Begins at home.
I thought that before I introduced the new teaching and the renewal programme in the Diocese I should do it in my own parish and show to the others that it was possible and necessary. I knew that the first ones to object to any change would be the priests, although they were to know that the changes envisaged by Vatican II are not a matter of their choice. I shared with my companion priests, the Sisters and the Staff what I had learned in Bangalore and with their co-operation we tried the renewal programme in the Kurela Parish. With in a short time we had an active and vibrand local church. I was happy and was now prepared to go to the diocese to tell the others that these changes were possible and they were necessary.
The Message of Vattican II wich had to be conveyed to the people briefly are: the new concept of Church, namely, the Church is the people of God, a community that believes in Christ and not an Institution of pyramidal structure, the Church is missionary by its very nature and hence all the baptized are missionaries; Liturgy the source and the summit of Christian Life; the centrality of the Paschal Mystery in the Church; also importance of the Bible in our lives and in our ministery; the roles of the Bishops, Priests and Laity in the building up on the Church. Awareness of the above teaching of Vatican II was to bring about a revolutionary change in the Church.
The first seminar in the diocese .
I collected all the catechists and the grass root level evangelists in the diocese for an awareness programme. Our resource person was Fr. W. Pillean S. J. a Belgian Jesuit working in Ranchi Archdiocese. Fr. Pillean was specilized in catechetics from the University of Louvain, Belgium. Amazingly this seminar was a grand succes. The People even in villages had started experiencing the fruit of Vatican II renewal with the vernacularisation of Liturgy.
I organized another seminar during the Deepavali holidays for a wider audience, namely the catechists, the mission school teachers and sisters who were engaged in direct mission work. Fr. Ed Daly S. J an American jesuit who was the Director of the Regional Pastoral Centre, Patna, was to conduct the one week seminar. Just three days before the seminar was to commence, I got the news that Fr. Daly would not come for the seminar as he fell ill and was hospitalized. I began to Panik. I went to the Bishop and told him that I was going to cancel the seminar and to tell the Fathers in the mission stations not to send the participants for the proposed seminar. Bishop Leobard very cooly said that the programme would not be cancelled and it would be take place as it had been planned. I said, " But who will conduct the programme". He replied- "You, you can do it and you will do it ". And he added that he too would be coming to attend the seminar which made me more nervous.
I prayed to the Holy Spirit to put words into my mouth and anoint me powerfully to manifest His Glory. I was completely blank. I relied on the words of Jesus that when the time comes the Spirit will tell you what to say. There were about 120 participants. Bishop came as he had promised. He celebrated Mass for the participants and inaugurated the seminar. During the sessions he sat with the participants. I told him to give at least one talk. He said he came to learn, not to teach. My training in Bangalore and my prior association with Fr. Daly helped me in cunducting the seminar. I would like to acknoledge that I did feel te spirit of the Crucified Rissen Lord working in and through me. Bishop stayed with us for three days. When he saw that that the semiar was progressing well, he returned to Jabalpur. Before leaving he told me "I told you that you can do it. You are doing well" I was happy to hear this encouraging remark from my Bishop. The seminar was a succes. I gained a lot of self-confidence after this experience and was ready to face any crowd. I am greatful to Bishop Leobard because whatever I am today is because of his encouragement and guidance.
Join the regional team
Fr. Daly came to Jabalpur personally to congratulate me for the succesful renewal programme I had conducted in my diocese. Nav Joyti Niketan, Patna was the Regional Pastoral centre for central and north India and Fr. Daly was its Director. Fr.Daly asked Bishop Leobard to permit me to join the Regional Team. Bishop permitted me to help Fr. Fr. Daly. Once again I was further boosted. While looking after the catechetical apostolate in the diocese I used to go several times a year to the Nav Joyti Patna to help Fr. Daly conduct programmes. Since that time teamed with Fr. Daly or Fr. De Cuyper S. J. I would go to various dioces in central and north India to conduct renewal programmes. Fr. De Cuyper was my Canon Law and Liturgy Professor in St. Albrt's Seminary, Ranchi. Once Fr. De Cyuper and I went on a tour of several dioceses in North India. We started with the week long seminar on Liturgy in Agra, then three days in Delhi and one week in Jalandhar diocese. In Patna I came in contact with Fr. Mathew Uzhuthalanother collaborator of Fr. Daly. Fr. Mathew was a friendly person and a committed catechist.
