Ralph Martin wrote the following report from India, where he has been for about three weeks, speaking extensively and serving with his wife Anne, Deacon Dan and Dolly Foley, Fr. Chas Canoy, John and Michelle Kazanjian, and Erin Campbell. This is the first in a three-part series about the mission. Anne Martin already has provided two reports about the mission, which can be found here and here.
Dear Partners in the Mission,
Finally, I have a little space of time to try to sum up the amazing three weeks in India that are soon coming to an end. Thankfully, I even have an Internet connection that will allow me to send this to you! I am writing this in the bishop’s house in the Diocese of Pune, where I just gave two talks to eighty-five nuns and priests who belong to religious orders in the diocese.
I am grateful to my wife, Anne, who allowed her reports back to our family to be shared more widely with you. I know she provided more interesting detail than I could have given you!
As I write this, we are in the very last days of our time in the Diocese of Pune, finishing a retreat for all the priests of the diocese. Normally, the vicar general told us, thirty-five to forty priests attend the annual retreat, but this year, there are fifty-seven—ninety to ninety-five percent the entire presbyterate! This diocese gets the attendance award!
Yesterday afternoon, we prayed for all the priests to be baptized in the Spirit, or to renew their baptism in the Spirit and open themselves to the gifts of the Spirit. Their openness to the Lord and deep sincerity, even from those who asked very contentious and challenging questions earlier in the week, totally surpassed our expectations. As all of our team members moved among them laying on hands, many began to speak in tongues and experience deep actions of God in their lives. At evening prayer that night, many were raising their hands in praise and joyously praising God—way beyond what we could have asked for or imagined!
Let me go back over some of the events that Anne has already mentioned in earlier reports. The time at our first destination the Diocese of Vasai, just north of Mumbai (the former Bombay) was very blessed. Archbishop Machado, who said he has been reading my books since he was a seminarian, invited us to stay with him and his two wonderful priest assistants. This gave us the opportunity to have many meals with him and get an in-depth “seminar” on the Indian Church and the pervasive culture of Hinduism.
He served in Rome for many years with a high level of responsibility regarding inter-religious dialogue, and we found ourselves of one mind and heart on this topic, as well as many others. He told us an amazing statistic—while the Indian population of more than one billion people is only two- to three-percent Catholic, the Catholics carry out forty percent of the country’s education, healthcare, and social services, and are highly respected. However, the growth of a more fundamentalist Hindu Nationalism is putting heavy pressure on their ability to continue providing these services and this witness. While open evangelization is not possible in many parts of India, the witness of these institutions and person-to-person faith sharing is indeed powerful.
We didn’t get to bed until around 4 a.m. on the day we arrived, and we had to dive in at noon with two talks to an open evangelization meeting mainly oriented to “Sunday Catholics,” but which Hindus and others periodically attend. I gave two talks, and Deacon Dan Foley, the chairman of Renewal Ministries’ American Board gave a talk as well. The next day, we conducted a day-long conference for members of the Community of the Good Shepherd, who were doing the extensive organization for all the events of our stay, providing transportation, etc.
Deacon Dan and his wife Dolly were the spark for this mission, as their daughter married a young Hindu man from Pune who became a Catholic; they now live in Chicago, where he works as an engineer. They arrived about a week after we did and were able to present their three-month-old baby daughter to his parents.
We then did a day-long conference for prayer group leaders in the diocese. Over 500 attended, and I gave three talks there as well. Deacon Dan often offered commentary after my talks, just as Fr. Mike Scanlan used to do when he traveled with me for the Crisis of Truth message. (We miss and love Fr. Mike, who was a member of our board for many years, a co-host of The Choices We Face for many years, and a true friend to many of us.) All the talks, except those to the priests and nuns, had to be simultaneously interpreted into Marathi, the dominant local language.
The next day, I gave three talks to the priests of the diocese. In the evening, we all spoke at a meeting with about fifty young people.
The day after that, we met with the nuns of the diocese, and again I gave three talks. In the evening, I gave two talks at an event in a huge outdoor field, where about 5,000 people had gathered, very much surprising the archbishop! The talks were adding up!
We then were blessed to travel to the “tribal area,” where the diocese has about sixteen mission stations, at which they do excellent work in providing education, healthcare, and social work services, all while quietly evangelizing. They are currently preparing 165 people for baptism this coming Easter! Praise God! Anne told you about our amazing experience of being greeting by hundreds of school children in uniforms who were throwing flower petals and singing for us with music provided by their native instruments. This was a very moving experience for all of us, and tears came to our eyes. Again, I gave three talks to about fifty of the priests and nuns who work in the mission areas who couldn’t come into the city earlier in the week.
On our way to the airport in Mumbai the next day, we stopped to see Fr. Fio Macarenhas, who was the third chairman of the International Catholic Charismatic Renewal Council. (I was the founding chair, Fr. Tom Forrest followed me, and then Fr. Fio served.) After visiting with Fr. Fio, who runs a Catholic Bible school in Mumbai, we visited a shrine at the top of a steep hill, where a miraculous statue of Mary was recovered by fishermen centuries ago. On the way up the hill, a man on a motorcycle called out my name. It turned out that twenty years ago, the last time I visited India, he gave me a ride on his motorcycle, in order to take me to the conference center where I spoke. He had hoped to make it to Vasai a few nights before to hear me speak, but couldn’t, and then the Lord brought him across my path as I walked up the hill! How utterly amazing! Twenty years later, the same man and I crossed paths, and he recognized me! He invited me to hop on his motorcycle once again and gave me a ride up and down the hill a few times. It was very amazing and wonderful! Talk about finding needles in the haystack, or the Lord numbering the hairs on our head!
The second installment in Ralph’s report from India will be posted on Tuesday, Jan. 24.