Kandhamal’s first Divine Word priest to serve in Argentina

Archbishop John Barwa of Cuttack-Bhubaneswar ordained Sanjib Bishoyi a priest on January 22

By Matters India Reporter

Bhubaneswar: The first Divine Word missionary from Odisha state’s Kandhamal district, the epicenter of the 2008 anti-Christian persecution, has opted to work in Argentina, Pope Francis’ home country in Latin America.

Archbishop John Barwa of Cuttack-Bhubaneswar ordained Sanjib Bishoyi a priest on January 22 at Kattingia in the same district of the eastern Indian state.

“I am happy that SVD General Curia in Rome has assigned me to Pope Francis’ home country,” Father Bishoyi said and added that he had the options to work as a missionary in Argentina, East Timor or another country.

He said he is happy to go to Latin America, a Catholic country, from a land of Christian persecution.

“I see it as God’s blessing. I pray that God will grant me the grace needed to become a good missionary with apostolic zeal, and work for God’s glory and spread the Gospel in that country with commitment and compassion,” he told Matters India.

Fr. Bishoyi hails from Adibanga village in the Sacred Heart parish of Kattingia in Cuttack-Bhubaneswar archdiocese.

His father is a retired government elementary teacher and one of his elder brothers is a diocesan priest, Udayanath Bishoyi of Cuttack-Bhubaneswar archdiocese, who now directs Pastoral Center in Kandhamal.

The anti-Christian violence spearheaded by Hindu nationalists in 2007 and 2008 claimed nearly 100 lives, mostly Christians, and rendered more than 56,000 homeless. Several churches and Christians institutions in Kandhamal were also damaged in the violence triggered by the killing of a Hindu religious leader on August 23, 2008.

Born in 1979, the new priest did his high school in his native place, college studies at Hilltop College at Mahana in Gajapati district of Odisha. Later he joined the Divine Word congregation. He did his philosophy in Bhopal of Madhya Pradesh and theology at Pune, Maharashtra. He was ordained deacon on January 3, 2017.

“I am eagerly looking forward to my missionary work,” the new priest said.

A couple of Indian Divine World missionaries have been working in Argentina for years.

The Society of the Divine Word (Latin: Societas Verbi Divini, abbreviated SVD), popularly called Verbites or the Divine Word Missionaries, and sometimes the Steyler Missionaries, was founded in Steyl in the Netherlands in 1875 by Saint Arnold Janssen.

In 1882, the Society started sending missionaries to China’s Shandong Province, where their aggressive methods were part of the chain of events that led to the Boxer Uprising in the late 1890s. In 1892, missionaries were sent to Togo, a small country in West Africa. The Society’s third mission was to German New Guinea (the northern half of present-day Papua New Guinea).

The fourth mission was opened in 1898 in Argentina, a historically Catholic country. Fathers Becher and Locken arrived in Buenos Aires and took care of the German immigrants in the country.

The missionaries assumed responsibility for several parishes, schools and also seminaries in four dioceses: Buenos Aires, Santa Fe, La Plata and Paraná all of which are now archdioceses. In Argentina, Christianity is a major religion.

The order celebrated its 125th anniversary of its arrival in Argentina in 2014.

Besides, pastoral ministry, the order ventured in education, seminary formation and later biblical apostolate and communication.

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