ASIA-OCEANIAPAKISTAN: A new Oblate bishop
On April 29, 2010, the Holy Father, Benedict XVI, elevated the Apostolic Prefecture of Quetta in Pakistan to the rank of an Apostolic Vicariate. At the same time, he named as Vicar Apostolic, Father Victor GNANAPRAGASAM, the current Prefect Apostolic. As Vicar Apostolic, Fr. Victor will be ordained a bishop, with the titular See of Timida. His ordination as bishop is scheduled for July 16, 2010.
Bishop-elect Victor was born in Jaffna, Sri Lanka, in 1940. He professed his first vows as an Oblate in 1960 and was ordained a priest in 1966. After his ordination, he served as a parish priest and as a member of Jaffna’s preaching team. In 1974, he became a parish priest in Faisalabad, Pakistan. From 1979 until 1985 and from 1997 until 2001, he was superior of the Delegation of Pakistan. In the intervening years, he also served in various parish and formation ministries. In 1987-1989, he studied psychology and spirituality in England and in Rome.
In 2001, he was named Prefect Apostolic of the newly erect Apostolic Prefecture of Quetta. The prefecture encompasses the entire province of Balochistan, which is 44% of the entire territory of Pakistan. Of the more than eight million inhabitants of the province, there are 29,355 (0.36%) Catholics in seven parishes, served by 13 priests (10 of whom are Oblates).
In recent years, whenever there was the announcement of a new province coming into existence in the Oblate Congregation, it was because of the restructuring and merging of two or more older provinces or delegations (e.g., in 2007, the Central European Province was born of the German Province and the Delegation of Austria and the Czech Republic).
During the plenary session of the Central Government of 23 April 2010, Father General and his Council agreed to the request of the Indian Delegation and the recommendation of the Mother Province of Colombo to raise India to the status of a province. Father Francis NALLAPPAN, the present Delegation Superior, was named the First Provincial of the Province of India.
In 1968, Fr. M. Anthony Fernando, Provincial of Sri Lanka, sent two Oblates, namely Frs. Emmanuel MARIAMPILLAI and Stanislaus PHILIPS to begin an Oblate mission in the vast country of India, cradle of most world eastern religions and mother of ancient cultures and civilization. Frs. Emmanuel Mariampillai and Stanislaus Philips, set foot in this sub-continent on a hot summer day, June 29, 1968, and were officially accompanied by the then Archbishop of Madras-Mylapore, Most Rev. Dr. R. Arulappa, to Kancheepuram, the Rome of Hindus, a mission in the Archdiocese of Madras-Mylapore, the land preached by Apostle St. Thomas around 52 AD and martyred eventually and they were installed in a simple ceremony by him on July 1st 1968. Forty-two years later, the Oblate presence in India has grown, not only in numbers, but also in the depth of rooting the Gospel and the Charism in the vast expanse of the country.
In keeping with the Vision-Mission Statement (“Pilgrims with the poor towards fullness of Life”) that evolved from the Immense Hope Project and more specifically in the Leadership Congress in February 2009, the Indian Oblates developed clear strategic planning and implementation mechanisms in the areas of Mission, Ministries, Formation, Community and Administration.
The Indian Oblates find themselves in many types of ministry after 42 years. Of course, first and on-going formation are their priority ministries. The Indian Oblate Formation Directory instills in the minds of the younger generation the importance of a missionary spirit, to be ready always to work in any part of the world.
Besides the many missions and parishes where the Oblates preach the Good News among the tribals (Indigenous Peoples) and dalits (lowest caste people), they also focus on the education of poor and unfortunate children through formal and informal schools and boarding homes for the poor. Youth ministry is a vibrant ministry which concentrates on equipping the youth for meeting today’s challenges. The Indian Oblates are also involved in media ministry through their website (www.omiindia.org) and various publications.
Knowing that interreligious dialogue is the basic form of mission today in the context of the religious pluralism in India, the Oblates foster this dialogue at their Aanmodaya Ashram (Center for Indian Spirituality, Interreligious Dialogue and Inculturation). The Missionary Association of Mary Immaculate is steadily taking root in the Oblate missions and parishes, with the aim of forming supporters and contributors.
The Oblates are spread across this vast country. They are present in 11 dioceses in five States of India. Five of the Oblate missions in India are among the tribals. This segment of the Indian population lives in dire physical and cultural poverty. The Oblates try especially to teach the children new values in line with their culture and to build up their self-esteem. They are protected from exploitation by the landlords and powerful authorities like politicians and naxalites (Maoist insurgency). The Indian Oblates also educate them to understand their basic human rights and duties, so that they might overcome such practices as child labour and child marriages.
