monsoon times, these paths are covered with bushes and thick foliage. Also there are the mountain streams that lash down to be crossed. There is the danger from wild animals too; elephants, tigers, and bears- although to this day no missionary has been killed by them. Ice breaking and establishing contact with the people is a major challenge. It becomes all the more hard, if the missionary does not know the language. Unfriendly weather, unacquainted people, and lack of proper food, all are major obstacles, but none would prevail against the indomitable spirit of the pioneers. The Indian society is marked by the sharp contrast of riches and poverty, knowledge and ignorance. The missionaries who work mostly among the poor and the illiterate are well aware that total human development and liberation are essential components of the proclamation of the Good News. The pioneer missionaries took note of the fact that the liberating impact of the word on the people is had only through education and humanising efforts besides, of course,the proclamation itself and the life of Christian witnessing. Accepting the Good News entails shedding ignorance,illiteracy and superstitions and other factors that keep the poor bound and make them vulnerable to oppression by the rich and the powerful. The missionaries’ efforts have born much fruit,going by the improved way of life of the people of rural Orissa. The name Fr.Joseph Moolan,C.M is worth mentioning in this regard.
The work of the pioneer missionaries results in the establishment of a parish or better named ‘mission station’ with the necessary accessories, like a school, hostel and of course a health centre. The origin of almost all the parishes in south west of Orissa, comprising the diocese of Cuttack Bubhaneswar, Berhampur and to the North, Balasore is ascribable to Vincentians. At present 17 parishes are looked after by the Vincentians of the Northern Province, spread over in Orissa, W. Bengal and Manipur. It has been a healthy policy of the province to readily hand over the established parishes to the diocesan clergy and move on to new pastoral fields.
Popular Missions and Retreats
Popular mission marked the beginnings of the Congregation and was something so dear to St. Vincent de Paul. We have kept it as a priority. Periodical missions are conducted in all the established parishes. This is a well organized work calling for long preparations. Usually we take an area. Teams are formed language wise consisting of two priests , sisters and catechists. Two major outcomes of this programme are sacramental reconciliation among the people and rectification of marriages. Retreats have their due place in our ministry. Annual retreats are conducted in all major villages. This again is an occasion for renewal and consolidation of faith. In order to make this programs more effective and reach out to more people, an organizational thrust was given to it with the constitution of a faith formation team in 1991, led by Fr. Thomas Parumoottil, C.M. The task ahead of the team was organising parish missions, retreats, and renewal programs for target groups of catechists, teachers and village leaders ministry. After covering these groupsof people, the team moved on to the people at the grass root level. Thanks to their tireless efforts, the people are a little more informed of their faith, the church and its doctrines. At present, the faith formation team is headed by Fr. James Theikanath C.M.. In close link with these programs, was our earnest desire to establish a permanent retreat center for the people. This too has been realized with the inauguration of a retreat center (Dhyano Kendro) at Christnagar, and Fr. George Pareman C.M directs it.
Formation of Pious Associations
Pious and charitable associations have an important place in Vincentian Ministry. St. Vincent envisaged them to ensure the continuity, be it the good results of a mission or retreat or the good works a emenating from the people. Spread over the globe are nearly 800 such lay or religious associations with whom the name of Vincent is attached and remembered either as founder or patron or inspirer. Perhaps the most popular among them would be St. Vincent de Paul society founded by St. Frederick Ozanam. In our parishes there are as many as 20 units of St. Vincent de Paul Society. Besides this there is the Marian Youth having different wings for children and youth as Sub- Junior , Juniors and Seniors . Nearly 4000 youngsters in 80 villages are associated into the Marian Youth. The spirit of St. Vincent lives through them . Fr. Aplinar Senapathi C.M. is the director of the association at present .
Both Print and Audio visual are effective tools of proclamation. The popular appeal and the mass awakening that they bring about can not be ignored. Now a days, these are increasingly used and we Vincentians have our share in this form of apostolate. Enlisted below are our contributions.
- “Probha” an Oriya monthly started by late Fr. Amador Marcos C.M. The present version of it is “ Dibyo Probha” edited and published by the dioceses of Orissa jointly.
- “ Rosmi” an Oriya tri-monthly started by Fr. Thomas Parumoottil, C.M. in collaboration with the Daughters of Charity. The present editor is Fr. Aplinar Senapati, C.M.
- “God with us” Oriya version of a monthly on Christian value living by late Fr. Amador Marcose C.M. It is stopped now.
- “Bible Comics” a pictorial and fascinating rendering of great bible themes prepared by Fr.Michael Karimattam and translated into Oriya by Fr.Thomas Parumoottil, C.M. and Sr. Clara Prodhan, D.C., in 50 booklets.
- Life and works of St. Vincent (Snap short) In Oriya by late Fr. Januarius Nayak C.M.
- Our Lady in the Scripture , prayer book for Mariyan Youth in Oriya by Fr. Thomas Parumoottil, C.M.
- En las Silvas de Ganjam In Spanish, by late Fr. Jesus Taboda , C.M Christo En Orissa A comprehensive history of the Vincentian Mission in Orissa, in Spanish by late Fr. Gregorio Fausto, C.M.
