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India: Lay Catholic organization reaches out to leprosy patients

Society of St. Vincent Paul volunteers serve food to lepers (Photo supplied)

A lay Catholic organization in Patna, the capital of North India’s Bihar state, held an outreach program for the needy.
 
Bihar is India's third most populous state.
 
The Kurji Conference of the Society of Vincent De Paul (SVP) has come up with a practical response to the 'lived reality of the Indian government's stopping fund inflow of religious minority institutions and charities on various pretexts.
 
On Palm Sunday, April 10, some 30 parishioners from the Kurji parish visited the Leprosy Centre run by the Brothers of the Missionaries of Charity (MC), some 15 kilometers away, with gifts and food supplies to get them through Holy Week and Easter. 
 
What has been an annual event on the calendar of the 'Kurji Conference' of the Society of Vincent De Paul, has gained a special significance in the face of 'engineered hostility' against Christians, say Ajit Julius and Francis Xavier Lobo, who are active members of the Catholic organization. 
 
“In this phase of attacks against minorities, lay Christians must recognize their duty to stand up and support their Church institutions," Julius, SVP Patna Central Council President told RVA News. 
 
"There are many challenges as some are trying to stop works of love and charity, trying to defame and cripple the Universal Church,” said Julius. 
 
According to him, Lay people’s response should be to actively live out Christian lives and spread compassion for the poor.
 
“Wherever our mission run orphanages, old age homes, and charities are crippled due to the stoppage of funds, Christian laity should step in to help,” he said. 
 
Lobo, who leads the Kurji parish unit (conference), believes that Christians of all denominations must come together to address the issues of disinformation and persecution.
 
"In the past five years, we have seen threats and intimidation of Christian institutions in Bihar. This level of hostility has not been there before,” he said. 

Society of St. Vincent Paul members at the leprosy center (Photo supplied)

Christian Love in Action
“The SVP strategy should be to expose our youngsters and teach them the importance of compassion, sharing, and works of mercy,” said the two lay leaders.
 
"Our youngsters visited the leprosy ashram at Dhibra and saw for themselves the work that the MC Brothers do for leprosy afflicted.

They spoke to the home inmates. They helped prepare a Palm Sunday feast, served the patients, and sat down to eat with them. This is what I call training our people for 'Christian love in Action'," says Lobo. 
 
The Christians’ call to 'Love in Action’ is the best response to the narrative of hate. 
 
Works of love are many: SVP members take care of the sick, help out as volunteers in Catholic causes, donate blood when urgently needed, says Julius.
 
Julius says that the encouragement and cooperation of the parish priest and Parish Pastoral Council members are vital for the good health of a lay organization like SVP. 
 
"We are fortunate that the parish priests of Kurji and Phulwari Church are cooperative. The challenge before us is to revive SVP conferences in other parishes in the Patna Diocese,” he said.
 
The false narrative that the Catholic Church depends on foreign funds can be sufficiently addressed when the lay people are active and visible donors to Catholic causes.
 
"We are thankful that our local unit is active because we have many youngsters of college-going age as SVP members. At times, the more well-to-do Catholics celebrate special events in their lives, through works of charity channeled through SVP,” Lobo said. 
 
The Society of St. Vincent de Paul is an international Christian lay voluntary organization dedicated to tackling poverty and disadvantage by providing practical assistance to those in need – irrespective of ideology, faith, ethnicity, age, or gender. 
 
The National Council of India has its Headquarters in Mumbai and the present President’s secretariat is in Chennai, Tamil Nadu with the election of Brother S. Jude ZR Mangalraj as the 14th National President of India with effect from February 28, 2021. 

 

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