Friday, 8 December 2017

World Disability Day at Seva Kendra Calcutta

-Stephen Gonsalves

Kolkata: Disability Day, or the International Day of People with Disability, is a day that has been promoted by the United Nations since 1992. Seva Kendra Calcutta held a confluence of persons with disability from Missionaries of Charity Shanti Dan and other communities with whom Seva Kendra Calcutta is engaged in. The aim of Disability Day, held on December 3 2017 was to encourage a better understanding of people affected by disability, together with helping to make people more aware of the rights, dignity and welfare of disabled people, and how one can contribute to caring for them.

Sr. Karuna M.C. from Shanti Dan shared her experience in caring for people with disabilities as well as raise awareness about the benefits of integrating disabled persons into every aspect of life - spiritual, social and cultural. At the start of the evening’s programme Fr Franklin Menezes, Director of Seva Kendra Calcutta stated that Disability Day is not concerned exclusively with either mental or physical disabilities, but rather encompasses all known disabilities, from Autism to Down syndrome to Multiple Sclerosis all of which requires compassion and healing. Shanti Dan residents  comprising of 45 girls with various disabilities, performed cultural activities spiritual songs, dance and skits, which were ably led by Sister Superior of Shanti Dan.

At the start of the programme Fr Franklin Menezes stated that Seva Kendra Calcutta was launching the constructing a full-fledged residential center for those who are physically challenged. This center would be residential one with all facilities for rehabilitation, education, medical treatment and social  integration. The center, to be located on the outskirts of Kolkata, already has available land which has been donated by another organization called Swanirbhar. At this event “Dus Ka Dum” was launched which is a local fundraising event by all who are interested in this venture. Each coupon is priced at Rs.10 and hence the name. The first brick for the foundation was also presented at this occasion. The same will be blessed by His Grace Archbishop Thomas D’Souza on the day the foundation will be laid.

The Chief Guest for the evening was Rotarian Ms. Lovina Khan, Managing Trustee of Open Arms Education Trust; who stated that she would fully support such a venture by Seva Kendra Calcutta and committed to donate Rs.10,000 from Open Arms Education Trust. Others who donated for the cause were Guests of Honor Mr. Sharik Khanand Mr. Shamir Alam. A large gathering of the staff of Seva Kendra Calcutta and many of the others from the neighborhood communities participated at this event, which was another milestone for Seva Kendra Calcutta.


- Subhodeep Biswas

Dum Dum: On the 2nd of December December, Mother Teresa’s Church, Dum Dum, hosted aninter parish fest named “KAIROS” meaning ‘opportune time’ or ‘time of grace.’

The day began with a prayer by Fr. Devraj Fernandes, the YCS Chaplin of Kolkata Diocese, then followed a time of praise and worship led by a national band “Bridge ‘000.” Fr. Sudhir Nayak, the parish priest of St. Damien’s Church, Dum Dum, gave the key note message and Fr. Joachim Ekka, the Chaplin of JY West Bengal declared the event open. Around 200 youth came for the event and took active participation in one way or the other. All the priests, including Fr. Jesu Rechahar from Christ the King parish, were present during the Eucharistic Celebration with Fr. Devraj Fernandes as the main celebrant. The ICYN West Bengal & Sikkim president, Mr.Alex Hembrom and the Kolkata Diocese president, Mr. Jovita Ekka were also present and showcased active participation.

The day also witnessed the performance of Mr. Nizel Samuel, the lead singer of the gospel band, ‘The Desert Voice’ (he was also one of the judges for the singing competition). After a full-day of intense competition, fellowship and laughter, Infant Jesus Church, Behala emerged as the winners while Our Lady of Happy Voyage, Howrah were the runners up. The perfect icing on the cake was the guest performance by Bridge ‘000. This was the first time in Kolkata where a national band has performed in an inter-parish fest.

Monday, 27 November 2017

Ranaghat rape, dacoity convicts do not deserve mercy: Judge


Kolkata: A Kolkata court today sentenced a Bangladeshi man to imprisonment till death for raping a 72-year old nun during a dacoity at a convent in West Bengal's Ranaghat town two years back.

Six convicts sentenced to varying jail terms in a rape and dacoity case did not deserve any mercy, Kolkata sessions court judge Kumkum Sinha said, pronouncing the quantum of punishment.

They committed the 'heinous' crime of vandalizing a place of worship and committing sexual atrocities on an aged nun at the Jesus and Mary Convent at Ranaghat in Nadia district in 2015, the court said. Quoting from Oscar Wilde's 'The Selfish Giant', the judge said Jesus Christ, in the guise of a child, had told the giant that 'these are the wounds of love,' when inquired about inflicted wounds on his palm and feet.

"But in this case, these are not the wounds of love and the convicts do not deserve mercy," Judge Sinha said while sentencing the six convicts.

