OFM Franciscans - India

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BATON PASSED BACK TO THE BISHOP (Reflection on FRANCISCAN presence in the Diocese of SULTANPET)

On 3rd of July 2017, on the feast of ST. Thomas the Apostle, the newly appointed Bishop Rt. Rev. Dr. Antonysamy Peter Abir of the SULTANPET Diocese entrusted the Church of St. Theresa of Child Jesus to the Franciscan friars for 4 years, on contract basis. This diocese needed support from the men religious to provide pastoral care as well as people-oriented development programs for the faithful. And the Friars willingly accepted the offer.

Birth Of the New Diocese
The Palakkad district which is part of Kerala had accommodated Christian migrants around 200 years ago and the MEP Fathers were given care of them and of the non- Christians as well. In the course of time, the Tamil speaking Catholic community settled in and around the town of Palakkad which became a sizeable community that spread out to the surrounding villages for want of employment. Their spiritual and developmental requirements were taken care of by the neighbouring Dioceses of Coimbatore and Calicut. In order to give more attention to the above needs of the people, a new diocese named SULTANPET was created on 28th December 2013. (ref. History and Directory 2017, SULTANPET Diocese pg. 1).

On 3rd of July, in the presence of the Minister Provincial Br. Praveen D’Souza OFM, the taking over ceremony took place and Brs. Arok Sundar and Peter Salethnathan were installed in the Parish to take care of the parish.

Church Of St. Theresa of Child Jesus Parish
The parish church is situated in Kanakankalam village. The parish is mid-way between the Coimbatore and Palakkad town high ways. The parish is comprised of 380 families. Almost all the families are related either by birth or through marriages. They are of one group, speaking one language and clustered in one place to make their living.

At the very start, both of us visited all the families. The reception was good and we found that people are good, warm and welcoming. Visiting the families, we came to know that they have some common beliefs, customs and practices that were sometimes hindering their joy of living that were causing them a lot of fear of illness and evil spirits. Among the youngsters, boys and girls, a few complete their high school studies, while some others discontinue and enter into income fetching jobs. These were the challenges in our pastoral ministry and we started working on them.

People were drawn to attend the Friday Adoration with praise and worship. On Sundays, Mass was celebrated without fail and after the second Mass, the children’s faith formation classes were conducted and our constant visits and questioning of and insistence on the children’s attendance bore much fruit. The catechism class attendance rose up to 180 to 200 children.

The People, while working shared the joys they experienced and appreciated our ministry. Besides this, we also visited the neighbouring parishes to preach the word of God. Through our presence and liturgical services, we became quite popular among the priests and people in this diocese. On requests, we preached recollections and retreats to the religious communities.

A gentleman commented, “the day I saw these priests, I decided to go for Mass daily”. And he is regular except when occupied with some work. The parish is having a substation with a100 families again all related to each other.

To Cite A Few

  • In the first year of the parochial feast, the people were reconciled to one another and took active part in the Church activities.
  • In the last two years on GOOD FRIDAY, THE STATIONS OF THE CROSS were conducted on a big scale starting from the substation to the main church and vice versa. The people from the main church were asked to honour those of the substation by participating in the event. It was a community celebration. People joined to worship the Lord.
  • The church choir was in a bad shape and it got straightened and strengthened. The liturgy became lively after that.
  • Under the banner of “LAUDATO SI” a few of us came together to read, listen and reflect on Mother Earth every day. To propagate our love for Mother Earth, programs were conducted on a smaller scale.
  • Fruit trees were planted in the church premises.
  • Vegetable seeds and plants were distributed to the people after special services.
  • On Sundays Home-bound elders were visited. We shared our stories with them and we listened to theirs.
  • We as a group prayed with the families that are in need of prayer and who were restless and quarrelsome. Our visits gave them peace and joy. It is a joy to be a pastoral man. Now there is a family that comes together every day at 8 pm to pray with me. We use the mobile to help us to pray.
  • During the flood season provisions are given to the people irrespective of religion and caste. Thanks to the Provincial administration and the projects managers.

On the diocesan level the religious unanimously elected me to be the CRI president of Palakkad and in confirming the election the bishop further appointed me as the Episcopal Vicar for men and women religious and included me in the college of consultors. Here again, our service was well appreciated by the diocese and the religious. The local ordinary in his thank-you letter to the Provincial writes, “because of the friar’s missionary zeal and tireless initiatives that a lot of changes, both in faith formation of the people and in the structural growth of the parish happened” have taken place.

Developmental in Structures
As mentioned above, our regular house visits and contacts with the people revealed a lot about the situation in the Parish. Children’s education, particularly that of the Xth class students needed assistance in order to pass to enter into the technical (vocational) studies or college studies. All those who came for the tuitions passed with a good percentage.

