On 3 March this year, the Province of Patna, in
northern India, concludes its centenary celebrations. In 1919, Pope Benedict XV
erected the diocese of Patna and entrusted it to the Jesuits. However, this
decision did not materialize until March 1921 when a group of five Jesuits from
the United States arrived in Patna. A lot has happened in the last 100 years!
If we remember that the bishops of the diocese, which later became an
archdiocese, have always been Jesuits, we should perhaps insist mostly on the
collaboration established between the Jesuits and several women’s religious
congregations. Moreover, the first bishop, Mgr. Louis Van Hoeck, SJ,
established a diocesan congregation, the Sisters
of the Sacred Heart. Collaboration has been one of the main thrusts of
apostolic development in the region.
When the Jesuits of Patna searched through their
archives, they identified three moments of trial... which also proved to be
moments of grace and blessing.
• The earthquake that struck Bihar and Nepal in 1934.
In spite of the desolation, the work of accompaniment and reconstruction done
by the Church made it possible to overcome the barriers of caste and religion.
The inhabitants of Bihar experienced the compassion of Jesus manifested in the
missionaries, men and women.
• In the midst
of the struggle for Indian independence, around 1936, the Jesuits made known
the aspirations of marginalised and oppressed sectors of the Indian society,
such as the “Untouchables” and the “Adivasis.” Their commitment to the poor
opened up large territories for evangelisation.
the drought of 1965-1967, the starving rural populations gratefully received
the compassion of the Church expressed in the distribution of food, but above
all in the setting up of “food for work” programmes which enabled the
construction of roads, the digging of wells and the building of schools. In the
missionaries and their partners, the poor experienced salvation.