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Bihar’s Centenary Parish Redefines Pastoral Work, Hindu Politician Inspired
PATNA, Bihar(SAR NEWS) --A recent centenary Catholic church at Khagaul in suburban Patna, Bihar’s capital, has redefined pastoral work by widening the reach among non-Christians, especially through social welfare.

Bihar Legislative Assembly Speaker, Uday Narayan Chaudhary, a Hindu, says he has been associated with the parish for over 30 years and was inspired to do social work first and later to enter politics because of the work of service in this parish.

Chaudhary was speaking at the centenary celebration, December 8, of the Khagaul church. The celebration was attended some 500 men and women parishioners, children, religious persons, members of other denominations, and Hindu well-wishers.

Patna’s Jesuit Archbishop Benedict J. Osta and the Archbishop-elect, Jesuit Bishop William D’Souza of Buxar, and Patna Jesuit Provincial Superior Father Joy Karayampuram were also present.

Recalling the memory of Khagual church and his association with Jesuit Father Philip Manthra, Chaudhary, a Dalit Hindu, said he used to attend church services with his late wife who was a tribal Catholic.

“I have lived with my wife in the vicinity of this church, and I have been influenced by the service being done here in the name of Christ,” he said.

“I am impressed by the living out of the message of liberation preached by Christ,” by Father Manthra.

“Through such work among the poorest Dalits, irrespective of caste or creed, humanity is upheld and the most marginalised are honoured as human beings,” he said.

Earlier, I wanted to become an employed jobholder. But influenced by Father Manthra, who is known to all as ‘guruji’, I took to social work, and later I became a politician,” Chaudhary said.

“To some extent, if I am in politics now, it is because of Father Manthra,” he added.

Father Manthra has redefined parish work, said Fr. Karayampuram. Parish work for him has not been confined with rituals and liturgies within the walls of the church, but open to people of all religions through Manthan (churning), a social action centre managed by the pastor.

Father Manthra’s non-Christian parishioners are mostly poor Dalits living in several villages around the church, among whom he has worked for over 27 years, he added.

One hundred years of a parish church is not a small thing: each brick of this church can tell its history, the civil, political and religious happenings and disturbances, said Archbishop Osta in his valedictory address.

Congratulating Father Manthra, he said he was happy to note a renovated church structure retaining its original architecture.

“Celebration of the centenary of this church brings us back the pride of a 100 years,” said Bishop D’Souza in his address.

“We are happy that many parishioners who are now settled abroad and well-wishers have come to celebrate the centenary of our church,” said Samuel Miranda, secretary of the parish council, and chief organiser of the centenary programme.

Founded in 1907 for a few resident Anglo-Indian families working mainly at the Eastern Railway Divisional Headquarters here, the Khagaul church has come a long way, he said.

Parishioner Jerome Kujur briefed the participants on the history of Khagaul parish and its founder Capuchin Father John and later pastors.

The dream of Father John was to make this parish grow like a big tree. Indeed, it has grown into a big tree as most of the old parishioners have migrated and settled all over the world, he said.

The centenary celebration was marked by a well-attended Mass, followed by cultural programmes and lunch.


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