We are very pleased to post the first contribution to our blog by Fr. Bryan Lobo, a Jesuit from India, who is professor at the Pontifical Gregorian University of Rome. We are very grateful to Fr. Bryan for taking the time to share with us something about the amazing work that the Jesuit Fathers are doing among the poorest and most marginalised people in India. We are full of admiration for the dedication of Fr. Neelam Lopes, S.J., who leads such work, particularly supporting tribal communities to improve their living conditions through socio-economic, educational and health programmes. We do hope that from time to time both Fr. Bryan and Fr. Neelam will continue to inform us about the life and activities of the Church of this great country – India. From our side, we keep Fr. Neelam and the people he helps in our hearts and prayers and we will continue to provide our support to some of his activities.
Fr. Bryan Lobo, S.J
Last year, during my usual annual visit in India during the summer time, I had the joy to celebrate the liturgy with Fr. Neelam Lopes, S.J., Superior of the Missions in Shirpur (North Maharashtra, India). In the photos I am pleased to share I and Fr. Neelam are celebrating Mass in the Indian style for the tribals.
The people of this area belong to the Pawara tribe, a native tribe that is found in the western and central parts of Maharashtra. The Masses are normally celebrated, as seen in the photographs, in one of the halls constructed by the Catholic missionaries. The saffron colored shawls worn by the celebrants is significant to the Indian culture. The color saffron signifies renunciation. Saffron colored clothes are normally used by celibate Hindus (monks and nuns). The language used during the liturgy in these areas is Marathi, which is not the mother tongue of the Pawaras. Marathi is normally the language used during formal functions and in educational institutions. Most of the women seen in the photographs have covered their heads. It is part of the culture of the married Pawara women to cover their heads as a sign of respect.