Fr. Hermann Bacher entered the novitiate of the Swiss Vice-Province in 1946 and was missioned to the Pune Province in 1948, together with three co-novices, Hans Belser, Henry Volken and Dominik Zemp. After ordination, he began his missionary work in the drought-prone Ahmednagar district. In 1969, he founded the Social Centre in Ahmednagar, where he later pioneered the Integrated Watershed Development Programme. For Fr. Bacher, watershed development was a way of life, an attitude away from resource exploitation to resource mobilization, a movement from the few to the community that benefits, an investment in our todays that becomes the enduring heritage of our children’s tomorrows.
To realize his dream, he continued founding organisations that are flourishing today: The Social Centre recently celebrated its golden jubilee. Watershed Organization Trust engages marginalised communities, enabling them to live with dignity and secure their livelihoods in sustainable ecosystems. Nandanvan is particularly committed to the tribals. Fr. Bacher’s work has inspired many other social workers and agencies to replicate development programmes with the people’s participation, in Maharashtra and other States as well.
Till his return to Switzerland in 2009, the good of marginalized people remained the core of his commitment. This makes the date of his death all the more touching. September 14th, the feast of the Exaltation of the Cross, reminds us that death does not have the last word. Like the Cross opens up new spaces of life beyond human experience, Fr. Bacher’s life was dedicated to open up living spaces for people at the margins.
Shantabai, a widow from the village of Mendwan, expressed very beautifully and in simple words how the work of Fr. Bacher has changed her life and that of her community: Today we all have enough to eat, and we eat from the same plate!
Anton Kurmann, SJ