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