By Purushottam Nayak
Raikia: The Vincentian families in Kandhamal, Odisha, on September 27 celebrated the feast of their patron Saint Vinent De Paul.
Around 300 children of Kandhamal survivors and lay people joined six priests of the Congregation of the Mission and 20 members of the Daughters of Charity, both founded by the saint, who is the patron of charitable works. The celebrations were at St. Catherine’s Girls’ High School Raikia, Kandhamal.
“We are glad that God gave us St. Vincent as model of service to humanity. His life is an inspiration to the whole world for charitable work,” said Father Augustine Singh, the main celebrant of the solemn Mass.
Father Manoranjan Sing, who preached the homily, noted that Saint Vincent De Paul lived for Christ in this world, championing righteousness and justice showing mercy, remaining meek and poor in spirit.
“He was a true peacemaker who promoted kingdom of God, reconciling adversaries, quenching hatred, uniting those who are divided, promoting true understanding and spiritual love. He knew mercy of God and was merciful,” the preacher added.
Sister Basanti Mantri, a Daughters of Charity nun and a survivor of the 2008 anti-Christian violence, recalled that the rioters had kept the slain body of Swami Laxmanananda in front of their convent gate and banged on it. “The rioters did not attack us, but left after some time because of the powerful intercession of the saint,” she claimed.
She said she had remained in the convent with hostel students, without fleeing to forests as many Christians had done those days.
She said the next day she met one of the rioters and asked him he spared the school. He said he was a former student and knew the school imparted knowledge to their children. “Education can help to impart Christian values to members of different religions and caste,” Sister Mantri asserted.
Another member of the congregation, Sister Regina Elenjikal, was also present. She was conferred the “Best Caretaker” award of 2008 by Kandhamal Collector D Brunda.
“I love to serve the orphan children in Kandhamal,” the 82-year-old native of Kerala told Matters India. She looks after 30 orphans at present.
St. Vincent De Paul a French priest founded the Daughters of Charity in 1633 along with Saint Louise De Marillack, a widow.
The congregation has 60 provinces with 16,179 members working in 90 countries. They arrived in India in 1940.
Their North India province has 232 members living in 42 houses in 14 dioceses spread over 10 states. The South India province has 26 houses in six states.
The Vincentian priests came to Odisha in 1922 to replace the French Missionaries of St. Francis de Sales. The Daughters of Charity came to Raikia in 1948.