There are currently 33 MSC priests working in India. Four others are working outside of the country, two in Australia and two in Paraguay. MSC in India work in education, parish ministry, and counseling and help improve the lives of people whether it be by helping them rebuild their houses and boats after the tsunami or by drilling wells to improve access to clean water. (Tap water in India is not considered potable and in villages, people often have to walk several miles to fetch water.) A couple of years ago, Fr. Adrian Meaney, MSC, a Missionary of the Sacred Heart from Australia, opened a second branch of the MSC Mission Office in India to help facilitate water projects there. The MSC Mission Office is a mission of the MSC in Australia and supports clean water projects around the world as well as programs to help disadvantaged youth and to respond to the HIV/AIDS crisis. The Mission Office also helps sponsor the education for MSC seminarians, who will help realize all these projects in the future.
The headquarters of the Missionaries of the Sacred Heart in India are in Bangalore, which is in the south of the country. One MSC priest, Fr. Pancratius Joseph, earned his doctorate in Clinical Psychology in the United States in 2007 and now works at the Hridhaya Shakthi center in Bangalore. This center is dedicated to providing reasonably priced psychotherapy and counseling to clients and does not turn clients away for financial reasons. MSC in Bangalore also staff Our Lady of the Sacred Heart Parish. They are currently using the chapel to Our Lady of the Sacred Heart, which seats approximately 100 people, as the church building. The parish already has 500 families and is growing every day, so the MSC are now working to raise the money needed to build a larger church.
In addition to the parish in Bangalore, the MSC run two parishes in very remote and rural areas. Near the parish of St. Anthony of Egypt, the MSC opened Chevalier Academy, an elementary school in Dindigul, Tamilnadu, which is open to children from all faiths and is very inexpensive. With the help of the Mission Office, the MSC purchased 6.5 acres of land for the school. Chevalier Academy, which after a few years already has approximately 200 students, has outgrown its temporary structure and the MSC are now raising money for a larger school building. The school currently has seven classrooms, an office and a staff room. One of the MSC working in the parish is the school administrator. St. Anthony of Padua Parish, another very remote parish, is located in a village called Gangapuram and the MSC there help villagers find employment and facilitate carpentry and basket weaving classes. They also help educate children from elementary school all the way through college by paying the costs of tuition and room and board for students attending the Salesian School, which is about 50 km away from Gangapuram. The actual amount of financial assistance is based on need and is determined on an individual basis, but the MSC often pay the full fees for a child because most parents in the village simply cannot afford the costs of education. MSC also help those students who are sent to the Jesuit college pay for their higher studies. With the help of the Mission Office, the MSC recently installed a well in the area to improve access to clean water. After the tsunami, MSC in India helped build houses, make nets and build and/or repair boats for the people who had lost their homes and the fishermen who had lost the tools they needed to make a living.
All of these projects require a lot of financial resources, but also a lot of human resources as more and more MSC are needed to staff and maintain these programs. Despite the fact that only about 2% of the population in India is Christian, the MSC community is growing rapidly. The formation program in India consists of one year of intensive English followed by a year-long prenovitiate program and then the Novitiate. After the Novitiate year, MSC students go to Bangalore where they study Philosophy for two years. The students then move to another house close to a Jesuit college where they pursue a secular degree in various areas like science, commerce, visual communication, arts, economics, history, etc. The formation program is thriving; three young men will be ordained to the priesthood this year, and seven others will take their final vows as MSC.
May the Sacred Heart of Jesus be loved everywhere!