  • The church ground was paved with interlocking stones to avoid people from stumbling.
  • The stage which was in ruins was renewed and made functional to hold cultural programs, catechism classes and meetings.
  • The terrace was open to the sky and it was emitting heat into the priest’s living rooms. To make it comfortable a tin roof was fabricated over the house.
  • The community halls also needed attention. These halls were unused and were not taken care of. The roof and the flooring were repaired and they came in handy to celebrate the Eucharist and conduct catechism classes especially at the time of the church renovation.
  • The main church roof top was in a very bad condition so that during the rainy season the celebrant had to keep shifting in order to avoid the rain drops. Finally, in consultation with the bishop and the people a decision regarding the roof was made. The work was successfully completed in one year.

A Few words of Experience
I thank God for uniting the parishioners to complete the project. I am grateful to many people who extended their mite to make our stay a success. The Bishop, the Minister Provincial, the Project Secretaries, the Franciscan run parishes, my friends and our loving parishioners rendered great support to us.

Pandemic A Season to Become Friendly
It is two years now since the corona has marred the lives of mankind. Due to the circumstances, I felt it was I who had to do something. I took “LAUDATO SI” and began to put into practice by trying to become friendly with God’s creation. I studied “LAUDATO SI”, listened to and read articles on Creation and the Universe for this purpose. The outcome was that the plants and the earth had become my companions and friends.

A group was started to reflect on some passages of the POPE’S encyclical. 10 mango, 10 guava and 38 coconut saplings were planted in the church premises. Now the church has 60 and above coconut trees.

To give them life, drip irrigation was introduced. Regularly visiting them, watering them with good nutrients the plants are luscious and green A bit of farming was done by planting tapioca. We could not get a good sale for them but they came in handy to distribute them freely to the people at time of the Corona virus.

People get depressed easily and are scared to face the problems of life and so end their life for silly reasons. In four years of our stay here, 14 deaths occurred either by taking poison or by committing suicide by hanging themselves. To prevent such deaths, a PEACE PARK, under the banner of LAUDATE SI was created. 2 to 3 hours of daily work has made the plants bloom but the people still do not realise that nature can take away their depression. They are unable to face the hard realities of life. This may be the reason for their heavy consumption of liquor. They require time to recognise the truth.

Conclusion
On the 3rd July 2021, the feast of St. Thomas, we complete the contract with the diocese of SULTANPET. Four years of journeying in this terrain was a new experience for us. Varieties of opportunities and possibilities were converted into reality and it gives a sense of joy and satisfaction now. I am proud to have carried the responsibility of the Parish for these past four years and so I gladly pass the baton back to his grace RT. Rev. Anthonisamy Peter Abir for any further development.

I thank the Lord for the good health he had given me to minister to his people and I am grateful to my Provincial and his team for encouraging me from time to time by their fraternal visits. I am also grateful to a few families who were concerned about our food and welfare. I am also grateful to the friends who were interested in us and our ministry. God bless us all. In one word I can say, that the PEOPLE want us PRIESTS TO COMFORT THEM. WHY NOT?

Br. Arok Sundar

 

ST. FRANCIS OF ASSISI

ST. FRANCIS OF ASSISI

ST. FRANCIS

ST. FRANCIS

FRIARS' BIRTHDAY (September)

Date

Name of the Friars

Events

Year

02

+ Matthew Walsh

Jayaseelan P.R.

Home

Ordination

1969

2001

04

+ Kentigern Stuart

Home

1995

08

Arokiam John

Tom John

Arockiasamy P.

Niranjan Toppo

Birth

Solemn Vows

Solemn Vows

Birth

1976

1999

1999

1993

09

Salun Kispotta

Birth

1995

10

Athanasius Xaxa

Birth

1959

11

+ Paulinus van Halderen

Home

1999

13

Bangalore Friary

+ Vincent Roy

John Sekar

Blessing

Home

Birth

1952

1959

1982

14

Anthony Pushparaj

Birth

1976

15

+ Fidelis Magee

Home

1979

17

Stigmata of Francis

Varghese Sebastian

Richard D’ Silva

Assisi Illam Dindigul

Feast

Birth

Solemn Vows

Blessing


1947

1956

2010

18

Joseph of Cupertino

Feast


19

Mesia Elias Moses M.

Birth

1973

20

Tom John

Birth

1961

23

Padre Pio

+ John Forest Hogan

A.J.Mathew Joseph

Feast

Home

Birth


1962

1989

24

Shalom Friary –Hyderabad

Blessing

1995

25

Sagaya Soosairaj

Birth

1968

26

+ Fabian D’ Souza

Home

2010

27

+ Conrad Gomes

Home

1993

28

Nicholas D’ Souza

Lourdu Augustine

Pradeep Anthony L.

Birth

Birth

Birth

1945

1976

1992

29

Sushil Beck

Salim Baxla

Birth

Birth

1973

1974