India: Seminarian in dangerous jungle is ordained

A Catholic seminarian who spent his pastoral training in a remote, cobra-infested jungle in India will be ordained.

Deacon Santosh Kumar works in the parish of Our Lady of Perpetual Help in North Andaman, India, where parishioners walk three miles through dangerous forests to attend Sunday Mass. But Deacon Kumar and the parish priest also make the trek through dense forests for Mass or make pastoral visits in far-flung chapels.

He told Aid to the Church in Need (ACN), “It is a struggle to get to the remote areas, to have to make our way through the forests. But we think about the people who live in those places and come to Mass, and that gives us the strength to go on.” Stressing the great faith of Catholics in remote parts of the parish, he added: “When we go to those chapels, we never find them empty. The people have a thirst for the Eucharist and prayer.”

Not all chapels are reached on foot. Some of them can be accessed on the region’s basic roads, and ACN provided the parish with a motorbike to facilitate these trips. Deacon Kumar said, “The motorbike is very useful, because if we didn’t have it we couldn’t fulfill our mission of visiting villages six, 12, or even 18 miles away from here.” And sometimes, even after covering long distances on the road, they still need to trek through the jungle to reach their destination.

These are not the only problems faced in the parish. Deacon Kumar said, “There is no electricity here, no internet, and a scarcity of water – but we manage to get by.”

Deacon Kumar was ordained to the priesthood by Bishop Visuvasam Selvaraj on May 12th. He was the first seminarian in the Port Blair Diocese to receive ACN support for his training. The Port Blair Diocese covers the whole of India’s Nicobar and Andaman Islands, including remote jungle regions.

His journey to the priesthood began after praying fervently for his father’s recovery from cancer. He said, “I never thought of becoming a priest, but then my father got cancer. I prayed to God, and it changed my life.” After his father’s recovery, Deacon Kumar was drawn to the ministry: “In my diocese, priests are few in number, but seeing the priest working for the people, I saw their thirst for Christ, and their need for the Mass and other sacraments.”

“Thank you to Aid to the Church in Need and all your benefactors for the support you’ve given to me on my path to priesthood,” he concluded.

—John Newton