There is good news from the Diocese of Sambalpur in the eastern Indian state of Odisha: the number of vocations to the priesthood has been continuously growing over the last few years. This is in no small part because the diocese has launched an active vocation apostolate in the schools, which introduces young people early on to the idea that they could be called by God. As part of the program, the priests read stories to them from the Holy Scriptures in which someone is called by God. After the tenth grade, any boys who feel called to the priesthood then enter what is known as the “minor seminary.” For three years, while working towards their university entrance diploma, they grow into the spiritual life and examine whether this is the right path for them before enrolling in seminary.
At the local seminary, 31 young men are currently being prepared for ordination to the priesthood. Although it is a great joy to have so many vocations, it is at the same time a daunting challenge for the diocese. The state of Odisha is one of the most impoverished regions in the country and Christians are one of the poorest and most disadvantaged groups of peoples. This means that the aspiring priests come from destitute families and the other members of the parish are also too poor to support them during their formation.
As a result, the diocese must pay for everything the seminarians need: housing, clothing, shoes, food, medical care, educational materials…. At the same time, costs are rising and the seminary is dependent upon aid from outside of the country.
It is important that the seminarians receive a good education on all levels: they should have a solid foundation of knowledge, be well developed spiritually and in prayer and have achieved a certain level of maturity. In addition to their studies, it is therefore also essential that they receive help in their spiritual development and are able to establish a dynamic prayer life. Living within a spiritual community is also something that first needs to be learned, as well.
To gain practical experience in pastoral care, the priests in training spend their summers in different parishes, in remote villages and in the slums. They visit the sick, pray with families, catechize children, hold Bible studies with adolescents and lead devotionals. This teaches them about life in the communities and allows them to grow into pastoral ministry. They take part in retreats and religious exercises to strengthen them in their spiritual life and their vocations. Once a year, they spend three days with the bishop and the priests of the diocese.
ACN has donated $11,100 to allow the seminarians to continue their priestly formation for another year.
Will you give to provide continued support for the formation of aspiring priests in India?
We are sure they will remember you in their grateful prayers.
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