Dhruwadeepti online // Journey of a Missionary Priest // Continuation:
The new Mission station //
Fr. George Pallivathukal
SMMI Convent in Sakwah
Fr. George Pallivathukal
When the new Mission Station of Sakwah was inagurated a new convent of the Salatsian Sisters of Mary Immaculate (SMMI) also started functioning along with the Parish. The Sisters were running a Dispensary under the supervision of Katra Hospital. The care and Service of the Sisters attracted many patients to the dispensary. Sr.Philomina was the first superior of the convent and the sister in charge of the dispensary. There were two Sisters, both were very loving, affable and caring towards the people. They supported and encouraged me knowing the atmosphere in the presbytery. Sr. Philomina was a saintly Person. It was a great loss for the residents of Sakwah when this sister got ill and had to go away from there. She suffered from Cancer and died at Nagpur.
Attempt to become a Norbertine
A few Norbertine fathers like Fr. Paymans, Bishop Dubbelman, Fr. Vanthiel etc. had a great Impact on my life. So I too was inclined to join the Norbertine order. I had revealed this desire of mine to Fr.Hermon SJ, my spiritual father, in the seminary when I was doing my second year of Theology. He advised me not to do now. He told me to go ahead with my studies and become a priest, work for some time and still if I had the desire to join the Norbertine order I could do so. I remembered the above words of my spiritual father when I felt the urge to leave the diocese and join the Norbertine order. The Order was ready to accept me, but when I spoke to Bishop Leobard he said that he would not give me permission to leave the diocese and join the order. I told him that that was only a trial, and if I did not like to continue there I would come back to the diocese. He said that if I came back he would not accept me. Any way because of my insistence he permitted me and gave me a letter to the Prior of Jamtara. So I left Sakwah in June 1967 and joined the Norbertine order.
Fr. Nicky Amrbose was the prior in the monastery and Fr. Theophane O'Praem was my novice master. I was straight away taken into the Novitiate. However within a month I was disillusioned. What I experienced in the monastery was not the kind of religious life of my dream. I spoke to Fr. Theophane about it. He told me to write down what I thought about religious life. I wrote at length about the religious life of my dream and gave it to Fr. Theophane. That had indirectly helped in bringing about some drastic changes in Jamtara.The Abot from Holland visited India with in a month and he came and discussed with me the letter I wrote to the Novice Master. I stayed exactly sixty days in the Norbertine Monastery of Jamtara and went back to the diocese. When I went back Bishop Leobard said that he knew that this would happen and that was the reason why he discourged me to go to Jamtara.
Assistant Priest in Kurela.
On the 1st of September 1967 Bishop Leobard told me to go to Kurela and be assistant to Fr. Premananda O'Praem. He told me that after six months I would be transfered from Kurela to Dhanwahi to open a new station there. Dhanwahi was closed down when Fr. Van Schijndl went to Holland for his medical studies. This station was not yet re-opened due to lack of personal.
Fr. Premananda was surprised when I reached Kurela on the 1st of September evening because I was supposed to be in the Novitiate. I came with a special mandate from the Bishop that was to look after the Schools in Kurela and establish dicipline, bringing reforms and order in our School. Kurela had a primary school for boys and girls and a middle school only for Girls. We had abig boarding because only Kurela had a boarding to accommodate middle school girls from all mission stations. We had a small boarding for primary school boys just to accommodate the catholic and catechumen children of Kurela parish. Two SMMI sisters were Headmistresses of both sections of the School. Rest of the teachers were Lay People, two gents and the rest ladies.
The first staff Meeting.
The day after I reched Kurela Fr. Premananda ( affectionately we called him "Prem") escorted me to the School, intrduced me to the staff and said that from that day onwards I would look after the Schools and for any Need they should Approach me. He said that he would continue to remain as the Manager but both of us would work in collaboration as desired by the Bishop. I asked for the co-operation of all the teachers to make our School into a model School. The only reason why we were there was to help the Children to build up a bright future. When we were coming out of the school brought the teachers attendance Register and complained to Fr. Prem that both the gents teachers had not signed the Register for 24 days and showed the Register to Fr. Prem. Fr. Prem just said this much to the teachers: What is this, masters, come and sign the Register". They signed the attendance Register and went away.
I called a Meeting of the staff before the half yearly examinations and gave them some Guidelines regarding the examination Format. I told them that every teacher should prepare Question papers on the subject they were teaching and submit them in the Office. On the day of the exam go to the Office sign and procure the Question papers, Conduct the exam and bring the answer papers to the Office. Nobody would take the answer papers home without the permission and signature of the Headmistress The corrected papers with the mark list should be submitted in the Office. Recording in the Office records will be done by the concerned teachers. At this Point Mr. Retan Das said that the Duty of conducting the exam is of the head Mistress according to the School organization maual written by a certain Gulab Chand Jain and he showed me the book. I told him that " We follw the educational Code of the Madhya Pradesh Government and not of any private auther ". I took the book and kept it with me. He said to me " we will enquire in other Schools and see whether exams are conducted the way you said."
After the Meeting the Headmistress brought the teachers attendance Register and showed it to me. Both the men teachers had not signed the Register for eighteen days. I put absent in the vacant colums amd gave them a notice why Action should not be taken against them for being absent from the School without taking leave. When they received my letter signed by me as acting Manager, they came to offer excuses. They appealed to me that I had seen them coming to the School and the Children were there witnesses etc. I told them that my witness is the attendance Register and you have not signed the Register for eighteen days. If you had come you would have signed in the Register. I had told the teachers in my first Meeting that the School Office is the nerve centre of all activities in the School and the teachers should be in touch with the Office. I had advised the Headmistress never to send the teachers attendance Register to the classes for their signature.
