First year seminarians from St Pius College in Goregaon East were divided into four groups. Living for a week among poor people in Maharashtra hill villages “made them understand their many blessings".
Mumbai (AsiaNews) – Four groups of first year ‘Orientationist’ seminarians at St Pius College in Goregaon, East Mumbai spent a week living among the people of some tribal villages of Maharashtra to see first hand the challenges of mission and become more aware of their vocation.
Fr Jervis D'Souza, an educator, took the students of the Archdiocesan seminary to the hills near the Madad Mission, home to tribal Adivasi.
Here, the seminarians stayed with locals, experiencing their daily difficulties, such as lack of electricity and running water. But they also "learnt to appreciate what they have, and they understood the value of manual work (often considered inferior) that Tribals accept without finding excuses.”
The seminarians travelled to the mission run by Fr Carlton Kinny who has been working ceaselessly and selflessly for the past 27 years in Raigad District with Fr Elias D'Cunha and the Daughters of the Cross Sisters.
They began their missionary experience on 15 October ahead of World Mission Day, which was celebrated the following Sunday. They were divided into four groups, each destined for a local village, populated mostly by ethnic Katkari Adivasi.
Before they began their week of service, Fr D’Souza noted, they were "invited to observe the Adivasi – who are completely satisfied with their lives and the context in which they live – and challenged to find the same satisfaction in their own lives."
The first group was taken to Dehwad. Here the missionaries’ imprint is visible, starting with houses built with masonry rather than mud. The village has a kindergarten and a primary school, electric power is available almost everywhere and new bathrooms were installed recently.
Still, the seminarians were "shocked by the lack of education. Only very few people attended school and many young people under 30 are already grandparents." The educator explains that "despite three decades of social effort by the missionaries, there is still a high rate of child marriages.
“The caste system is strong in society and ancient taboos and superstitious traditions are still alive. People are not aware of their rights and are still distrustful of the missionaries."
Looking at the daily difficulties of these people, almost all landless farmers, "the group realised how lucky they are. This experience has made the seminarians aware of the many blessings they have."
The second group went to another village "where it was surprised by the difference between the lifestyle at the seminary and that of the Katkaris. For example, the alarm clock is not needed here because of the rooster crow. Looking at manual work, the group understood the value it has for the villagers, who endure great hardships without finding excuses."
Another group visited the 50 families of the village of Khumbarde. Here the children are encouraged to attend school and are rewarded with a rupee a day. The locals spend this money for daily food, and are not overanxious about the need to make money to feed the family.
The fourth group went to Palasgaon, where it had the opportunity to learn and speak the local Marathi dialect, a crucial step for breaking the language barrier with Tribals.
Through this experience of mission, "the seminarians have understood how hard the work of priests, religious and laity is. They need prayer support every day. Young people have a better understanding of the reality, and this has deepened their perspective on life,” Fr D’Soua said. "We hope that some of them may choose the way of the mission."