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THE LOVING FIELDS

True Stories of Pioneer Missionaries

HEDWIG LEWIS SJ

 

Missionary tidbits
displaying total commitment.
Awe-inspiring, informative,
enjoyable and touching.

 

 

For information regarding this book CLICK HERE

 

 

A hundred heart-attracting 'stories' -- replete with experiences and adventures in real life, adorn "The Loving Fields". They were narrated by religiously oriented men who served (1930-1960) the poorest of the poor in Gujarat, a State situated on the western part of India, hemmed in by ocean, desert, hills and forests.

 

The narratives  have been selected from the numerous accounts that were published in the monthly newsletter "The Ahmedabad Missionary" , which was launched in April 1937.

 

The “stories” are all about specific people and places, but they resonate with the experience of universal human nature. They can, therefore, find an echo in the heart of every reader across the globe. They weave a range of emotions, joyful or otherwise; they provide inspiration and awe. They evoke prayerful reverence.  

 

We trust you will truly ‘enjoy’ these missionary tidbits and appreciate the depth of spirituality, the sincerity of purpose, the motivational idealism, and the total commitment to fulfilling a mission... that form the leit motif of this Selection of Stories that come from the heart of the Loving Fields.”  (Foreword)

 

EXCERPTS

7. A powerful kick
Fr Joseph A. Arroyo

It has often been said that the train and public buses are excellent ‘pulpits’ to let others know our faith. Be it through our example or a friendly conversation... How on earth could I suspect that a powerful and well-directed kick was to create around me an atmosphere of admiration, friendliness and respect?

We were no more than six passengers in that compartment, when the train left Ahmedabad one warm Sunday evening. All of us were a peaceful lot. Well, all except one who soon proved to be gifted with a high-pitched, provoking voice. It happened like this. The door at the left side, though which we were expected to descend, was apparently locked. Already at the second stop, people, trying to get in, blamed those inside for taking unlawful measures to travel comfortably.

That misunderstanding irritated my ill-tempered neighbour. From then on, at every station he would lean out of the window and shout out, calling the guard, officers and railway authorities bedding them to do their duties, etc., etc. At Mehmdabad, where the train stopped longer, things took a bad turn. The guard actually came, people thronged around the spot... and finally a conductor produced a bundle of keys. Soon they discovered that the door was not locked but jammed due to the heavy rains. So two men pulling from outside and the irritated passenger pushing from inside, tried their best to throw open that door. But to no avail. 

Finally, I stood up and came close to the scene. Getting ready from a distance, I kicked the door with all my strength and immediately it flung open, amidst the consternation of both parties, seeing a white cassock hiding such powerful limbs. I am sure they never suspected that a Catholic missionary could make use of his legs so efficiently... “Blessed are the feet of those who preach the Gospel.”

8. Lofty heights
Fr Eduardo Gadea

“At last I have thought it time to take advantage of the offer of His Highness the Maharana of Porbander and fly there from Rajkot. His Highness wished his Secretary to assure me of His great pleasure in sending me a free ticket. It was 10.15 this morning, November 12, when we left Rajkot. The pilot, Mr Rogers, is a Catholic, and had the honour of piloting H.G. the Archbishop of Bombay when over the Island a fortnight ago. We flew at a height of 2000 feet between Rajkot and Jamnagar. Here we landed for ten minutes to take in the mail, and then rose to an average height of 4000 feet to avoid the mountains of central Kathiawar.

We landed safely at 11.30. It takes about 12 hours by train! During the journey I said my Itinerarium and part of the Divine Office, to praise God from the air with the official Prayer of the Church, and to thank Him for putting these modern and rapid ways of transport within the reach of a poor missionary. How small the earth looks when we look up at the skies! But how much smaller when we look at it from the sky! The mightiest building and towns there look just like children’s toys...

Taken for a ride

It was in a third class compartment of the B.B. & C.I. Railway. A deaf and dumb man approached us for an alms. It was quite a genuine case, if we had to believe the writing on his breast announcing the fact. I knew that Fr Bastons had neither gold nor silver. Imagine my surprise, when he produced a Rupee and showed it to the beggar.

 

“Explain to me,” coaxed the Father, “how you became deaf and dumb and I will give this to you...”

 

At the sight of the shining silver, the answer came forth at once in rolling Gujarati to the amused gaiety of all the passengers...

 

 

BISHOP'S MESSAGE

Rt Rev Thomas Macwan, Bishop of the Ahmedabad Diocese [Gujarat], gifted each of  his priests with a copy of “The Loving Fields” at Easter 2006. In his message enclosed in the book the Bishop stated:

“I am happy to present this memento on the occasion of Easter. This small book contains the actual stories of some of  the pioneering Jesuit missionaries who worked relentlessly in Ahmedabad diocese and in Gujarat. Their earnest zeal for souls and enthusiasm for evangelization was extraordinary. They lived a simple and prayerful life. They had very little to provide for themselves and to give to the people of God. Their total dependence was on the Providence of God.

The small seeds which they had sowed have germinated into mighty trees with the passing of time. This is precisely because they nurtured young plants with love, care, concern and spiritual food. Today we are enjoying the fruits of their labour. It is worthwhile going though the life stories of those great missionaries who have left a legacy for us to reflect and to imitate.

I thank and appreciate Rev Fr Hedwig Lewis, SJ, the editor of the book named, “THE LOVING FIELDS true stories of Pioneer Missionaries”, who has taken special interest in compiling these beautiful hidden stories of our missionaries from the TAM.

Perspectives

Fr Lewis continues to regale us with interesting reading which is also inspirational, especially for the younger generation. In this booklet he collects stories, most of them by twenty pioneers of the Gujarat Catholic Church, five of whom are Indian and the others Spaniards (their photos are given in the index page). They all died between 1882 and 2002. The stories had been published  in a small bulletin called The Ahmedabad Missionary (TAM) and refer to the lives of those missionaries who worked among the poorest of the poor between 1930s and 1960. The missionaries are not always the heroes of these snippets: heroes like Lucy the young and proud mother, or the 73 years old Sabina, touch the heart. They show us the real stuff of Christian living.

G. Gispert-Sauch, SJ, Vidyajyoti Journal of Theological Reflection, July 2006, p 545

 

The sub-title "True Stories of Pioneer Missionaries," perhaps is misleading. These aren't stories but actual life experiences  of the Catholic missionaries who worked in Gujarat. They evoke a range of emotions in the readers: joy, pity, surprise, humour, and sorrow. They    m provide inspiration and awe. Fr Hedwig, a prolific writer, articulates the faith of the pioneer missionaries and love they exhibited towards the people. These tidbits will surely enchant all those who read and help one develop a spiritual outlook towards the day-to-day events of life.

Francis Gamailyel, SDB, JIVAN, October 2006, p 24

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