Sunday, 30 July 2017

Birth of a Jesuit University

- Fr. Roshan Tirkey

Kolkata: Nihil Ultra! Nothing Beyond ! Excellence. A dream Father Depelchin, SJ and his six Jesuit companions had seen in 1860 was fulfilled when the First Academic Session of St. Xavier’s University and the Lakshmi & Ushal Mittal Foundation Building (Academic Block) was inaugurated on 7th July, 2017 at Rajar hat in the esteemed presnce of Ms. Mamata Banerjee, the Hon’ble Chief Minister of West Bengal, Mr. L.N. Mittal, Xaverian & Chairman& CEO, Arcelor Mittal, Dr.Partha Chatterjee, Hon’ble Minister-in-Charge of Higher Education (WB), His GraceArchbishop Thomas D’Souza,political leaders, bureaucrats,judiciaries, academicians, bishop, priests, nuns, Alumni/ae, faculty, students and their parents. Aribbon-cutting ceremony and the unveiling of the plaques by Ms. Mamata Banerjee heralded the beginning of St. Xavier’s University, Kolkata. His Grace Archbishop Thomas D’Souza blessed a marble statue of St.Francis Xavier, the patron of the university, at the ‘Hall of Fame’ of the academic building.

 Around 5000 students and the invitees, present in an air-conditioned shamiyana, were overwhelmed to see the ever energetic and enthusiastic Chief Minister of West Bengal accompanied by steel baron, Mr. L. N. Mittal and other dignitaries. In the opening prayer, Fr. Dominic Savio, Rector, invoked God’s blessings from the scriptures of different Religions. He stated,‘Knowledge is the holiest of the holies’, and prayed ‘shanti mantra’ for the students: ‘Lead me from unreality to reality; lead me from darkness to light; lead me from death to immortality.

’ Fr. Jeyaraj Veluswamy, Jesuit Provincial and Chancellor of the university, declared 7th July, 2017 a historic day expressed his heartfelt gratitude to ‘didi’, the Chief Minister, for her whole hearted support to open a Jesuit university in the land of Vivekananda, Tagore and Mother Teresa. He appreciated Mr. and Mrs. Mittal for their generosity to actualize the ‘Vision 2020’ dreamt by St.Xavier’s College, Kolkata, unde the charismatic leadership of Fr. Felix Raj. Fr. Veluswamy invited the students to imbibe the Xaverian Campus Culture of‘Magis’.In his address, Mr. Mittal expressed his deep emotional bond with St. Xavier’s College and emphasized the power of education he had experienced there. Though he graduated from St. Xavier’s College in 1969 his memories of college life, especially of Fr. Joris, were fresh. He was happy to be the part of the ‘Vision 2020’and congratulated Fr. Felix Raj for working tirelessly to transform this vision into reality. He also iterated that the reputation of college gives tremendous confidence among students to excel in their life. Mr. Mittal wished the students with the words of Theodore Roosevelt: ‘Keep your eyes on the stars, and your feet on the ground. The Chief Guest, Ms. Mamata Banerjee, marked the commencement of the First Academic Session by lighting ‘panchaprodip’ and released the First Academic Calendar of the university. In her address, Ms. Banerjee congratulated the Xavieriaqn Family graduating from a college to a university and offered her support to make St. Xavier’s University atop university of the world. She appreciated the contribution of the Christian missionaries in the field of education and expressed her willingness to give more than what St. Xavier’s expects from the government.Fr. Felix Raj presented mementos to the guests and  proposed a vote of thanks. He shared with the gathering that the ‘Vision 2020’ was a long journey undertaken in 2011 and it had a long way to go. It was an emotional moment when he said, ‘If it’s a work of God, it will continue.’ Fr. Felix Raj had special words of gratitude to Ms. Mamata Banerjee for allocating a 17 acre land for the university. He expressed his gratefulness to Mittals for their generous contributions and encouraging presence at the function. He also acknowledged the efforts undertaken by the staff, students and the Alumniae to fulfill the ‘Vision 2020’ and encouraged them to be associated with this project.

