Frank Krishner, RVA News
Processions, special liturgies, cultural programs, new hymns, and talks: the foster father of Jesus is being celebrated throughout India like never before.
March 2021 holds a special significance for Indian Catholics as the Feast of St. Joseph, (observed on March 19), emerged as a high point in a year fraught with anxieties due to the pandemic.
News is pouring in from parishes big and small as communities across the length and breadth of the subcontinent joyfully respond to Pope Francis and his Apostolic Letter titled Patris corde (“With a Father’s Heart”), released in December last year.
From Arunachal Pradesh in north-eastern India, news comes that the people of Kharsang, a small township, responded to the pope's call to reflect on the silent role of St. Joseph by building a grotto.
The grotto is located at a prominent junction, with roads leading to three subdivisions of Arunachal Pradesh, the towns of Jagun and Tinsukia in Assam, and to Pangsau Pass in Myanmar.
Senseng Jugli, a local businessman donated the land; Chumkam Thungkhang, a well-wisher of Miao Diocese, offered help with the construction; and Dr. Betty Joseph of Krick and Bourry Hospital Injan gifted the statue.
“I am very happy to bless this grotto and dedicate it to the Year of St. Joseph,” said Bishop George Pallipparambil, SDB, of Miao Diocese.
“This may be the first of its kind in India to mark the Year of St. Joseph,” he said at the simple blessing ceremony at Namchik-Balinong junction in Changlang district of Arunachal Pradesh.
Pope Francis declared the Year of St. Joseph for the Universal Church, from Dec. 8, 2020, until Dec. 8, 2021.
He described Saint Joseph as a beloved father, a tender and loving father, an obedient father, an accepting father; a father who is creatively courageous, a working father, a father in the shadows.
In Dumka, the heartland of the Santhal Tribes of Jharkhand State in Eastern India, animators of the Small Christian Communities in nine parishes chalked out a celebration plan in January which came to fruition in the past fortnight.
The SCC groups of Dumka diocese, under the patronage of Bishop Julius Marandi of Dumka recite a special prayer to St. Joseph every day.
“We remind people how St. Joseph protects us as he protected the Holy Family," said Albert Hansda, an SCC animator.
"Families in the villages will pray to St. Joseph for his protection during this pandemic time,” he said.
Meanwhile, Talbona village of Asansol Diocese, some 150 km from Kolkata, marked St, Joseph's feast on Sunday, March 21, as "Men's Day."
During the Holy Mass, women prayed for all men – the elderly, husbands, adults, youth, and boys.
“We shall pray for our men folk daily that they follow the example of Saint Joseph,” said Deepa Soren, leader of the women’s group in the parish.
The parishioners also recite the prayer to Saint Joseph composed by the pope everyday at home. They planned to honor all working men on the feast of Saint Joseph the worker on May 1.
Father Alexius Tudu, coordinator of the Small Christian Communities in the diocese, exhorted the men to follow the virtues of Saint Joseph, such as being just and faithful, humble, listening and obedient to the Word of God.
Social media is awash with memes, messages, and newly created content on the saint.
Atmadarshan TV, a Catholic media channel from Indore, released a song of praise to St. Joseph. The Pauline Media Centre in Bandra, Mumbai, also released a reflection on St. Joseph on its YouTube channel. - RVA News