Cardinal Mar Antony Padiyara
Archbishop Dominic Athaide
Mar Joseph Perumthottam
(Archbishop of Changanacherry)
Rt. Rev. Dr. Albert DSouza (Archbishop of Agra)
Origin : Missionary collaboration among the Latin and Oriental Churches was a result of the second Vatican Council. The 1974 Calcutta Meeting of CBCI done in the light of the Council expounded "Priests, Brothers, Sisters and others from dioceses that are rich in vocation specially in the South should be invited to work in dioceses where there is a dearth of personnel. Bishops in the North with extensive territories, especially in responsive areas, should invite Bishops, Major Superiors and Religious Institutes of Priests particularly from the South to take up territories on the pattern adopted in the formation of Exarchate." It was in response to this call of CBCI that the then Archbishop of Agra Most Rev. Dr. Dominic Athaide, OFM Cap. , a great missionary, contacted another great missionary Archbishop of South - Mar Antony Padiyara, our Archbishop - to take up certain areas of the Agra Archdiocese and engage in mission work. In accordance with their desire on 1st May 1975 the pioneer missionaries reached Agra and on 1st June 1975 a contract had been drawn up between the two Archdioceses.
Rev. Fr. Kuruvilla Kokkatt
Rev. Fr. Jose Poovathinkal
Having reached an understanding and signed a contract with the Archdiocese of Agra, the copy of which had been forwarded to the Sacred Congregation for the Evangelization of Peoples and to the Sacred Congregation for the Oriental Churches, our Archdiocese found two of her great sons to take up the new challenges the Archdiocese has been addressed to. V.Rev. Fr. Kuruvilla Kokkatt was then the assistant at Changanacherry and V. Rev. Fr. Jose Poovathinkal, Secretary to the Archbishop. They both reached Etawah on 6th May after having met the Archbishop of Agra on 1st May, 1975. Later they were joined by 4 CMC sisters from Changanacherry on 30th June. V. Rev. Fr. Kokkatt still continues to be the motivating force of the Mission though V. Rev. Fr. Poovathinkal went back to the Archdiocese after serving the Mission in her difficult 28 years.
THE LAND AND THE PEOPLE
Area : 15472 Sq. kilometers
Population : More than 70 lakhs
Districts: Etawah, Mainpuri, Farrukhabad, Kannauj, Auraiya and Shikhohabad Tehsil of Firozabad Dt.
Language: Hindi and its dialects
Religions found: Hinduism, Islam, Sikhism, Jainism, Buddhism and Christiantiy.
Situated between the twin holy rivers of Jamuna and Ganga our mission territory is the Holy land of Hinduism. Close to the notorious Chambel belt - famous for its dacoits - the area from very long time is known for crimes. This criminal background has surely affected the psychological attitude of the people. If we, through our activities, can bring a certain amount of social change that itself will be a great missionary activity. In spite of its criminal background the area is known for its religious tolerance where different religions live without hurting the other.
GENERAL INFORMATION: Pioneers: V. Rev. Fr. Kuruvilla Kokkatt & V. Rev. Fr. Jose Poovathinkal Number of Stations: 13 Mass Stations: 2 Educational Apostolate : Sr. Sec. Schools - 4 Secondary School - 2 Primary Schools - 3 Hindi Medium - 1 Dispensaries - 3 Home for the Mentally challenged - 1 Mission Superior: Fr. Thomas Ezhikad Religious Congregations: 8 Number of convents: 11 Number of Catholics: 600 Number of Sisters: 35 Number of Fathers: 21 ACTIVITIES When we reached Etawah Mission, Etawah already had been a centre of catholic missionary activities in the form of a school run by Franciscan Sisters of St. Mary of Angels. Under the guidance of Agra Vicar General V. Rev. Fr. Lawrence OFM, Cap. The pioneers in all enthusiasm opened new stations in the nearby districts and at present we have 13 centres with Etawah the Head Quarters.
The Catholic Population
When we took up the mission activities in the region we had very few catholic population. At present the Mission has around 500 Catholics. The following figure will give us some idea of the existing Catholic population in different stations.
Important Areas of Activities:
Educational Apostolate: Education being the best means of reaching out to the people and bringing positive changes in the society was given priority in our missionary activity. More over these backward regions lacked good educational institutions. We run 4 higher secondary schools, one secondary and three primary schools and a Hindi medium school for the poor village children. Together with all the English medium schools we give equal importance for non-formal education thus helping the drop outs. The Schools run by the mission are the following: St. Mary's Inter College, Etawah; St. Thomas School, Mainpuri, St. Anthony's Sr. Sec. School, Fatehgarh Cantt., S.H. Sevashram School & St. Paul's School, Lalakpur - Chibbaramau, St. Joseph's School, NTPC - Dibiyapur, San Jos Academy, Dibiyapur, St. Peter's School, Jaswant Nagar, St. Francis Academy, Anepur, Auraiya.; St. Dominic's Academy, Shikhohabad, Christujyoti Academy, Kannauj.
