In Northeast India the Church is still relatively young. In 2016 in fact it celebrated just 120 years in this region, which is still one of the poorest and most inaccessible parts of India, plagued by poverty, unrest and social problems. It is an isolated and underdeveloped area.
Today around 2 million of the total population of 45 million in the region are Catholics. And whereas once it was European missionaries who brought the Gospel message here, today the Church in the region can boast a growing number of indigenous vocations.
The Carmelite Order is particularly rich in new vocations, and at the present time 34 young men are in various stages of their priestly formation. In fact there was great joy last year, when four Carmelite brothers – the first in Northeast India – were ordained to the priesthood. At the same time five young men were ordained to the diaconate and are now already looking forward to ordination as priests. The Carmelite Fathers first began their mission in the region in 2003 with a simple bamboo-clad house. But by now they have several monasteries in the seven federal states of Northeast India and are pursuing a fruitful apostolate in the region.
The Carmelite Order wants to be able to offer the best possible training to its young members. However, generally speaking the parents of these young men are very poor – just like the majority of the population in this part of the world. For the most part they are small peasant farmers or landless day labourers, living from hand to mouth and trying to support their children. Consequently, the Carmelites cannot expect any financial contribution from their families and so have to provide everything themselves – board and lodging, study costs, travel costs, medical care and even clothing for the seminarians, plus of course the salaries of the teaching staff. But costs are also rising, and so the Order is dependent on outside help to cover the cost of training the young brothers.