Vol. 167 No. 42 - October 15 - October 21, 2016
October 1 each year ushers in the feast of St Therese of the Child Jesus, the Patroness of the Missions. October, with the celebration of Mission Sunday – which falls on October 16 this year – invites us to reflect on our call to evangelisation. The statement of Pope Paul VI resounds in our ears: "The Church exists to evangelise" (Evangelii Nuntiandi, 14). Evangelisation is not the main mission of the Church. It is her only mission.
What is Evangelisation? The word 'Evangelisation' comes from 'Evangelium', which means "Good News". We recall how Jesus began His preaching with the words: "Repent and believe in the Good News" (Mk 1:15).
What is this Good News? The Good News is that God, our Father, loves us and has made us His children in Jesus Christ by pouring out His Spirit into our hearts (Rom 8:14). That is good news, indeed! God is not a nameless power to be feared, not a policeman on the prowl to catch us, not a judge waiting to condemn us. But a Father who loves us and cares for us more than He does for the grass of the fields and the birds of the air (Mt 6:25-30). Even more, "God loved the world so much that He sent His Son, so that everyone who believes in Him may not perish, but have eternal life" (Jn 3:15).
The Church was established precisely for this purpose. The last command of the Risen Lord to His Apostles: "Go into all the world and proclaim the good news to all creation" (Mk 16:15). The Apostles did just that: "And they went out and proclaimed the good news everywhere, while the Lord worked with them and confirmed the message by the signs that accompanied it." (Mk 16:20). This sharing of the Good News is what is often called "Evangelisation".
When we have some good news, we spontaneously want to share it. Evangelisation, sharing the Good News of Jesus, is not be a burden or a duty. It is a matter of joy! Christianity, in the first few centuries, spread precisely because Christians were so filled with love for Jesus, that they could not but share that love.
No wonder Pope Francis titled his Apostolic Letter, Evangelii Gaudium, THE JOY OF EVANGELISATION. He affirms: "An evangeliser must never look like someone who has just come back from a funeral! Let us recover and deepen our enthusiasm, that delightful and comforting joy of evangelising, even when it is in tears that we must sow… And may the world of our time, which is searching, sometimes with anguish, sometimes with hope, be enabled to receive the good news not from evangelisers who are dejected, discouraged, impatient or anxious, but from ministers of the Gospel whose lives glow with fervour, who have first received the joy of Christ."
With this in mind, the Proclamation Commission of the Archdiocese of Bombay is planning a two day non-residential Festival of Proclamation on October 29-30, 2016 – coinciding with Diwali, the Festival of Lights at St Pius X College, Gorgeaon, with the theme, 'Let Your Light Shine'. We plan to bring together the different groups which are actively involved in evangelisation: Those teaching RCIA, those evangelising at our various shrines, Legion of Mary, Charismatic Renewal and youth groups evangelising youth. Bringing them together would itself be a nice thing. They would share experiences, and at the same time, get a sense of solidarity with others working to spread the Kingdom. Besides, the Festival would be an occasion for further honing of their evangelisation skills. Further details of the Festival and how to register for it are in the current issue of The Examiner.
On this Mission Sunday, we hear the words of Jesus to us: LAUNCH OUT INTO THE DEEP WATER (Lk 5:5). That is an invitation and a challenge. The words of Pope Francis are so true: "Life grows by being given away, and it weakens in isolation and comfort. Indeed, those who enjoy life most are those who leave security on the shore and become excited by the mission of communicating life to others." We cannot discover new oceans unless we have the courage to lose sight of the shore!
Bishop Agnelo Gracias is an Emeritus Auxiliary Bishop of Bombay.
In an Address on December 4, 2013, Pope Francis tells us the reason for sharing our joy in the Gospel: "The primary reason for evangelising is the love of Jesus which we have received, the experience of salvation which urges us to ever greater love of Him. What kind of love would not feel the need to speak of the beloved, to point Him out, to make Him known?"
The whole idea of setting up a Parish Mission team by the Proclamation Commission of the Archdiocese of Bombay is to make of each parish a centre of evangelisation, so that the parish is in a mission mode, not merely a maintenance mode. The team has reached out to twenty Parishes, conducting Triduums on various themes. Under the enthusiastic leadership and encouragement of Bishop Agnelo, who wrote letters to the Parish Priests of the Archdiocese, the team accepted invitations for Advent, Lenten and Parish Feast Missions.
