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Marian Vicar General Fr. Joe Roesch, MIC (left), with Bishop Susaimanickam.
'The Lord Heard Our Prayers'
By Dan Valenti (Feb 29, 2012)
Almost two years ago, the Marian Fathers came to India. They had a dream, a hope, and lots of prayer. Today, they have a result.
The Congregation's India mission came after years of seed work, preparation, study, prayer, and, ultimately, decision. The move required that kind of care and attention, because the opening of a Marian front on the subcontinent marked a profound expansion of the Congregation's mission to spread the message of Divine Mercy to the world. On the spiritual front, that's a serious responsibility, nothing less than helping St. Faustina fulfill the mission given to her by Jesus, The Divine Mercy: Tell the world.
Almost 20 months later, the seeds have begun to sprout.
A House Opens
"After years of discernment and visits to India, as part of the thanksgiving to God for the Beatification of our Founder and the 100th Jubilee of our Renovation, the Marians officially began our work in India on May 31, 2010," says Marian Vicar General Fr. Joe Roesch, MIC. "Father Antony Raja, an aggregate of our community and a priest of the Diocese of Sivagangai, opened a house for candidates to our community."
[NOTE: An "aggregate" in the Congregation is one who associates with the vowed members, without vows, that is, without the covenant commitment with all its fullness of accountability and responsibility. Such aggregates pray for the Marian Congregation and its associates as well as supporting the Community in its Gospel mission.].
Father Raja says the Marians are renting a house in Karumathur from the Carmelites. It will be used for candidates. These are young men in various stages of initial formation. Karumathur, an area called "Little Rome" because of the large number of religious communities in the vicinity, is located outside of the city of Madurai. The city has recently seen explosive growth, from one million to five million, due to the annexing of smaller, nearby communities. This makes it the third largest city in the State of Tamil Nadu in Southeastern India.
Taking Up the Challenge
"The Marians have taken up a great challenge by establishing a presence in India," Fr, Joe says. The 2010 census shows that Catholics make up just under two percent of the population. Most Catholics are in southern India (Kerala), mostly Eastern Rite. Tamil Nadu and Goa, Fr. Raja says, have the largest number of Latin Rite Catholics.
"We have purchased 5½ acres of land on which to build a seminary near the house that we are renting," Fr. Raja says. "We are currently constructing our Divine Mercy Seminary there. This building will house candidates for our community, who are and will be taking high school, college, and philosophy courses. We have also planted coconut trees there, and we have planted and harvested rice and tapioca, among other plants and crops. The plan is for candidates to do their postulancy, novitiate, and theology studies in the Philippines under the supervision of our Marian community."
The official blessing of the cornerstone for the building took place on the feast of the Immaculate Conception, Dec. 8, 2010, Fr. Joe says. The blessing was done by the Most Rev. Jebamalai Susaimanickam, D.D., S.T.D., the Bishop of Sivagangai. The construction will continue this year, Fr. Joe says. He adds that, barring unforeseen complications, the building will be completed "within several months." There is currently space for 21 students, living three per room. There are also rooms for priests, an office, a temporary chapel, a dining room, and a water storage tank.
Congregational Visitation and a Good Deal of Trust
Father Joe and Marian General Fr. Andrzej Pakula were scheduled to make a visitation to the Marian house in Karumather from Nov. 22 to Dec. 2 last year. Because of illness, however, Father General could not attend. Father Joe handled the visitation solely. He reports on one of the highlights of his visit occurred on Nov. 30, on the Feast of St. Andrew:
"Bishop Susaimanickam said the Mass outdoors in Tamil, the local language," Fr. Joe says. "I had the honor of reading the Gospel in English, and I preached in English. Our 13 candidates sang sacred songs in English and in Tamil, some composed by Fr. Raja. The students worked hard to decorate the grounds and prepare everything. At the preparation of the gifts, among the symbolic gifts presented were a brick and sand, representing the construction, a framed image of Blessed Stanislaus [the Marian Congregation's founder], and a copy of the Marian Constitutions."
Father Joe's visitation came during the rainy season in India, and he says a great deal of trust was required, since rains fell "right up to the night before the outdoor ceremony. All prayed for good weather, and the Lord heard our prayers. The rains resumed again only after the Mass was over."
'Keep Our Young Men in Your Prayers'
He reports that about 60 diocesan and religious priests concelebrated, with attendance by many religious sisters and brothers, and lay faithful — approximately 250 people in all. Father Joe praised the hospitality from everyone at the Marian house: "A wonderful meal was provided, and all who attended were impressed by the building and with the spirit of the small, fledgling community."
Father Joe says that while construction will continue for months, he expects the community will be able to move into the building in February or March.
"Our men will be visiting regularly from the Philippines," Fr. Joe says. "Current laws and regulations makes it difficult for foreigners to remain full-time in India, so we are currently being assisted by many diocesan and religious clergy in our beginnings in India. This is the same process that many other religious communities have gone through to begin their work in India.
"Please keep all of our young men and Fr. Antony Raja in your prayers. He has been an extraordinary blessing to our community, working hard to recruit vocations, to take care of the students, and to oversee the construction of the new seminary building. The future is filled with hope for our work in India."