Jubaguda is one of the 36 villages in the Archdiocese of Cuttack-Bhubaneswar in Odisha (formerly Orissa) State in northeast India. It is a state that made tragic headlines back in 2008, when it was the scene of murderous and violent attacks against Christians.
Jubaguda itself is a large village some 200 miles, or seven hours drive by car, from Bhubaneswar. It lies in the southwest of Odisha state in the inner Kandhamal mountains and was first established as a mission in 1960 by the Vincentian Fathers. It is a promising area of evangelization. Currently the mission serves some 2,693 families (12,176 individuals) in some 51 remote mountain villages. Of these, close to 770 families (4,850 people) already profess the Catholic faith, and their numbers are growing. Up to 90% of the people here belong to the indigenous “Khond” people, while the rest are members of the Dalits, considered the lowest caste in Indian society.
According to our project partners, the Khonds are among the poorest peoples in Odisha. They number some 1.5 million and speak their own dialect, Kui. Until recently this tribe lived hidden in the jungle, with little education or opportunity, and followed a form of animist belief. They were socially and politically exploited. This is now slowly changing. Both they and the dalits are extremely poor and live by a form of subsistence farming, growing rice, maize and vegetables.
Given these conditions, the Khonds are all the more appreciative of the blessings the mission station has brought them, including the boarding homes for 270 girl and boy pupils, the healthcare station, the simple parish house and the convent of religious Sisters. Two priests and five Sisters live and work here in the mission, supported by a team of 37 volunteer catechists. But even with their combined efforts they can do no more than compensate for, rather than overcome, the glaring lack of infrastructure (roads, electricity supply, schools etc.).
In 2008, Jubaguda was also threatened with destruction by a violent mob, but was fortunately spared. Yet despite this threat, the people have clung to their faith, and the Church is growing rapidly here.
In the villages served by the mission station the people generally make do with thatched huts for chapels, where the priests can also stay overnight if necessary. Back in 1978, Jubaguda itself had managed to build a small church with an asbestos roof, but it has grown too small to accommodate the 1000 people who attended Holy Mass each Sunday. As a result, a second Sunday Mass was added.
In March 2013, lightning struck a large tree, which fell across the church, causing half of it to collapse and smashing most of the roof. This happened just as the children from the boarding house had gathered to pray there, and 62 of them were injured when the roof fell on them. Miraculously, none of the children suffered any lasting injuries.
Holy Mass is now held in a room in the boys’ boarding house, but, of course, it is far too small for the whole community. Originally, they had been planning to repair the damaged church, but on the advice of experts they have decided that would be more costly than building a new one.
Now the parish is planning to build a new and much larger church that would also be more suited in size to the present number of the Catholic faithful. ACN has already promised $29,800 towards the cost.
Will you give to support the construction of a new mission church in this very poor part of India?
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