Thursday, 25 March 2010

Parish Manual by Edwin Colaco and Blany Pinto

Frs Edwin Colaco and Blany Pinto are bringing out a rather wonderful and useful parish manual. I have had the privilege of going through at proof stage, and I thought: what a wonderful tool. It lays out, in a very practical manner, all sorts of things that both the priests and the people have to keep in mind while running a parish.

I found the Church Support system especially interesting: in Virar East Parish, practically nothing proceeds without the Church Support card. If you need baptism, you come there with your Church Support Card. If you are getting married, the same. This is a system that is being followed in most North American Parishes. While it might sound somewhat business like, perhaps it is something that makes for smooth functioning of a parish.

Then there is also another card which lists all the groups and activities in the parish, and each parishioner indicates at least one of these, and how much time (min. 1 hour a week) s/he is willing to give to the parish.

Bosco Samachar

The Bosco Samachar team of Rita D'Souza and Sushma Shrivastava is busy preparing the Easter edition. I suppose articles are still welcome, so get writing, you writers of our parish!

Mrs Rose Koshy's mother expired

Mrs Rose Koshy's mother expired in Kerala this morning, 25 March 2010, at 0535 hours. Our condolences to Rose and her family, and prayers for the repose of the deceased soul. RIP.

Monday, 22 March 2010

Appeal for Haiti

Yesterday Fr Nelson launched the Rector Major's appeal for Haiti in the parish, and this morning I launched the same appeal in our school.

The Salesians have at least 6 works in the capital city of Haiti, Port-au-Prince, and all 6 have been completely or almost completely destroyed. Besides this, the true tragedy is the loss of the lives of over 500 children and some teachers, and 3 Salesians, 2 of them below the age of 25.

Haiti has the reputation of being one of the poorest countries of the world. Its population is mainly Afro-American, going back to the days of the slave trade, when Africans were brought over in large numbers from their own countries.

When India was in need after the tsunami, the whole world came to our aid. Now, when our brothers and sisters in Haiti are in need, it is our turn to come to their aid.

Keeping in mind the widow's mite - that the generosity and compassion of our hearts is far more important than the size of our contribution - let us express our solidarity with the Salesians of Haiti.

Thursday, 11 March 2010

On the RCIA, by Jessica D'Souza

Here's a lovely bit of sharing about the RCIA by Jessica D'Souza, a former Don Bosco parishioner:
When we migrated from India to Canada, going to Church was still one of our main priorities. One Sunday after mass the lay pastoral associate went up & talked about the RCIA. That’s an adult interested in becoming Catholic should sign up for the RCIA (Rite of Christian Initiation of Adults)

To us it was all so new & abstract. After a couple of times we understood, that even an adult could get into our Catholic faith by being baptized, receiving the Eucharist, and being confirmed.

After a couple of years, Sudhir & I were approached by the Deacon of the parish to sponsor some Candidates. The role of a Sponsor is to be a companion, guide, representative of the community & a witness.

Initially we thought it was not meant for us, or that we were not worthy to be called by the Holy Spirit. So the Deacon said we could go home & pray over it. Since Sudhir is involved in our Little Man (Shane’s) extracurricular activities, I thought it would be the best thing for me, to be able to give something back to the church & the community.

The RCIA is a faith journey for adults, wishing to either get into the Catholic Church or get back into their faith, something they've not being practicing for years.

Classes are held every Tuesday night & we have 3 retreats to go for. It’s a process from September right up to after Easter, which is a period of Mystagogy.

The church in the western world makes this process so accessible, & it's amazing to see the numbers growing. This year we have a class of 11 elect & candidates.

It’s amazing to experience the faith these adults come with & by the time they're done... Honestly, some of them have such a thirst for knowledge & their belief in God & the Holy Spirit is unbelievable. They tell us their story of encountering the Holy Spirit & how their lives have changed. They come from different walks of life.

For me too, being a cradle catholic, having learnt Catholicism when young, I barely knew anything. Learning as an adult & my faith journey with my candidate has increased my knowledge and faith multifold.

