There are 110 priests actively working in the Diocese of Jagdalpur in the state of Chhattisgarh, central-eastern India. Their work is hard and demands great self-sacrifice, for their ministry is in remote and underdeveloped regions and involves travelling long and difficult journeys. The diocese covers an area of around 15,000 square miles (39,000 km²), an area almost the size of the Netherlands or Switzerland. Of the 2.9 million or so inhabitants of the region, only a little over 11,000 are Catholics. The majority of the population belong to ethnic minorities.
The diocese was established in 1972, and the first priests came here from other regions of India. They belonged to the Syro-Malabar congregation of the Carmelites of Mary Immaculate. Since 1990 there have also been a number of local vocations. At present, there are 15 young men in the major seminary and another 18 in the minor seminary. They have been inspired by the example of other priests, whom they have witnessed at work since childhood. “People wonder why the priests leave their families and their home regions. They can see that the priests are not looking for any professional advancement but are simply there among them to serve”, explains Father Tijo Manjamakkil. The priests go out and proclaim the Good News of the Gospel to the poor and the marginalised, sharing their hard lives with them and striving to help them, little by little, to improve their lives by being in the words of Saint Paul “all things to all men” (1 Corinthians 9:22).
Many of these priests, who for many long years have carried the life of the Church in the region on their shoulders, are now old and frail, or sick and worn out by the harsh lives they have endured. They can no longer struggle on in these remote villages but require medical care and assistance. So now the diocese is building the Shalom retirement home for ailing and retired priests where, after decades of faithful service, they themselves will now be able to receive the help and care they need.
Thanks to the generosity of our benefactors, ACN is contributing towards the cost of this project – and now the foundation stone has finally been laid and the building work begun.