By Purushottam Nayak
Simonbadi, Dec. 28, 2018: Four survivors of the worst anti-Christian violence in modern India were ordained as Capuchin priests on December 27.
“God chose you like Moses to be faithful, responsible to lead the people,” Bishop Sarat Chandra Nayak of Berhampur, who led the ordination ceremony, told the newly ordained during his homily.
Around 1,500 people, including 47 priests and 20 nuns, attended the ceremony at Mary Mata Parish, Simonbadi, Kandhamal district under Cuttack-Bhubaneswar archdiocese of Odisha state.
The venue of the ordination ceremony was 12 km from Arundaya Capuchin Ashram Minor Seminary at Barokhoma that was attacked twice during the 2007-2008 anti-Christian violence that engulfed the Kandhamal district of Odisha state in eastern India.
“Over a thousand years after Abraham, the Jews were living as slaves in Egypt. Moses led the Jews out of slavery in Egypt and led them to the Holy Land that God had promised them. It was a challenging call for Moses from God,” the prelate reminded Fathers Rahul Bastaray, George Patmajhi, Anand Pradhan and Amar Kumar Singh.
He said the communal violence took away everything from the Christians of Kandhamal except their faith in Jesus Christ “because God preferred to live in us.”
Bishop Nayak also said that God knows man cannot be true human if he is not fully free. “The Constitution of India allows us to choose any religion to practice but there is an anti-conversion law in some states of India,” the prelate regretted.
One of the newly ordained priests, Father Pradhan, pointed out that the communal violence could not stop ten years of their priestly formation.
“We took shelter in the forest in the time of communal violence. Our seminary study was hampered but it is God who constantly guided and protected from any danger to work for His Kingdom,” he explained.
The first attack on their seminary was during Christmas time in 2007. The seminary’s 24 students ran to forest to save their lives from Hindu radical groups. They could return to the seminary only in June 2008 after the building was renovated.
However, it faced the second attack two months later in August that year. The Hindu extremists once again looted and burnt the seminary and forcing its 20 students to go a nearby village. They remained with the Christians for two weeks sharing their pain and agony, Father Pradhan recalled.
Capuchin provincial Father Melchior Kata, who attended the ordination, noted that although the people of Kandhamal are poor in material wealth they are rich in faith in Jesus Christ. “They are the inspiration to the modern world,” added the priest, who heads the Mary Mata province of Capuchins working in Andhra Pradesh, Odisha and Telangana states.
Father Pradhan’s mother Kristina expressed gratitude to God for her son’s ordination. “When God is with us who can be against us?” she asked with tears streaming down her cheeks recalling the persecution.
The four had joined the minor seminary in 2006 after completing their high school. They did their first year novitiate at Kattapana, a town in the Idukki district of Kerala, southern India. For philosophy and theology studies they went to Andhra Pradesh. They took final vows in the order in 2017.