Observing that the spirit of probation was not applicable to any of the convicts, Sinha said, "There can be no mercy to someone who destroyed the virginity of a nun and to those who vandalized a place of worship."

In her order, the judge noted that the convicts had been accused by the West Bengal CID, the investigating agency, of ransacking and looting the convent for nearly three to four hours during the night of March 14, 2015.

The observations came after five of the six convicts claimed that they were from financially downtrodden families and had children and aged parents to take care of and pleaded for a shorter imprisonment term. Nazrul Islam, who was convicted and sentenced to life imprisonment till death for the rape of the nun, did not say anything before the pronouncement of the sentence. Stating that the age of all the convicts, apart from Gopal Sarkar, was between 25 and 32 years, the defense counsel prayed for leniency and a chance for rectification. Public prosecutor Dipak Ranjan Ghosh, however, pleaded for maximum sentence to all the convicts owing to the nature of the crime committed.

Stating that the crime was a unique incident given its nature, Ghosh said, "The way the 'tabernacle' (portable shrine) and the prayer hall at the convent were ransacked, it was an insult to their religion." After hearing both the defense and prosecution, the judge pronounced the quantum of sentence. 

Platinum Jubilee Celebration of MSMHC at Ichapur

- Janis Norris

Ichapur: 24th October, 2017, a Solemn Eucharistic Celebration was held to mark the completion of 75 years of the Congregation of the Missionary Sisters of Mary Help of Christians (MSMHC). The Eucharistic Celebration was presided over by Fr. Dominic Gomes , Vicar General of Kolkata Archdiocese along with 10 other Con-celebrants. Sr. Molly James (Provincial), in her introduction, shared about the solemnity of the Foundation Day of the Congregation. Sr. Molly said, “We fondly remember our beloved Founder and pioneer Sisters who gave themselves for the Congregation and its Mission. Unless a grain of wheat falls to the ground and dies, it remains only a single grain. This is true in the life of our Founder and pioneer Sisters”.

Our beloved Founder’s Episcopal motto was “Apostle of Christ” which he lived by, till the end. Just after a year of his vibrant missionary life as pastor and shepherd of Krishnagar, he was transferred as the second Bishop of Shillong. The 34 years of his life as a Bishop, in the vast area of the Assam mission, he constantly encountered the cross of Christ.

As we celebrate the Platinum Jubilee of our Congregation, we humbly stand before the Lord with hearts filled with sincere gratitude for having given us life and nurtured us with his providential care for a span of 75 years.

Fr. Dominic Gomes, in his homily, lifted up praises to God, with grateful hearts of all those present on this auspicious occasion and sang praises of His goodness. God has bestowed on the congregation, vocations and the consecrated life of the Sisters. He shared that on this solemn Eucharistic Celebration, all were fortunate to have with them Sr. Nellie Kujur, who had completed 25 years of religious life faithfully. He extended his deepest thanks  and sincere appreciation for keeping alive the spirit and charisma of the Congregation in accordance with the wish of the Father and Founder Venerable Stephen Ferrando through the turbulent sails of difficulty. Fr. Dominic added, “This memorable anniversary impels us to congratulate you, dear Sr. Nellie, with all our hearts for the 25 of years you have served His people. We recall to our minds the diligent exercise of your apostolic mission; over and above you have contributed much to the congregation and towards the growth of the Church especially in the Diocese of Darjeeling.


On behalf of the Archbishop Thomas D’Souza, Fr. Dominic thanked the MSMHC for their continued service to the Archdiocese by providing full timers to be in charge of the Small Christian Communities Office over the years, namely Sr. Rita, Sr. Meena and now Sr. Gulab.

After the Solemn Eucharistic Celebration, there was a cultural program organized by the children who brought cheer, vibrancy and color to the Occasion. 

A New Provincial Superior for the Society of St. Paul

- Fr Dominic Savio D’Silva

Rev. Fr Varghese Gnalian is the new Provincial Superior of the Indian Province of the Society of St Paul. He assumed the responsibility during the XVIIth Provincial Chapter held in Bengaluru from 29th October to 7th November, 2017, with the theme “I do everything for the Gospel.”(1 Cor. 9 : 23)

The Superior General of the Congregation, Rev. Fr. Valdir Jose de Castro, and three of the General Councillors were present during the entire duration of the Chapter which elected Fr. George Chathanatt, Fr. Dominic Savio D’Silva, Fr. Jikson Mullas Seril and Fr. Michael John the Provincial Councillors. The Chapter, recalling the words of the Founder unanimously resolved to be fully attentive to the signs of the times, and use the new languages of communication, to reach all with the Gospel message, especially the poor and those living in periphery.

The Society of St Paul was founded by Bl. James Alberione on August 20, 1914, at Alba, in North Italy. The Indian Province that carries out its apostolate, using the fastest means of communication including multi and digital media, has 14 communities in India, four communities in Nigeria, one each in Great Britain and Ireland.

