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Supporting the Church in India

text by Kamini Desai Sanghvi
photos by Sister Christian Molidor, R.S.M.


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India is a 1,270,000-square-mile country with an estimated 850,000,000 people, 25,500,000 of whom are Christian. There are approximately 13,000,000 Catholics in India, more than a quarter of whom are either Syro-Malabar (3,000,000-strong) or Syro-Malankara (500,000 members).

Christianity is the second largest religious minority after Islam, but the population distribution of Christians is very uneven. Most of the faithful are concentrated in the extreme south, where Christianity first took root, and the northeast, where important minority groups have been evangelized. The states of Kerala, Tamil Nadu and Andhra Pradesh together account for more than 60 percent of India’s Christians.

The state of Kerala, where CNEWA is particularly active, is about 20 percent Christian. CNEWA works predominantly in the areas under Eastern Catholic jurisdiction. Fifteen of India’s 24 Eastern Catholic dioceses are in Kerala. In addition there are about 35 Eastern Catholic religious congregations with whom we work; almost all of the generalates and mother-houses are in Kerala.

Our Association supports a number of seminaries, as well as a few needy child institutes, in areas under the jurisdiction of the Latin (Roman) Catholic Church, which is composed of more than 98 dioceses.

Our program in India, including the subsidies to institutions and grants for projects, has, for more than 10 years, been one of the major recipients of CNEWA funds. The majority of those sponsored through our person-to-person sponsorship programs – children, novices and seminarians – are from India: 19,422 of the more than 31,000 children; 1,924 of a total of 2,000 novices; and 3,448 of about 4,500 seminarians.

Approximately 80 percent of our funds allocated for special projects in India have been used for pastoral work; the remainder is reserved for our humanitarian and ecumenical programs.

The thrust of our work over the last three years has been to improve communication and cooperation with the local church hierarchy. This has included field visits to Eastern Catholic dioceses, religious houses and potential projects. Our relationship with the Holy See’s Congregation for the Eastern Churches has also been strengthened, especially in terms of our increased participation in making decisions regarding the distribution of funds to India.

During the last year we began to evaluate our sponsorship institutions by encouraging the bishops and religious congregations to evaluate the past performances of these institutions and to create annual priorities and five-year plans.

The following observations were made while visiting a number of child-caring institutes in Kerala:

• CNEWA funding is absolutely necessary. Our benefactors’ generosity is what keeps most institutions operating.

• A majority of the institutions employ tutors (resident and nonresident) to oversee the “after-school studies” or homework of the children. In addition, most employ cooks and servants to help take care of the children. All institutes are supervised by church personnel, but in most cases this supervision is part-time. Church personnel hold other day jobs (mostly teaching) for which they leave in the morning and from which they return in the evening. They may receive a small allowance.

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Tags: India CNEWA Christianity Funding Sponsorship