Our holy founder St. Vincent de Paul cultivated a deep desire to fulfil the Mission Command of the Lord and to inspire others to dedicate their lives for the Mission. He envisioned the mission of the Congregation of the Mission, the little company, as he called it, in accordance with it. Emphasizing on the Universality of the Missionary Vocation he said:
How happy, oh! how happy is the state of a missionary whose missions and labors for Jesus Christ know no other bounds than the entire world in which men live. Why then should we restrict ourselves to one place and set limits, when God has given us such an expanse in which to exercise our zeal?
St. Vincent had shaped a clear stance towards the foreign missions he said:
… the power to send (to mission) ad gentes resides in the person of His Holiness alone, he has the power to send every priest throughout the earth for the glory of God and the salvation of souls; and all priests have the obligation to obey him in that regard. According to that maxim, which seems reasonable to me, I offered God this Little Company for His Divine Majesty to go wherever His Holiness commands…
Down through the history of the Congregation of the Mission both the leadership and the members have tried to live the universality of their missionary vocation with a readiness to go on Mission ad Gentes. Indian Vincentian history is an obvious example of this same truth.
This year we the Vincentians in India are celebrating the centenary of the arrival of the Spanish Vincentian Missionaries to India (1922-2022) and the South Indian Province is at the threshold of Silver Jubilee of its establishment (1997-2022). At this historical juncture we raise our hearts in gratitude to God for the manifold blessings and graciousness in making the Vincentians the channels of God’s blessing to many. In this historic moment we also gratefully remembers 55 Spanish Vincentian Missionaries, worked in the Indian soil and called to eternal rest. I am sure, they are rejoicing in heaven, seeing the manifold growth of the Indian Vincentian missions and continue to support us through their unfailing intercession.
St. Vincent de Paul not only had a special love for the Foreign Mission especially mission ad gentes but he also believed that the Little Company has an obligation to respond to the requests coming from Bishops for missionaries from different parts of the world. In this same spirit of our Holy Founder and responding to the call of our Superior General Rev. Fr. Tomaž Mavrič for sending I % of confreres to Mission Ad Gentes, the South Indian Province accepted a long standing invitation from Rt. Rev. George Desmond Tambala, the Bishop of Zomba diocese in Malawi. Bishop George Desmond had requested for missionaries in 2017. The South Indian Province was not in a position to accept the invitation then.
With the great trust in the Providence of God and the blessings of the Superior General and the General Curia in March 2020 we began discussions with the bishop of Zomba. After a number of discussions and correspondence the South Indian Province agreed to take up two mission stations in the diocese of Zomba and to send four confreres to begin the missions. Due to the pandemic traveling from India to Malawi was impossible on those days. Therefore, in September 2020 the Visitor delegated Fr. Sebastian Vettickal CM and Fr. George Kannamkulam CM, working in Tanzania, to visit Zomba diocese and begin direct discussions with Bishop George Desmond on behalf of the Visitor. After the visit they submitted a report regarding this challenging and promising mission. The Provincial Council evaluated and accepted the proposal and gave green signal to start the preparations to accept the Malawi mission. In December 2020 the Visitor officially communicated to Bishop George that we are ready to take up the mission and asked him to send invitation letters for obtaining visa.
In February 2021 the Visitor Fr. Anil Thomas presented to the Superior General and his Council a detailed Vision Plan for Malawi mission and its expansion in four states from 2021 to 2045 and it was accepted and approved after certain minor corrections and modifications. Meanwhile, assistants General Fr. Miles Heinen and Fr. Mathew Kallammakal were closely following the planning and developments of the new Mission ad Gentes and were in discussion with the Visitor. On 30th March 2021 the missionaries received Visa to go to Malawi. Unfortunately by then the second wave of COVID-19 severely hit India and all national and international flights were cancelled and in three months the Visas expired after three months.
We had to begin the process again after a few months. On 13th September they received the second Visa to Malawi and on 28th September 2021 Fr. George Kannamkulath (Mission Superior), Fr. M. Fredy, Fr. S. Mahesh and Fr. Sojan John flew from Bangalore to Mumbai and early in the morning on 29th September they flew from Mumbai to Malawi via Nairobi and landed at Lilongwe international airport in Malawi at 1:45 pm on 29th September. Rt. Rev. George Desmond himself was at the airport to receive the confreres. He took them to the diocesan pastoral central in Lilongwe and for rest and night halt. On the next day the bishop took them to Zomba. At present they are studying the local language and culture as well as preparing the documents for obtaining residential permit.
In Grateful remembrance of the first four Spanish Vincentian missionaries to India and their self-gift to God and Indian Church, four of our confreres have offered themselves to go to Malawi. Fr. George Kannamkulam, Fr. M. Fredy, Fr. S. Makesh and Fr. Sojan John are the four pioneering missionaries to Malwai Mission.
We wish and pray that the self-gift of these missionaries and all missionaries may build together the Kingdom of God on earth bringing people closer to God with the same zeal and vigour of St. Vincent. May their dedicated missionary endures bring glory to God and to his name.
Fr. Anil Thomas Karackavayalil CM
Visitor, South Indian Province