In August 2017, I spent twelve days in the Taminaldu State, in the South East of India, to attend the ordination and the first mass of our first Indian Spiritan confrere. Since last year, I have indian novices in my community. So it was a great opportunity to discover their country so to speak, or more precisely their region of origin. When I went out of the plane and got on the airport bus in Chennai, I chatted a few minutes with a French tourist who told me : « Since it is your first time in India, you may not feel at ease at the beginning, since there are lots of confusion here’’. Living in Vietnam for ten years, I felt I would be immune to any kind of confusion! However, it happened that my first impressions were mixed. Of course, I was very excited to step into a subcontinent of more than one billion inhabitants. I was also touched when my confreres welcame me at the airport with a garland of Jasmin flower. But as soon as we went out of the airport, we faced another less pleasant reality : streets are very noisy and dirty, public transportation is overcrowded and the traffic is unbearable. It gives the picture of a fast pace developing country that struggles to adapt to so many hasty social changes.
After one hour of taxi (thanks be to God, we had the aircon !), I was happy to reach the spiritan house and to meet the confreres. Some of them were known to me, especially our two former novices. Our Congregation was present in India from 1862 à 1887, replaced by the priest of Foreign missionaries of Paris (MEP). Since 2010, the Spiritans are back to India. Similarly to what we live in Vietnam, the only spiritan community of India lives in a precarious state for several reasons. All the missionaries were expelled of India long time ago and those who presently come back are a very tiny minority (in general, the number of foreigners in India is very limited, even more than in Vietnam). Missionaries have no legal status. Confreres, like us in Vietnam, must “tamper” to stay in the country. Face with the impossibility to do apostolic work (they are even more limited than us in Vietnam), they are committed to the formation of local candidates to spiritan life. Some of our foreign confreres, in order to get visa in India, are registered at university where they take course. They commute by bus three hours a day. They are students during the day and formators at night and at week-end… Being so busy, they cannot properly learn the local language, despite the fact that their love for Indian people is obvious. Living in an urban environement, they share the difficult daily conditions of the locals who live in big cities for their living.
What is amazing is that despite the difficulties, the spiritan presence produces good fruits. A dozen of young indian men are discerning in our congregation. The community has already two indian priests (one still discerning about the possibility of joining us). Within a few months, they will have one new deacon and the professed and postulants are in good number. I am very impressed by their work in a political context pro-Hindu and hostile to the Christian minorities. With humility, patience and perseverance, everything turns to be possible.
During my stay in India, I accompanied the local superior, our superior general and his assistant on a car trip of 1200 km in the Tamilnadu state. It was a pilgrimage on the steps of missionaries, first of all our indian confrere ordained priest at the beginning of our stay and who celebrated his first mass in his home village (where we were welcome by a thousand of villagers, all parishioners), then Saint Thomas (we visited the place of his martyrdom and his tomb), Saint John of Brito (portugese missionary also martyr), the cave where Saint Francis Xavier spent two years. We visited the biggest Marian shrine of the South of India, our Lady of Vailankanni. During this one week trip, besides the advantage of chatting with the confreres in the car (what a privilege to be with the superior general and his assistant and the local superior who have many interesting stories to tell), to enjoy the landscape and the several points of interest, we were deeply touched by the warming welcome of bishops, priests, Christian families that edified us by their strong faith and their gentleness.
The only frustration I experienced was to not have much time to visit the magnificent temples and beautiful beaches of the South of India. The trip was long and the time for cultural activities was limited. Pilgrimage did not give much room to tourism ! My sincere gratefulness to all my confreres in India, I wish you a good mission and I hope we can meet again one day in India or in Vietnam !
commenter cet article