The Diocese of Miao lies in one of the most remote and inaccessible regions of India, in the state of Arunachal Pradesh in the far Northeast, a region bordering on China, Tibet and Burma (Myanmar). In fact, because it is so close to the Chinese frontier, outsiders need a special official permit to stay in the region.
The people of this region belong to 32 different minority ethnic groups and speak a range of tribal languages. The villages are widely scattered and inaccessible; landslides are not uncommon in the rainy season, so that the already difficult mountain roads are sometimes rendered impassable. The people here generally derive little or no benefit from the government-run development programs that are organized in other parts of the country. Often it is the Church alone which cares for the needs of the people, providing not only pastoral care but also opening schools, providing medical treatment and endeavoring by all possible means to compensate for the neglect and indifference of others.
While religious faith fades in many parts of the developed world, here the number of Catholics is growing steadily. The people take their faith very seriously and show a deep love for the Church. New parishes are appearing all the time, and large numbers of people are seeking baptism.
The still youthful Sacred Heart Parish in Neotan is just 30 miles from the border with Burma. The parish center is in this large tribal village, and the parish priest, Father Felix Anthony describes the people as “warmhearted, affectionate and deeply religious.” He writes: “I feel blessed to be permitted to live among these dear people.” The earliest members of the village to be baptized traveled soon afterwards to other neighboring villages, passing on their faith and sharing it with others, and within five years the people in five more villages had asked for baptism. Every year the number of new Catholics grows larger and now stands at well over 600.
There are two priests and four Carmelite missionary Sisters working in the parish, which has already established a school, together with a boarding house for boys and another for girls, so that children from the remoter villages can also attend who would otherwise be too far away to be able to travel to school. In the past, virtually nobody in the villages could read or write, but now these children have the chance to gain a formal education. The school already has 300 students.
Sunday Mass is now celebrated in six villages. Some of them are up to 18 miles from the parish center – a long way, given the difficult driving conditions. Father Felix has urgently appealed to ACN for help in buying a suitable vehicle. The car the parish currently uses is already old and almost unusable, needing repairs every couple of weeks or so that cost more and more each time. It also often breaks down on the road, where there is no one to help – a very serious problem when it is carrying someone with life-threatening conditions to the nearest hospital, over 100 miles away. In such a case, a breakdown can mean a loss of human life, but there is no other means of transportation available to the parish.
ACN has already promised $11,000 for a new vehicle. Will you help Father Felix buy a car so that the can better perform pastoral work in this remote parish region in India?
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