Up Front and Personal

What Can We Learn From Father Swamy?

by Father Arockia Dhas Rayappan 

We have just commemorated the second anniversary of the custodial martyrdom and institutionalized murder of Jesuit Father Stan Swamy on July 5. 

He believed that the adivasis (tribal groups in India) had salvation in them, and had something to contribute to our well-being. We as priests, sisters, and citizens of India, could learn something from them, as Father Swamy did. 

Father Swamy identified himself with the adivasis so much that he called his place of ministry and service his karma bhoomi (land of action). 

Sooner or later, Father Swamy will be declared a saint by the Church. 

We are well aware that his sainthood is celebrated in the hearts and lives of the people in his karma bhoomi. 

Drawing inspiration from the crucified death of Jesus and the martyrdom of Father Swamy, we ardently have a heart-felt desire to become the personal presence of Jesus inspired by the exemplary life, service, ministry, and death of that dedicated priest. 

Let Father Swamy live on through our lives in this way — sacramental presence of Jesus here and now consciously listening to the Holy Spirit who inspired the fathers of the Second Vatican Council to articulate: “The joys and the hopes, the griefs and the anxieties of the women and men of this age, especially those who are poor or in any way afflicted, these are the joys and hopes, the griefs and anxieties of the followers of Christ” (Pastoral Constitution on the Church in the World, 1). 

Here are some brief reflections on the life of the beloved priest: 

Tony, from New York, says, “Father Swamy, in following his heart and acting in love toward the adivasis, led a life of sacrifice. 

His fight for their lives and livelihood turned him into a martyr, bearing, as an example, the Church of India, and its missionaries. 

One can notice this example and absorb it into our personal lives by doing whatever God asks of us and leads us to, and through, in order for us to grow exponentially in love within ourselves and therefore reflect such an oscillating love toward our fellow brothers and sisters in the Lord, and towards God.”

Kuruvilla Pandikattu, “Father Stan is a man of conviction, a man of God, and a man for the people. He lived and worked for the people, especially the tribals of Jharkhand. 

“He paid the price for working for the poor and for standing with him. God will reward him. May we be inspired by his commitment, dedication, and concern for the poor and marginalized sections of our own people. He was truly, totally, freely, lovingly, a Christian, a human being, and a man for others.” 

Edwin Rodrigues, a fellow Jesuit, professor of Vidyajyoti College of Theology and the editor of Vidyjyoti Journal of Theological Reflection, says, “For me, Stan Swamy is an excellent contextual theologian, championing the theology of the people of the grassroots. Stan walked in the footsteps of Jesus of Nazareth radically and went about doing good, preaching the Gospel of liberation to the poor and the oppressed. Taking inspiration from his exemplary life of utmost dedication even unto death, we, the Jesuits of South Asia, are committed to keep his legacy alive by standing for justice and working courageously and ceaselessly for peace and reconciliation in our polarized world.” 

Indian Jesuit Father Swamy inspires us to walk in the footsteps of Jesus and to find salvation in the poor by embracing daily deaths after the exemplary model of Jesus Christ our Lord and Master. 

Jesus’ words continue to echo in my ears, my mind, and my heart as I write this article: “Are you able to drink the cup that I am about to drink?” (Matthew 20:22) and “If any want to become my followers, let them deny themselves and take up their cross daily and follow me” (Luke 9:23).

Father Arockia Dhas Rayappan is a priest of Delhi Catholic Archdiocese. He is a recipient of the 2023-2024 Bernard Lonergan Graduate Award and is a Ph.D. candidate in the Individualised Program specializing in Ecclesiology at Concordia University, Montreal, Canada.