(Mumbai, India) The 30th of June 2019, the Feast of Bl Genarro Maria Sarnelli was a historic moment in the V. Province of Majella. It marked two years for the V. Province establishing a mission community at Panodi in the Diocese of Nashik in the state of Maharashtra in western India. The Redemptorists came to this diocese at the invitation of the Bishop, Lourdes Daniel to take care of the pastoral needs of 10 villages mostly abandoned from the pastoral care of the Church where each village has about 20 Catholic families who were not receiving the sacraments and especially the Eucharist due to the absence of a priest. They would get mass once in 6 to 8 months. Many had left the Church for other Christian denominations. The people were converted to Christianity in the 1950s through the mission work of the Jesuit missionaries but now abandoned. The people are not just abandoned pastorally but also are economically backward as the area has been subject to severe drought conditions for years. Economic backwardness brings a series of different problems.
The Redemptorists took up the little Church dedicated to St. Joseph the Worker on June 30th, 2017 and established a mission community comprising of 2 confreres, Frs. Neville and Merwin. Both lived in very difficult and challenging conditions but won the hearts of the people. For two years through the pastoral care of the Redemptorists, there have been more than 100 Baptisms, confirmations, and rectifications of marriages. There is weekly mass in each of the 10 villages and people have begun to return to the faith. The presence of a Redemptorist community in this very backward and abandoned area has been a model for other priests and religious to follow in the Diocese.
So the Bishop erected the mission into the Parish on the 30th June 2019, through a decree and gratefully acknowledged the presence and pastoral work of the Redemptorists in this abandoned area. A contract was signed between the Bishop and the V. Provincial which gives the parish to the pastoral care of the Redemptorists for 20 years. The Redemptorist Community consists now of 3 confreres (Frs. Neville Fernandes, the 1st Parish Priest and Superior, Fr. Jerry Fernandes, the Assistant Parish Priest, and Fr. Juvance Serrao). The Redemptorist Community works closely with the Sisters of the Holy Cross (who have a community in the newly erected parish) in the work of evangelization in this parish.
The people present, 300 of them, expressed their joy and gratitude to the Bishop for bringing the Redemptorists to the village and having not one but 3 priests residing to care for their pastoral needs. The Redemptorist presence will also serve the needs of the Diocese for the proclamation of the Word to the priests and religious.
This reaching out of the V. Province to the peripheries, to the most abandoned and pastorally neglected people of the state of Maharashtra, to the people who are wounded through the effects of migration has been possible through the blessings of the Lord and the availability of confreres who are enthused with being witnesses of the Redeemer.
Ivel Mendanha, C.Ss.R.