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Nurturing the Future in Northern India

Br. John Wong visiting Custody of the Mother of God

05 December 2023

The Dependent Custody of the Mother of God in Northern India was established in 2008 as part of the Province of St Thomas in India.
Since 2016, the brothers of this Custody have been taking steps towards eventual autonomy, even as they continue to serve the needs of the future of the people of God, the Church and the Franciscan Order. 

On 29 November 2023, a Plenary Assembly of Solemn Professed Friars of the Custody was held in the presence of General Definitor for Asia - Oceania Br. John Wong and Provincial Minister Br. Xavier Durairaj, on the second day of their 6-day official visit to the Custody. 
This Assembly, that was held on the Feast of All Franciscan Saints, celebrated the 800th Anniversary of the Rule and Life of the Friars Minor, and 15 years of the friars’ life and ministry as a Custody. 
The brothers reported on their current presences and ministries and reflected on concrete plans for the future of their mission and a road map for their development towards autonomy. 

Much of the ministry focus of the friars in the northern states of the Indian subcontinent is on pastoral services and education, that caters for the needs of tribal people and especially children in the rural reaches of the northern states of India. 
In the city of Mumbai, the friars live and serve in Dharavi, which is the largest slum in Asia with its estimated 1 million inhabitants. 
Due to the diversity of language and ethnic groups, friars in ministry have to be fluent in at least 3 to 4 languages. 

Currently the Custody has 49 Solemn Professed friars who serve a total of 15 schools, 6 parish churches, 1 chapel, and numerous villages.
Much of this ministry is in close collaboration with Franciscan sisters and lay catechists. 
Due to vast geographical area of the Custody, travel times between friary communities, to the friars’ missions, and for fraternal meetings cannot be underestimated. 
It takes between 12 to 30 hours one-way by train and bus for members of the leadership team, who are spread out in different communities, to travel to Custody Council meetings that are held every other month. 

Despite the challenges of this very meaningful and necessary Gospel life and witness of the friars of the Custody of the Mother of God, the Custody continues to attract many young men to the Franciscan life.
At present, the Custody has 20 young friars in temporary profession, with a very large number of live-in aspirants.
With their ongoing growth in mission, healthy number of new vocations, and their commitment to their road map towards greater autonomy, the future of the Order in the north of India appears to be very promising indeed.


Photos:

1. Plenary Assembly of the Custody of the Mother of God, 29/11/23, Ranpur (Maharashtra State)
2. Visit to Apostolic School, 2/12/23, Basen (Chhattisgarh State)
3. Visit to St Francis School, 2/12/23, Basen (Chhattisgarh State)
4. Blessing of newly-renovated Custody House and Office, 30/11/23, Umred (Maharashtra State)
5. Visit to FMM sisters, 2/12/23, Kansabel (Chattisgarh State)
6. Night Procession, 2/12/23, Malom Naotoli (Jharkhand State)

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