“Barefoot” missioner stirs up Bengal Religious

IJ SjKolkata (Story By: Irudaya Jothi, SJ Matters India) : Catholic Religious, both men and women, living in West Bengal have resolved to adopt radical ways to lead their consecrated life so that they can serve the poor and marginalized without worrying about the consequences.

Some 500 Sisters, Brothers and priests belonging to several religious congregations in the eastern India state, underwent a renewal program July 10-12 as part of the Year of Consecrated Life called by Pope Francis.

During the program, held at three different venues, Jesuit Father Jerry Rosario, popularly known as India’s “barefoot missionary,” stirred the religious with his critical analysis of Catholic religious in India.

The Jesuit mendicant noted that with more than 130,000 nuns, brothers and priests India is considered the “religious capital of Catholic world.” They are engaged in various activities to serve all sections of society — young and old, rich and poor, influential and marginalized. They are also engaged in educational, developmental and empowerment ministries, besides newer areas of radical involvement.

However, Father Rosario divided them in four categories. According to him, 20 percent religious in India are consecrated for comforts, 65 percent are consecrated with compromise, 5 percent consecrated of condemnation and only 10 percent are consecrated in conscience

He quoted from the 95 theses of Martin Luther of 1517 to Pope Francis’ inspiring encyclicals, the Jesuit provoked the participants to wake up from their mediocrity and face modern challenges with renewed Gospel-based faith.

The stimulating yet humorous Jesuit ended the sharing asking the participants, “If not now then when?, if not here then where? If not we then who? If not for God’s Mission then for what? “

Most participants agreed with the analysis and resolved to lead their consecrated life in a radical way.

St. Ann’s Sisters of Madras Marina Royan said, “I was triggered to live my evangelical counsel as a Consecrated based on Gospel Values in a radical way”.

Another participant Sister Sujata Jena of the Sacred Hearts of Jesus and Mary said, “I am absolutely fired to follow my conscience today in living out my consecrated life.”

The program began on July 10 for the Religious living in and around Barasat, North 24 Parganas Districts. On the following day, the Religious living in West Midnapur district came to Karagpur and on the last day those in Kolkata and surrounding areas met in West Bengal capital and renewed the prophetic life they had vowed to lead.

Archbishop Thomas D’souza of Calcutta thanked the Religious for their dedicated services to God’s people in the archdiocese and the whole of West Bengal. He challenged them to become prophets in the modern world.

Father Rosario, 62, who belongs to Madurai Jesuit province, is a theologian, pastor, writer, social activist and civil lawyer. A man on move to make a new world, he gave up wearing footwear as a mark of solidarity with Dalits and poorest who are denied the right to wear it by the caste-ridden traditions. He has spent ten years living among the Dalit and poor people sharing their lifestyle.

Now he is serving as Director in Dhyana Ashram, Mylapore, Chennai.

He has completed Bachelor of Science in Rural Development Science, masters in Political Science, Bachelor of Laws in Bangalore and doctorate in Political Philosophy with Theology.

He is a visiting professor in forty-five institutions and has lectured in thirty countries.

The Jesuit has written 58 books and some of them have been chosen as textbooks for university students.

Five students have completed their M Phil researches based on Fr Rosario’s thoughts and defended their theses in various secular universities. One has completed her doctorate on “The Societal Analysis of Contemporary World highlighted in the forty five Tamil books of Dr. Jerry.”

He is also the founder of the movements Jesuit Pastors of South Asia for socio-pastoral animation, Dhanam (donation) for human organ donations; Manitham (humanity) for political Analysis and action. He has donated blood 75 times.

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