In the end, Fr. Felix Raj christened the new students as ‘Xaverians’ and informed them, ‘once a Xaverian, always a Xaverian.’ The inaugural programme concluded with a twenty minute audio-visual presentation on ‘The Journey from 1860
and The Road Ahead’ depicting the glorious history and the future aspirations of St. Xavier’s, Kolkata; and a twenty-five minute cultural extravaganza symbolizing St. Xavier’s breaking all barriers (Bandhvengedao) and emerging victorious ( Alokereijharnadharay ) to continue to receive the showers of God’s blessings. A tiny seed sown in 1860 has grown into a mighty tree and has given birth to a university. The first academic session will offer six courses: Bachelor of Commerce, Bachelor of Management Studies (BMS), Master in Commerce, Master in Mass Communication, Master in English, and Master of Social Work (MSW).

Current Political Scenario Affecting Christians in India

- Cheryl Rodrigues

Kolkata: The Catholic Association of Bengal organised a Seminar on the above topic at St. Xavier’s College Auditorium on the 9th of July 2017. The Seminar began with a brief introduction by the MC Ms. Cheryl Rodrigues, Assistant Secretary General of CAB followed by an opening prayer by Mr. Charles Sassoon, Vice President of CAB. Mr Alexander Anthony, President of the CAB delivered the welcome address to an Auditorium filled to capacity. The first Speaker, Dr. John Dayal, Former President, AICU and Civil Rights Activist, shared from his vast personal experience, past and present developments in the country and elsewhere, that showed g rowing intol e ranc e and political will to bring about necessary legislature to ensure minority rights. The second Speaker, Mr Derek O’Brien, Rajya Sabha MP, lightened the mood and termed, Dr. John Dayal ‘a realist’; while referring to himself as an ‘idealist’. He spoke positively about Christian representation in the Government and also cautioned people about allowing themselves to be polarised and brainwashed by those who use social media the audience. This session was moderated by Mr. Eugene Gonsalves former President of AICU and CAB. The Vote of Thanks was delivered by Mrs Margaret Coelho,Secretary General of the CAB.The program ended with a fellowship outside the auditorium over tea and light refreshments.

Monday, 24 July 2017

Archdiocesan Youth Commission preparing for 1st ‘ National Youth Sunday’

Kolkata: Archdiocese of Calcutta under the dynamic leadership of its new Youth director, Fr. Sandip Michael Biswas is all geared up to celebrate ‘National Youth Sunday’ on 4th August 2017. The CCBI National Youth Commission had decided that the youth of India will celebrate ‘National Youth Sunday’ on the first Sunday of August every year.

The celebration will be held at the Church of Christ the King, Park Circus, for all the youth from parishes in the Archdiocese of Calcutta. Most Rev. Thomas D’Souza, the Archbishop of Calcutta will grace the occasion and celebrate the Eucharist for the youth of the Diocese.

Elaborate preparation and minute planning has been undertaken by the Director and the Dexco members to make this day a festive and memorable event for all the Youth.

Meeting of the archdiocesan collaborators for development

- Farrell Shah

Kolkata: The bi-annual meeting of the archdiocesan collaborators for development, a body of Christian NGOs, met today 19.07.2017, at Seva Kendra Calcutta, Tangra office. Presentations on the effects of the political environment on social work, the culture of violence as the seed of social ills and Laudato si' - the Catholic Church's response to the threat faced by our environment - were made by Udayani Jesuit Social Action Centre, International Justice Mission and Seva Kendra Calcutta, respectively. It was opined that the Church is already doing good work socially, but this could be improved and enlarged. Government involvement where appropriate could also be requested. A " Justice Sunday/Freedom Sunday" event could also be organised against modern slavery. At the close, Archbishop thanked all for their inputs and inquired whether these interactions could be made more frequent to allow greater collaboration between the NGOs. A directory of Christian NGOs could also be published and circulated for the benefit of all.

