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An Australian Jesuit visits Australia after sixty years of tireless work in India

12 September 2018
Fr Bob Slattery in Bhurkunda, India. Image: Supplied.

 

Fr Bob Slattery SJ left Australia for Hazaribag, India, in 1958, a young man of just 23. Now 84 and the Hazaribag Province Development Director, he has dedicated his life to the Jesuit mission, serving God, and being one with the people and communities in which he lives and works.

His September 2018 visit home to Melbourne and Sydney will be packed with meeting friends, colleagues and supporters, celebrating masses and sharing his experiences with schoolchildren, teachers and parishioners alike.

Most importantly, it will give Fr Bob the opportunity to personally share his gratitude with those supporters who have raised funds and donated to make his work possible. Two highlights of the trip stand out. He will have the rare opportunity to celebrate his birthday with his family.

Then on 15th September he will join in the fun of the annual Indian Bazaar, a massive fête at St Ignatius’ College in Sydney, which began as a modest fundraiser for Jesuits in faraway India. His attendance at this event brings together the stories of his life’s work and the Australian support which has made it so effective.

Not only has Fr Bob shaped the lives of thousands, he too has been changed by the experience. Humble about his achievements, he stresses what he’s learnt along the way – the gifts he’s received; his indebtedness to his Jesuit brothers, the wider Catholic family, and the communities who have welcomed him into their homes and into their lives.

He has been housed and fed by people with nothing to give, he’s been invited to sit and talk and to listen, to celebrate festivities together.

“I’m inspired by the people,” he says, “poor people who are struggling yet do what they must to educate their children.”

Father Bob’s focus from the outset was education. Only two days after he arrived in India he was teaching at St. Xavier’s School. His career would blossom to encompass a Master of Education Degree at Delhi University, becoming the headmaster of several schools and holding academic and strategic roles.

From small beginnings, teaching a handful of students in the open air, the Jesuits now educate 27,000 students each year in Hazaribag alone.

Motivated by the Ignation pedagogy of forming men and women for others, Fr Bob has also been involved in teacher training. Graduate teachers are providing crucial role models and making a positive impact on individuals, villages and communities.

And for the future generation, there is hope. People with even a small amount of education are far more likely to fight for an education for their children. It’s this newfound belief in betterment that is improving self-esteem across the board.

Of course without resources, none of it would be possible. Australia’s impact is felt everywhere.

The buildings where proud teachers teach, the hostels where students from the most remote villages sleep, the dining room where students eat with dignity; the very foundations have been built by the Australian supporters of Jesuit Mission.

Over 5,000 such supporters are expected to attend the Indian Bazaar on Saturday 15th September to continue the long tradition of raising funds to support the tireless work of Jesuits like Fr Bob.

Accompanying Fr Bob is Fr. Santosh Minj SJ, the Provincial Superior of Hazaribag, India. Fr Santosh is an Indian National who joined the Society of Jesus in 1991.

“My priestly ordination in April 2005 in Mahuadanr Parish was a moment of overwhelming joy for me and for my family. There was a big celebration at home for my first mass in my village, Bardauni, Karamtoli in Sale parish, one of the parishes in Mahuadanr valley.” said Fr Santosh.

Since then Fr Santosh completed his licentiate in spirituality in Gregorian University, Rome and his Tertianship in Kandy, Sri Lanka.

“Going to Rome for higher study was a real surprise in my life. I was very excited. I knew my mission after my study, so I did not leave any stone unturned to get what I wanted.”

In 2010 he became Director of Novices at St. Stanislaus College, Sitagarh, India where he was Director of Novices for six years before being appointed the Provincial Superior of Hazaribag in 2016.

 

About Jesuit Mission
Jesuit Mission works in over 10 countries across Asia and Africa to uphold the innate dignity of each and every person, especially the most marginalised and vulnerable.

Funds from our supporters:
• Break cycles of poverty through teaching and education
• Protect the health of communities by providing medical care and programs that improve access to clean water and toilets
• Develop independent, sustainable communities through livelihood training and income generating projects
• Provide vulnerable individuals with pastoral care, social inclusion and advocacy
• Support refugees in crisis
• Enable effective disaster response and relief.

With thanks to Jesuit Mission.

 

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