Ratan Das had a Habit of asking for Advance payment of salary in the middle of evry month. No shopkeeper would give him anything on credit because he was a very bad paymaster.Immediately after the above incident Ratandas came to me asking for Advance payment which could be refunded at the end of the month when salary was Paid. I told him "Masterji, let me enquire in other Schools, whether teachers get Advance payment before the end of the month. You can come to me after a week. He then literally knelt down and touch my feet and said " Father, you can hit on my back but please do not hit on my stomach." I specified that there were rules of significance that are binding on everybody. "You don't act funny in the School. If you continue acting that way you have been doing the last two years, it will certainly hit your stomach. I have no Intention of starving your Children" Since then both of them were very co-operative and the Administration in the School went smoothly.
Toilet for the boarding
There were approximatley two hundred Girls in the Boarding, both Primary and middle. Most of the Girls in the middle School were quite grown up and some of them were of marriageable age. These Girls had to go to the fields for the nature's call. Often Boys of the Village used to disturb the Girls when they went to answer the nature's call. I told Fr. Prem that we should construct toilets for our Girls. Fr. Prem was aware of this need but he did not have the money to constuct a bathroom. He spoke to the Bishop about the need and about the danger in sending grown up girls out into the open. Bishop gave some money and soon a 24 room toilet was built for the Boarding girls.
Fr. Premananda the priest -in-charge.
It was a joy to work with Fr. Prem. I was in fact Looking for an oppertunity to work with Fr.Prem because I knew that I could learn much from him. He was a great missionary. Like Fr. Paymans he was committed to the People, but his lifestyle was different from that of Paymans. Prem's Lifestyle was very simple and his Needs were minimum. People loved him because he loved and lived for them. A couple of times he had donated blood for patients of Kurela whom he had sent to Katra Hospital for Treatment. Ihis incident made a strong Impact on the People. People considered this gesture as a sign of his immense love for them.He would spend much of his time in villages with the People. He walked barefood. He was a man of knowledge and a voracious Reader of serous books. Above all he was a man of prayers.
Bishop Leobard visits Kurela.
When Fr.Prem and I were in Kurela as priest in charge and assistant, Bishop Leobard visited the Mission Station. He spent About 4 days with us. He Visited the School and the Boarding, met the catechists and teachers separately. Sisters expressed their happiness over the Bishop's Intervention in the School. The male teachers complained to the Bishop that I was too strict a disciplinarian. However they also agreed that there was a Peace in the School and the classes were running smoothly.
Bishop goes on tour.
On the third day of his visit Bishop Leobard said that he would like to visit a Village and spend a night with the People. We selected Nausa- Bahera, a Twin Village close to Bichhia. We selected that Village because the christians of this place had to face a lot of Opposition and threats from the Pandits of Bichhia. The People resisted the attack of the Hindu fundamentalists couragesously and they were very strong in their faith. Bishop decided to spend a night with them to express his solidarity with them. Both Fr. Prem and I accompanied the Bishop to the Village. We had sent the catechist earlier to the Village to inform the People that Bishop would be visiting them in the evening and he would spend the night in the Village. When we reached the Village the People were all gathered in the Village Chapel to welcome the Bishop. They were overjoyed . They could not believe that their Bishop was with them in the Village and that he had come to share their life.
We had the rosary and the evening prayers with the People, chatted for a Long time and the People asked the Bishop a lot of Questions. Bishop told them that he and his priests were with them in their Moments of struggle for Christ. He would never abandon them. Bishop had just returned from Rome after attending II Vatican Council. He told them About the renewal espected after the Council. Villagers had arranged for some tribal Dances and cultural Programmes in honour of the Bishop.
Around midnight we had our meals and it was time to Sleep. The People had spread straw on the Floor in the Village chappel and arranged our beds to Sleep. Bishop was sleeping on the Floor in the middle and Fr. Prem and I were on either side of Bishop. Lying down we were talking for a Long time. Fr. Prem was narrating to the Bishop about the attack the People had to face from the Hindu fundamentalists. The People had arranged for our morning Ablution in the bush outside the Village. Word had gone round that nobody should go in that direction of the bush and they had kept two guards to Prevent anyone from going that side. The guards had already reached a bucket of water earlier for the bishop's toilet use.
When we were Ready the People assembled in the Chapel for Holy Mass. During the Mass the Bishop expressed his joy of being with them. He told them to be firm in their faith. Only Jesus could help themto come up in life. He told them to hold his Hand tight and never let it go loose because Jesus would never let them fall.I admired the way the Bishop was interacting with the People. He was a true leader and was capable of relating to all at their levels, the rich and the poor, the intellectuals and the illiterate. This Kind of pastoral visits of a Bishop is encouraging not only for the People and staff of the Mission but for the priests as well.
Talk on Vatican Council II in the Diocesan Missionary Meeting.
Bishop Leobard asked me to prepare a paper on the Vatican Council, its teaching and its impact on the church for the Annual Missionary Meeting of Priests.He gave me some literature to help me prepare the paper. Fr. Prem also helped me. I emphasized in my paper the revolutionary Change that is going to take place with the new understanding of the church., namely the Church is the People of God, or Body of Christ resulting from a renewed understanding of Baptism which is sharing of the People in the Trinitarian life and a new understanding of a priestly People. I myself fehlt that the paper was well written and well presented in the missionary Meeting . Bishop Lebard said that paper was a scholarly one.//-
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