Seminar for Sunday School and Catechism Teachers

Kolkata: A Catechesis Seminar was held on 16th July 2017 for Sunday School and Catechism Teachers of the Archdiocese of Calcutta. A record number of 326 teachers enrolled for the seminar which was held at Loreto Day School, Elliot Road. The day began with the Holy Eucharistic celebration by Fr.Dominic Gomes, Vicar General. Expanding on the Word of God for the day, Fr. Dominic eloquently emphasized the work of the Word - its nurturing and life giving role; if we only allow ourselves to be ‘good soil’. A catechist must savour the‘Word’, turn to the Word of God for nourishment and be eager to share this love and knowledge with others. He spoke of the trait and characteristics of a catechist. The first session was by Sr. Bernadette, IBVM on the ‘Aim of a Sunday School Teacher’. We are called, not just to give book knowledge, but to initiate the students into the fullness of an experiential Christian life. The syllabus for Sunday school was a ‘route map’ but the methodology and systems to be followed, would depend on the teacher and the learning abilities of the class. Various text books were displayed for the teachers to go through and recommend for their classes in their respective Parishes.

Mrs. Sandra Singh spoke about ‘The Christian Educator’. She stressed on the great responsibility of every Catechism Teacher to be able to transmit faith through the Word of God. It calls for a personal commitment to prayer life so that our lives are lived genuinely. It is only then that we can convey that faith with conviction. She spoke about the need to teach children about the Kingdom of God. Children needed to be taught that the world we live in contains darkness and light. Children are confused by materialistic messages that tell them everything is okay along the way to achieve their ambitions. They need guidance to help them to discern right from wrong. They need to know how to turn to the Scriptures for help – even when they fall and feel helpless – it’s the Word of God that will be their hope. The two action songs got people involved and on their feet and were thoroughly enjoyed. Mrs. Pamela Ryan and Mrs. Dolly Jacques spoke on ‘Faith’ and the need to share testimonies and short stories to get the attention of children. They spoke of the need to understand our children, their backgrounds, their challenges and disabilities. As Catechists we need to go beyond just classroom teaching and even beyond the classrooms. They shared about children who came from disturbed families and how going the extra mile brought about understanding and healing. The audience was moved by Mrs. Dolly Jacques’ family faith journey. We are all called to go beyond being Sunday Catholics and involve ourselves in other spiritual encounters, to deepen our faith experience. Unless we have a personal faith experience – we cannot give it to others.

In the work session, the teachers were put into 20 groups and given questions ranging from personal faith, OT and NT faith examples, problem children, etc. The sharing was intensive and informative and reflected the level of interaction and trust among the group members. The post lunch session had Mr. Paul Jacob teach a demo-class through music, dance and media, for senior children. He stressed the need to relate the subject to understandable life experiences and use methods that engage the children. Mrs. Roselyn Miles used the regular classroom methods to teach a demo- class for younger students. She explained Jesus’ kindness using the miracle of the Wedding Feast at Cana. At the end of the class, the children were assigned two tasks (a) to observe acts of kindness at home, school, neighborhood, etc. and (b) to do an act of kindness, and report back at the next class. 

Thus, the lesson got translated into the practical and tangible; thereby leaving a more lasting learning experience. Both teachers emphasized that each teacher would have to adapt and adopt methods depending upon the resources available. Mrs. Roselyn D’Cruz spoke about the need to be systematic in preparing and maintaining a ‘work diary’, thus ensuring that sufficient classes and time had been allocated to cover the syllabus. Thereafter there was an Evaluation Session. The Vote of Thanks was given by Fr. Dominic Gomes. Heartfelt thanks went to Sr. Marila, IBVM, Principal, Loreto Day School and her staff for so readily opening their doors for hosting the Seminar and providing all the infrastructure, support and hospitality. He specially thanked Mr. Joseph Chacko, President, Teachers’ Guild and his team who took care of all the administrative support and logistics for the programme. He also thanked Mr. Dominic Saldahna, Charles Sassoon and his group who sang so beautifully at the Holy Eucharist. A wonderful guitarist was ‘discovered’ in Sr. Maria Ruah MC, who played melodiously and joyfully. Fr. Dominic thanked all the Catechetical Commission members with a token of gratitude and a card that said it all. At the end of it all – we say ‘thank you Fr. Dominic for your enthusiasm and zeal that motivates all of us ’! Appropriately the day ended with everybody joining in to sing ‘O Give Thanks to the Lord’. Indeed He is Good!