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Connections
(from ONE September 2018)

A Visitor From ‘the Great North’
Posted: 28 Sep 2018

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Syro-Malankara Catholic Bishop Jacob Barnabas Aerath meets with CNEWA President Msgr. John E. Kozar in New York. (photo: CNEWA) 

In August, Msgr. John E. Kozar welcomed to CNEWA’s New York office a true trailblazer, Syro-Malankara Catholic Bishop Jacob Barnabas Aerath. Mar Barnabas serves the northernmost reaches of India — a land Msgr. Kozar calls “the Great North.”

Rich in diverse customs, peoples and languages, much of the north is populated by impoverished tribal communities ignored by the government and exploited by the region’s dominant cultures. The presence of the church is weak, and largely unheard of among the poor. However, with the guidance of Mar Barnabas, lay catechists are reaching the most isolated of communities, sharing the love of Jesus for each person, regardless of status or wealth.

It is a radical idea in this part of the world, where people have not heard of Jesus. Yet this message, and the advocacy it encourages, can be threatening to interests seeking to exploit the land, labor or lives of indigenous populations.

CNEWA has provided support to encourage this mission — a mission that often entails great risk for the bishop and his lay catechists.

“I tell them, ‘At maximum, you may lose your head; get ready for it!’ And they respond, ‘We are ready!’ “

The bishop told the story of one catechist: Though not a physician, people call him “the doctor,” bringing him sick members of their village. He prays with them and for them, offering compassion and care — and often, that is enough.