11/08/2014, 00.00
INDIA
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Jharkhand's tribal Mundari remember the first Catholic converts

by Nirmala Carvalho
Fr. Lino Fernandes SFX led a pilgrimage to celebrate "Kuntpani Mata". The celebration is in memory of the first six indigenous families who were baptized in 1873. The missionary: "It is Mary who draws all people to her and through her, to her Son Jesus."

Mumbai (AsiaNews) - A pilgrimage to celebrate "the proclamation of the Gospel, the joy of faith and the joy of serving Christ," recalling the first converts of the Diocese of Jadshedpur (Jharkhand). It was in this spirit that Fr. Lino Fernandes SFX, pastor of Blessed Mother Teresa of Siadih, led his Mundari tribal communities to the shrine of Our Lady of Kuntpani to celebrate the feast of Kuntpani Mata today.

The celebration takes its name from the village of the same name. Here, on 8 November 1873, six tribal families were baptized, becoming the first Catholics in the area. "These people - said Fr. Fernandes to AsiaNews - came from the poorest and most marginalized sections of society. In total freedom and absolute joy they asked to enter the Church, embracing the Catholic faith."

Since then, the shrine is a place of pilgrimage for many people, Christian and non, who come to pray to the Virgin from various areas of Jharkhand, Orissa and other rural areas.

The priest, a missionary of Pilar (Society of the Missionaries of St. Francis Xavier, born in Goa in 1887), left yesterday morning at dawn with a group, made up of tribal Christians and non-Christians. "Many of them - he tells AsiaNews - come from the most remote parts of the diocese. We arrived in Kuntpani in the afternoon and the kids had rehearsed the preformance that they will give today. The Mass in fact is preceded by traditional tribal dances".

"Our parish - he explains - has been preparing for a long time, organizing prayer services and reciting the rosary together. It is Mary who draws all people to her and through her and to her Son Jesus, with his unifying force. Even during the bus ride we prayed and sang tribal hymns. It was a moment of grace for the Church".

 

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