Issues Vol. 168 >
Vol. 168 No. 07 - February 18 - February 24, 2017
This February, we do well to observe the Catholic Press Month by acknowledging with appreciation and celebrating with a real hope, the enduring value of the Catholic Communication media. In this age of media crisis, where truth and objectivity are rarely at a premium, we are called to pledge our support to the Catholic media that has ‘speaking the truth with love’ as its motto.
The Catholic Press through its newspapers, magazines, newsletters, books and blogs of its scribes are the most effective instruments of religious communications. This indeed is done more efficiently than any other outside the Sunday homilies and communiques of its Church leaders. That print continues to be ‘viable and essential’ is of immense importance because its most avid readers turnout to becoming active and leading committed Catholics.
In our media saturated world, whatever one may think of the quality of secular media, its media coverage of the church is often critically hostile or uneven at best, whether in newspapers, radio or television. At a time when the church often seeks to be engaged in the great issues of the day, its voice barely is granted space in the mainstream media.
Stories about few charismatic leaders like Pope John Paul II, Pope Francis or Mother Teresa may feature in the print and digital media prominently because they attracts readers, which is a blessing. But so do scandals and abuse stories with greater frequency and malice. Stories about where bishops stand on particular issues, reports on events or issues from a Catholic perspective or profiles of Catholics who are living lives in fidelity to the Gospel are rare to non-existent in the secular media.
It is critical that Catholics not only have access to sound news coverage and commentary, but that they hear directly from their leaders on the issues of the day and have the resources to see their world through the eyes of faith. The Catholic media predominantly offers space to Catholic leaders to be read, heard and seen by their people — unmuted, uncensored and independent of the preconceptions and prejudices of too many secular media outlets.
The Catholic Communications media must work to fulfil its mission of informing, educating and evangelising catholics by continuing to produce print publications of excellence while increasing their use of other media. The key to this is a more effective embrace of new media, better cost control and improved collaboration among the various media entities. The real payoff would be in the multiplier effect of all the media arms working together to spread rapidly and greater outreach.
The newspaper, will focus more on the ‘why’ of Catholic news, while the electronic media more speedily deliver the ‘who, what, when and where’ of traditional news reporting. For Catholic media to make a difference, however, it needs to cultivate and highlight its own Catholic journalists, photojournalists, editors and designers who have, or should have, the knowledge to report accurately on local, national and global events and teachings of the Church relevant to its readers.
Digital is and will be a powerful communications medium, but print remains the ultimate ‘push’ technology. It arrives weekly or biweekly and by doing so demands attention. The printed version of Catholic publications is still the most effective ‘push’ medium — that is, one that is sent to readers on a regular basis without readers having to take the initiative to visit a website or take any other positive action.
While adult faith formation is considered of utmost importance to the mission and vision of the Church, Catholic news media remain the primary means of this formation. The regular appearance of a Catholic publication with news, analysis, columns and features in a virtual or actual mailbox does more to help adult Catholics in their ongoing faith formation.
The theme of the family as the "Domestic Church" has been the subject of frequent reflection by the Bishops of India. Aware that "the welfare of the family is decisive for the future of the world and of the Church" (AL 31), the 29th Plenary Assembly (2017) took up this theme for reflection anew.
At our current Plenary Assembly, we were fortunate to have His Eminence Lorenzo Cardinal Baldisseri, the Secretary General of the Synod of Bishops, Rome, who enlightened us on the historical background and the thrust of Amoris Laetitia. We were enriched by the frank and faith-filled sharing of some Catholic couples from various parts of our country - a couple who had been present at the 2015 Synod; a father of a mentally challenged child; a single parent, and others who spoke with utter sincerity and openness about their marital journey with all its ups and downs, joys and sorrows. We were edified by their deep faith in God, their prayer life nourished by the Word of God and participation in the Holy Eucharist, and their dedication to ministry in the Church as lay people. We realise that these couples who spoke to us are just a few of the many Catholic families which, despite many difficulties, remain faithful to the Church’s teaching on marriage, and make possible for their children a truly Christian upbringing. Such families are nurseries of vocations for the priesthood and religious life. Seeing this, we are filled with joy in the Spirit, and would like to thank our families for the service they render to the Church and to society.
