If I Have No Concern for the People I Am Not a Pastor

Light of truth

Bp Fulgence Aloysius Tigga, Raiganj

What will be the focus of your episcopal ministry?

I want to build up people’s faith formation, because mostly we have tribal and local people. I feel that I need to work for evangelization. When we have strong faith, we will show it in action by working happily and joyfully.

Are you from Raiganj?

I am not from Raiganj; I am from Gumla diocese.

How would you describe your new diocese?

Raiganj is a very old and big diocese having 75,000 Catholics and about 53 parishes. The Catholics of the place are mostly belonging to the Santhal community. We also have Oraon and Mundatribals. Majority of non-Catholics are Bengali dalits. Catholics are mostly tribals belonging to the communities of: 1. Santal, 2. Oraon and 3. Munda. We have approximately 75,000 Catholics, about 53 parishes, 104 mission stations, more than 100 priests and nearly 290 nuns. The tribal Catholics are generally simple, good-natured, devoted and cooperative. Most of our priests are tribals. Missionaries from southern Tamil Nadu and Kerala are also ministering the people. We get plenty of local vocations. Ours is a growing and vibrant Church. Many parishes have been built within the last 15 years, and a new beautiful cathedral is coming up.

What is it that makes the Catholics of Raiganj stand out?

They are very good natured and dedicated people. And that is why we have a very established Church there. I have not yet gone there. I will be going on one of these days to see the place.

In the famous dream of Jacob of the Old Testament, there is a ladder that reaches from earth to heaven. The poor people of your diocese have to rise up through that ladder, which for them is perhaps education. Do you consider education that important for your people?

I feel that education is very much needed for them. I will give priority to education. I will have to bring them up through education.

Do you have any education institution in Raiganj diocese?

There are many, but not really good schools. I need to give priority to education.

What do you think is the major problem affecting the Catholics of Raiganj diocese?

I feel a little bit of tension exists between the Santhalies and the Bengalis. The Bengalis feel that they are superior to the Santhalies, who are less educated and economically weak too. We need to help the Santhalies to come up as a community.

Are you a Begali or a Santhali or of some other tribe?

I am actually an Oraon tribal.

As an Oraon, do you think you are better placed to improve the relationship between the Bengalis and the Santhalies?

That is what I feel.

In the contemporary world, there is a lot of divisive tendencies. People are shrinking into themselves into their caste, community and tribe. How do you plan to deal with this issue?

Your assessment is very much true. Sometimes we priests neglect especially those from the Dalit community. I need to make our priests strong so that they can contribute greatly to the Catholic communities. There are differences, and they are aware of it. And unfortunately, sometimes the shepherd himself does not act to remove them. That can ruin the community, especially priests. First of all, I need to understand the priests belonging to both the communities.

You have been the vicar general of Bettiah diocese. What type of administration do you wish to have in your episcopate?

I need to work with others as a team. It is not an individual bishop who runs the diocese. I need to take my priests into confidence. They are there in the field. If I don’t have faith in them or I don’t care for them, nothing will work smoothly. In many places priests complain that their bishop does not mind them or consult them or even call them for meetings. I need my priests and I should repose my faith in them.

In many churches around the world the main criticism against the bishop is that they are not participatory, not collegial or dialogical. Do you think this kind of problem can be resolved by working towards a participatory Church?

Suppose, as a bishop I do not have concern for the people, do not go with them, do not get familiar with them, do not go to the parishes and mingle with the people and hold meetings with them, then I feel personally that I am not a pastor. First of all I need to be a pastor, a shepherded. I need to go to the people as well as to the priests. Unless and until I know the particular situation of the parish, I will not be able to execute any plan for them. So, that is the main thing I need to do as a bishop.

Is evangelization under threat now from political and cultural quarters?

Direct evangelization may not be possible under the present situation, but we can continue our mission through education. Of course, when I work for people’s education, it will immediately be seen as something intended to convert people. Through education only I can help people, especially in the village.

All over India, conversion of a person into another religion is seen almost as a crime. How do you look at the issue of conversion?

We are going through a very difficult moment. Direct evangelization is not possible. It is only through education that we can help people and convey the evangelical values. We cannot go for baptism. We will have to wait patiently for people to come to know us. And if they ask for baptism after being inspired by our way of life, then we can consider their request.

How active are the RSS and the Hindutva supporters in Raiganj? Do you fear persecution by them?

I am not afraid of persecution. In fact, I have knowingly come to work for Christ. As long as I am doing God’s work, I don’t have to bother about persecution.

What type of government are you having now?

In West Bengal, we have the Trinamool government. Its leader Mamata Banerjee is cooperative towards Christians.

The mission of the Church has been seriously dampened by the Hindutva movement all over North India and even in South India. Don’t you think that the zeal of conversion has been completely dampened and the missionaries are terribly afraid?

How long can we keep mum? My conviction is that I will do my mission work whether they attack me or not. As I already said, direct evangelization is not possible, but, at the same time, I need to do the work.

You have been in the administration of school as well as of parish. How was your relation to Christ? What do you find so challenging in the life of Christ?

I took my priestly vocation seriously. When faced with difficulties, I related to God more. And whenever I felt happy and jolly, I was a little bit lazy about relating to God. When I encounter difficulties with the authorities, I take it as a part of life. I lived by the moment, trusting that God loves me and He gives me responsibilities not because I am talented or am living a life worthy of them. God has chosen me. In my priesthood, I find satisfaction in whatever I do sincerely.

How do you pray and what for do you pray?

I pray first of all for myself and then for the people and for the diocese. I definitely pray for the Church that it may grow. The Church is facing lots of difficulties now. We need to remain firm in our faith. I become more closer to God when I am challenged.

How do you take criticism and failures?

Initially I found it difficult to accept them. Neverthless, I always felt that I am not above criticism because I am a priest. Though Jesus was the Son of God, He too had to face criticism. That thought makes it easy for me to accept criticism. I also feel that criticism can be of great help.

Would share a few details about your family and your life so far?

I was born on 3 March, 1965, at Katkathi village in the Diocese of Gumla. I was ordained Priest on 3 May, 1997, for the Diocese of Muzaffarpur. At the bifurcation of the Diocese in 1998, I opted for the Diocese of Bettiah. I have my mother. My father passed away recently. I have one brother and three sisters. One of my sisters is a nun, a Cluny sister. I am only a graduate. I studied in Vishwa Jyothi Gurukul, Varanasi, and in IMS Philosophate. I did graduation in Allahabad University and Theological studies in Bhopal Ashtra seminary.

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