Being in the Context – An Experience
Sch. Harry Martis SJ
A priest is an asset to the Church, the community of believers. The seminarians are nourished and formed to serve the Church in the near future. They are to continue the mission of the Church in the changing times with creative fidelity in all the ways possible, according to one’s own capacity.
Through out the formation of a seminarian, mission exposures, work camps, study camps for the children in the missions, etc are organized to make him familiar with various cultures and customs of the people. During regency one is more exposed to the realities of villages in our missions. Contextual Theology Program (CTP) conducted every year during theological studies at GVD, where a student lives in a village at least for about two to three weeks is meant to provide a context for his theological reflections. Doing theology and simultaneously being in the context is altogether a different experience from doing it in the seminary campus alone.
It was my dream to stay in a village amidst people and pursue my theological studies at least for a semester. I stayed in a village, Umeta, eight miles away from Gujarat Vidya Deep. There is a well constructed chapel with an attached room which was my home from the beginning of this academic year till September 11.
Life in Umeta amidst ordinary people, who struggle to make both ends meet, was very different from the life in the seminary or in a parish compound. Various types of deprivations and inconveniences are integral part of life in a village. Clean drinking water is a dream for the villagers. Inequality is experienced in every aspect of the village life in terms of water facility, quality of streets, availability of streetlights, electricity, houses etc.
The mahollo in which I lived in Umeta is a close knit samaj. News of untoward events spreads very fast there. If something happens to one individual, the whole mahollo becomes aware of it and the life in general will be affected. Being in the village, one cannot avoid being affected by various social evils present there. Problems such as drinking, gambling, unemployment are very much prevalent in the village. Conflicts within families and between families are a common phenomenon. The level of school attendance and the quality of education in the village is a matter of great concern. I tried to respond to that in my own little way by offering tuitions to some children in my free time.
According to Reginaben, the eighty year old wife of the deceased catechist of the village, the whole mahollo was baptized about seven decades ago by the great Jesuit missionary Fr. Carlos Surya. Now most of them have gone back to Hinduism. The remnant Christian community today does not offer any effective Christian presence in the village. In the faith practices of the Christian families in the mahollo, there is much to be desired. These experiences make me reflect upon the relevance of theology which I grapple in my seminary classes.
It challenges me to a greater commitment and greater responsibility in taking my theology studies more seriously. The experience beckons me to go deep in the teachings of the Church regarding issues of life and in the context of the lived experience of the people in the villages.
For a seminarian, theology studies in the seminary can sometimes become only a necessary step for getting ordained, instead of being a careful preparation for priestly ministry. In such cases seminary life appears too long and boring, and petty matters and problems of day to day life big issues. Contact with ordinary people and their real life problems make one realize the pettiness of the issues that one often makes in the seminary.