The Church promotes active citizenship and political engagement. Christians have always understood themselves to be dual citizens — simultaneously members of the Church and of political society — who must obey the law and work for the good of the Kingdom wherever they are, whatever regime they are under. This does not mean a divided loyalty; Catholics are both patriots of their native countries and loyal to the core values of their faith. While living in the world, they are looking to a transcendent horizon, produces a tension which is extremely healthy for a democracy, and is one reason why Catholics need to be active in politics.
Catholics are free to vote for whomever they wish; as a body, the Church avoids partisanship — favouring one political party over another — while reserving the right to speak out when a core value is at stake, and encouraging Catholics to enter the political process.
In a modern democracy, the Christians claim their right to speak out for the same reason that any other civil society association or organisation does — a natural right to proclaim and promote its values, and to persuade others, to get a debate going about the health of society and its priorities, applying the wisdom and insights of the Christian tradition to the great questions besetting contemporary society.
The Church does this because it cares, above all, for the ‘common good’, meaning that which belongs to all by virtue of their shared humanity. The common good, says the Catechism of the Catholic Church (#1906), is ‘the sum total of social conditions which allow people, either as groups or as individuals, to reach their fulfilment more fully and more easily’. The common good is a key tenet of the Church’s vision for society and the principles which it believes lie behind its healthy functioning.
Mumbaikar , a unique species, who is always on the run, was made to stand in queues for hours in the final weeks of 2016. The Mumbaikar stood in line to exchange his old Rs 500 and Rs 1000 notes, and possibly for the first time, could observe the decay of the First City of India. Would these 50 days transform the Mumbaikar from living off this city, to living for this city? February 21, 2017 would be the Tuesday that will either become immemorial, or be forgotten as just another holiday.
AGNI has championed the cause of the Middle Class since 1999, as they rightly realised that the educated Middle Class can make all the difference to the Governance of Mumbai and India. The TDS-ed Middle Class, left with crumbs and their taxes used without a ear for their concerns, have made feeble efforts to correct and improve their lot. Exhausted with the travel and effort of daily commute to work and back, they seek the first opportunity to flee to more sublime surroundings. Tuesday, February 21, is therefore an opportunity for them to take their families away from Mumbai for a couple of days.
What can therefore be done to hold the Mumbaikar back on Polling Day, not just to vote, but to remain committed on this Tuesday to bring out all eligible to vote from his building and neighbourhood and guide them to the Polling Booths?
The most persuasive force, realised by Mr Gerson da Cunha, Trustee and Convenor of AGNI, is the Mumbaikar’s children. Mr da Cunha has spent 27 years in advertising, ten years as head of Lintas. He has another 10 years of experience with UNICEF New York and Brazil. His one thought of getting to school children to motivate their parent / voter was immediately seconded by Ms Shyama Kulkarni, Trustee of AGNI and retired school teacher. The idea of a Children’s Crusade was discussed, and almost everyone agreed that the child tutored by his teacher can force the most obstinate parent to do what is asked. Thus was born ‘The AGNI Schools’ Campaign’ for BMC Elections 2017.
AGNI’s Chairman and Managing Trustee, Mr D.M. Sukthankar, agreed that this idea was worth a try, and so did the Coordinators present at the Monthly AGNI Coordinators’ Meeting at Wadala. With the acceptability of the idea in hand, Mr Gerson da Cunha, at age 87, began to work on the concept and planning of this Campaign. The Communication team comprising Fr Myron Pereira - ex-head of Xavier Institute of Communications (XIC), Mr TJ Ravishankar - Lecturer at XIC and Director in Tata Trusts, Ms Jennifer Shetty – A-Ward AGNI Coordinator, Fr Blaise – Manager of St Xavier Institute of Education, have all stirred our minds to grasp the idea of a Schools’ Campaign for our Civic Elections.
