The vocation to religious life is a gift and a Grace:
To follow His footsteps

By Fr. Dilip K. Soreng, SVD
United States Southern Province

I was born in a very Catholic family in Odisha, India. My parents were very spiritual. Our family prayed together every night. Ever since my childhood, there were some inner forces attracting me towards the priesthood. Our church community had Mass once in a while, but every Sunday there was a celebration of the Word of God, led by a Catechist. When a priest visited our community, there was great joy and a celebration.

Answering the call
When I completed high school, I attended a youth camp. Many priests from different congregations were recruiting young people for the priesthood and religious life. The person who interviewed me happened to be an SVD Priest. He invited me to the Come and See program for a week at Jyoti Bhavan, Sambalpur, a minor seminary for Divine Word Missionaries and diocesan candidates. During that week, I felt that the inner force I had felt in my childhood was being rekindled. I went back home and for the next three months, I reflected and prayed about joining the seminary. I eventually said “yes” to the Lord’s call and started my formation journey. After finishing eleventh and twelfth grades, I was sent to Palda, in the city of Indore for one year of Spirituality, integration and study. I successfully completed philosophy and earned a bachelor’s degree at St. Philomena’s College in Mysore. Then I went to the SVD novitiate at Catholic Ashram Khurda, Indore, where I reaffirmed my vocation to the priesthood and religious life. I also professed my first religious vows. The following year, I did my regency at Jyoti Niketan, Guntur, teaching in the SVD minor seminary.

Finishing formation
After four years of theological studies at Divine Word Seminary and Jana Deepa Vidyapeeth, Pune, I said a “big yes” to the Lord, and professed my perpetual vows in the Society of the Divine Word to follow the footsteps of Christ for life. The Spirit of the Lord was present in my formation journey. The Lord helped me participate very actively in my personal, spiritual, academic, pastoral, and integral life. I was ordained a priest on February 6, 2003 at St. Mary’s Catholic Church, Kahupani, Odisha, my home parish by Most Rev. Bp. Lucas Kerketta, SVD.

When I was young, I was inspired by foreign missionaries who worked in neighboring parishes. And while I was studying theology, I always felt that I could serve in other countries as a missionary.

Some missionaries from India shared their experiences from foreign countries, which helped me decide in my discernment to work as an SVD in a distant land. My option was accepted from the SVD Generalate in Rome. I was sent to the SVD Mexico Province where I learned Spanish. Learning a new language, culture and tradition was quite challenging for me.

Missionary life
My first assignment was to the parish of San Fernando de Guadalupe, Chiapas, where 80% of the parishioners spoke Ch’ol, a branch of the Mayan language family and 20% spoke Spanish. Besides Spanish, it was necessary for me learn the Ch’ol language, culture, food habits, and way of life. At first, it was very difficult for me to adapt. There were 78 out-station churches and I attended to 33 of them.

Many communities did not have any access to roads and lacked a transportation system. As a missionary, it’s common to visit communities on horseback, donkey or through small canoes on the river. Many times, I walked for hours, climbed mountains and crossed rivers to reach these communities. Often times the donkeys or horses were hesitant to walk carrying a missionary due to uneven pathways and high mountains. During my time in Mexico, I found great joy in making the Word of God present as I traveled from one out-station to the next. I enjoyed celebrating sacraments and building faith communities. Some places I served had a small church, but other communities did not. It was common to celebrate Mass and sacraments under a tree.

I spent six years serving in San Fernando de Guadalupe. My experiences there were life-changing for me in my religious life, making me truly humble. Later, I studied formation in Bogotá, Colombia and served as a rector and formator of the SVD Theologate in Mexico City for 10 years.

For the past three years, I’ve been serving in the United States Southern Province.

The consecrated life continues to be a challenge in modern times. For me, it’s a grace of God. I approach life from a Christ-centered perspective, and I’m enthusiastic about carrying out His mission with apostolic zeal. Again, it is a gift from God to dedicate one’s life to the promptings of the Spirit in service to His people and not by one’s own merit. By both being and doing, my life and my actions are a joyous witness of consecrated life. In order to undertake any missionary endeavor as a religious consecrated person, one needs a strong union with Christ through prayer and contemplation, as well as a fraternal life in a community. The more I imitate Christ, the better my service will be to God’s people.
Be bra

Be and courageous to say “yes” to religious and consecrated life. God bless you.

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