“You do parish work? I thought you were a Jesuit." This reaction frequently surfaces when Jesuits mention that they minister in a Jesuit Parish. In the public mind and imagination, so identified are Jesuits with education that people are often surprised to learn that parish ministry is a key work of the Society of Jesus. Many Jesuits wonder to themselves why we are in this ministry, unaware of how dramatically it has changed in the last twenty five years, how complex it has become, and how much preparation and training the pastoral ministry now requires. Ignatius himself did not want parishes to be a Jesuit work. In his time a pastorate entailed a lifelong commitment, which would have severely inhibited availability for other ministries and missions. Also caring for a parish was equivalent to holding a benefice, along with its accompanying canonical obligations and assured revenues, factors contrary to Ignatius’ ideal of poverty.
Yet decree 19 of General Congregation 34, pointing out that nearly 3200 Jesuits serve in more than two thousand parishes throughout the world, affirms that a Jesuit parish ministry is under certain circumstance, an appropriate way to –
1. Serve faith
2. Promote justice, and especially
3. To live with the poor and to be in solidarity with them
There are 21 parishes in Jharkhand state, 5 parishes in Assam and 3 in the Andamans Islands. 58 Jesuits of Ranchi Province are engaged in the parish ministry serving 96046 Catholics besides people of other Christian denominations and other faith.
In addition to the pastoral works, the Parish priests are also educators. They are the teachers and secretaries of village primary schools. There are 51 primary schools having an average of 200 students in each school. Therefore, the parish priests are educating 10,200 children all together.
Burudih Kochang Parish church, first mission station of Chotanagpur mission established in 1874. This one is the latest church.
The primary task of the parish priest is to dispense sacraments to the faithful, namely, Holy Eucharist, Baptism, hearing confession, distributing of Holy Communion to the elderly and sick, anointing the sick, blessing the marriages, teaching catechism, conducting marriage preparation courses, preparing the children for Confirmation etc. Besides these involvements he has to visit the families, attend social functions like engagements of young people and marriage ceremonies in the family, visiting the sick, attend the village meetings when called for and so on.
The villages of the parish are divided up into units for better administration. These units are sometimes village chapels themselves and the primary schools are attached to them. The numbers of village chapels in each parish are varying from 2 to 20 depending upon the size of the parish.
There is a greater demand of Holy Eucharistic celebration by the faithful, which at times can drain out the parish priest physically. The arrangement has been made in such a way that the pastor has to go for Mass to the village chapels twice a year: once during the Advent in preparation for Christmas and the second time during Lent, preparing the people of God for Easter. There are good number of village chapels in each parish where the Parish Priest has to avail his services all throughout the year.
Marian Devotion is very popular among the people. Parish priest makes it a point to attend Marian Procession in each hamlet or village in the month of May.
In parishes villages have their patron saints. So on the feast day of such a saint the pastor has to say a Holy Mass for the faithful.
Christianity has taken a deep root in Chotanagpur. There are many vocations from the families to religious life. In some of villages in Barway, every family has someone in any religious order. After the final vows or jubilee celebration of 25 or 50 of religious life, family remembers offer thanksgiving mass at the village.
Burying the dead is sacred. On each death in the parish the parish priest is expected to offer Holy Mass and bury the dead.
Sarwada Parish Church
Feasts and Activities in Parishes: -
St. Monica’s Feast: This feast has a great appeal among the mothers of the families. Mothers arrange retreats for the women and celebrate this feast on 27 August each year in great solemnity and devotion. A big number of mothers participate in it.
The parish has an organizational structure, namely, the Catholic Sabha for men, Mahila Sangh for women and CLC for the Youth and Crus Vir (Crusaders) for the children. Each of these wings has their annual rallies organized according to their convenience. The parish priest has to attend all these rallies. Owing these organizational structures the parish life goes on well.
Anti-addiction drive: The tribal community is prone to drinking and most of them get addicted to it. The tribal society is going down economically and in social standards because of this menace. In many parishes ant-drinking drives have been initiated and some have succeeded in this effort.
The Catechists: The parish has the catechists who take care of the village chapels. They conduct prayers on Sundays and feast days in the village chapels. They are responsible for the social and political administration of their units. They are the link between the people and the parish priest.
The parish priest looks after the social, political, agricultural and developmental activities of the people. If there are quarrels in the village the parish priest goes to settle them.
The parish priest is a pivot around which the parish life revolves. The people do trust the parish priest. If he is an able manager the people make tremendous progress in every way and if rather slow or weak the people tolerate him as well.
Vocation: There is no dearth of vocations to religious life from Chotanagpur. Boys and girls join different religious congregations in good numbers each year. The rule is that when a candidate joins any religious congregation he /she is to take a recommendation letter from the respective parish priest and thus the record is maintained. Priestly Ordinations of one or two deacons are a common phenomenon in every parish each year in which the whole parish takes part actively and the people contribute financially as well for the ordination expenses.
The mission of every parish is the creation of a covenant community centered on the Eucharist and God’s word, dedicated to pastoral care of its own members and to the service of the wider neighborhood. Building and nurturing a faith community are the first services of faith offered by every parish including every Jesuit parish, rich or poor. Every parish has this in common.