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What has it meant to be a Ranchi Jesuit:

Posted on: 1 Dec, 2014

Modified on: 1 Dec, 2014

By Fr. Sylvanus Kerketta,S.J.

Introduction: The Decree 2 of the G.C. 32 describes the Jesuit identity in our time. It poses a question, what is it to be a Jesuit? It is to know that one is a sinner yet called to be a companion of Jesus as Ignatius was: Ignatius, who begged the Blessed Virgin to “place him with her son”. What is it to be a companion of Jesus today? It is to engage, under the standard of the Cross, in the crucial struggle of our time: the struggle for faith and that struggle for justice which it includes.
When the question is posed to me, what has it meant to be a Ranchi Jesuit? I look at from two different angles: as a Jesuit and as a Ranchi Jesuit which is coloured by the historical background of the social apostolate taken up by many Ranchi Jesuits in Jharkhand or elsewhere.

As a Jesuit:
I am fully aware of myself, a sinner and yet called to serve the Lord and his people in Jharkhand and if needed anywhere in the world.
I have always cherished and relished warmth of the Jesuits within and outside the province and have a deep feeling of belonging to the Ranchi province and to the Society at large.
I have always enjoyed the acceptance, recognition and encouragement by the authorities, Father General, my Provincials, local superiors, my companions, colleagues, clergy and laity.
I have experienced appreciation by Jesuits and non Jesuits in my apostolate.
I feel inspired by the charism of magis, to do more and more for the greater glory of God.
Prayer is the source of my strength and committedness.
Eucharist is the source of inspiration, centre of my life. As I break the bread everyday I break myself to give myself to my people, people in need in the broken world.

As a Ranchi Jesuit:
I am a tribal, from a chosen race like Israelites and I am called by God to liberate my people from the slavery: injustice, exploitation (Ex. 3:7 ff), superstition, misunderstanding, and consequences arising from migration and displacement.
My priority of service goes to my people in Jharkhand, Assam and Andamans.
Other individuals and religious congregations in Jharkhand are looking towards us Jesuits for leadership in different areas in our endeavours.
We have enjoyed the fruit of pains our forefathers and Belgian missionaries took and it is our turn now …….

The historical background:
The socio-economic development in Jharkhand has been unique because the Jesuits have made their social concerns as an integral part of the whole liberation process. The Jesuits who started Ranchi mission in 1869, have attended to the socio-economic problems of people right from the beginning. They had their feet on the ground while preaching the mission that is why they could understand them in their real life situations, namely, the kind of socio-economic injustices they were suffering from. The early missionaries perceived that the link between the faith they preached and socio-economic conditions of people was very important. You cannot worship God in empty stomach, as the saying goes. Socio-economic development was seen as part of new faith from where the Jesuits coined their new mission thrust, namely, service of faith and promotion of justice (decree 4 of 32 General Congregation).
I present the situations in the framework of four points, first, existing problems/issues of a given period. Second , analysis or perception of the existing problems, third, strategic intervention that followed and fourth, achievements or results.

Phase I: Pre-Independence Period:
A. The beginning with Fr. Constant Lievens:
Problems/issues : Land alienation, forced labour,oppression.
Analysis : Poverty, illiteracy, backwardness, indebtedness, colonial rule.
Strategic Intervention : Intervention, study law, legal assistance, fight court cases.
Results : tribal population learnt how to take their cases to the court,
protected their lands.
B. J.B. Hoffman
Problem : Land alienation continued.
Analysis : Conflict of land tenure system of the Mundas and the zamindari
system, cultural conflict, British administrators did not understand the Mundas.
Strategic Intervention : Study of Mundari Khuntkati landholding system, Study of the Mundari language and social structure.
Results : Legislation of the CNP Tenancy Act 1908
Writing Encyclopaedia Mundarica in 13 volumes
Establishment of Catholic Cooperative Credit Society (1910).
C. Bishop Oscar Sevrein:
Problem : Exploitation, misery.
Analysis : Illiteracy, lackof education/knowledge, social backwardness.
Strategic Intervention : Primary education, open schools along with parishes, training.
Results : Increase in literacy rates primarily among the Christians, number of schools.
Phase II: Post Independence Period
A. Fr. Michael Windey
Problems : Poverty, backwardness, illiteracy.
Analysis : Lack of opportunities and infrastructure facilities for development
Strategic Intervention : Social welfare, organizing community development.
Results : Establishment of social work centres/departments, social workers identified and freedom for innovations.
B. With Frs. Michael Vd Bogaert, Peter Paul Van Nuffel, Marc De Brouwer, Victor
Van Bortel etc.
Problems : Advent of industrialization with Nehruvian Age, competitive society tribal population in disarray with industrialization, urban migration, unemployment, traditional agriculture.
Analysis : Disparity in social conditions of the people slowly in, distance between the rich and the poor, rural and urban, poverty, people incompetent to cope with situations, unemployment.
Strategic Intervention : Opening centres for diverse manpower, human resource development, skill training, professionals in need to growing industrialization, rural development, urban community development.
Result : Starting social and economic development like AROUSE, training professionals like XISS, personnel staffing in urban and rural sectors as professionals.

Phase III: New Millennium
With Fr. Dharamsheel Kujur and others
Problems : Development displacements, forced migration, violation of human rights, anti-people policies, oppression and exploitation due to globalization, loss of identity, land forest and water sources.
Analysis : Division among people on various grounds, weakness of tribal society, easy victimization, existence of tribal communities and weaker sections threatened.
Strategic Intervention : Issue based interventions, animate and coordinate people’s movement, organize to fight for their rights, motivate to unite and fight divisive, communal and anti-poor forces.
Result : Launching of issue based social action , building awareness, publications, organizing people’s movements like in Netarhat and Koel - Karo, awareness consolidation through promotion of Gram Sabhas.

It can be said that the social dimension of our mission is becoming more and more challenging in the fast changing socio-economic, politico-cultural scenario that is taking place so rapidly. More people and committed ones are required to come forward to this challenging task. These challenges have to be met effectively with many other like-minded people and organizations.