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Indian Church beholds the memory of exiled Nepali Catholics

Archdiocese of Patna Indian Church beholds the memory of exiled Nepali Catholics

Mokama Marian shrine on the southern bank of Ganges River bears the legacy persecuted Nepali Catholics banished from their homeland to India for refusing to renounce their faith.

Our Lady of Divine Grace Church at Mokama stands about 90 kilometers from Patna, the capital of eastern Indian state of Bihar. Mother Mary is popularly known as Mokama Mata (Mother of Mokama). The church was built to honor Mary in 1947.

In 1769, Nepalese King Prithvi Narayan Shah ordered expulsion 62 Catholics including two Capuchin priests. The banished faithful settled in Chuhari in Bettiah district of Bihar. The area is close to today’s Mokama shrine.

Mokama shrine is a major pilgrimage site in eastern India not just for Catholics but also other communities. Annually, it draws tens of thousands of pilgrims from far-flung places in eastern India as well as Hindu heartland in northern India.

The centuries-old legacy of Christianity in Bihar found strong footing when Pope Benedict XV established Patna Diocese on Sept. 10, 1919. Two years later, five American Jesuit priests landed in Bihar. The missionaries had special devotion for Mary, and they touched the lives of marginalized communities with Christian love and compassion. As a result, many locals became Catholics.

Thanks to its immense popularity, Mokama shrine is dubbed as the Velankanni of eastern India, referring to the famous Marian shrine in Tamil Nadu, southern India. 

On the first Sunday of February people of all faiths flock to Mother of Mokama. For nine days they attend novena prayers which ends with the annual festival on the final day. On the feast day, thousands join the annual procession carrying the statue of Mother Mary. The procession concludes with a solemn Mass usually celebrated by the Archbishop of Patna. The Nazareth hospital in the same campus reminds about the healing touch of the loving Mother Mary.

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