By Purushottam Nayak
Kandhamal: More than 15,000 people on March 5 attended the feast of a shrine built at the site of alleged Marian apparition in Odisha, eastern India.
Archbishop John Barwa of Cuttack-Bhubaneswar led the feast day Mass assisted by about 50 priests at Partama, a substation of Daringbadi parish in the Kandhamal district of Odisha.
In his homily, the Divine Word prelate commented the Kandhamal Christians for their courageous faith in face of violence. “You have shown the world that neither persecution nor death can separate you from the love of God,” the prelate to the gathering.
Kandhamal was the epicenter of the worst anti-Christian violence India witnessed in its modern history. About 100 people lost their lives and more than 56,000 became homeless after Hindu radicals unleashed unprecedented attacks on Christians in the district. Hundreds of churches and Christian institutions were also destroyed during the violence that began August 24, 2008, and lasted for months.
Archbishop Barwa urged the gathering to follow Mother Mary who said God’s invitation to become the Mother of the Savior of the world.
“She knew it would a great challenge for her but she had total faith in God. If God is for us who can be against us?” the prelate said quoting St Paul’s letter to Romans (Rom. 8:31.) “Those who have faith in God they have no fear of life,” he added.
The faithful offered goats and chickens to offering offertory time.
The Mass began with a dance program by young people of Pangal and Dasingbadi villages.
Parish priest Father Angelo Ranasingh welcomed the gathering.
He narrated the origin of the shrine. A Hindu widow, Kamoladevi, went to Partama Mountain to collect wood on March 5, 1994. She saw a man in white dress sporting beard and long hair coming closer to her. He disappeared after three minutes.
Then a beautiful woman from distance called the widow by her name. The apparition instructed the widow to request Catholic priest to build a Church to pray for the people.
The woman first shared the experience with her Hindu neighbors, but they laughed at her.
Another day, a 12-year boy came to Kamoladevi and asked her to go to the mountain. When she went there the woman appeared and told her, “I am Mother of Jesus, pray constantly for the change of life of people from bad to good, from hatred to love.”
Kamoladevi went to the then parish priest Father Alphonse Balliarsingh, to share the incident. The priest made a committee and built a small grotto close to the tree where Mother Mary had appeared.
The faithful began flocking to the mountain that was renamed “Mother Mary of Partama.” Kamoladevi was later baptized as Agnes.
The fame of the shrine grew after some boys with skin diseases were cured after they washed with the water that came from a rock near the place Kamoladevi had the vision.
The parish priest said hundreds people assemble at the shrine even on normal days. “It is the proof of God’s abundant love to the people of Kandhamal,” he added.
Reboti Nayak, daughter of Kamoladevi, also attended the feast. “I have special love and respect toward Mother Mary of Partama who guides me to be closer to God,” she added.
Hundreds of devotee lit the candles and sought the Mother Mary’s help to become the true children of God.