Society Matters | Volume 33 No. 2 | Winter 2023

Volume 33 No. 2 | Winter 2023 6 Society Matters Fr Niran takes leap of faith from Russia to Tiwi Islands It is a world away from Fr Niran Veigas’ previous missionary assignment in Russia to his new assignment in the Tiwi Islands, but the Indian-born priest is embracing the new challenge and looking forward to getting to know the people and helping to make a difference in their lives. Fr Niran was born and raised in a Catholic family in the city of Mangalore, in southwest India and says he began discerning the possibility of being a priest as a young boy. “After getting to know the charism of various congregations, I found the SVD’s charism, of being frontier missionaries, attracted me,” he says. He joined the Divine Word Missionaries in June 1999, making his first vows in 2006, his final vows in 2012 and being ordained a priest on May 3, 2013. Soon after his ordination, he arrived in Russia for his first missionary assignment, beginning his language studies at Tambov and then taking up an assignment to St Nicholas Parish at Volgograd, where he ministered for about eight years. “As soon as I landed in Russia it was a new land and a new experience for me,” he says. “I felt dumb, as I did not know Russian. I could not communicate with anyone, so this challenged me to learn the language quickly. “Once I was able to communicate with the language, I could experience the warmth of the people. During his years in Russia, Fr Niran was mainly involved in parish ministry, taking part in children’s catechism, parish youth and the parish Rosary group. “I also involved myself in a ministry to support International Students, which was the most satisfying of all the ministries I was part of,” he says. Fr Niran says, while his seminary formation exposed him to people from all parts of India with their various cultures and traditions, it was still a challenge to learn a new culture which was so different to his Indian heritage. “But I was at ease,” he says. “Working as a missionary in the Russian context was indeed a challenge, but with the grace of God, everything is possible.” He says that he enjoyed seeing his first snowfall, only later coming to know the real pain of living in winter conditions where the temperature dives to minus 35 degrees Celsius. “Russia is a huge country and I enjoyed travelling far distances to administer the sacraments, sometimes 350km or more. I enjoyed visiting people,” he says. Fr Niran says while he remains indebted to the SVD URAL region (Russia) for trusting him and giving him opportunities to grow, he is looking forward to his new assignment in the Tiwi Islands just north of Darwin. “Being a Divine Word Missionary, we are given various opportunities and various ministries,” he says. “I wanted to have a different kind of ministry. As I was looking at the various missions, I came across Aboriginal ministry in the northern part of Australia. This ministry attracted me, and I felt that I could contribute towards this ministry. And here I am, in the promised land.” Bathurst Island parishioners at Palm Sunday Mass Fr Niran with Darwin Bishop Charles Gauci and Fr Hung Nguyen SVD