Babu Sebastian, CM writes…
28th May 2016 is an historic day for the Church in India and particularly for the Church in Odisha. The birth of the new diocese of Rayagada, the sixth in Odisha, and the consecration of Msgr. Aplinar Senapati CM, of the Northern Indian Province of the Vincentians, as its first bishop, is significantly an important milestone in the vibrant and growing Catholic Church of South Odisha. The ninety – four year old Vincentian mission in India has been carrying forward the legacy of St. Vincent, the seed of which was sown by the first four pioneering confreres from the province of Madrid in 1922. Their efforts have born much fruit. Currently there are three Vincentian bishops chosen from the Northern Indian province, and the latest among them, Bp. Aplinar, is a ‘son of the soil’. There is yet another bishop from the Southern Indian Province, who is shepherding the vicariate of Nekemte in Ethiopia.
Bishop Aplinar was consecrated during a solemn Eucharist officiated by Most Rev. Salvatore Pennachio, the Apostolic Nuncio to India and Nepal who also was the chief consecrator.He was assisted by Most Rev. John Barwa SVD, the metropolitan archbishop of Cuttack-Bhubaneswar archdiocese of which the diocese of Rayagada is a sufragan, and Rt. Rev. Sarat Chandra Nayak, Bishop of the diocese of Berhampur, the mother diocese. Nine more bishops from Odisha and neighboring dioceses, including two Vincentian bishops graced the occasion. Also were present the Visitors of both the Northern and Southern Indian provinces of CM, the Visitatrix of northern Indian province of DC, over 200 priests, about 100 religious sisters and approximately 10000 faithful, including several civil and religious dignitaries. The Apostolic Nuncio in his homily exhorted the clergy and the laity of both the dioceses to work in unity and collaborate with all. He said that the division of the diocese is not for a geographical separation of people but to enhance the ministry of evangelization. He also stressed on the Episcopal duties of shepherding, serving and evangelizing. It was an event religiously captivating and spiritually enriching. The large gathering testified the wonderful religiosity of the people. It also proved beyond doubt the great appreciation and acceptance of the Vincentians in general and Bp. Aplinar in particular, in South Odisha.
Fr. Shijo, the Procurator General to the Holy See carried a recorded Vincentian message from Very Rev. Fr. G. Gregory Gay CM from the general curia. In his message Fr. Greg exhorted Bp. Aplinar saying “I have no doubt that in this new mission you will continue to be mindful of our Vincentian spirituality that impels us to reach out to the most poor and most needy members of society and the Church. As you know, and as you have taught so often, God has a special love for those persons who are poor. …. Always be aware of the call of Pope Francis when he says over and over: May we never abandon the poor (EG, #48); let us not allow ourselves to be robbed of missionary vigor (EG, #109)”. He further exhorted, “Bishop Aplinar, may this new ministry which you begin never distance you form the Congregation, but rather may you feel yourself all the more identified with this humble groups of Missionaries because you are and will always be a Vincentian Bishop”.
The Little Company globally and locally can indeed be proud of the historic event of the inauguration of the new diocese and the episcopacy of Bishop Aplinar. Our prayers and support can take the new diocese a long way forward to getting established; and the new Bishop becoming fruitful in his Episcopal ministries. “As we begin the fourth centenary of our Vincentian charism” in the Church “may we remain faithful to the charism of St. Vincent” and may Mary the Queen of the missions intercede for all Vincentians and especially for the new diocese of Rayagada and its shepherd, Bishop Aplinar; and help all “to bring the joy of the Gospel to the ends of the earth…”