By Purushottam Nayak
Simonbadi: Two survivors of the worst anti-Christian violence in modern India on January 17 were ordained as Capuchin priests.
On the same day, Archbishop John Barwa of Cuttack-Bhubaneswar, who heads the Catholic Church in Odisha, also ordained three deacons for the order.
The new priests are Fathers Binod Digal and Elio Paltasingh and the deacons are Rahul Bastaray, George Patmajhi and Anand Pradhan.
More than 5,000 people including 52 priest and 15 nuns witnessed the ordination ceremony at Mary Matha Parish, Simonbadi in the Kandhamal district of Odisha, some 280 km southwest of Bhubaneswar, capital of the eastern Indian state.
“Priesthood is a gift of God. It is a challenging call especially from Kandhamal where the most inhuman anti-Christian persecution took place on 2007-2008,” Archbishop Barwa said in his homily.
The Divine Word prelate noted that Christians of Kandhamal suffered unprecedented attacks in 2008. “But Kandhamal Christians, have remained firm and strong. The young ones are ready to witness faith in Jesus and dedicate their lives in the service of Kingdom of God in spite of threat to life,” Archbishop Barwa added.
Melchior Kata, provincial of the Capuchins’ Mary Matha province who was present at the ordination ceremony, noted that Kandhamal Christians are rooted in faith in Jesus. “They are examples for the Indian Church and the world at large,” he said.
Father Digal’s mother Luisa Digal expressed happiness over her son’s ordination. “My son would have been killed by the extremists during communal violence but God had his plan. I am grateful and thankful to God because He has chosen my son to be His instrument of service, love and charity,” she told Matters India.
The new priests were in Barokhoma Seminary, Kandhamal, when violence erupted first during the Christmas time in 2007 and in 2008.
Father Digal recalled how he survived the violence. “I ran for life to the forest when the Hindu extremists started burning houses and attacked Christians. They burnt our chapel and destroyed our institution. It was the providential care and guidance that led me to dedicate my life for the Gospel values,” he told Matters India.
He and Father Paltasingh joined the Assisi Ashram Minor Seminary, Berhampur, in 2005 after completing high school. They did their first novitiate in Kattapana town in the Idukki district of Kerala, southern India. For the second year, they went to Muvatupuzha in Ernakulam district of the same state.
For philosophy and theology studies they went to Andhra Pradesh. They took final vows in the order in 2016 and were ordained deacons in 2017.