Charitable Activities: Together with education the Mission has given equal importance to other charitable activities by which the love of the Lord could be shared with the downtrodden and under privileged. At Chibbaramau we run the Sevashram dispensary giving medical help to many poor villagers. We run a dispensary and have constant village visits at Shikhohabad. We also run tailoring centers at Chibbaramau and Alampur to help poor women to earn a livelihood. Taking into account the education of mentally challenged children the Mission runs a school for them - Asha Niketan which is taken care of by the Holy Family sisters who also manages a dispensary. Etawah Samaj Kalyan Samiti, the Social work wing of the Mission is actively involved in many social work activities for the benefit of the nearby poor villagers.
Religious Congregations of women in the Mission: The women religious, through their dedicated service and prayer is an integral part of the Mission. It indeed is commendable that they actively share the sufferings and joys of this Mission and contribute a lot for its success. At present Etawah Mission is blessed with the services of the following Congregations: The Congregation of Mother of Carmel (CMC), Bhopal Province; Sisters Adoring the Blessed Sacrament (SABS), Jagdalpur Province; Sacred Heart (SH), Changanasserry Province; Missionaries of Little Flower (MLF), Changansserry Province; Congregation of Holy Family (CHF), Agra Province, Nazereth Sisters, Tellichery Generalate. The Mission was also lucky to get the services of Fransiscan Clarist Congregation (FCC), Koderma Province and Little Sisters of Divine Providence (LSDP), Changanassery Province in her initial years. They both left the Mission after a few years of service.
The Mission and the Proclamation of the Word:
"Go and preach the good news to the world" is the command of the Risen Lord to his disciples and this remains the raison d'etre of any missionary activity. We in Etawah Mission try to be faithful to that command of the Lord. Very often a question is asked to us in all meetings : How many conversions have you achieved after 30 years of Missionary activity? The answer is nil in the sense of conversion as change of religion. The people of the region being deeply religious minded in their traditions, change of religion may not be that easy. But that is in the plan of God. But should we not aim at the creation of a new heart and a new world for the Lord ? We aim that through our contact with them, through our interactions they should be able to get something of the teaching of Christ which they should be able to make their own. Then the society could be influenced by the teaching of Christ and I feel that too is a great success of the Mission. Same time we continue to pray that more people enter the sheepfold of the Lord that we may have "one sheep and a Shepherd".
Etawah Mission and Ecumenism In the domain of mainline churches Ecumenism has taken very important aspect after the Second Vatican Council. We in Etawah Mission from the very beginning tried to maintain a very cordial relationship with our brethren of the Church of North India who are present in the region even many years before our arrival. In two of our stations Etawah and Fatehgarh we both share the same Churches for worship; we also have taken on lease the CNI property at Etawah and Fatehgarh for running Schools. We have joint celebrations of important feasts and CNI children are given education at a very concessional rate in our institutions and some of them are also employed in our institutions. Thus our Mission remains an example of Christian unity in the midst of division.
Etawah Mission & Agra Archdiocese The beginning of Etawah Mission as we saw was the vision of two great missionaries who took courage to go ahead of their times. It was their desire that we both contribute positively and lovingly in the proclamation of the Lord. True to that spirit of our founders we maintain a very cordial relationship with our brethren of Agra Archdiocese. In an age of inter rite disagreements, which some times reach up to rivalry Etawah Mission remains a shining star in the sky showing the true light of inter rite collaboration. For the last 30 and more years we had a peaceful existence in a Latin territory and the Latin hierarchy and clergy was broad enough to respect our difference and allow us to go independently - an example could be followed in other parts of the country.
Etawah Mission: A new experiment proved successful In our knowledge it is for the first time in the history of the Church a territory in another Diocese is handed over to a Diocese for evangelical activity with a view to create it into a separate ecclesiastical entity. Though our growth is slow due to many reasons, like lack of personnel and funds, we are able to achieve a lot in our activity. Above all we are able to prove to the doubting Thomas's about the possibility and feasibility of such a missionary collaboration. It encourages the Church to come out of the built patterns and make new experiments in the field of evangelization. We hope that more Dioceses will have the courage to follow our example and help each other in a spirit of Christian fellowship to proclaim the Word.
Fr. Issac Kochupura
Fr. Joseph Mathoor
Two of our great missionaries departed us at the prime age : Rev. Fr. Isaac Kochupura gave away his life in saving the lives of many children while a portion of our school building collapsed in Etawah in 1994. Rev. Fr. Joseph Mathoor lost his life in an accident in 1997. They both intercede for the Mission before the Lord. Examples of their lives remain a great inspiration for the younger generation. We also remember in our prayers Rev. Srs. Dennis CMC, Arsenia SABS, Delphine FCC and Sr. Alice SABS who nurtured our mission in her early days and left for eternal reward. May the good Lord reward them in accordance with his promise.