"My journey has been quite challenging. Challenges were from both outside and inside. The last part of my journey was quite turbulant. However I have never lost my courage. The challenges helped me to become stronger in my faith and in my priestly commitment" (Fr. G. P.)
Evangelization in Jabalpur Diocese-
A Short History- Part II / Fr. George Pallivathukal
Fr. Paymans Starts from Dhanora.
With this background knowledge Fr. Paymans went to Mandala town, rented a house on the bank of river Narmada in the midst of high caste Hindus. He was under strict observation by the Hindus. He befriended the children of the area. He gave them sweets and money. The Hindus sensed the dangeron account of his presence there and pelted stones at his rented house and made it impossible for him to live there.
Disappointed, he left the place and went to a place called Ramnagar. There was a place of the Gond kings in that place which was not inhabited those days. He spent ten days there, praying and fasting and asking the holy spirit for enlightenment. After ten days of reflection he went back to Dhanora. Sisters had not yet left the place. They guided him to go beyond Mandala to Bichhia where the tribels lived.
Fr. Paymans used to be in Nainpur-Dhanora on Sundays to offer Sunday mass for the poor people and the sisters. On monday morning he, along with his catechist Camil, would gather the mass box, beddings, provisions and kitchen utensils for two people, tie them all onto two bicycles and set off for Bichhia a distance of about 100 km from Nainpur. On Saturdays he would be back to Naipur again.
Bichhia was a small town and the Public works Department (PWD) had a rest house in that place. With the permission of the Public Works Department Officers Fr. Paymans used to stay in the rest house and being a regular visitor he became friendly with the officers and the influential people of the place. The Public Works Department used to conduct programme for the villagers around Bichhia. The labourers would come for their wages on fridays which was the market day of the place. The then collector of Mandala who was an English man had trust in Fr. Paymans and entrusted the payment of the labourers to him. This gave him ample oppertunities to build up raport with the common man.
|Forest road in Bichhia - Madhya Pradesh|
Fr. Paymans used to visit the villages of Bichhia. Soon he came to contact with the land lord of Gurli, a village about three km away from Bichhia and with his help the priest managed to buy a piece of land in the year 1936, Fr. Paymans established a mission station in Sijhora. He handed over the charge of Nainpur- Dhanora to another priest and settled down in Sijhora.
Fr. Paymans built a hut for him to stay and another one for his catechist in the newly - acqured land. The priest toured the neighbouring villages,collected children for the school and many villagers followed his faith. Fr. Paymans and his successors had to face a lot of opposition from the Goverment officials and the local landlords who wanted to keep the villagers under supression. They knew that education of the villagers would go against their vested interests. He had to face opposition also from the Aryasamaj, surprise from an Englich protestant pastor, Varier Elwin and his followers. Varier Elwin was a scholar and an authority in tribel anthropology.
While being in Sijhora Fr. paymans anxiously looked ahead for further expansion of his mission. In 1938 he bought a piece of land in kurela village about 10 km from Sijhora. He handed over the Sijhora mission to another priest and settled down in Kurela. He appointed more catechist to go to villages ahead of him. Catechist were mostly from Chota Nagpur. After constructing a house for himself he built houses for Catechists, a primary school for boys and girls of the villages arround Kurela. Fr. Paymans built a convent and dispensary. Sisters were looking after the dispensary. The church was small because there were no local catholics in the place at that time.
|In Kurela Village|
Sisters and the Catechists used to go out visiting villages. They used to spend several days in villages. They went on foot as far as 25 km. away from the mission centre, Kurela. Fr. Paymans says that he was happy when he saw the combined effort of the priest, the Catechists and the Sisters started showing some result. First village to respond was Nandaram, a village about 20 km. away from Kurela, mostly inhabited by a caste called Panks. Soon the Nighbouring Gond villages Kodakhundra, Saliguri and Manegaon also started showing interest in the missionaries. The local missionaries, men and women, worked with great zeal. While school looked after the education of hundreds of children the dispensary took care of the health of people. In the beginning the teachers and the sisters had to go around families to persuade parents to send their children to the school. The missionaries had to provide everything free for the education of these children namely books, stationary, cloths and food. The parents thought that they were doing great favour to the missionaries by sending thethat place their children to the school on the persuation of the latter.
Fr. Paymans was not a person to get attached to one place. He had a vision. His motto was expansion. While being in Kurela he went further north searching for new pastures. He spotted a village, Junwani and he liked the place. He started visiting that place often and became friendly with a number of people there. With the help of the head of the village Dhirath Mukadam, Fr. Paymans managed to buy a plot of land in Junwani in 1940. Dhirath is an important person in the history of Junwani mission. His contribution to the establishment and growth of the church in Junwani was recognized by the church, and the Pope, on the recommendation of the Bishop of Jabalpur, honored him with a "Bene Merenti" medal. Fr. Paymans handed over the care of Kurela mission to his successor and schifted to Junwani. Junwani is about 40 km away from Kurela. This was the place from where I was destined to begin my active missionary journey.
Fr. Paymans remained in Junwani until his retirement in the year 1980. His mission field was within a radius of 50 km. He walked thousands of Kilometers. He traveld on horse back. He contacted hundreds of villages preparing the ground for evanglization. When God's time came thousands of people accepted christianity and were baptized. By the year 1965 the Junwani mission became so large that a division of the mission territory became inevitable. Sakwah was bifurcated from Junwani and made into an independent mission station. Then came Ghoreghat, Madanpur, Ghughri, Haartola, Bhagdu,Amarpur and the latest Sundarpur is in the making. Fr. Paymans was a great evangelizer and a modal and inspiration for his successors.
The other tribel missions.
|Beiga Treibel Women|
While Fr. Paymans moved from Dhanora towards Bichhia and further up to Junwani, two other pioneers, Father Franciscus Van Hertum and Lucas van Helvert, both Dutch Norbertine, were busy in other parts of Mandala district. Fr.Van Hertum went to Dindori and established two mission stations in Dunhania and Dullopur. Fr. Van Hertum worked amoung the Baiga tribe, the most primitive tribe of Mandala district. Fr. Lucas Van Helvert went towards Nagpur road, worked amoung the Gonds and established two mission stations, Balpur and Deori. These two stations are not far from Nainpur- Dhanora. The tribel church of Jabalpur diocese came into existence due to the initiative of these three pioneering missionaries, Fr. Otto Paymans, Fr. Franciscus Van Hertum and Fr.Lucas Van Helvert and we remember them with gratitude. /-
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