- History of the Vincentians in Orissa In Spanish, by Fr. Vincent Urbaneja, C.M The historian of the Province
- Maxims of St. Vincent By late Fr.Primitivo Garcia C.M. in English
- Life of Christ In Oriya, translated by Fr. Cypriyan Prodhan, C.M.
- Life of St. Catherine Laboure A booklet in Oriya on the life of St. Catherine Laboure , written by Sr. Goretti Senapati D.C. and published by Fr. Aplinar Senapati, C.M.
- Family Catechism In Oriya prepared by late Fr. Thomas Maliekal, C.M.
- ‘Dibhyo Bojono’ 3 Vols. in Oriya on Sunday liturgy and interpreting the word of God and homilies written and published by Fr. Augustine Palayathayil C.M, for pastoral and catechetical use.
- ‘Swargodhwaro’ Oriya prayer book ,prepared by a few Vincentians.
- ‘Katholickan Njanagol’ Catechism in Soura language, prepared by Fr. Joseph Moolan, C.M.
- ‘Songeetanjoli’ An Oriya hymn book, a compilation by many Vincentians and faithful that has under gone 3 editions already.
- ‘Jeda Suga’ ‘Cui’ hymn book, prepared by Pastor Palayoor C.M.
- ‘Bhakti Nirjoro’ A booklet of Oriya devotional songs and Bhajans, composed by Fr. Matthew Nayak, C.M.
- ‘Songeeta Lohori’ A booklet of Oriya devotional, with prayers on solemn occasions in music, by Fr. Chacko Pannathara, C.M..
- ‘Way of the Cross’ In Oriya and Soura, prepared by Fr. Thomas Enchackal C.M.
- ‘Kanenken kambol’ Soura hymn book, prepared by Fr. Joseph Moolan, C.M.
- ‘Daina Kin’ Booklet of Soura devotional, compiled by Fr. Joseph Thottankara, C.M.
- ‘Liturgy and Rituals’ Oriya Missal and complete Lectionary by late Fr. Januarius Nayak, C.M.
- Roman rituals and Sunday lectionary’ In Oriya, prepared by late Fr. Amador Marcose C.M.
- ‘Rituals and prayers in Oriya’ For all occasions, prepared by Fr.Thomas Parumoottil, C.M. and Sr. Clara Prodhan,D.C.
- ‘Holy week Liturgy’ In Oriya, prepared by Fr. Thomas Kottiri, C.M.
- Gospels In Oriya, by late Fr. Amador Marcose,C.M. ‘Catholic Bible’ A complete Oriya Bible, a monumental one man task, by Fr. Augustine Palayathayil, C.M.
- Audio Cassettes ‘Bakti Nirjoro’, a series of Oriya hymns and Bhajans, composed and recorded by Fr. Mathew Nayak,C.M.
- ‘Jangarda Imna’ Soura hymns, compiled and recorded by Fr. Joseph Thottankara, C.M. ‘Jeda Suga’ Kui hymnal prepared by Fr. Pastor palayoor, C.M.
- ‘Songeeto Lohori’ Oriya High Mass and prayers for Solemn occasions, composed and recorded by Fr. Chacko Pannathara, C.M.
- ‘Way of the Cross’ In Oriya and Soura prepared by Fr. Thomas Enchackal C.M.
- Studio : The establishment of Vijaya studio with all up to date gadgets for recording, editing and making audio-video cassettes, at the Provincial house complex was a boost to our media postolate. The studio is put to optimum use by us and people from outside.
- Printing Press : Vijoya Printing Press established in 1985 at Berhampur and Jyothi printing school started in 1992 at Baripada, are major leaps in print media. Both these establishments undertake printing works of religious and other materials. Besides, they give training to youngsters on print works.
Audio visual programs : Almost all the villages are covered with in last 10 years, with this program. Religious movies and documentories are taken around the villages and shown to the people. Movies on Jesus and Mary have furnished several rounds in many of the villages.
Rural Orissa offers a very bleak picture of education. Massive ignorance and total illiteracy still prevail in many interior mountain villages, especially tribal and ‘Dalit’ ones. Hence education and Evangelization went hand in hand, with the early missionaries. For education they put up small schools in central places attaching them with hostels for the sake of children coming from far away villages. With hopeless transport facilities and given the geographical conditions, this was the only way possible. As time went, these developed into perhaps the best quality educational institutions. In course of time some of these schools were taken over by the Government. At present the province manages only 8 schools, of which 3 are in English Medium. The discipline and the value inputs by our witnessing make them real temples of learning. De Paul School at Berhampur and Sacred Heart School at Rayagada are renowned for the their academic excellence as well. A parish or mission station is unthinkable with out a hostel attached to it. Of our 17 mission stations, 16 are attached with hostels boarding about 1200 children giving them an opportunity for schooling. Some of our ex-hostellers who have made it to the top offices bear testimony to the role of hostels in their education, for without these hostels they would never have been educated .
WELFARE AND DEVELOPMENT
St. Vincent was a renowned apostle of Charity. Close on his heels the Vincentians have been taking up various welfare and developmental activities. In order to reach out to the people more effectively the Province formed a social wing called ODISA. (Organization for Development, Integration and Social Action) in 1991. With the formation of ODISA there began a systematic and planned approach to human development.
The above material appeared on a now inactive website of the Province.