Heralds Of Good News
“We are here in the name of Jesus Christ.”
– Father Sudhakar Bhastati and Father Anthony Govind
Evansville – Mission trips are regular elements of ministry across the Diocese of Evansville. A group from Jasper, for example, traveled to the Atlanta area earlier this year to serve and help others. Another parish group stayed right here in Evansville to help its own and other local residents.
People from our diocese have assisted with natural disasters – not only in this country but in Haiti and elsewhere. The call to mission work always includes one simple concept – going where you’re needed to do what you can … to help.
Meet Father Anthony Govind and Father Sudhakar Bhastati. They are from India – members of the Heralds of Good News Missionary Society of Apostolic Life. Like the people mentioned above, they have gone where they’re needed – to North America; the state of Indiana; the Diocese of Evansville.
From here, it’s no coincidence that the name of their home for the next five years – Indiana – is nothing more than their home country – India – with the abbreviation of our continent – NA – added.
“As Heralds of Good News,” Father Govind said, “we go to work wherever more priests are needed.” “We have brother priests in at least 10 countries,” Father Bhastati added. Together, they listed all the places: Australia, Belgium, Canada, Germany, Hungary, Italy, the Netherlands, Papua/New Guinea, Uganda and the U.S.
They are from the same general area in India, but did not live or grow up close to each other. “Agriculture is an important part of life for both of us,” Father Bhastati said, but in my region, rice is the most important crop. Most of the rice grown in India comes from the region where I grew up.
“Cotton is the more important crop where I come from,” Father Govind added. “But for all of the families in our areas, there is about a three-month period where they tend to smaller, personal gardens to grow vegetables and beans, which feed the families.”
The two young men also had different paths to the seminary, although each had a common thread – the influence of priests and religious.
Father Bhastati went to junior high and high school at a Catholic hostel – a boarding school supported by U.S. and European Catholics. “The people were very supportive and sincere,” he recalled. “Because of that, I am a priest today. My time with them at the hostel motivated me to be a priest like them.
“Before I entered the seminary,” Father Bhastati added, “I had no knowledge of the differences between Religious-order and diocesan priests. After I entered the seminary, I came to know about the different ministries priests can have.”
Father Govind’s home parish, now moving into its seventh decade, had a school run by Vincentian nuns. “I lived close to the church campus,” he said, “and from childhood, I was always there.” He talked about days when he barely spent any time at home. “After the school day,” he explained about himself and his classmates, “we would go home and do some work there to help our families.
“When we finished, we would take our school books and go back to the rectory to study together. We would sleep there, and go home in the morning to clean up for morning Mass. We would go home after Mass for breakfast, then go straight back and begin the school day.”
He explained that the parish complex was designed in an L shape. “Everything was connected,” he said, “the church, the rectory, the school, the convent. Each of us had a tree on the property to water, and the priests and nuns would give little prizes to the students whose trees grew the most and were the most healthy.”
These families lived in villages and towns that are strongly connected to the parishes – that they literally grew up around the churches. Father Govind and his classmates pretty much lived next door to the church – certainly within easy walking distance. Listening to him describe those times left the distinct impression that his and others’ families viewed their parish church as another part of their homes.
That atmosphere unquestionably impacted vocations. “I am the 11th of 12 men from my village to be ordained to the priesthood,” he said. Father Govind attended the parish school through seventh grade, then completed eighth through 10th grades in a hostel 35 miles away. He entered the seminary before beginning his 11th-grade school year.
Father Bhastati is the only priest from his home village. “We serve as the vocations promoters for our home regions,” he said. “I have sent something back to be printed in our bulletin at home.”
There is little doubt that initial impressions of their new, albeit temporary, home in southwestern Indiana will be front and center. They arrived at Evansville Regional Airport on May 22 to begin a five-year visit to minister in our parishes.
“Life is more independent here,” Father Govind said. “There is a lot of freedom and security.”
“I find that very true,” Father Bhastati said. “People are very independent here. People in India are very dependent. They depend on their families. Young people depend on their parents for things. It seems more possible for people in India to become lazy because of that. Here, we see that people have to earn things.”
Spiritually, they already see something important.
“The message of God is in the people here,” Father Bhastati said. “People make us feel truly at home.”
“People are also very generous here,” Father Govind said. “And it seems as though everyone here is Christian … accepting Jesus as God, even if they are not Catholic. They are still practicing God’s message.”
Father Bhastati became Associate Pastor of Sts. Peter & Paul Parish in Haubstadt, Holy Cross Parish in Fort Branch and St. Bernard Parish in Snake Run on July 1.
On July 30, Father Govind will begin a temporary assignment at St. Mary Parish in Ireland and Precious Blood Parish in Jasper.