Odisha Church observes first native priest’s birth centenary
By Purushottam Nayak
Raikia: More than 2,500 people attended the birth centenary celebrations of Odisha’s first native Catholic priest in a Kandhamal parish.
Archbishop John Barwa of Cuttack-Bhubaneswar, who led the opening Mass at Our Lady of Charity Church in Raikia on October 23, thanked God for the gift of Father Pascal Singh to Odisha. The Divine Word prelate hailed Father Singh for rendering yeoman service to the Dalit, tribal and other marginalized groups in the eastern Indian state. “He was a reformer, educationist and visionary.”
Besides the archdiocese, the dioceses of Berhampur and Rayagada are also commemorating the centenary.
Bishop Sarat Chandra Nayak of Berhampur, in his homily, said Father Singh was “an apostle” of marginalized communities such as Dalit and tribal people. He set up schools to educate children from these families, he added.
Later at a felicitation program held at Raikia’s Vijay High School, lay leader Bijayananda Singh said the Catholics of Odisha are grateful to their first Catholic priest who had done great deeds for their advancement.
“Let his personality inspire and motivate everyone to continue his noble deeds,” said Bijayananda Singh, who is the convener of the centenary committee.
John Nayak, a retired police officer, said hard work, ability to dream high and total faith in God had motivated Father Singh to help the poor, needy and downtrodden students. “He is not with us but his education is with us,” he added.
Archbishop Barwa, who chaired the meeting said people can join mainstream society only through value education prompted by Father Singh. He also urged the gathering to heed to Pope Francis’s call to have “a head to think, heart to feel and hand to work” for the poor.
Father Singh was born on May 27, 1918, in Alanjur village under Bamunigam parish in Kandhamal district. He was ordained a priest in 1945 at Katingia parish under Cuttack-Bhubaneswar archdiocese. He died on February 2, 1990, in Cuttack.
Father Singh set up the Technical Mission High School, Surada, a model hostel at Ganjam for the poor and underprivileged students. Other educational institutions he started include Vijay High School, Raikia, Kandhamal and Cambridge English medium School. Cuttack.Father