Carrying the Light in India

Jesuits have always heeded the call to explore the frontiers of mission and ministry—to go where the needs are greatest. Along their journey of discernment, scholastics in formation willfully escape their comfort zones, traveling to the edges of the globe and to the margins of society.

By Mike Gabriele

For nearly 500 years, Jesuits have served in countries all over the world, working for social justice and bringing the hope of Christ to those who struggle for peace, dignity and comfort — things so many of us take for granted.

Fr. Joe Lacey, SJ
In 1947, the Maryland Province Jesuits embarked on a new call to Jamshedpur, India, establishing a mission dedicated to helping those in need, especially the indigenous, tribal people. They started schools, cared for the sick, ministered the Gospel and, most importantly, recruited other Jesuits from all over the world to come join them. What started as a small mission of Jesuit priests from the Maryland Province, is today a thriving province of its own with more than 200 Jesuits.

Last year, three pioneer Jesuits from the Maryland Province remained in India—Fr. Carl Dincher, SJ; Fr. Richard Kenna, SJ; and Fr. Ed McGrath, SJ—each having served more than 50 years. The newly appointed socius of the Jamshedpur Province, Fr. Jerome Sequeira, SJ, wrote a letter to the Maryland Province, thanking God for its contributions over the last six decades and expressing a continued blessing at having three of our pio - neering Jesuits still with them. Sadly, we have since lost both Fr. Kenna and Fr. Dincher, but their legacies live on through the many good works in and around Jamshedpur that provide care and education to those in need.

Fr. Joe Lacey, SJ, gathers with his high school and college pilgrims at the Loyola School in Jamshedpur.
Fr. Joseph Lacey, SJ, pastor of St. Alphonsus Rodriguez Church in Woodstock, Md., spent 22 years in Jamshedpur, eight of those years helping people afflicted with leprosy. Still capable of speaking Hindi, Fr. Lacey took a group of teenage parishioners on a pilgrimage to Jamshedpur during Christmas break. They even got to spend New Year’s Eve with Fr. Ed McGrath, our last remaining Maryland Jesuit in India, who turned 94 several days later. “What a wonderful experience,” said Fr. Lacey. “The kids hooked up with a Project in Patna, gaining a first-hand look at the needs of those in extreme poverty. We visited our sister parish in Rerua, St. Francis Xavier, and the Loyola School that serves the local tribal children.” Fr. Lacey set time aside each night for reflection with his group, allowing them to share their experiences, feelings and reactions. “You really can’t leave this place without being changed.”

This is precisely why many Maryland Province Jesuits chose to spend much, if not all, of their lives serving in India. And although only one remains, our Jesuits in formation are seeking new missions of their own— shining their light of faith through justice—following Pope Francis’ call for those in consecrated life to “fly the nest and go to the frontiers of the world.”

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