Dear Friends in Christ Jesus,
The Diocese of Sultanpet, in South India, was newly created in February 2014 by Pope Francis. It is a new Latin Catholic Diocese and the smallest in the State of Kerala. This is the 167th Catholic diocese of India. There are 53 priests in the diocese (28 Diocesan and 25 religious priests) and 31,500 Latin Catholics out of the total population of around 3 million (28, 09,934).
- Why we need your help to build our diocese or people?
Geography of the Area: The area of my diocese is in general composed of rocky land and hilly land and rough soil not much suitable for good cultivation. But unfortunately the people are farmers who are totally dependent on agriculture. Basically the whole area is having scanty rainfalls. During the summer the people of this area suffer from lack of water both for drinking and irrigation. Unlike the main land of Kerala this area is full of rocks and so the heat adds to the misery of the people. The water problem remains a perennial problem of the people for which the politicians show a deaf ear to, but the diocese works on it by way of influence to the political system.
The People: The people in this new diocese are migrants from another southern state of India (Tamilnadu). As Catholics they migrated to this area on account of famine in their area and settled in this area. Hence they are minorities linguistically, ethnically and religiously having denied or holding least amount of influence in the political system of the area. The people of this new diocese, Sultanpet, are of casual laborers; their daily wages are not even sufficient for food and some are addicted to Alcoholism. There is no proper means even for fulfillment of the daily needs and hence saving is nil.
Children: As the parents are not much educated they don’t realize the need to help their children to do their studies and people are helpless to spend much for the higher education of their children. There is only one diocesan school and rest are Government owned schools where there are no possibilities for catechism nor moral studies. Hence the personality building is very much lacking. The children lack the capabilities to compete with secular standards. Most of the children drop out or stop with high school.
Status of Women: Women have lower status with reference to power and influence than men in all spheres of life—family, community, religion and politics. It is believed and practiced mostly that up to marriage, she is protected by her parents, during married life; she is looked after by her husband, and after the death of her husband, she used to spend remaining years of her life under the roof of her children without any will or desire and rights in the family. As the girls will be married to another family, they, in general, are rarely sent for higher studies by their parents.
The Priorities: As Pope Francis emphasizes, we, are to go to the periphery of the society, trying to give encouragement, uplift in the society and self-improvement. As a new diocese, vested with responsibility for the welfare of the people, we focus totally on the education of the children and self awareness against the social evils to the people. We believe strongly that effective education would eradicate social injustices and inequalities. And will provide with self empowerment for the under privileged, especially women.
In Lk 10:2 as Jesus says “The harvest is plentiful, but the laborers are few”, to carry out the mission to the future, we give special focus on the formation of seminarians, the future priests as well. Hope I need not explain to you how scarce the vocation to priesthood is.
Amidst all these struggle, COVID 19 pandemic has shattered the lives of each and everyone here. Hope you people must be aware of the situation in India. The dead bodies are being burnt or cremated at the open places or streets. We have been inside the four walls for more than past one month. Psychologically, economically, physiologically everyone are depressed and many are hopeless about their future life. There are 168 priests, 142 nuns and numerous people have lost their life. The Churches are closed, no public mass celebrated. We have never come across such kind of situation in our life. The worst handling of COVID has put our lives under threat. We are not at all sure whether we would be alive or dead at the end of this catastrophic pandemic. In the US Dollar bills it is written “In God We trust”, we do the same and He is our only Hope.
May God bless you all. Thank you.