National Conference of Vocation Promoters

We, 110 Vocation Promoters representing our dioceses and religious institutes from all over India came together at Pallotine Animation Centre, Nagpur from 12 to 15 November 2013 for a National Conference of Vocation Promoters. It was organized by the CCBI Commission for Vocations. The objective oritaf this conference was to sharpen the vision of the ministry of Vocation Promotion in India today and of creating a network for this all-important ecclesial task throughout the country with a missionary thrust.

Bishop Thomas A. Vazhapilly, the Chairman of the CCBI Commission for Vocations, Seminaries, Clergy & Religious, and the resource persons, Fr. Paul Parathazham, Professor of Sociology, JDV, Pune and Fr. Amirthraj OP, Director, St. Dominic’s Ashram, Nagpur helped us to become aware of the reality of the ministry of Vocation Promotion encounters in India today and to envision the right perspective of Vocation Ministry in India today. Recent studies have brought to light some important concerns in the area of Vocations to Priesthood and Religious life in India. Participants were divided into seven groups and had lot of group work and sharing.  At the close of our three day reflection and prayer, a group of 6 persons were chosen from the participants to draft the letter to the CCBI Commission for Vocation, to express positive experiences as well as the difficulties we face in Vocation Promotion.

 

These are the following few points:

Positives: Church in the forefront for humanitarian work; while there are a few dioceses and Religious Institutes which have a sufficient number of priests and candidates to the priesthood and religious life. A lot of missionary work is being done, dedicated work of caring, etc… But many others are facing difficulty in this area.

The present scenario:

  • Enormous investment of money and personnel fails to get the expected results
  • Low quality of the candidates selected
  • Decrease in number and quality of vocations because of erosion of family values and because of low number of children, study and job opportunity open for all today
  • Lack of proper motivation and mixed motivation
  • Erosion of credibility of priests and religious; our schools and institutions appearing to be money making enterprises; seeking academic excellence at the cost of Christian and humane values
  • Too early recruitment raises the doubts of “free and spontaneous and conscious choice”
  • Influence of secularism and globalization make priesthood and religious life more a  career than a vocation
  • Competition among the Religious institutes; Intolerance towards other religious congregations who come for vocation promotion; closing of doors to religious congregations not present in the dioceses
  • Dioceses and Institutions without vocation promoters and vocation commission
  • Lack of network for Vocation ministry
  • Lack of concern for the global mission of the Church, unwillingness to make vocations available to other missions and congregations
  • Promotion of vocations more for taking care of our own institutions than for the Mission of the Church
  • Preference among priests and religious for work in institutions, not willing to leave their  comfort zones, and not willing to take up the Mission of evangelization.

Strategies and policies

The Archbishop from Nagpur Rt. Rev. Abraham reiterated what all the speakers have said that vocation is the duty of every Christian. He emphasized that the commitment of the vocation promoters does not end with recruitment but they should continue to accompany them in their formative and life journey.

Though the evangelizing mission of the Church is in need of a great number of Vocations the quality should not be compromised. Looking  for  quality will not only attract better candidates, but will also ensure better formation and effective and credible leadership in the Church.

 Since Vocation Promotion is one of the most vital ecclesial tasks, there should be a Commission for Vocation in every diocese/Congregation consisting of all sections of the People of God, especially the Laity. As far as possible a full-time Vocation Promoter or a Coordinator of vocation activities should be nominated, trained and supported at all levels.

Vocation coordination should be carried out at the national, regional and diocesan levels, with adequate infrastructures for the same.

The dioceses and religious institutes should observe a policy of opening its doors for vocation promotion to all mission territories and religious institutes.

While carrying out the ministry of vocation promotion, emphasis should be laid on the Mission of the Church at large and the mission/charism of the diocese/Institute in particular.

Though the family background is an important factor in the selection of candidates, the quality and disposition of the individual should be given due recognition.

While evaluating the fitness and eligibility of the candidates in respect to their life, the vocation promoter should be positive about the candidate’s ability to transcend his/her past failures.