The themes for the Parish Mission would differ according to the Year being celebrated. During the Year of the Eucharist, for example, the themes chosen
Behind each face and voice lies the silence of the heart. This silence waits quietly under thoughts, beneath actions, relationships, behind days, nights and names. It is in this sanctuary that experience is sifted and transfigured. It is where our vanished days secretly gather. This silence is the home of memory and identity. It houses the spirit which coheres, articulates and shapes each human life. Today, in this jet age and fast-paced world, there are no quiet times, interiority is continually threatened. Electronic communications have infiltrated practically every corner of privacy. Yet ironically, this very process has only intensified the spiritual hunger of the people. At this point, it is imperative to ask: What is evangelisation? Which territories now need to be evangelised? What are the methods to evangelise? Pope Paul VI's 1975 Apostolic Exhortation, Evangelii Nuntiandi, states: "Evangelising is in fact the grace and vocation proper to the Church, her deepest identity. She exists in order to evangelise, that is to say, in order to preach and teach, to be channel of the gift of grace…"
The Institute of Salesian Missionaries of Mary Immaculate (SMMI) has its origin in the Society of the Daughters of Saint Francis de Sales, of which it is the missionary branch. The Society was founded in Paris on October 15, 1872 by Fr Henri Chaumont and Madame Carre de Malberg, to live and spread evangelical charity in the world. Mother Marie Gertrude (now declared a 'Servant of God') with three companions came to Nagpur on November 2, 1889.
We SMMI started our work at Pen, Raigad district, on November 18, 1991. Initially, we worked in collaboration with Fr Frederic Sopena SJ of Janhit Vikas Trust. Our centre is called Asha Kiran, signifying a 'ray of hope'. Sr Anu, Sr Cecily Antoinette and Sr Caroline Mariam were the pioneers. A new way of being religious, living and working in the midst of the marginalised, specially the tribals, was an emerging vision for us.
Asha Kiran is fully involved in various programmes such as Women empowerment - there are 30 Self Help Groups in ten tribal villages. They are regularly guided and followed up through meetings. Awareness programmes are conducted in these villages on current issues and government schemes, thereby enabling them to be more confident
If there are three priests like Fr Carlton Kinny, the Mission of Raigad will change overnight" - this is what Mr Bardeskar, a prominent Catholic and industrialist of Roha, Raigad told me a year ago. I have experienced this in my stay with him. Fr Carlton Kinny, a priest of 27 years of the Archdiocese of Bombay, has spent 25 years of his priesthood in various missions of the Diocese of Vasai and the Archdiocese of Bombay.
He comes across to me as a great visionary. 24x7 he thinks about Missions and about the Kathkari people for whom he has worked a lot and given his life. He is the founder of Jankalyan Trust, which has constructed 168 houses for the 2005 flood victims of Mahad which experienced the greatest tragedy ever. Since then, Jankalyan Trust has become a brand for the people of Mahad. Fr Carlton was awarded and acclaimed by the State Government and various NGOs and other organisations.
As a missionary, he has reached out to various wadis (villages) of the Kathkaris. Knowing their life's struggles, he started a boarding school for boys 19 years ago. At present, we have 44 boys studying in our boarding. Bro. Melwin Colaco and two paid full-time teachers look after the boys. Some of our boys have completed their studies up to junior college, and are now working. There was a time when Kathkaris would not interact with any one. But today, they are coming forward with an open mind and heart. This is a mighty change which has been brought about by Fr Carlton Kinny.
The method used to reach people of other faiths was by way of advertisements in the local newspapers of Central, Northern and Southern India, through which names of people wishing to know the Good News were received. With the change in the political climate of our country, an advertisement that cost Rs 14,726/- resulted in a response of only six enquirers. Any advertisement with the logo of the crucifix or a picture of Jesus Christ was not accepted.
In 2008, the present Managing Committee decided to try out "person to person" contact with desks at the Basilica of Our Lady of the Mount twice a week, and at Fr Agnel Ashram on Sundays. The response was encouraging, and
we now average approximately 550 enquirers a year in all languages. Over the last eight years, we have reached out to approximately 5000 people. This we have been able to achieve with the generous help of our 65 co-members, who post our literature at their own cost.
A big group of 21 of us joined the seminary at St Paul, Parel, on June 13, 1958. Alex hailed from St Joseph, Umerkhadi. As he was working for a little while before joining the Seminary, he came as an experienced typist. Computers being unheard of in those days, the seminary depended mainly on Alex for the typing and cyclostyling. 'Sikander', as he was popularly known in the Seminary, was ironically not very fond of games. That was a blessing in disguise, as far as the professors were concerned, as they would get their notes typed by this experienced typist and keep them ready for distribution in the class after they were cyclostyled. Once in a way, Alex played volleyball, but most of his evening recreation time was spent working in the garden. We were ordained on December 20, 1967.