I've learnt many lessons in life as well. Now for me, I know for sure that the Holy Spirit is my real teacher, God is in charge & that Prayer is a very important tool. Becoming Christ like is my goal.

Tuesday, 9 March 2010

Outings and picnics

The picnic season is here, though it is still Lent. Perhaps after Lent, and after the exams.

How about some Zonal outings? There is Swami Shilananda's ashram at Sinnar, which most have not seen. Swami Shilananda is a Spanish Jesuit priest who has spent most of his working life in and around Nashik, first on the banks of the Godavari at Panchavati, and then at Sinnar where he has built up, with his bare hands, a little ashram, including a little temple-church.... Delightful place. Swamiji is now over 80, and a legend. Worth meeting. Something that our youngsters can talk about later in life. And Sinnar is just 20 kms out of Nashik Road.

What about the new work for street children and tribal people at Mote Vengaon, Karjat? Another Swami there, this time Salesian: Swami Devadas. Also Frs Barnabe D'Souza and Damien Sladen, some 20 youngsters learning English, meditation, life skills and a trade, besides becoming eco-sensitive and agro-smart. Wonderfully innovative. Good impact, educationally speaking, on the Katkari tribal people too. Just 3 kms from Karjat. Accomodation available either at the centre, or, somewhat more expensive, at a variety of resorts around, including Pinewoods run by a Catholic couple from our parish in Wadala West.

Much closer, 25 kms from our parish, is the school and boarding for tribal girls run by the Assumption Sisters at Tilloli. Some 500 girls, a spanking brand new building for the school, lovely setting. A lovely evening outing for a group of families.

Any takers?

The youth are also planning an outing. Ideas?

Michael Saldanha's Open Letter to Karnataka CM

In your capacity as Chief Minister and Head of the Government of Karnataka, you have officially stated that the Government will take stringent action according to Law against every individual and publication which is in anyway responsible for inciting communal disharmony and particularly in relation to the publication of articles that are inflammatory and which attack religious and communal sentiments. I am happy that you have said this, but it is equally essential for me to record the double standards that are in act practiced by the State Government which is directly responsible for the horrifying communal attacks that are continuing unabated and which are on the increase. Shimoga and Hassan are the latest examples.

The attacks against the Churches and more importantly, the atrocities committed against the members of the Christian community and their institutions after your Government assumed office erupted out of all proportions in September 2008 and globally shamed Karnataka. I have personally conducted a detailed investigation / enquiry into these incidents and have recorded the fact that they are Government supported, Government instigated and covered up for by the State Government. I am confining this letter to one such instance and after your official pronouncement made today, I am calling upon the State Government to proceed according to Law in this case.

The Vijaya Karnataka Newspaper through its Editor – Vishweshwar Bhat has been repeatedly publishing extremely inflammatory editorials and articles targeting the Christian community. That newspaper has been rewarded by your Government with publicity advertisements worth over Rs. 100.00 Crores in the course of the last two years. Incidentally, the financial position of the Government has been so precarious that Government employees particularly in the rural areas have not received their salaries for months together and many of them have been driven to suicide while the Government has enough of money to publish full page colour ads of the CM and his Colleagues everyday spending crores of public money in order to cover up for the total failures on the economic front.

The Vijaya Karnataka Newspaper published one extremely offensive article in the month of December 2008, which resulted in very strong reactions and huge public protest from all over the country by right thinking citizens belonging to all communities. I have seen the article which is one of the most vicious, offensive and venomous pieces of writing directed against the Christian community and is sufficient to invoke the maximum jail sentence against the Writer – Byrappa, the Editor - Vishweshwar Bhat, the Printer and the Publishers. This was published at a point of time when the police all over the State and particularly in the Karavali area were indiscriminately registering false cases against members of the minority community and against any secular publication that disapproved of religious and human rights atrocities. This misuse of power has invoked strictures from the High Court and Orders for Exemplary Damages.

