The 8th January 2017 will mark an important date in the history of the Indian Pallottines, the day Fr Thomas Thennatt SAC was consecrated Bishop of the Diocese of Gwalior – a first for our Society in that country! He is a member of the Epiphany of the Lord Province and hails from the state of Kerala.
The Pallottine presence in India was established in 1951 with the arrival of the first two missionaries from the Sacred Heart Province in Germany. That humble beginning – “like a mustard seed” – grew into a mighty tree over the years. Presently it is the only country in the Pallottine world with five Provinces, 3 of the Society and one each of the two Pallottine Sister Congregations. Additionally there is the Secular Institute of Khristevikas and the newest foundation called the “Cenacle Sisters of the Sacred Heart of Jesus” plus numerous lay members of the Union who have made their apostolic commitment. And the Indian Pallottines have not only established several overseas missions, such as those in Zambia, Taiwan and the Philippines, but also work in collaboration with many other entities worldwide. These details are provided not to boast of their achievements but to show how good and generous God has been towards us.
Regardless of all these blessings, one thing still missing was an Indian Pallottine Bishop! Having a Bishop is not so much for human glory but to have the voice of a Pallottine also at the level of the hierarchy. I have always said ‘yes’ whenever my opinion was sought regarding one of my confreres becoming a Bishop – given, of course, that the candidate was worthy – because in the end we are all in the service of the church. We are not even for our own religious institute. Every charism is a gift of the Holy Spirit for the edification of the church and for its mission. Some of our best Provincials have been nominated bishops, especially in Brazil. On 23 July 2016, the Provincial of Santa Maria Province, Fr Edgar Xavier Ertl SAC was nominated Bishop; Bishop Julio Akamine SAC, recently nominated Archbishop, was the Provincial of St Paul Province in Brazil. These were excellent confreres and that was why they were chosen to be good pastors of the church. It is not a loss, as some might say, but a gain for the church and for our Pallottine family.
Bishop Thomas was consecrated in the presence of 21 Bishops, numerous members of the Pallottine family, priests, religious and laity. In the short message of thanksgiving that I was permitted to give as representative of the Pallottine family, I highlighted two qualities of the newly-consecrated Bishop: a genuine pastor and Pallottine.
I know Bishop Thomas very well from seminary days, always a humble and generous pastor who loved the people. God exalted this humble man, like the handmaid of the Lord, Mary herself. He was and will remain a Pallottine with a profound love for our Founder and his charism. His long experience in working with laity and with families, inspired by St Vincent, will make him an authentic representative of the Pallottine family in the wider church.
The Diocese of Gwalior has a catholic population of only around 5000. Its main apostolate seems to be connected to education as it has about 13 schools with not less than 3000 students each. This means our confrere will have to deal mainly with people of other religions like Hinduism and Islam. Happily he is no stranger to such realities since he worked for years in the predominantly non-christian belts in northern India.
During visits to other countries I have been repeatedly asked about the persecution of christians in India. I certainly agree that there have been instances of unjust treatment in some areas. But there is more behind these questions. For people living in a predominantly christian and catholic atmosphere, the very mention of a muslim or hindu can provoke fear and even antipathy. Some over-zealous catholics even struggle to see them as people, also created in God’s own image and likeness. This is where the Pallottine charism has to come in. As we have often heard, Pallotti’s vision of the equality of all people of God goes beyond baptism; for him it is rooted in the most profound anthropological foundation of the reality that we are all created in the image and likeness of God.
Maybe it is worth mentioning here that India is the only country where we have a fully committed collaborator of the Union, who happens to be a hindu! How many wonderful hindus and muslims work with us in the engineering college and the 30 or more big schools run by us throughout the country! Despite many journeys around the world I have never made out if a child was a christian or non-christian merely by looking at his or her face. On the face of every person we see God in his greatest splendour and beauty.
