Living Hope Newsletter – June 2012
The Claretians in Bangalore
The Claretian missions in Bangalore, India are located in one of the most populous cities in the world. Bangalore has 8.5 million residents. This city’s area is roughly the size of New York City, but includes about 300,000 more people. Bangalore is situated in southern India and is a global hub of innovative information technology businesses. Known as the “Silicon Valley of India” because of its similarities to the I.T. force that grew so swiftly in northern California over the past few decades, Bangalore is one of the major economic centers of India and of the world.
Yet in spite of that concentrated success, the economic disparities and the basic needs of the millions of the people there are significant. “Claretians in India have always responded to what is urgent, timely, and effective in the lives of those we serve in our mission,” says Fr. Sabu George, C.M.F. “In a country where improvement in quality education could increase the social status and dignity of the people, the Claretians in Bangalore aim through their educational institutions to offer universal and quality education, at the same time using these institutions as a means to spread God’s love, social equality, and justice.”
Fr. Sabu had previously worked as Principal of St. Claret College in Bangalore. He left the college to study in the U.S. and earn his doctorate in business administration. Once he finishes his degree, Fr. Sabu plans to return to Bangalore to teach at the newly dedicated St. Claret Institute of Management, which offers a masters in business administration program for college graduates, and prepares them to be socially conscious leaders in India’s rapidly growing economy.
There are seven Claretian educational institutions in Bangalore, ranging from elementary and high schools through to St. Claret College. “We consider that one of the best ways to spread the values of the Gospel today in India is through education,” notes Fr. Sabu.
Education for the Claretians in India includes preparing men for the priesthood in Claretian novitiates and seminaries. There are nearly 100 young men in the Bangalore Province devoting themselves to discernment and to their studies, working toward vocations as Claretian priests and brothers. They rely on the prayers and financial support of the Claretian friends and parishioners to help them achieve their goals for a life of faithful service to the people in God’s name.
Though the major religion of Bangalore is Hinduism, the Catholic population is vibrant. The Claretians serve them at the four parishes they staff throughout the city. “We have parishes in towns and remote villages, and appreciating the richness of different Rites in the Church, we even have parishes of Latin Rites,” says Fr. James Kannanthanam, C.M.F., who is the Provincial Superior in Bangalore. The Claretian parishes in Bangalore are named in honor of the congregation’s founder, St. Anthony Claret, as well as to reflect their devotion to St. Jude— with one parish simply named “St. Jude Parish.”
The Claretians in India maintain the same approach to parish life as their fellow Claretians in parish ministries worldwide: living among the people, administering the sacraments, sharing the faith journey of the families and individuals in the community, and—always together with the people—developing programs that serve the many needs of each community.
These programs provide relief and assistance for the profound challenges of the poor in Bangalore. The Claretians’ ministries include hostels for the homeless, care for leprosy patients, care for the poor who are blind or otherwise physically challenged, programs for addicted individuals, and a program for HIV/AIDS patients. As Fr. Sabu says, “It is through these ministries that the Claretians evangelize about God’s love, and share hope with His people who are struggling.”
Spiritual needs of the faithful are always at the heart of every Claretian outreach, in both short-term individual efforts and the long-term programs for community development. The Claretians maintain multiple Catholic retreat centers throughout Bangalore, all of which they founded. The Claretian Publications in India is also a thriving ministry serving spiritual needs in the community, as they keep in touch with the other Claretian publishing houses around the world—all focused on spreading the Gospel and confirming God’s love for each of us.
Fr. Sabu sums it up nicely when he states, “The activities we undertake in Bangalore, through faith formation, educational and publishing institutions, and social outreach like caring for the sick and the socially ostracized, are all forms of responding to the needs of the people in a uniquely Claretian style of evangelization.”