Remaining true to the core of our missionary call, Oblates from India serve in missions across borders, in spite of the many demands and needs within the country itself. Today one can find Oblates from India in other Oblate Units of the world, namely, the United States, Canada, Australia, South Korea, Japan, Spain and others. Many Indian Oblates are doing higher studies in various countries.
India has been blessed with many vocations. Altogether there are 63 Oblates in perpetual vows and 23 scholastics in temporary vows as of March 2010. And there are nearly 120 candidates in other formation houses.
The delegation of India will be officially declared a province on 29 May, 2010, by Fr. Clement Waidyasekara, OMI, Provincial of Colombo. The public celebration with local bishops and Oblate dignitaries will be on 15 August 2010 in Chennai, India.
Fr. Nallappan expresses the joy of the members of the new province: “The Indian Oblates are exuberant with everlasting sentiments of gratitude to God for the manifold blessings given through the Oblate missionaries who brought the seeds of the Word and the charism of St. Eugene de Mazenod; and they are grateful to the Oblate world for the tremendous trust placed in us and the constant support and encouragement in every way.”
The new provincial had been elected as a delegate to the General Chapter, representing India, Pakistan and Bangladesh. Now he will be an ex officio capitular and his alternate, Fr. Emilianus MORAES, superior of the Bangladesh delegation, will be a capitular.
The first Filipino Oblate to be ordained a priest, Fr. Bienvenido “Ben” LEANDICHO passed away on April 16, 2010 in Quezon City. He would have celebrated his 89th birthday on July 12, and would have celebrated his 60th anniversary of ordination to the priesthood on December 23. He joined the Oblates in 1947. He made his Novitiate in Mission, Texas, USA from 1947 to 1948. He was sent to the International Scholasticate in Rome where he where he obtained a Licentiate in Sacred Theology from the Gregorian University. He was ordained in Rome in 1950.
Upon his return to the Philippines in 1951, he served as a parish priest for several years before being put in charge of the Missionary Association of Mary Immaculate, a post which he held from 1962 until 1979. Under his enthusiastic leadership, the association grew rapidly, especially in Luzon where he organized groups of members in many parishes. It spread also in parishes and in the Notre Dame Schools of Cotabato. With the main office at Our Lady of Grace Parish in Caloocan, Fr. Leandicho reached thousands of people, who, as members of the MAMI, shared in the missionary work of the Oblates.
In his later years, he had various ministries. Among them, he served as part-time Chaplain of Maryknoll College in Quezon City, Camp Vicente Lim in Canlubang, Laguna, and some police precincts. Ministering to the police/military personnel, inmates, students, and teachers was his special interest and he was most happy in this kind of missionary work.
Because of declining health, in 2003, he retired at the Bolduc Home next to the Oblate Missionary Center in Quezon City. He loved to receive visitors and tell them stories of missionary life in the Philippines. (www.omiphil.org)
For several weeks, the secular press and the television news have reported the often violent clashes between the forces of the Thai government and anti-government protesters, sometimes referred to as the “Red Shirts.” On May 20, the government declared that it had mostly quelled the protests. However, it was not a peaceful end to the situation and many problems remain.
The superior of the Oblates’ Thailand Delegation, Fr. Claudio BERTUCCIO, wrote the following update to Fr. Camille PICHE, director of the Congregation’s JPIC office in Rome: “Our situation here is very tense but without any major damage to the life of most people in the country. Unfortunately, Bangkok is burning (about 30 buildings) and we do not know how things will develop. The divisions are very deep. Certainly the poor have little chances in Thai society and their problems should be addressed; however it is also true that what is happening is not towards greater democracy or more justice. It seems to me that the poor are manipulated for the advantage of a few. It is just a change of masters. Let’s pray that God brings peace and reciprocal understanding to all people in Thailand.”
To Father Genral, Fr. Claudio wrote: “Thank you for your message, your concern and your prayer. May St. Eugene intercede for this people so that we can find peace once again. I feel that it is the greatest desire of the majority here. We finish our seminar tomorrow celebrating St. Eugene together. Everyone is very happy for what we have received from Fr. Frank Santucci. We have anticipated the celebration at noon so as to be able to reach home before the curfew at night. Happy feast day to you and all in Rome.”