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Archives 'Everything's full of surprise and amazement'

January 6, 2021

By Mary Beth Bracy
Contributing Writer

WATERTOWN – Born into a Catholic family in Orisa, located in Northeast India, Father Deepak Baru of the Heralds of Good News grew up with his parents and older brother.

Oriya is his first language, and he also knows Hindi. Father Baru said he is from a family of poor farmers, who cultivated wheat or paddy (rice). His maternal cousin is a member of St. Mother Teresa of Calcutta’s order, the Missionaries of Charity. Growing up, Father Baru was an altar server and had a great devotion to Mother Mary.

“We have received the faith from the Western part of the world, now in India the faith is growing, but here the faith is getting diminished,” Father Baru said. “People are not so much interested in prayer or going to Mass or any spiritual activities. There might be some reason behind this, I could say only that people are either fearful or they are not willing to come to the Church for worship.

“Even before COVID hit, people were scared or doubting or something; maybe because of previous incidents, or different experiences in their life, maybe they hate to come to the Church,” Father Baru continued. “Really some of them I see though, their faith is really strong and neither COVID nor anything can shake their faith. Their faith is stronger than I have ever seen. They continue to come and have no fear of anything. I really appreciate that. They come to worship. That makes me stronger in my faith.”

In high school, Father Baru was “inspired” by the Society of the Divine Word priests. When he finished college in his hometown, one of his cousins invited him to join the Heralds of Good News. Father Baru and his cousin would sit together in the evening and discuss how to enter the seminary.

He began seminary on May 1, 2000.

“After my graduation I had interviews with police, coal mines and railway, but the results of those interviews came when I joined the seminary, and I had passed,” noted Father Baru. “Through the help of some of the benefactors here in the USA (in Texas area), I started the seminary and became a priest.”

Father Baru recalled that, when he was in his first year of philosophy in the seminary, “an incident happened in his life and family.” In August 2002, his father died when Father Baru’s semester exams were beginning. He was not able to take them due to grief. Father Baru’s friend, who took him to the seminary, consoled him and said that “as you have chosen the will of God, you are to forego everything.”

Father Baru said he “should not look back,” referring to Jesus’ words about keeping your hands to the plow. Father Baru’s mother and elder brother said, “don’t worry about the family, we will take care of everything, you go ahead for what you have gone to do.”

Father Baru was ordained April 29, 2011. He was appointed as parochial vicar at three parishes in Orisa.

“In India, the faith is getting stronger and stronger every day, but there are many persecutions and difficulties,” he said. “It is very difficult to show the faith to anyone. Whenever we say I am a Catholic or a Christian, sometimes people get annoyed. When we proclaim our faith through our words and deeds, then people torture and persecute.”

In 2007, there was a conflict and riot in the Kandhamal district in his state, in which many Christians were burned alive. On Christmas, Hindus “burned the Churches, the people, the grottos, the statues, everything was destroyed and burned,” Father Baru said. “We have been suffering until now. Still in many places in India, these things are happening. In my home diocese, the Hindus went and destroyed one or two parishes, the grottos, and statues.”

Father Baru was assigned to places in Orissa.

“Sometimes there was no electricity, and most of the time the network was not there,” he said.

Out of his love for the Blessed Mother, Father Baru built a small grotto in his own village, one mile from the parish of St. Ignatius Church in Gaibira. The grotto has Mother Mary on the ground level and stairs leading up to Jesus on the top level.

Just before coming to the United States, Father Baru blessed the grotto. From his parish are three bishops, the Auxiliary Archbishop Rt. Rev. Telesphore Bilung of Ranchi, Archbishop Rt. Rev. John Barwa of the Archdiocese of Cuttack-Bhubaneswar, and his Bishop Rt. Rev. Kishore Kumar Kujur of the Diocese Rourkela. There are also many priests and religious at his parish.

On May 1, 2019, Father Baru came to New York.

Due to customs, he was delayed and missed the flight to Syracuse. He prayed a Rosary and was immediately inspired to approach the agents and explain his problem. They helped him to get a ticket to fly to Syracuse the following morning. He is stationed at Holy Family Church in Watertown.

Father Baru assists with the four weekend Masses and the 9 a.m. Mass on weekdays. In Watertown, there are three churches that are joined together.

“It is very exciting for me to go around to all of the churches and celebrate Mass,” Father Baru said.

Father Baru said he has been warmly received in Watertown.

The people “are very much aware of me,” he said. “I am not very good at speaking English, but I can speak to their understanding and people love me so much now, and I do love them. I feel satisfied so much in what I have here. At least I can speak about something that I know or what I have studied.”

Since Father Baru is from an interior village, he grew up without an opportunity to learn English. It was only when he entered seminary that he began learning the language.

In addition, Father Baru hears confessions daily, before and after Masses, when people are in need of the sacrament. He is “always available in the rectory and in the church.”

Most of the time, though, Father Baru is in his office and preparing his homilies.

“I think for this purpose only I am chosen,” reflected. Father Baru, “Why should I not give my time for people who come for confession, or to consult, or to talk about their problems? I am trying to be available to them.”

When he was in India, his primary hobby was playing soccer, a sport he played in the seminary or the village. Father Baru said he continues “learning customs, culture and everything. Slowly I’m learning about USA, Watertown. It may take some more time.”

Father Baru said he has also received outstanding support from the other priests serving in Watertown.

“After coming here to the Watertown Church, I love the priests Msgr. Paul E. Whitmore, Father John M. ‘Mickey’ Demo, and Father Leo A. Wiley. And they love me,” Father Baru said. “I really am very lucky and very happy to be here. I think that this is my home. It's my great pleasure to come over here in the North Country of the USA. I am really very grateful to the bishop of Ogdensburg for accepting me to work in his diocese. God bless him. I'm still learning the language and culture of the North Country and sometimes, I'm astounded to experience different ways of living. All the more, I could say for me everything's full of surprise and amazement.”


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