This is my wish for the new bishop: may he become an instrument of peace and harmony among God’s people regardless of their caste or religion. This is the need of the hour. How much blood has been shed in the name of religion down through the centuries. Why all these wars and violence in the world today? As Pope Francis has often repeated, they actually have nothing to do with religion or true freedom. Ultimately they have much to do with the god of money, which is closely related to power and domination.
While congratulating Bishop Thomas I also wish that, in his ministry, he may reflect this important aspect of Pallotti’s prophetic vision, namely the call to be an instrument of unity not only among christian denominations but also among people of all religions. Our prayerful support will always accompany him.
As we celebrate the solemnity of our Founder on 22nd January, may you all feel happy and proud to be a Pallottine! Let us revive our enthusiasm and commitment to be “evangelical trumpets”.
Happy Feast day!
Jacob Nampudakam SAC – Rome – ITALY
During my visit to Harriman-Monroe, Fairview, Baltimore, Green Hill, Laurel, and Milwaukee I saw that the UAC is an authentic presence of the Church.
In all of those places, I have experienced that the life of the entire Pallottine Family, is a fabric of relationships through which we learn that communion must be made flow through relationships, and that the charism of St. Vincent Pallotti still now reveals the newness of its content in this life of relationships. Everywhere I encountered people (among the priests, brothers, sisters, lay people, young people, older people, parishioners, the sick) who live deeply their conviction and their commitment to follow Jesus Christ and attract yet others to Him, calling all and uniting the efforts of all in service of the Church. This is what Saint Vincent intended by the expression “co-founders” of his work.
I wish to express my deepest gratitude to each and everyone of the UAC in the States. I felt unity and communion are not utopian ideas and the gift of the Holy Spirit to Pallotti is still working here and now in his sons and daughters for the good of the Church and of humanity.
Ecclesiastical Assistant of the UAC and Rector General of the Society, Fr. Jacob Nampudakam, S.A.C. visits India during Episcopal Ordination of Pallottine Father Thomas Thennatt, S.A.C.
During his visit to India from 31st December 2016 to 10th January 2017, Fr. Jacob Nampudakam, as Ecclesiastical Assistant, met with the groups of the Union of Catholic Apostolate at Bangalore, Nagpur and new Delhi. In all the meetings, he listened to the members about their life and activities and emphasised three points from his part: a life centred on God, formation in the spirit of the Cenacle and mission following Jesus, Apostle of the Eternal Father. The Pallottine community in India with five provinces of the Communities founded by our Founder, the Secular Institute called Khristsevikas and the new foundation called the Cenacle Sisters of the Sacred Heart of Jesus along with numerous lay members who have made their apostolic commitment is growing into one of the most significant and numerous one in the Pallottine world. The highpoint of his entire visit was the episcopal ordination of the first Indian Pallottine priest from the Epiphany of the Lord Province, Rt. Rev. Thomas Thennatt as Bishop of the Diocese of Gwalior in the state of Madhya Pradesh in Central India. The entire Pallottine Family rejoices over the gift of this Pastor to the Church in India and wishes him a fruitful and joyous pastoral ministry.
Inauguration of Convent for Pallottine Sisters at Divine Mercy Parish, Kyabakuza, Masaka Diocese, Uganda
Fr. Eugene Kalyango sends his greetings from that Masaka Diocese of Uganda with news of the inauguration of a new convent for the Pallottine Missionary Sisters. The inauguration ceremony was officiated by the Rt. Rev. J.B Kaggwa, Bishop of Masaka Diocese in the presence of Sr. Martha Litawa. The sisters have been welcomed by the parish community and some members of the Union of Catholic Apostolate, Masaka Diocese, during the celebration of the Holy Eucharist.
The Blessed Sacrament was placed in the Tabernacle (Repose) and the Faculty of administration was given to the superior of the community and the keys of the convent passed over to her. The ceremony was accompanied by a nice meal.
Thanks be to God for having the Pallottine Missionary Sisters in the Diocese through the intercession of St.Vincent Pallotti, for of our selves we can do nothing, with him we can do everything, and we would like to do everything out of Love for God.