He was a virtuous priest of the Archdiocese of Goa and Daman, but has remained hidden till this day. A man so humble, charitable, self-sacrificing, mortified, a treasury of all sacerdotal virtues and an untiring worker, who, like a pelican ‘died to self’ and gave life to the downtrodden, the poor and the orphans. On the occasion of the celebration of the 150th Birth Anniversary of Msgr Herculano Gonsalves from February 11, 2017 to February 11, 2018, the Congregation of the Handmaids of Christ has taken the initiative to make their Founder better known, so that all people who are inspired by his exemplary life, may become more human, more loving, more caring and compassionate to reach out to those in need.
Herculano Gonsalves was born on February 11, 1868 in Cana-Benualim, the same village where St Joseph Vaz was born. After completing his preliminary studies, he joined the seminary at Rachol. In March 1890, he went to the parish of Calangute to help his uncle priest to carry out his parochial duties, and also to conduct Latin classes. On December 17, 1892 he was ordained by the then Patriarch, D. Antonio Valente, at the age of 24. From the very start of his career, he made a mark as an eloquent preacher. His first sermon, preached in the Church of Calangute, on Maundy Thursday, March 30, 1893 was so highly applauded, that even the Press (O Crente) published very high encomiums about his oratorical abilities. The subject of his sermon was ‘Humility’. All his life, he practised what he preached on that day.
From 1893 to 1918, he served the Church as a missionary in Daman, where he was appointed Spiritual Director and Professor of the seminary. As a Spiritual Director, he was much sought after by the seminarians who could open their hearts and souls to him, and confide all their secrets. He was an extraordinary professor of noble character, much admired, loved and appreciated by his pupils, and held in high esteem by the staff as a learned philosopher, friend and guide.
The following is a summary of the positive benefits that emerged. These have been classified under the three main pillars of the SCC, namely, community building, faith formation and reaching out [for the sake of our analysis], though we are aware that these flow one into the other and are mutually enriching.
A. Community Building
- More involvement and interaction of our 14,500 parishioners, both at the parish and SCC levels. Most of our Parish activities are routed through the SCCs.
- The regular monthly meetings and activities of SCCs –usually well organised and executed – drew the participation of our people of all age groups: senior citizens, adults, youth and children. As one person put it, gradually, “each member of the SCC becomes a part of the big BODY of Christ, like a small leaf is part of a big tree.”
Family and community are extremely important, as they play an important role in the upbringing of the children and in the making of civilisation. On the contrary, Slavery is a dehumanising, depraved system that seeks to reduce one’s worth and dignity, and thus leads us into the culture of death. Today, from every corner of society and the country, we hear the cry of the children, “I am not safe,” “I am not for sale.” Does this prick my conscience or do my ears hear this cry? Whenever I hear the cry of these children, be it on the streets, slums, remand homes or platforms, my heart speaks to me, ‘Children they are, not slaves’.
Pope Francis has designated February 8, the feast of St Josephine Bakhita, as the World Day of Prayer, Reflection and Action Against Human Trafficking, following a request from Talitha Kum, the worldwide Network of Consecrated Life Against Human Trafficking. St Josephine Bakhita, a Sudanese Sister, had the traumatic experience as a child of being a victim of trafficking; she experienced the pain of slavery. In spite of herself being wounded, she became the healer and hope for many, and thus today she stands before us as an inspiration to work against the evil of human trafficking.
Every two minutes, a child is being prepared for sexual exploitation. More than 200 million children today are child labourers. 73 million of these children are below ten years of age. Every year, 22 thousand die due to work accidents. Approximately 30 million children have lost their childhood through sexual exploitation over the past 30 years. They are trafficked for sexual exploitation, pornography production, forced marriage, illegal adoption, forced labour, and to become child soldiers. Trafficking clearly violates the fundamental right to a life of dignity. Pope Francis says, “How I wish that all of us would hear God’s cry: where is your brother? (Gen 4:9). Where is your brother or sister who is enslaved? Where are the brothers and sisters whom you are killing each day in clandestine warehouses, in rings of prostitution, in children used for begging, in exploiting undocumented labour? Let us not look the other way.” (LG)
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