I N T E R N AT I O N A L M I N I S T R I E S
Kohima: Partners in Care
Rain does not deter the work of the boarding school children at St. Mary’s in Maweit, Meghalaya. The summer monsoon can produce much of the 120 inches of annual rainfall. Due to distances and difficult roads, many children need to live at school and only go home at breaks.
By John Sealey, Provincial Assistant for International and Social Ministries for the Chicago-Detroit and Wisconsin Provinces
he Wisconsin Province Jesuits have cooperated with the Kohima Region since 2002. The Jesuits of the ethnically and geographically diverse Kohima region have worked tirelessly and faced the challenges posed by rural, mountainous terrain, a 50% literacy rate, and 240 distinct languages. As the Chicago-Detroit and Wisconsin Provinces prepare to unite, together they continue to dedicate their efforts to making a difference in the lives of those in northeast India. Two Portuguese Jesuits, Frs. Cacella and Cabaral, passed briefly through northeast India in 1626 en route to Tibet. As early Christians in the region, they faced adversity then as now; still today, only 2% of the 1.2 billion inhabitants in India identify as Catholic. In October of 1995, Kohima was established as a new Jesuit region comprised of the 7 northeast “sisters” or states of Arunachal Pradesh, Assam, Manipur, Meghalaya, Mizoram, Nagaland, and Tripura, 4
and in 2002, a “twinning” agreement was finalized with the Wisconsin Province. In just one generation, the region has grown to over 140 young Jesuits with an average age of only 35.
From the beginning, the relationship between Kohima and the Wisconsin Province has been built on mutuality and solidarity. A frontier region distinct in many ways from mainland India and accentuated by rocky terrain and isolated communities, has forced Jesuits to find creative ways to share their mission and focus their efforts on seven apostolic frontiers. These include evangelization, socio-economic transformation, health care, conflict resolution and peace initiatives, research, building the local church, and culture and language preservation.
From the beginning, the relationship between Kohima and the Wisconsin Province has been built on mutuality and solidarity. This generosity has allowed the rapidly growing Kohima region to expand its work into underserved communities. Reciprocally, Kohima has contributed to the formation of Midwest Jesuits and lay leaders who have experienced the life and work in Kohima. Over the years, immersion groups comprised of Jesuits and laity have had the privilege of accompanying the Jesuits and indigenous communities of Kohima. In the following reflection, The Jesuit Post blogger Paddy Gilger, SJ, shares his honest and humorous life lessons from his six weeks abroad.
To view a slideshow of images of Jesuits in Kohima, visit our website at www.jesuits-chgdet.org and click the red web icon as shown here.
Partners is a publication of the Chicago-Detroit Midwest Jesuits