US archdiocesan priest launches seminary project in India

Atlanta (Matters India)— The soon-to-be seminarians of The Little Way Messengers congregation in Karnataka, India, will eventually minister to the people of the Archdiocese of Atlanta.

Father Balappa Selvaraj, a priest of the archdiocese, will return to India May 18 to continue his work in establishing the seminary.

Father Selvaraj’s five-year project began during the summer of 2014. He has been back in Atlanta since mid-February serving as a supply priest and updating supporters on the status of the seminary.

“The dormitory is ready and the classrooms are ready,” said Father Selvaraj. “I’m very pleased on the whole.”

Upon return to India, the priest will be interviewing potential seminarians. Two men are already on the enrollment list. Father Selvaraj, former chief advocate in the Metropolitan Tribunal of the archdiocese, expects to have five to 15 students the first year.

First-year seminarians will experience a year of discernment, learn English, spirituality, the Catechism of the Catholic Church, and have biblical studies.

The most pressing need for the seminarians is a diesel passenger van for easy transport of students.

“Diesel is cheaper in India,” explained Father Selvaraj. His current mode of transport is a motorcycle.

Other needed items are an altar and tabernacle for the chapel, kitchen equipment and appliances, and dining tables.

The priests’ quarters were recently completed with Bishop Udumala Bala of the Warangal Diocese in India hosted as the first guest. Father Thomas Stephen, a professor of St. John Seminary, will be coming to teach the students.

The five-year initial project is with the permission of Archbishop Wilton D. Gregory and at the request of Bishop T. Anthony Swamy of Chikmagalur in south India.

Another project in the next 15 months will be construction of the congregation’s mother house in a nearby city.

Father Selvaraj is grateful to the Catholic World Mission, the bishops, and the Knights of Columbus of Georgia for support, as well as individual and family donors.

“They are helping me tremendously to fulfill this noble mission,” he said.

In India, Christians account for 2 percent of the 65 million residents.

“Christianity is the minority. You need to be willing to be martyred,” said Father Selvaraj.

Bishop Swamy has called the region “fertile ground” for the spread of Catholicism.

“We have many young men who are interested in entering the priesthood to continue building the Church not only in Karnataka but also around the world wherever the Lord will call them to His service,” wrote the bishop in a recent letter.

Donations to support the seminary are tax-deductible.

Father Selvaraj continues to offer prayers and Masses for those supporting formation of priests. When visiting Atlanta next spring, he will be available to speak with parish youth groups, schools or anyone interested in the seminary.

Remembering the seminary in prayer is important, reminds the priest.

“If you could pray … because I am yours,” said Father Selvaraj.

(This appeared in Georgia Bulletin on May 15, 2015)

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