Priest working among the Dalit

‘This is a slum parish, just adjacent to skyscrapers in the city of Hyderabad. It consists of five areas and comprises all kinds of people, the lowest rung of society: painters, electricians, maidservants, lift operators, vegetable vendors, auto-rickshaw drivers, daily labourers and people doing all the menial jobs of society. Basically, it’s a small parish, populated by all the poor of the city, tucked behind a huge building that deals with the city’s income tax.’

Fr Anthony has no illusions about his parish. It is an area of immense deprivation. Very few people will bother about his parishioners. Most are poor, uneducated Dalits. Even the very word implies someone who is an ‘untouchable’, condemned forever to be crushed and broken, destined from birth to poverty, subservience and the most degrading tasks that an unheeding population can impose. Even their joy is coloured by suffering. Many of them are Hindu, and believe that they live in a cycle of incarnations. They believe they are Dalits because they have not lived virtuous lives in a previous incarnation.  They must now bear the indignity of their current existence and hope that in their next life they will be reborn into a higher caste.

Some Dalits have become Catholics, attracted by a God who does not despise them, who can embrace and love them, and who sees them as people with dignity and self-respect. Yet Christianity is not a passport to an easy life. They still live in the horror of the slums.

Fr Anthony continues. ‘Since they live in city slums, the houses are barely separated from each other. Many homes consist of a single room in which all household activities take place. The slums exist because of the migration of rural poor towards the city, a rapid increase in population, lack of housing, low income and urban poverty and poor sanitation. Even though families are confined to living in one room, there is a modest level of comfort in having a roof above their heads’.

Fr Anthony and other priests like him, offer hope to those living in dire poverty and unable to enjoy many things that we take for granted in this country. The Archdiocese of Hyderabad is directly funded by Missio in England and Wales, receiving over £100,000 in 2009, and a further £60,000 for the training of its students for the priesthood.

In Africa, which has a total of 657 bishops, 34,658 priests and 465 dioceses, there are 248 mission stations with a resident priest and 70,805 without a resident priest and, on average, a population of 4,759 Catholics per priest. Africa has 16,654 seminarians training for the diocesan priesthood, along with 8,075 who belong to Religious Orders and Congregations.

Asia has 732 bishops, 409 dioceses, 578 mission stations with one or more priests and 40,566 mission stations without a priest living on the premises. In spite of 52,802 priests and 14,966 diocesan major seminarians and 16,331 Religious seminarians, a single priest has, on average 2,290 parishioners.

There is another interesting comparison: Europe has 11,848 Permanent Deacons, compared with Africa’s 403 and Asia’s 163. It is, therefore, not surprising that any parish in Africa or Asia is so dependent on the work of 16,046 lay missionaries and 712,485 catechists. In spite of 238,540 non-clerical Religious, 2,328 members of Secular Institutes, the Church extends across so vast an area that it really needs its ‘ordinary Catholics’ to nurture each other’s faith.

World Mission Sunday is the day when, through Missio, the Church across the world reaches out in global solidarity to its younger and struggling members. It is the day when Catholics across England and Wales help the Churches of Africa and Asia in their responsibility for building faith communities. This is vital as they must also support their 16,152 health care facilities, 4,346 orphanages, 2,848 homes for the elderly and disabled, 19,020,871 Primary School plus 9,875,709 Secondary and High School pupils.

The money collected in the world’s parishes on World Mission Sunday is sent directly to the bishop of every mission diocese. Missio ensures that whatever is collected is sent out as soon as possible to those places where the need is greatest. The Catholics of England and Wales are amongst the most generous in the world but the needs are growing.

Missio has been the Catholic Church’s official support organisation for overseas mission since 1922.   Raising awareness and fostering prayer and cooperation in the whole Church, Missio is the only organisation which supports every one of the 1,069 mission dioceses of the world. Missio does not receive grants from the Government and keeps nothing in reserves!

To find out how you can share your faith and give life through Missio, go to`'

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