In sharp contrast, when the Head of the Peoples Union for Civil Liberties (PUCL) filed FIR 0343 at the Mangalore South Police Station on 27.12. 2008, the police refused to take cognizance on the grounds that they required to get clearance from your most trusted colleague Dr. V.S. Acharya, the Home Minister of the State. In the course of my hearings in Mangalore, I have questioned the Police Authorities as to how and under what circumstances they have refused to act in this case and the answer given was that the Head of the Home Department has instructed them not to proceed. Is there a Rule of Law in Karnataka?

Similarly, in respect of this very article and this very newspaper, another FIR No. 0002 was filed at the Bangalore North Police Station by an aggrieved member of the community on 02.01.2009 and again, under the Home Minister’s directions, no action has been taken. At the same time, this very Home Minister directed the Police to register nine false FIRs against the Editor of ‘Karavali Ale’ in different Police Stations spread over Mangalore and Udipi on absolutely false, imaginary and unsustainable allegations that he is inciting communal disharmony merely because that publication disapproved of the Government inspired violence against the members of the Christian community.

It is up to your Government to redeem the position in the light of your announcements made, and that will be proof as to whether the statements made by the Head of the Government are genuine or not.

- Justice Michael F Saldanha

Happy Women's Day

Happy Women's Day to all the women of our parish - even though we are one day late! Better late than never, as our Fr Azzopardi used to say to us in Pune.

Yesterday Fr Maria Arokiam wished the women present at mass Happy Women's Day. Someone was heard answering loudly: The same to you. Perhaps it's the long cassocks we wear or something.

Jokes aside, we do need to work to ensure the dignity of women - in our families, in our society, in our parish.

Which reminds me of a joke, which I hope will not be construed as misogynist or sexist. It seems that the parish priest was announcing in church: Women, sit on this side. Men on the other side. Just then the Mother Superior of the Convent appeared at the door with all her nuns. And she asked loudly: And we, where shall we sit?

RCIA - Rite of Christian Initiation of Adults

Years ago, when I was a deacon and doing ministry in Ahmednagar, I was asked to do an adult baptism. To my great horror, the only rite available was the rite of infant baptism. With my kaccha Marathi, I had to somehow go through the sacrament, trying to make adjustments.

Very few people - and that includes, strangely, also priests - know that there is a Rite for the Christian Initiation of Adults. It is this rite that should be used for adult baptisms. The infant baptism rite is meant for the infant who cannot answer for himself or herself. The adult can very well answer for himself/herself.

You might wonder why this RCIA is not called Rite of Baptism of Adults. There is a good reason: it is because, once anyone is given baptism, s/he has a right also to Confirmation and the Eucharist. The infant cannot be given these conveniently, so they are postponed. But there is absolutely no reason for postponing these sacraments for the adult. So the RCIA involves baptism, confirmation and eucharist all in one beautiful rite.

Dreadfully, some parish priests even make the catechumens make their confession BEFORE BAPTISM. This is, as I have said, simply dreadful. There is no sacrament of confession before baptism; and baptism is the washing away of all sins, the complete cleansing of our hearts.... The sacrament of reconciliation should be given neither before nor immediately after adult baptism. It is certainly needed, but later; it is not to be given during the rite or immediately after. To do such things betrays the most distressing incomprehension of the rite of baptism, a complete devaluation of baptism, an absolute failure to understand what baptism is about.

Jessica D'Souza, who used to be in our parish, and is now in Canada, helps in her parish preparing adults for Christian Initiation. I have asked her to share something with us about the process. It would be wonderful to hear about these experiences.

Volunteers needed for Holy Week Choir

Though quite late, a choir is being set up for the Holy Week Services. The ones in charge are Fr Falcao and Mr Bosco Monsorrate. A few volunteers have given their names and had a first meeting yesterday before mass. The first practice will be this evening, 1900 hrs, Tuesday, 9 March 2010, after the evening mass.

More volunteers are urgently needed. This appeal goes out in a special way to the youth!

Fr Maria Arokiam visits our parish

Fr Maria Arokiam Kanaga, General Councillor of the SDBs for the area of South Asia, paid his first official visit to Nashik yesterday. Apart from meeting the confreres and staff of the three Salesian houses, he also presided at the evening parish Eucharist at 1900 hrs, and gave a homily. He was welcomed to the parish by the Parish Priest. The congregation was the usual set of daily mass parishioners, with the addition of the Salesians from the campus - though with the First Year Philosophers away for a scout camp, and the Third Year Philosophers out on their summer ministries, the Divyadaan strength was greatly reduced.

