Tribal Mundari begin Lent with a pilgrimage to India's 'Black Lady'
Mumbai (AsiaNews) - Tribal Mundari from the Blessed Mother Teresa Parish in Siadih (Diocese of Jamshedpur, Jharkhand) plan to go on a pilgrimage tomorrow to celebrate the beginning of Lent.
Their pastor, Pilar missionary Fr Lino Fernandes SFX, will lead them on the 300 km journey to the Dhori Matha (Black Lady) Shrine in Bokaro District, where they will pray to Mother Mary and ask for her intercession for this liturgical period.
Located near the Church of Saint Anthony, the shrine houses a 60 cm statue of the Our Lady in black wood. "The artefact was found in 1956 in a coal mine by a Hindu worker named Rupa, whilst she was digging," Fr Fernandes told AsiaNews. "Locals wanted to build a shrine in her honour, and place the statue in it. They called it Dhori Matha, which means Black Lady.
Since then, "hundreds of people have come to pay tribute and ask for blessings, regardless of caste and creed. Miners consider her their patron. The shrine is surrounded by coal mines and the whole area is covered by a thick layer of black dust."
In one of his trips to India, Saint John Paul II blessed the statue.
"Tribal Mundari have each raised money (700 rupees or about US$ 13) to pay for the pilgrimage, using their earnings from work or selling some of their livestock," the priest said.
"They cannot wait to go to pray to the Dhori Matha, which was found in the dirt of the earth. Suffering, poverty and the daily travails of these people find resonance in the colour of this Madonna, which for them represents liberation from existential and spiritual slavery."
The pilgrimage will begin with the celebration of the Holy Eucharist, and will continue with the recitation of the Rosary.
"For this community," the missionary said, "it is very important to get out from the villages and make the pilgrimage, just as Mary did by taking part in her son's journey."
"Mary is our hope," Fr Fernandes explained. "She accompanies us through our journey of suffering. Without Her, there would be no Jesus Christ; without the Church, we could not go on."
Most of the congregation of the Blessed Mother Teresa Parish in Siadih are ethnic Mundari, some 45 families living in 25 villages, 10 of which live about 15-20 km from the church.