The family being the seedbed of vocations, great care should be given to foster a relatively larger number of children in every family. In this regard the pastoral, economic and educational care of the families should also be taken into account. Existence of large families will ensure sacrifice and generosity in family relationships, which will further help in the increase of quality vocations.

Fostering of Vocations: The ministry of Vocation Promotion presupposes the fostering of vocations at all levels within the Church: by priests, religious and the laity; by pious associations, groups, BCC/SCC and through all activities of the parish such as catechism, homilies, family visits, schools, etc.

The session concluded with a Solemn Eucharistic Celebration by Rt. Rev. Bishop  Abraham, Archbishop of Nagpur. 

I thank Sr. Ancy John  and team for giving me the opportunity to participate in this Conference.

Sr. Rita Joseph, Mumbai

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Bible Week, Bangalore

 

“Alone we can do so little, together we can do so much”.

With this attitude we the young Paulines of the community of Bangalore spent our Diwali holidays, by lighting a small lamp in the hearts of all the parishioners of the Sacred Heart Church. Therefore with faith and enthusiasm we began the family visits from 18th of Oct. The Sacred Heart Church is one of the famous Parishes in Bangalore city; it consists of 2500 Parishioners, who are very active and collaborative in Church activities.

Fr. Martin Kumar is the parish priest of this huge parish, where he works tirelessly knowing the hearts of all the parishioners. He is a very well known friend of our Bangalore community. He and his team were very approachable and co-operative in our mission. We thank them for their collaboration and understanding towards us.

Indeed our visit to all the families in the parish has had a great impact on the lives of the people and we could see and feel how welcoming they were towards us. It was an enriching experience for all of us to know and understand the hearts of the people, specially their life of pain and suffering, stress and depression, loneliness and poverty. Of course, some of the families did not welcome us but it was a unique experience for us to know and understand the attitudes of the people around us. Though some of us did not know the language of the place in order to communicate, our very presence was a blessing to the people whom we encountered with the language of smile best tender looks towards them.

In the 1st week we visited all the families and invited them for the Bible week celebration in the church. In the second week we organized the various programmes for the Parishioners.

We began our Bible week on Mission Sunday with the Holy Eucharist, highlighting the importance of the Bible in our life .We had invited different preachers from other parishes who spoke well on the theme, “growing in faith with the word of God”. His grace Ignatius Pinto presided at the Holy Eucharist at 8.30a.m. At the end of the holy Eucharist we had the releasing of our new 2 MP3’s on Mary.

After the Eucharistic celebration we conducted the Bible Quiz and Bible housie for the Children. There were around 150 children present. In Tamil, we conducted the hour of adoration on Friday and helped them to trust and cling to the Lord always in prayer, for prayer is our strength and our support in life.

We concluded the Bible week on Sunday 27th Oct, highlighting the theme, Bible and family. The priests, who were invited for the celebration of the Eucharist, spoke well and encouraged everyone to build up their family life and their relationships on the word of God which is the foundation of our faith and trust in the Lord Jesus Christ.

At the end of the Eucharistic celebration the Priests implored God’s blessings upon all of us and upon the holy Bibles that were carried by all the faithful in the Church and the pledge was taken in order to lead and form our Christian life on the word of God and through the word of God which is none other than our Lord Jesus Christ.

We sincerely thank God and all the sisters of our community who gave us this beautiful opportunity to do something for our people, who were in need of our presence, our smiles, our look, our words of encouragement above all the importance of the word of God that we were able to make known to them through our mission of giving Christ to the world without any boundaries and barricades.

May God bless us and all the people of Sacred Heart Church so that we may value the word of God and be transformed in our life as the Lord always wants us to be.     

Sr. Sagaya and Junior Sisters, Bangalore

DSP Mission at Holy Family Hospital Okhla

BOOK STALL

It is a year and half since three of us started serving in Holy Family Hospital, Okhla. Two of us, Sr. Deepti and Sr. Thomasina, take turns to man the small Book Centre (Piety Stall, the name given it by the Diocese in the contract), at the entrance of  the hospital, from 8.30 am to 6.30 pm, Monday to Saturday. It is a special experience as we continuously meet the staff, patients and their relations walking in. They come to ask for our prayers and we also pray for them, sometimes, then and there. People show great trust in our prayer and blessing. In fact, we feel our lives are enriched and our faith is growing seeing the faith of the simple people of all faiths.

