ASIA/INDIA – Care for lepers: the work of the Church in mission

ASIA/INDIA – Care for lepers: the work of the Church in mission

Vatican City (Agenzia Fides) – In its missionary work, the Church has a long tradition of helping lepers, often abandoned even by their own families. He always offers them concrete possibilities for healing and reintegration into society with added medical care and spiritual assistance. . On the occasion of the Day of Vocations, we publish a testimony of commitment in India from a missionary from the same congregation of St. Damien de Veuster, of whom he is a worthy heir.
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The relationship between the Congregation of the Sacred Heart (SS.CC.) in India and the ministry of caring for lepers (people with Hansen’s disease) began on June 19, 1975, when the first American SS.CC Father William Francis Petrie, arriving in Calcutta, was invited by Saint Mother Teresa from Calcutta, who became famous for his service to the poorest of the poor, lepers in Calcutta, City of Joy.
Inspired by the life and ministry of St. Damien of Molokai – a priest from the leper island of Molokai, Hawaii, who is also a missionary of the Belgian Congregation of the Sacred Heart – Father William Francis Petrie chose to live the spirit and legacy of St. Damien in the ministry of lepers, in collaboration with the work of Our Lady. Teresa from Calcutta. The nun was very happy to accept her as a collaborator in her mission to the lepers. For the first four years after arriving in Calcutta in 1975, Pastor Petrie served and worked with lepers at the famous Shanti Nagar rehabilitation center in West Bengal. At the same time, he is also involved in the spiritual and sacramental life of the Missionaries of Charity, serving the sick in rehabilitation centers.
At the request of Mother Teresa of Calcutta, Brother Petrie left Shanti Nagar for Bhubaneswar, the capital city of the state of Odisha, to oversee the construction of the Gandhi Shanti Nivas Leprosy Rehabilitation Center in Janla, about ten and seven kilometers from Bhubaneswar. During his early years, Fr. Petrie lived in the home of the Archbishop, Bhubaneswar, and gained the personal trust and friendship of Archbishop Henry D’Souza, who wanted Fr. Petrie to share the spirit and charism of Saint Damien of Molokai and coordinate various rehabilitation projects for lepers. in the Archdiocese of Cuttack – Bhubaneswar, where Church organizations are involved in the care of patients with Hansen’s disease. (…) (- again)
(Agenzia Fides 7/5/2022)


Cheryl Tenny

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