12 God’s Vanguard in Hindi Heartland - Fr Sony joseph

posted Aug 1, 2018, 9:09 AM by Neil D'Souza   [ updated Aug 1, 2018, 9:09 AM ]

Musings from a Missionary Priest

It was the year 2000 - the Great Jubilee Year. The year was specially significant to me, as I was ordained a priest that year. I was just 28 then. In less than a month after the ordination, came my first assignment. The task was to build up a school in Gorakhpur district, and the location specified was just near Gorakhnath Temple. Today, this place is better known as the Assembly constituency represented by Yogi Adityanath, the Chief Minister of Uttar Pradesh.

On many accounts, it was a daunting task. First of all, it was a communally volatile area. There used to be frequent skirmishes between Hindus and Muslims living there at that time. Secondly, Gorakhpur used to be frequently affected by natural calamities. I was at a loss as to where to begin and how to move on. What bolstered my sagging confidence at that time was a verse from St Paul - "I can do all things in Him who strengthens me." (Phil 4:13). Relying entirely on the power of God, I began the work. I had asked for prayers from many people.

When the heavens were stormed with prayers, blessings began to pour down heavily. The Gorakhnath Temple authorities came forward with all the support needed. In a matter of a few years, God helped the school to grow into a big institution.

An institution that is truly Catholic cannot remain oblivious to the social situations around. Nor can we refrain from proclaiming Christ and His message in ways most suited. We began by reaching out to the villages for flood relief works. God's blessings continued to pour down, and so we launched village dispensaries—a crying need of the locality. Most children were first generation learners, and required additional academic assistance. Thus, we started evening classes in villages. In an area where the number of Catholics was just a handful, and where Hindu and Muslim brethren lived in thousands, Eid and Diwali became occasions for Jesus' message to be shared with the people. The Teachers' Day celebration in the school each year began with the Gayatri Mantra and ended with a Bible reading, presenting Jesus as the 'Teacher par excellence'.