Bhubaneswar 11 April 2016: Pope Francis on Monday 11 April 2016 erected a new diocese Rayagada in Odisha and appointed former Vincentian novice master Fr. Aplinar Senapati as its first Bishop. Rayagada was carved out Berhampur diocese in western Odisha. It is the 132 Latin Catholic diocese in India and sixth in Odisha, under Cuttack-Bhubaneswar archdiocese. The 39,368 sq km diocese covers the civil districts of Kalahandi, Koraput, Malkangiri, Nabarangpur, Nuapada and Rayagada. It has population 5,407,894, mostly Hindus. The languages spoken in the area are Odia, Telugu, Hindi, English, Saura and Kui. The diocese has 50,542 Catholics living in 23 parishes, 377 mission stations. They are served by 30 diocesan and 12 religious priests, 104 nuns, 270 catechists. The diocese has eight men and 25 women religious congregations.
At the time of appointment, the bishop-elect Fr. Aplinar Senapati was the parish priest at Derapather, Nuagaon, Assam. Born on 28 October1960 at Surada in Odisha state, Fr. Senapati studied at the local Technical High School. He studied philosophy at Aquinas College in Gopalpur-on-Sea, near Berhampur, as a Vincentian novice. He then studied theology at Pune University, from where he also obtained a diploma in psychology and formation. He also has masters’ degrees in economics and philosophy from Utkal University, in Odisha’s capital Bhubaneswar. After his first religious vows as a Vincentian on 10 May 1984 he made his solemn vows on 10 May 1989.
He was the vocation promoter for the congregation for three years from 1990. During the same period, he served as the assistant director for retreat preaching in Berhampur diocese. He also directed Marian Youth in the diocese and was a core team of formators of the province. He then taught in the congregation’s minor seminary at Baripada for three years. After a one-year break, he became the assistant parish priest of Jubaguda, a parish in Kandhamal district, where he also served as the principal of the Odia medium school. At the same time he was appointed Deputy Secretary of the Orissa Catholic Bishops’ Council. He translated Gospel of St John, St John’s letters and the Book of Revelation into Odia, the language of Odisha. He went to Assam in 2014 where he looked after the spiritual needs of some 3,000 Catholics spread over 29 villages under Guwahati archdiocese.