Archbishop George Antonysamy of Madras and Mylapore made the 9,000 mile journey from India to Atlanta, Georgia to find out more about the organization that is making a big impact in his part of the Indian subcontinent and to see how they could work together to evangelize the family in India.
Three years ago Catholic World Mission’s executive director Rick Medina was approached by a priest in the Archdiocese of Goa and Daman who requested help from Catholic World Mission (CWM). He asked for 12 community centers for 12 remote villages where people would be able to gather in Christ’s name for Mass and other community events. Rick went over to India to see the need and committed to helping with the solution, expanding the project to 14 community centers. So far Catholic World Mission has built 8 of 14 planned centers in the Mission of Daman in partnership with Archbishop Filipe Neri. Programs are lead out of these community centers by Missionaries from the order of St. Francis de Sales and St. Francis Xavier. The community centers also provide much needed facilities for students of all ages to study.
Seeing other needs arise as they worked on the community centers, CWM has also provided transportation to several villages, built bathrooms and covered dining halls for schools, and built a church in the southern part of India. Going past the brick and mortar needs, the Regnum Christi operated mission organization started an ongoing Christmas meal program with an ever increasing number of children, in which volunteers try to make their Christmas special by providing a different meal than what they eat year-round, and giving small gifts too.
Catholic World Mission values evangelization as the foundation of everything they do. It isn’t enough to build buildings if the faith isn’t alive where those buildings exist. They started a program called ETC (Evangelization del Tiempo Completo) which is a program to fund lay evangelizers to alleviate problems caused by the shortage of priests in India. Now they are beginning to tackle the root cause of this problem by supporting the formation of seminarians studying for the priesthood directly in Goa and in Sri Lanka as well as supporting formation of seminarians from other religious missionary orders who happen to be already partner already with CWM in their various works.
Previously the apostolic nuncio to several African, European, and Asian countries, Archbishop Antonysamy had heard about these works of Catholic World Mission all over India and their partnerships with several bishops and as missionary religious orders. He came to Atlanta, Georgia over the feast of the Assumption, August 15th, 2017, to establish a relationship with CWM and also to take the opportunity to meet the large constituency of Catholics from the Indian sub-continent who live in the American city. It happened that August 15th is also India’s Independence Day.
8 million people live in Archbishop Antonysamy’s diocese, but of those, just over 400,000 are Catholic. He expressed that those who are Catholic in his diocese are extremely faithful, but that he and his priests minister to people of all faiths, including Hindus and Muslims, who make up a majority of the population in India. He shared the surprising fact that the Hindus and Muslims in Madras and Mylapore also have a deep devotion to the Blessed Mother, saying that newlywed Hindu couples will often walk on their knees from their wedding to a local shrine dedicated to Mary in order for Our Lady to bless their marriage.
Archbishop Antonysamy discussed several projects with Catholic World Mission during his visit, including his plan to build a family center in his diocese. He is a firm believer that if the faith is to grow, the family must be properly catechized, educated, and supported. He is raising funds to build a new church to be dedicated to the Holy Family, which will also be the center of spiritual formation of the family with a new program he is launching. This program will focus on familial relationships, teaching healthy conflict resolution, and of course, spiritual formation, including teaching them how to pray as a family.
The Archbishop’s visit and the celebration of Mass with a reception following at All Saints Parish was significant to the entire Indian community in Atlanta. India is a large nation made up of different ethnic cultures and languages. The various groups do not often get the opportunity to celebrate together, at least not in such a large setting as the Mass and reception that held in honor of the Archbishop’s visit. Newly appointed Atlanta Auxiliary Bishop Ned Schlesinger con-celebrated the Mass and stayed for the entire reception where he said “he had his first taste of Indian food.” The universality of the Church was in full display at the Mass. Priests from the archdiocese of Atlanta, both of Indian and non-Indian descent were in attendance.
Also present were visiting priests and others from places where Catholic World Mission has on-going projects including Father Donatien, from the Ndekesha orphanage CWM helped build in the Democratic Republic of Congo in the Diocese of Luebo. Father Anthony Eshun, one of CWM’s partners in Ghana was also in attendance as well as representatives and people from other countries where CWM has projects such as Sri Lanka, Nigeria, and other African countries.
Catholic World Mission gave Archbishop Antonysamy a monstrance as part of their program to encourage Eucharistic adoration throughout the world. The archbishop plans to have it in the chapel of the church that will be built in honor of the Holy Family. In all, CWM is giving 21 monstrances to dioceses in Ghana, Haiti, Sri Lanka, India, Congo and Korea. This is a program they feel very passionately about, as do their dedicated donors who support this program which costs about $2500 per monstrance.