Fr Maria Arokiam hails from the Chennai province in South India. He spent 2 years in our province when he did his Master's degree in philosophy at Jnana Deepa Vidyapeeth, Pune. He belongs to the novitiate batch of Fr Falcao. He holds a doctorate in philosophy from the Salesian Pontifical University, Rome, having done a dissertation on the philosophy of Swami Vivekananda. Subsequently, he taught at Salesian College, Yercaud, was Vice Provincial of the Chennai Province, Rector of the Interdiocesan Seminary at Poonamallee, and Rector of Sacred Heart College, Tirupattur. He was elected General Councillor in charge of South Asia at the last General Chapter of the Salesians in 2008, thus taking the place of the previous incumbent, Fr Joaquim D'Souza, who is certainly familiar to all of us, having worked here in Nashik as Rector of Divyadaan, and visited us several times as General Councillor.

Sr Roberta's mother passes away

Sr Roberta, UMI, from Nirmala Home for the Aged, lost her mother, who had already crossed the wonderful age of 100, in the early hours of the morning today, 9 March 2010.

Sr Roberta is one of 14 children 4 of whom are nuns. Sr Roberta and her sister Hilda belong to the Ursulines of Mary Immaculate.

We pray for her mother, and for the bereaved family.

Monday, 8 March 2010

Youth Group meeting, Sunday, 7 March 2010

Last Sunday, 7 March 2010, we had a very small youth group meeting. 5 youth turned up, and the meeting was animated by Bro Johnson Bhuriya. The lectio divina was about the following of Jesus: I have come not to bring peace but the sword. I have come to set son against father, daughter against mother... He who loves father and mother more than me is not worthy of me. All hard sayings. But the beautiful thing was Bro Johnson's sharing his own life story, his conversion story. He shared how he was Hindu by birth, and how, attracted by the life of a neighbouring family, he had felt drawn to the Catholic faith. His father and mother had, after some initial hesitation, allowed him to follow his heart. But they had to face the incomprehension, opposition and sometimes the hostility of their villagers. The youth were struck by this fact, that one among them had actually faced the truth of the words of Jesus: the opposition for the sake of his name, the choice of him above all else.

Other items on the agenda was reporting about the Interparish lenten youth Recollection; and planning for the Good Friday stations of the cross.

"Sir, we want to see Jesus": Lenten Interparish Recollection for Youth at Divyadaan

The Interparish Youth Recollection began at 1500 hours, Sunday, 28 February 2010 at Divyadaan, with the theme "Sir, I want to see Jesus". About 27 youth attended, including 5 from Don Bosco Nashik. The first event was a talk by Fr Valerian Pereira from Divyadaan. After a small break, there was another talk by Fr Suresh Sathe, assistant Parish Priest of St Ann's Nashik Road. This was followed by a tea break, and then the whole group went over to the beautiful new chapel at Divyadaan for a reconciliation service. Several priests from Divyadaan made themselves available for confessions, and our impression is that most of the youth took advantage of the opportunity to make their Lenten confessions.

At around 1830 we celebrated the Eucharist. The gospel of the Second Sunday of Lent, Year C, was the Transfiguration. Jesus sometimes reveals himself to us in his transfigured state, and then we have powerful experiences of the Lord. But often, like the disciples after the transfiguration, we look up and see "only Jesus." But the point is that he is there - in his ordinary form, in the ordinary events of everyday life, but he is there. And the Father says: This is my Beloved Son; listen to him. The youth were invited to listen to Jesus and to look at Jesus. In 2 Corinthians St Paul invites his early Christians to look upon the Lord with unveiled faces, and he assures us that, looking upon the Lord, we will be transfigured slowly into his likeness....

So, young people: find some time this Lent, spend some time before the Lord, just look at him, and you will surely find yourselves transformed, transfigured, gradually, into his likeness.