MEDICAL LIBRARY

The Medical Library is situated in the basement of the Private OPD and is completely cut off from all contacts or disturbances. Those who come to the library are GNM and BSc Nursing students, Lab, X-Ray and Radiology Students, Faculty members, DNB Doctors, other consultants and doctors and staff. Around 500 members use the library regularly. No outsiders are allowed in the library. There are some general, spiritual, religious books and fiction, besides the Medical books. But most of them come for medical books and some for fiction also. Other books are hardly used.

The Library is open from 9 am to 9 pm., from Monday to Saturday. There are four of us who work in the library. The other three are post graduates in Library Science. We have three timings, namely, 9 am to 5.30 pm; 10.30 am to 7 pm and 12.30 pm to 9 pm. As I stay in the campus, I am expected to take the last shift, that is, from 12.30 pm to 9 pm. As and when I have some programmes or when I take leave, someone else takes this shift.

As I started, we, the staff of the library met together, and they told me, it was for the first time they were ever having a meeting or being asked their opinion or suggestion about anything. They felt so relieved and happy and they were open. In fact, they wanted some changes urgently, as some of the ways were not acceptable to them but could not express this, out of fear. So, together we introduced a lot of changes that were urgent for a better and effective functioning, starting with rearranging the shelves, the books, and the counter;office, and issue–return and membership procedures. The readers, staff and management are happy and appreciative of the changes.

ASHA BHAWAN

We three stay in the hostel, named Asha Bhawan. We are 11 religious sisters from 7 Congregations and 36 staff nurses. Sisters occupy the ground floor and others first and second floors. We have a Chapel inside the hostel campus, which is enclosed, where we have Mass only once in a way. The daily Mass is in the Hospital Chapel. We have our prayer, common Visit etc in this Chapel. We have our food in the Hospital Cafeteria, where all the staff eats. I am in charge of this hostel. My main work here is to take care of the maintenance, as the staff nurses are attached to the Nurses Hostel Warden, or Nursing Superintendent, for their permissions. As this hostel had no one in charge for some time, it was a gigantic job to get it cleaned up and to put things in order and make it what it is today. So in the process, I was able to clean up two go-downs along with the helpers who are always provided when needed, and do some renovation and make them habitable and so four more persons could be accommodated.

We go to the community at least once a month and for special meetings and celebrations. Sr. Lilly is always available to help us out in whatever way she can.

OTHER ACTIVITIES

We help out for daily and special occasion liturgical celebrations, in teaching and selecting hymns; preparing prayers and readers. The Diamond Jubilee Celebration, for the inauguration in 2012 and conclusion this year, kept me very busy in the preparation of Liturgy. Besides, I also took care of arranging weekly or fortnightly Confessions, as Confessions were arranged earlier, only twice a year; and other areas pertaining to spiritual life. As a whole, anything to do with spiritual life, the director and others approach me. Thus in many small and big ways God is using us, here in this hospital. We feel happy and fulfilled that we are useful in many ways, and our presence is much appreciated. Thanks to all our sisters in the community and to all of you for your prayerful support.

Sr. Mary Sebastian, New Delhi

“Small Christian Communities: Communion of Faith in Love”

First National Convention of Small Christian Communities

“Small Christian Communities: Communion of Faith in Love”

The first ever National Convention of Small Christian Communities of India was truly an experience of a new Pentecost. The three-day Convention which was held in Goa (Bom Jesus Basilica, Old Goa) from 19—21 November 2013, was attended by over 7,000.00 (seven thousand) participants from all over the country. His Excellency Salvatore Pennacchio, Apostolic Nuncio presided over the inaugural Eucharist which was con-celebrated by around 80 bishops including a number of Archbishops and a large number of priests from different parts of India.

