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Kandhamal all set to ordain first Salesian priest 

By Santosh Digal

Bhubaneswar: The Kandhamal district of Odisha state in eastern India, epicenter of anti-Christian persecution in 2007 and 2008, will soon have its first Salesian priest.

On Jan 23, Divine Word Archbishop John Barwa of Cuttack-Bhubaneswar will ordain deacon Kumuda Kumar Digal for Kolkata province of Salesians of Don Bosco at Sacred Heart Parish, Kattingia. Two other deacons will also ordained at the same function.

The archdiocese, with the headquarters in the state capital of Bhubaneswar, covers the Kandhamal region that accounts for a large number of religious and priestly vocations after it witnessed the worst attacks on Christians in modern India eight years ago.

The Salesian deacon says he thanks God for making him the first Salesian priest from Kandhamal. “I feel humble before God and seek His guidance that I may work for the poor and abandoned youth which is the main charism of our congregation,” Digal told Matters India.

He hails from Malebadi village of Our Lady of Holy Rosary Church, Daringbadi, a town in the district.

Digal has a brother and three sisters, one of them a member of the Congregation of Handmaids of Mary. He lost his father Jerbas Digal a few years ago. His mother Kamala Kumari Digal is all excited to attend the ordination.

He joined the Salesian order in 2004 and did his pre-novitiate at Savio Bhavan, Murshidabad District; novitiate at Siliguri, West Bengal; philosophy at Salesian College Sonada, Darjeeling; and pastoral experiences at Bandel Don Bosco, Kolkata and in Bihar, and West Bengal.

He obtained his bachelor’s degree in Education from Don Bosco College, Tura, Meghalaya, northeastern India; and theology, at Kristu Jyoti College, Bangalore, southern India.

He took his final profession on May 18, 2013.

“My experience over the years in seminary formation was good and enriching. In each phase of my formation I have had the unique experience,” Digal said.

His priestly ordination motto is “The Lord is my shepherd” (Ps. 23:1).

“The motto I have chosen for my ordination is ‘the Lord is my shepherd’ (Ps 23:1). I have really experienced the hand of the good shepherd the Lord who has led me up to this stage and I in turn want to be a shepherd to those in need after the heart of the good shepherd,” he said.

“This motto takes me back to my childhood days when I used to listen to my late father singing this psalm in Odia and later I myself sung on so many occasions especially during Mass as a Responsorial Psalm. Towards the end of my third year of theology, the verses of Psalm 23 began to linger in my mind. Thus, I chose this motto that would guide my life as a priest,” he added.

Meanwhile, the Kolkata province of Salesians of Don Bosco plans to open its first house in Kandhamal in 2017.

Kandhamal is renowned for its waterfalls, forests, and grinding poverty. Its population is around 730,000, about 80 percent of them tribal and the rest Dalit, the former untouchable caste.

Both tribal and Dalit communities have suffered inequality, illiteracy and lack of life opportunities, leading to tension between the two groups.

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