I need your help
| Varanasi -
In April 1971, I was getting ready to go to Varanasi to contact a renewal programme for Priests and Religious of that dioces teamed with Fr. Daly. Suddenly I got an urgent call from the Bishop to come and meet him immediately. I went in haste to jabalpur and met the Bishop in his room. He was waiting for me. He told me," george, I would like you to help me". I replied " Bishop, what else am I doing ". Bishop said " but this is a special cross I am asking you to carry". Immediately I knew what was coming. I told the Bishop that I had a commitment with Fr. Daly that week in the Varanasi diocese and after returning from there I would take up that cross. He said that he would take care of my Varanasi programme because the matter here was urgent.
Fr. Francis Xavier an elderly Priest of the diocese was in charge of Bakpur mission and Fr. Peter Edappally was the assistant priest there. Fr. Xavier was keeping a family in the presbytery and on account of this family there was a lot of fight between the two priests. People also took sides. Bishop asked Fr. Xavier to send away the family from the parish house. But Fr. Xavier refused to oblige. Bishop sent many people to Fr. Xavier to speak to him. Howeverhe refusedto listen to them. Ultimately Bishop transfered Fr. Xavier to the Bishop's house. He refused to accept the transfer order. That was the time that the Bishop called me to render a special assistance.
Bishop wanted me to accompany him to Balpur and take over the parish from Fr. Xavier. The next morning very early we left for Balpur and when we reached the place Fr. Xavier was astonished to see us. Everything was done as a top secret because if Fr. Xavier had any indication that we were coming he would have disappeared from the scene. As soon as we reached Balpur, Bishop called Fr. Xavier to the office and pleaded with him to accept the transfer order. Fr. Xavier refused to listen to the Bishop. Some time later the Bishop called to witnesses and asked Fr. Xavier in front of those witnesses to obey. In front of the witnesses too he flatly refused to obey the Bishop. Finally the Bishop said, "In that case from now on I am in charge of this place". After that he called me to the office and handed over the charge of the mission station to me. It was an unpleasant affair. Bishop treated Fr. Xavier with utmost kindness. He didnot want to take any disciplinary action against Fr. Xavier because of his old age, although he was obstinate and defient till the end.
Fr. Xavier did not hand over the records and keys to me. He said he had no records or accounts or cash balance. In the afternoon when we were resting Fr. Xavier destroyed all the records except the Baptism, Confirmation, Marriage and Funeral registers. He left the safe empty and took away the keys of the safe.
Bishop stayed with us that day. In the evening we had a concelebrated Mass. I asked Fr. Xavier to join us for the Mass. He refused. During the Mass, the Bishop announced to the peoplethat Fr. Xavier was transfered and I would be the new priest in charge. After the distribution of Communion, the Bishop gave me the tabernacle keys. By the evening Fr. Xavier had cooled down because he understood that his tricks would not work. He asked the Bishop if he could arrange with the Sisters of Nirmala Convent, Mandala for his stay in their premises instead of going to the Bishop's house ,Jabalpur. Bishop did according to Fr. Xavier's wish. While staying in Mandala he did a lot of harm to me. He used to call his supportrs often to Mandala and worked against me. He even guided and instructed them to write a complaint to the Home Minister, Bhopal that I was doing conversion work in Balpur. However that did not work. As soon as I took over the charge of Balpur mission Fr. Peter and I visited all the Government officers of Ghansore and became friendly with the Tehsildar, Police Inspector, C.M.O. of the Government Hospital and some influencial politicians. They reported in favour of me. The officers used to visit me often and I built up a good support with them.
| Poor People in Mandla
My stay at Balpur was very short. Durig the little time I spent there I tried to establish some order in that mission. I called all the people together and conducted a retreat for them. My aim was to unite the Parish. One catechist and a school teacher resigned when they understood that I was aware of their activities against me. I had to dismiss another teacher for his misbehavior in the school. I handed him over to the police. With this order was established in the schools and the parish. Balpur was a small mission station compared to the rest in Mandla district. This station was in Seoni district boardering Mandla. Balpur had only four outstations to visit. There were two schools under this mission, one at the centre and the other in Piparia an outstation. Balpur had earlier witnessed a lot of opposition from the Hindu Fundamentalists and fought many court cases. When I was posted there, there was no fresh conversion work. We had only to maintain the old catholics who were very strong in faith. They were all landed farmers and hence not very poor like the people of Junwani. However they had a lot of expectations from the mission.
I had visited all the families of this mission station along with Fr. Peter Edappally. Fr. Peter was a jack of all, very handy and a pleasant person to live with. Along with the catechists and the school teachers we formed a good team. While being in Balpur I continued my service to the Hindi region. Onece I joined Fr. Daly to conduct a week long catechtical programme in Allahabad diocese. A ten days orientation programme for 120 participant in Sambalpur diocese, Orisa was organized and conducted by me single handedly. Henceforth I regularly visited the Nav Jyoti Regional Pastoral centre to assist with programmes conducted there.//-