Our Apostolate


Where Love is, God is!

How beautiful on the mountains are the feet of those who bring good news, who proclaim peace, who bring good tidings, who proclaim salvation, who say to Zion, "Your God reigns!" - Isaiah 52:7

17th November 2017 was truly a blessed day for His Lordship Bishop Ignatius Mascarenhas, Fr. John Fernandes, sfx (Provincial of the Delhi Province), Fr. Alfred Rodrigues sfx, Fr. Basil D’Mello, and me, who set off at the invitation of Fr. Christopher Michael from Shimla to the new ‘Kinnaur Mission’ in the far flung areas of Kinnaur District in the pristine valleys of Himachal Pradesh. After driving for about 7 and half hours along the meandering serpentine roads, we reached Reckong Peo at 5.15 pm. Fr. Christopher and his little band of jubilant ‘parishioners’ were there to welcome us. We were comfortably lodged in a hotel where great pains were taken to see that all our needs were met.

18th November 2017 was both a unique and a historical day for the Diocese of Shimla Chandigarh as well as for the Society of the Missionaries of St. Francis Xavier and the infant Christian community at Reckong Peo. We were welcomed with the Angura (Himachali cap) and Himachali garlands intricately woven dry fruits and nuts. The rain and the chill did not dampen the spirit of the community as the freshly clad snow capped Himalayas embraced us in its beauty. The day began with the inauguration and blessing of Krist Jyoti Handloom Centre and the blessing of Krist Jyoti Tailoring Centre. Each one of us was welcomed with a stole woven by the women at the Center. The inauguration was followed by the Eucharist in the Restaurant of Jeevan Jyoti Hotel, which was beautifully decorated by the people. For this small community, it was a novel occasion as it was their first ‘encounter’ with a ‘Bishop’! A good number of local faithful and well wishers who were dressed in their traditional attire made the ambience more colourful. The Mass was attended by around 90 people both newly baptised Catholic and non-Christian Kinnauri Himachalis. During the Mass, 15 Catechumens received the Sacraments of Holy Eucharist and Confirmation at the hands of Rt. Rev. Ignatius Mascarenhas. Of these, 11 were from Kinnaur and 4 from Jharkhand. These were baptised by Fr. Hillary Fernandes sfx during his visit to Kinnaur. The Bishop was happily surprised at how well the Confirmandis were prepared for the Sacrament, although being new to the faith. The Congregation was very vibrant in their singing and responses, like our Bishop, the Lord must have been moved by the fervour and simplicity of His new found flock, untouched by greed, pretence and malice. The Mass was followed by the Ágape prepared by the people themselves displaying their generosity and hospitality to the best of their ability. It was a day beyond their imagination to have His Lordship and others amidst them which made them leave no stone unturned and make the occasion a prayerful and memorable one.
After the lovely meal and exchange of pleasantries with the people, five of us embarked on the second phase of our journey, the destination being Dubling, 60 kms from Peo, closer to the Tibetan border. It was an arduous 3 hours drive through treacherous terrains, making our hearts skip a beat each time we came across sign boards warning us of ‘shooting rocks’ and ‘landslides’. The thought of our priests celebrating the Eucharist and bringing Christ to these neglected folks every once or twice a month, gave us the needed confidence to proceed. We halted for the night at a place called Pooh, a military base of the Indian army.

19th November 2017 The night was very cold, but the morning had a serene surprise waiting! A white mantle covered the whole area. It was so ethereal, to see the purity and serenity silently drawing you closer to the Creator. It was an exciting moment for our Lordship to see the snowflakes falling, gently and silently blessing the land! The child in man happily surfaces when genuine joy is experienced.
After breakfast, we left for Dubling, which is about 9 kms from Pooh. Here the adivasis from Jharkhand dressed in their most colourful attire, extended a traditional welcome to the Bishop and the guests. Dancing and singing to the typical Chota-nagpuri beat of the drum they escorted His Lordship to the tin shed, beautifully and colourfully decorated with their sarees and buntings, a place where they usually gather for Mass.
The Mass was attended by about 140 people from Dubling including 50 faithful who accompanied Fr. Anthony Samy from Peo travelling the 90 kms stretch in the wee hours of the morning. During the Mass, two couples received the Sacrament of Confirmation and Matrimony that doubled our joy. After Mass the guests were felicitated with garlands, bouquets and a beautifully hand knitted warm winter caps followed by the traditional folk dances of Chota Nagpur. A sumptuous lunch followed soon after which, the Bishop left for Solan. The celebration continued until we ate and danced and was time to say adieu my friends!
To be living in the far flung areas of the country bordering Tibet and China is not easy, especially when the resources at hand are minimal and meagre. My deep appreciation to Frs. Christopher and Anthony Samy for all that they have been to the people of Kinnaur. It only comes from the love for Christ one has experienced and a dedication and commitment to His calling. What a spiritual experience it was for us in both these places, it will remain etched in my mind for a long, long time. May God continue to bless and expand His Kingdom in these troubled times when spreading the Gospel is not an option but, a must. What comes to my mind right now are these lines from the poem As Kingfishers catch Fire by Gerard Manly Hopkins.

.....The just man justices; Keeps grace: that keeps all his going graces;
Acts in God’s eye what in God’s eye he is -
Christ – for Christ plays in ten thousand places,
lovely in limbs, and lovely in eyes not his
To the Father through the features of men’s faces

Sr. Stephanie ibvm.
Loreto Convent, Shimla.

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