Celebrating 25 years of the Dehonian presence in India

The first Dehonian missionaries arrived in India on October 6, 1994. For two days, October 5-6, the Indian District celebrated the 25th anniversary of their arrival with prayer, performances, historical presentations, and of course, food!

Dehonians from around the world, including Fr. Carlos Luis Suarez Cordorniú, superior general, and Fr. Pedro Iglesias Curto, secretary general, were present. Other visitors included Patrick van Ooij, the nephew of one of the founding SCJs of the district, Fr. Martin van Ooij, as well as several former missionaries. For many, it was a homecoming, reconnecting with students who are now professed religious in full-time ministry, and others they had come to know during their days in India.

North American SCJs at the gathering included Fr. Tom Cassidy, Fr. Dominic Peluse, Fr. Quang Nguyen, Fr. Gustave Lulendo and Br. Leonard Zaworski.

Fr. Quang (second from right) and Br. Leonard (right) were among the North Americans at the jubilee. They are pictured here with Frs. Thai and Dang from Vietnam

Partnership with the US Province

The US Province has had a significant role in the development of the Indian District, both financial and personnel resources. With his photo prominently displayed in front of the stage during the weekend’s events, Fr. Tom Garvey is considered one of the founding fathers of the district. But many others have given significant contributions, including Fr. Charles Bisgrove, Fr. Tom Fix and Fr. Richard DiLeo. Br. Leonard Zaworski spent 12 years in the country, developing social outreach; Fr. Tom Cassidy continues to assist with the formation program. Fr. Charles Brown and Fr. Jim Schroeder are among those who have taught in the district.

Fr. Kusmaryadi was the first pastor of Sacred Heart parish in Vempadu. The parish community honored the SCJs for their years of service. Fr. Kus is an alumnus of SHSST’s ESL program.

Thank you SCJs!

Before the formal celebrations began, SCJs were invited to the village of Vempadu for what was billed as a “small gathering with parishioners.” Arriving on a dirt road, the SCJs were swarmed by well-wishers. A parade with drums and flowers escorted them to the parish where they were thanked and honored for their service to the community. It is just one of many areas where the Dehonians have had a significant impact in their 25 years.

A ”family” celebration

“Pinky,” India’s first Lay Dehonian, with family

Saturday night was an anniversary Mass with the family: the Dehonian family. And during the Mass, that family grew by one. Following the homily, the district welcomed its first Lay Dehonian: Dr. V. Mrudula Raj (known as “Pinky” by most members of the community). Now a pharmacist, Pinky came to know the SCJs through her parents, who taught Telugu (the local language) to SCJs in Eluru. Living close by, the family often joined the community for prayer and special events. She missed the strong connection to the SCJs when she left for studies. It was then that she searched out information about Fr. Leo John Dehon, the founder of the community which she had befriended. “I was impressed by him,” she said. And soon, she adopted Dehonian spirituality as her own. Fr. Carlos Luis received her first-year commitment as a Lay Dehonian.

After Saturday’s Mass, the stage was set for performances by the various Indian communities. Many did intricately choreographed dance numbers, others put on short skits. And there was music; lots of music.

A relaxed meal in the courtyard ended the day.

Fr. Carlos Luis welcomes Bishop Rao Polimera to he celebrations

And then the guest list grew!

The guest list grew by several hundred on Sunday when Christu Dehon Nivas welcomed Bishop Rao Polimera, DD, bishop of Eluru, to be the presider of the Silver Jubilee Mass. Alongside him were many of the missionaries who had helped to build the district in its early years, as well as Fr. Carlos Luis, and Fr. McQueen Mascarenhas, district superior. Stretched out in front of the altar were rows upon rows of concelebrants, both SCJs and many friends of the community. And behind them, many, many others, including local religious communities and families.

Fr. Michael, superior of the Christus Dehon Nivas community, welcomes visitors to the celebration

“Your founder called you to be witnesses of God’s transforming love in souls and societies,” said the bishop during his homily. “Spread God’s love with an open heart and mind throughout the world. The Dehonian spirit of love and oblation is an authentic service of the Church.”

In his closing words to the bishop, Fr. Carlos Luis told him that the Dehonians had fallen in love 25 years ago, fallen in love with the people of India. “And our most beautiful blessing is our SCJ brothers who thrive here now.”

Following the Mass was a video about the district, including its history and interviews with today’s Dehonians and students. Items prepared for release at the jubilee were introduced, including a CD of music that featured songs written and performed by Dehonians, a book on the history of the community in India by Fr. Emmanuel Nanduri, and a book of homilies by Fr. Dharma. The evening ended with a reception in the courtyard.

Both evenings’ events were held on the on the roof of Christu Dehon Nivas in Eluru. In a country notorious for its heat and humidity, a covered rooftop terrace is vital for keeping temperatures bearable in the building below. The terrace is the perfect place for large gatherings. At night, holiday lights twinkled throughout the property. An electrician was on site to help manage the current load, trying to keep the lights on (and the sound system and fans!) without too many interruptions.

And as with Saturday, the day ended with a reception in the courtyard.


Click here to view photos from the days.

Click here or on the image below to view the anniversary video. It was produced by the district’s first Lay Dehonian: Dr. V. Mrudula Raj (“Pinky”).

Click here or on the image below to see a video of the theme song for the jubilee, “In Souls and Society.” It was written by Fr. Michael Augustine, SCJ