The Congregation of Holy Cross’s Province of South India has once again heeded the call of Pope Francis “to go to the peripheries,” and has accepted a new mission center in the Diocese of Gulbarga, in the northern region of the state of Karnataka. Gulbarga is a 14-year-old mission diocese in a remote region with a Catholic community of only 0.1 percent of the total population of about seven million. Many of those seven million people are poverty-stricken with difficult life situations.
After receiving the invitation from the Most Rev. Robert Miranda, Bishop of the Diocese of Gulbarga, Fr. Roque D’Costa, C.S.C., Superior of the Province of South India, recognized the unique opportunity for Holy Cross to continue its missionary spirit by bringing Christ to those who have not known him. After further dialogue with the Bishop and his Provincial Council, Fr. D’Costa agreed to accept the newly established Divine Mercy Mission Center in Afzalpur Taluka.
Fr. Lawrence D’Almeida, C.S.C., has been assigned to pioneer this mission beginning with pastoral and social outreach.
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The Center was inaugurated on December 3, 2019, the Feast of St. Francis Xavier, the Patron of Missions in India, with a simple lighting of a candle by Bishop Miranda, Fr. D’Costa, and Msgr. Stany Lobo, Vicar General of the Diocese.
Following the lighting of the candle, those gathered for the inauguration of the new mission, which included other officials of the Diocese and the Congregation, as well as some religious sisters who serve in the local Church, recited of the Divine Mercy Rosary. Then there was also a Mass, at which the bishop presided and was accompanied by the various con-celebrants.
In his words of gratitude, Bishop Miranda said that the “Holy Cross Fathers have taken a bold step to follow God’s call. Let us go as a participatory church wherein people feel that they belong to the Church and the Church belongs to them. We shall reach out to people in the manner the Lord wants us to reach. When we uplift the poor, which is a real sign that we are with people, God will uplift us with his strength.”
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Dedicating the new Center to the Divine Mercy of Jesus, Bishop Miranda went on to say, “Let the mercy of Jesus flow from this Centre to the people who are eagerly waiting to see and experience the compassion of Jesus in their lives.”
In reflecting on his new assignment, Fr. D’Almeida believes that the diocese is promising with respect to the future expansion of Holy Cross’s presence and service. Although the people are poor, he says they “have a richness of heart and are open to growth and learning.” He is grateful for the support and help he has so far received form the local people.