The Annual Yatras
This past week has been a moment of grace for the Church in Gandhinagar Archdiocese. On 22 October, many gathered for the annual ‘yatra’ to Unteshwari Mata Maria Mandir. The homily of Fr Francis Parmar was so moving that the faithful reciprocated with thunderous applause. The ‘yatra’ in this Year of Faith was a faith experience with pilgrims coming from as far as Talasari and guests from abroad. The local community welcomed the guests and encouraged one another by providing and sharing the community meal. Under the leadership of Fr Prasad, the local parish community contributed their mite to make the melo a great success.
Two days later the focus shifted to Sabarkantha, where in 1962 Swami Deendayanand- Luis Espasa began to visit the villages around Bhiloda and thus establish the mission at Mankroda-Bhiloda. The annual feast of Our Lady at Mankroda-Bhiloda is kept on Dassera which this year fell on 24 October. Hence that date was chosen to celebrate the
Golden Jubilee of the birth of Catholic Church in Sabarkantha. To prepare for the event and share responsibilities, the Sisters and Fathers had held several meetings, and on 2 October came together in Himmatnagar for a day of prayer.
Four members of the Espasa’s family were present for the jubilee celebration on 24 Oct. Bishop Devprasad Ganawa came from Jhabua (Madhya Pradesh). Laity, priests and religious from many parishes of Gandhinagar and our neighbouring Dioceses of Ahmedabad, Jhabua, Udaipur joined in the celebration of our one faith in Jesus and to thank God for Fr Espasa and the many missionaries who have laboured to preach the Good News to the people. The jubilee programme began with the ‘aarti’ to Our Lady. Then the congregation went in procession around the mission compound onto the main road and gathered for the Eucharistic celebration which began with the ‘story’ of the growth of the Church that has reached Poshina in the north and Bayad in the south. The ‘tree-story’ was a true story with the actors being the Espasa family members, priests, religious, catechists from the different centers and the vocations – priests, sisters, seminarians and scholastics – as the symbolic fruit of the Catholic community of Sabarkantha. The Archbishop accompanied by Bishop Ganawa, Fr Rocky D’Silva, the dean Fr Peter D’Souza and Fr Lawrence Dharmaraj presided at the Eucharist with Fr Kamji Dund preaching the homily. Till the vote of thanks by the Parish Priest, Fr Stany Pinto, the congregation remained in an attitude of devout reverence for the near five-hour programme!
A simple yet tasty community meal was served around the grounds opposite the parish church. Alongside the convent was an exhibition of the history and apostolates of each mission center. The celebration was ‘an effort to keep … the unity of Spirit… There is one body, one spirit … There is one God, one faith, one baptism. ..’ (Ephes. 4.3-5). All the priests, religious and faithful of Sabarkantha and especially Bhiloda parish contributed in some way their time and mite to make the celebration a success. (Adapted from the Archbishop’s letter).