PREACHING THE GOOD NEWS BY ACTION
Passionists are sent to proclaim the Good News of God’s love as shown in the Passion and Death of Jesus Christ. But there is more to the missionaries’ life than preaching. Missionaries work in remote areas where poverty and illiteracy are common. Randham Korattur in India is an example of how the living conditions of the people challenge the Passionists to be more than preachers.
The Passionists arrived in Randham Korattur in southeast India in 1994. They asked the Bishop of the Diocese of Vellore if they could work in his diocese, and offered to work in the poorest area. The Bishop assigned the Passionists to Velankanny, a Parish with nine substations. The village has a population of 1,500, of whom 400 are Christians. The villagers have very little land for earning a daily wage. Many live like beggars. Very little aid comes from the government.
After a year in the area, the Passionists realised that in order to empower these people, they had to confront two challenges. The first was education. So they started Saint Gemma Matriculation School, which now has more than 150 students coming from 10 neighboring villages. They purchased a minivan to bring the children to school in the morning and take them home in the evening. Enrollment at St. Gemma’s will double over the next few years. Though the Passionists have been successful in establishing the school, they now face ongoing needs: providing a decent salary for good teachers and finding more classroom space.
The government has made it clear that it will not provide any aid for several years. The school, for the present, is dependent upon financial aid from the Passionists of Holy Cross Province (USA) and charitable organisations.
The second challenge the Passionists had to meet in Randham Korattur was that of helping the people to earn an income. After much discussion, and a great deal of creativity, the Passionists initiated a “loan-for-cow program” to enable families to purchase a milking cow. The Passionists loan a family $200 to purchase the cow. As the family sells the milk, the loan is gradually paid off without interest. Begun in 2000, this program has helped many families to earn income, while providing extra nutrition for their children. More than 200 families, both Catholic and non-Catholic, participate in the program. Almost 100 families have already paid back their loans. And as the loans are repaid, other families are able to join the program.
A subsidiary program was soon initiated. The St. Paul of the Cross Milk Society collects milk from the people and delivers it to the milk factory. When the Society receives payment from the factory, they then pay the individual families for their share of the milk delivered.
The Passionists in India are not simply providing God’s love by preaching the Word, but are also living that love by deed and example: establishing a way for parents to educate their children, a dream they never thought possible, and then creating a way for families to generate income so they can live in self-respect and dignity.
May the Passion of Jesus be always in our hearts