On 16 June 2021, the Barwadih mission in the diocese of Daltonganj in the Jharkhand state of India will complete 25 years of dedicated missionary service to the people of this area. Here is a short description of the history and some notable contributions of the mission.
- Purpose of the Foundation at Barwadih
The Claretian Congregation in India was looking forward to expanding her missionary service to the Hindi-speaking heartland of North India in the 1980s and 90s. Vast areas of North India was reeling under economic backwardness, illiteracy, oppression of backward classes, and several other socio-cultural evils, where missionaries could play the role of salt to the society and light to the people. So, from 1986, we began sending regents to serve in different dioceses in the erstwhile Bihar state, which also included the present Jharkhand state. Our first experiment at establishing a mission at Chanpatia in the diocese of Muzaffarpur in north Bihar lasted only 3 years (1990-93). Later in 1995, two fathers were sent for pastoral service in two different parishes of Daltonganj diocese; after a year, when they started residing together in a mud house at Catholic Ashram, Barwadih on 16 June 1996, our North Indian mission took a definite shape. In April 2000, Barwadih was erected as an independent parish and permanently entrusted to the Claretians. The parish then consisted of around 200 Catholic families in 10 villages, a primary school at Barhania village and another primary school, convent, and church at Morwai village.
- Fulfillment of the Founding Purpose – the Subsequent Chronology
The mission witnessed steady growth thereafter, through various developmental projects and initiatives in the fields of education, training, and health care, all aimed at empowering the people of the area. In 2002, the mission was canonically erected as a House in the Province. The same year, we purchased some 37 acres of land at Ledgain village near Barwadih, in view of the expansion of the mission. Then we launched a community development project and a health care project in the mission: as part of these projects, a health care centre and a community hall were inaugurated in 2003. This hall is used as the parish church and for different meetings and programs. The sisters serving at the health care centre opened their convent in the compound in 2006. We replaced the mud buildings of the two Hindi medium primary schools in the villages with modern buildings in 2006 and 2010; apart from these, we started an English medium school at Barwadih in 2006. The kindergarten section of this school was constructed in the mission compound in 2007 and the three-story main building at Ledgain was completed in three stages: in 2012, 2016, and 2020. A boys’ hostel was opened at Ledgain in 2014 and a girls’ hostel and convent in 2016.
- Contribution to the Mission of the Church and Congregation
With the help of the above-mentioned developments, Barwadih mission is now enhancing the life of the Church and Congregation in this part of the world most visibly in the following areas:
- Pastoral, Youth and Vocation Ministry: The parish has grown to some 2,300 tribal Catholics from 375 families in 12 villages. Several spiritual and social activities are organized regularly by the parish for the youth, women, etc. Our vocation ministry has contributed to the Congregation 12 priests (sadly, 3 left later) and many more students in different stages of formation.
- Education Ministry: Our education ministry is providing value-based education to more than 1,000 students in the English medium high school and about 500 students in two Hindi medium primary schools. The boys’ hostel gives special formation to 60 Catholic tribal boys.
- Health Ministry: After running the health centre for 13 years mostly with the help of nurses and visiting doctors, from 2016, we got two resident doctors with post-graduate training. The centre provides affordable basic health care and lab facilities to more than 12,000 patients a year.
- Social Ministries: We have carried out several social projects from time to time in the areas of agriculture, literacy, horticulture, skills training, women empowerment, health care, social forestation, human rights, etc. Presently, the Claretians at Barwadih co-ordinate ‘Mary’s Meals’ project, providing mid-day meals to over 36,000 rural school students in different parts of the state. It is funded by an NGO of the IMS Congregation, called BREAD.
In summary, we can confidently state that the presence of Claretian missionaries at Barwadih has effected a very positive impact on the people of the area, not just the Christians, but also others. Especially because there is much to be desired in the functioning of the government machinery here in the areas of education and healthcare, people have tremendously benefitted from and are very appreciative of our contributions in these areas. Our presence here as the ‘voice of the voiceless’ has emboldened the oppressed classes, at least to a certain extent, to stand and fight for their rights. For the Catholics, our presence and the parish activities have been instrumental in the creation of a vibrant parish community. As a corollary of this growth, in the past 25 years, several Catholic families have come from elsewhere and settled at Barwadih, because they found a strong base to rely on. And for the Bangalore Province, this mission has always remained a source of inspiration for others due to its true missionary service in the peripheries of Indian society.