India is one of the world's oldest civilizations and a
modern giant with a highly educated and growing middle class which includes more computer programmers and technicians than
any other country in the world. Although evangelized since apostolic times, India of today counts only 23 million Christians
in its population of a billion. Of these 18 million are Catholics, who are served by 23,000 priests and 80,000 women
religious. The most Christian state is Kerala, which counts 5,200,000 Catholics in a population of 32 million.
Most of these Catholics are of the Syriac-Malabar rite, which dates to the time of the apostle St. Thomas.
The city of Bangalore in the neighboring state of
Karnataka is about 15 - 20% Catholic. The Society of Our Lady (SOLT) is interested in establishing
a formation house in Bangalore because the city is rich in priestly vocations and there is a major seminary
in Bangalore to form priests to go as missionaries to less Christian regions of India. In addition, Fr. Santan Pinto
of the SOLT priests' council is a personal friend of Archbishop Bernard Mora of Bangalore.
The vast majority of Indians are Hindus, devotees of the only system
of ancient paganism to survive on a large scale down to modern times. Most of the remainder are Moslems, with significant
numbers of Sikhs in parts of the north. Our Lord and His Holy Mother call on today's Church to complete the work of
St. Thomas and St. Francis Xavier and we at SOLT are eager to do our part.
St. Thomas the Apostle
St. Thomas, the hard-headed
skeptical apostle who demanded physical proof of the Lord’s resurrection, was selected to carry the Gospel to the lands
east of the Roman Empire. He started at the border city
of Edessa in modern Syria,
but later became the slave of Gundafor, a powerful king who ruled over much of what is now Afghanistan
and modern India. St.
Thomas converted Gundafor and then traveled further into India,
preaching and gaining converts. He received the crown of martyrdom at the hands
of another king, Mazdai, whose wife and son Thomas had converted. Communication
with the main body of the Catholic Church was difficult and sporadic, but on the Malabar coast of western
India, a body of “Thomas Christians” have maintained
the faith down to this day, using the Syriac liturgy. Impressed by the simplicity of the Gospel preached by Thomas in contrast to the extravagant mythology of
their native paganism, the Indians called Thomas “teacher of reality”. The name Thomas is still very
common among Indian Christians.