The inaugural ceremony with the traditional lighting of the lamp was shared by different political dignitaries of Goa like the Governor and the Chief Minister. The first and third days of the convention were full of input sessions, sharing and presentation by individuals and groups, singing and praising God. On the second day, the participants were presented with an experience of visiting a deanery each in Goa where they participated in a rally along with the local delegates and visited homes and had Gospel sharing and concluded the day in a parish with different programmes.

The first presentation was by Most Rev Filipe Neri Ferrao (Archbishop of Goa and Daman) on SCCs : a home and school of communion and faith. The second presentation was by Most Rev Selvister Fonnuntham, bishop of Punalur on the theme of The power of SCCs to Evenaglize the neighbourhood.

Most Rev Bosco Penha, Aux. Bishop Emeritus, Mumbai talked on SCCs: an antidote to a culture of individualism, competition and consumerism. Bishop Bosco Penha exhorted the convention to change our mentality and attitude in three areas: viz. a) from individualism to community b) from consumerism to sharing c) from materialism to God.

A few of the eminent SCC Pioneers in India were called on stage and were honoured with a shawl and words of appreciation. Bishop Bosco Penha was named the ‘Father of SCCs in India’. Rev Fr Vijay Thomas, a Pallottine priest in Nagpur is one of the stalwarts of SCC in India and he organizes regular one month training programmes for all those who would like to work with SCCs. The report states that at present the Indian Church has 6,8105 (Six thousand eight hundred and five) SCC units excluding the ones of the Syro Malankara Church which may number about 300 or above. 

The afternoon of the first day witnessed a talk show by Fr Felix D’Souza of Mumbai Diocese with a panel of SCC Pioneers which was truly interesting and informative. There was also a moment in the programme when the convention paid homage to late Rev. Fr Paul Puthanangady who was one of the stalwarts of inculturation of Indian Church and a strong promoter of SCCs in India. Archbishop Abraham Viruthukulangara, Archbishop of Nagpur called him the steel man of the Indian Church and a prayer was offered by Most Rev Ignatius Mascharenhas, the bishop of Chandigarh.

After the initial prayer and warming up, the third and concluding day began with a spontaneous sharing of reports from the 28 deaneries across Goa where the delegates had been on the second day. The sharing poured in with a lot of joy and enthusiasm after which there were presentations by different regional groups about how the SCCs help in their life of Christian faith. All of them emphasized how Gospel sharing and celebration of the Eucharist in the SCC groups helps them to live their daily lives and the way God works through simple ordinary people. Their bond of love is strengthened each day and they narrated how SCCs help them to live the real values of Christian living and it definitely resembles the life of the early Christians. There were many instances where the SCC groups managed to pool in their resources, time and effort together to achieve goals like helping the people who are affected with natural calamities, building churches and community halls, ensuring rightful political benefits etc.

The Convention was also marked as an official conclusion of the year of faith in India as designed by CBCI. His Eminence Oswald Cardinal Gracias of Mumbai, signified the closing by a symbolic gesture of closing of a specially designed door at the backdrop of the stage. In his message, the Cardinal expressed amazement at the number of programmes organized around the country during the year of faith and also praised the role of SCCs as the instrument and locus to come to know Jesus and to witness to him in the world today. Most Rev Thomas Dabre, Bishop of Pune who is also the chairman of the National Service Team of SCC, proposed a vote of thanks.

The experience of hosting the two thousand delegates hailing from outside Goa in Goan homes which offered them hospitality and care itself was one of returning to the spirit of the early Christian communities. The well-organized programme and the conducive atmosphere of the place (especially in the vicinity of the sacred remains of the great missionary St Francis Xavier) helped to make the whole experience of the convention a memorable one for the participants. There was a theme song composed and a dance prepared for the occasion and different dances and programmes added colour and liveliness to the convention.  There were CDs and books released on the occasion and a few souvenirs were put on sale. The event was well covered by the media. A local TV channel (HCN) aired live telecast and the local newspaper published write-ups every day of the event and prior to it.

The convention concluded on a happy and hopeful note that the SCCs in India will further re-invigorate the Church in India and will act as “the Church in Miniature in the Neighbourhood”.

Sr. Liza Luis fsp, Goa