Jesuit Among Leaders Awarded for Social Change

-Matters India

Kolkata: Jesuit Father Irudaya Jothi has been nominated for this year’s Kolkata NGO’s Leadership Awards. The award, given on the World CSR ( Corporate Social Responsibility) Day, recognizes leaders who have made a change as a strategic tool for sustainable growth. The leaders who are impactful and have faith in a MAD (Making A Difference) approach to their work will befeted on November 8 at Taj Bengal-Kolkata.

Father Jothi directs Udayani Social Action Forum, the social justice arm of the Calcutta Jesuit province. It serves as a link between the Jesuit social apostolate in India and the priorities of the Jesuit Conference of the South Asian Assistance. An independent research team proposed his name to the chief juries who picked up his name for the award, said the secretary of the CSR. 
The criteria for selection are a person’s ability to incorporate ethical values, develop responsible leaders and communities in environmental protection. The person can provide strategic perspective and build collaborate relationships, mobilize effective and sustainable resources to support programs and project works. He or she has to support local communities, demonstrate e fficient mana g ement of financial and human resources, foster good governance practices, maintain transparency and accountability.

Corporate social responsibility is a global form which functions as a self-regulatory mechanism whereby a business monitors and ensure it's active compliance with the spirit of the law, ethical standards and national or international. Father Jothi joined the Society of Jesus in 1987 at Dhyan Ashram. After completing B.A. Political Science (honors), did studied philosophy at Sacred Heart College, Chennai, and theology at Vidyajyoti College, Delhi. He was ordained a priest on December 22, 2002 at Nangathur.

He has a Master of Social Work from Bombay University. He has worked as the state animator of the All India University Federation West Bengal. He became the director of Udayani in 2007. For about 18 years, Father Jothi stayed in rural villages in the Burdwan, Hooghly and 24 South Parganas districts of West Bengal. This helped him understand the struggles and pains of villagers. His organization involves in Rights-based movements to bring social changes. Realizing that women are the most suited vehicle of this transformation, Udayani has set up Self Help Groups of women in rural West Bengal. These women have become a force to reckon with in their villages especially to implement the Mahatma Gandhi National Rural Employment Guarantee Act (MNREGA )and National Food Security Act (NFSA). The women have lobbied for the enactment and implementation of these acts in their villages and even gone to the national capital and other places to press their demand along along with network partners from all over the country.

Friday, 27 October 2017

Hundreds watch musical on “Apostle of Shillong”

-Matters India

Shillong: A historical musical drama on Father Constantine Vendrame, the first Salesian missionary to northeastern India was staged at a major seminary in Shillong, capital of Meghalaya state. More than 1,500 people witnessed the musical staged for three consecutive days from October 19 at Sacred Heart Theological College (SHTC), Mawlai, a Shillong suburb.

“He is one of the greatest missionaries God has ever sent to our land. We cannot explain much about him within this few hours. And the new generation may not know much about this man but through this play we surely hope to learn something about him,” said Meghalaya’s Urban Affairs Minister R V Lyngdoh. Lyngdoh after watching the program.

The original script and music score of Father Barnes Mawrie, the college president, and the artistic direction of Brother Jomon Augustine brought alive the Italian missionary, who came to Shillong in 1924. He is known a s the ‘Apostl e of Shillong’ and the pioneer of Catholicism in the region.

The director of the play acknowledged, “It’s a great pleasure to direct and stage this drama on great missionary like Fr. Vendrame, whom people appreciate so much, especially in areas where he had evangelized.” Sylvester Kurbah, headman Mawlai Phudmuri, in his speech recalled the contribution of Fr. Vendrame for the advancement of Khasis in Shillong.
Khasi is one of the major tribes in Meghalaya. Father Vendrame “had contributed a lot for Khasi people here in Shillong both spiritually and intellectually. In the beginning, he built a small chapel at Mawlai but now it has turned into a holy shrine. We need to pray for the speedy cannonization of Father Vendrame. He left his home and family for the betterment of Khasi people in here,” he added. The Sacred Heart seminary brings out a musical drama every two years. The next musical drama will be in 2019.

Father Vendrame is now a Servant of God, the first step in the four-stage canonization process. He was born at San Martino di Colle Umberto, in the Treviso region of Italy in 1893. It was said at his death in 1957 that he died of over exhaustion. He toured the length and breadth of the Khasi-Pnar land and reached out even to the remotest villages.
He became a household word among Khasis in northeastern India, reports After his return from Arcot in 1951, he was assigned to Mawkhar, a stronghold of the Methodists. In those days, no Catholic priest could walk through this area without being insulted or threatened. ”He was our St. Francis Xavier,” hailed Monsignor Louis Mathias, the first Catholic bishop of Shillong.