Saturday, 13 December 2014

Missionary Week - 2014

“Lord Send Me!” – Missionary Week 2014 at Divyadaan Nashik

The second edition of the ‘Missionary Week’ at Divyadaan, Nashik was celebrated from 17th – 22nd November 2014 organized by Divyadaan Missionary Group. The missionary group animates the community 11th of every month commemorating the first missionary expedition of the congregation and it also gives the information about the missionary activities of the congregation through a notice board. The group also gathers information about the missionaries from the province and delivers it to the community.

 “Lord Send Me”, the theme of the Salesian Mission Day 2015 highlighted the events of the whole missionary week. Fr. Robert Pen, the Rector inaugurated the Missionary Week by emphasizing the missionary dimension of each Salesian and of the whole congregation.

            Fr. Tony D’Souza, a veteran Salesian missionary, gave a conference for the whole community on the scope of missionary vocation as the theme of the missionary week is focused on the missionary vocation. He enumerated various practical aspects given in the documents of the General Chapter 21. He also shared his thoughts on the great missionary of Christianity, St. Paul.

            A video on the theme “Lord Send Me” prepared by the missionary department of the congregation was screened. The video concentrated on the lucid understanding of this special vocation in the congregation.

            The missionary week was enriched with the cultural day programme organized by the Divyadaan academic council with the variety of cultural items of India. There was a drawing completion also conducted for the brothers. The participants came up with creative ideas on the missionary week through their artistic skills. Finally, the missionary week was concluded with the movie on the life of Bl. Stephen Sandor SDB. The missionary week was an informative as well as inspiring experience for the clerics at Divyadaan. And this initiative of the missionary group of Divyadaan was appreciated. 

The Missionary Heart of Mary

The Missionary Heart of Mary

                                                             Cl. Romanius Barwa SDB

1. Introduction: Speaking of Mary gives us deep joy and satisfaction. We can speak extensively and write volumes on her and at times equate her even with God. There is nothing wrong in upholding Mary if done with balance. The few scriptural verses which mention Mary in the Gospel speak volumes and testify to her worthiness. However, the problem surfaces when we fail to imbibe her qualities. Lengthy discourses and voluminous writing about her make no sense if we do not live the qualities that we attribute to her. She is not a beauty contest model, an object of admiration alone but rather a model to be imitated. It would be more appropriate if we could follow her example rather than garlanding her with high sounding flowery words. The scriptural references about Mary beautifully portray her as a woman who listened much, pondered in her heart extensively and lived fully. Nowhere do we find her indulging in empty talk but rather she teaches us to talk more through our lives than our words. Perhaps it is this silent communication that vividly depicts her missionary heart. However, the term ‘missionary’ should be understood in today’s context i.e., an attitude of reaching out to the people in need. Just as a missionary dedicates his/her life to others, so did Mary. Now let me highlight a few important elements which summarize the missionary heart of Mary.

2. A Call: There can be no missionary without a calling. In the case of Mary, she receives a direct call from God through the annunciation by the Angel Gabriel. And the seed of her call was planted in the unique grace bestowed on her: the Immaculate Conception. This call of Mary confirms the word of God speaking to Jeremiah that He chooses individuals to be his messengers even before their birth. Mary was chosen before her conception and thus given the grace to be conceived with out original sin. Like Mary our call was planted in our hearts even before our conception. God bestows us with a call that needs to be discerned through the various indicators that God presents to us, such as the movements of the heart, finding joy in helping or living for others.

3. Awareness-Response: A response to a call is valid only when it is done in full awareness, for a response entails total responsibility on the part of the one who responds. Mary, on hearing the announcement that she was chosen to be the Mother of God, felt overwhelmed. Realizing the implications attached she asks a couple of questions to the Angel Gabriel. Mary’s concerns amply demonstrate her inner struggles in trying to comprehend the implications attached to the call. The response to this call was also a defining moment of her destiny. She realized that her “Yes” to the call would demand giving up her freedom, independence, personal plans, dreams and desires. However, after much consideration and in full awareness of the implications she gives her consent to be the mother of God. This response of hers to live for God gives humanity a new perspective to life. It implies overcoming one’s individualistic self-centered life and dedicating ones’ life to the joy of others. Mary’s singing of the Magnificat amply illustrates that there is a different kind of joy which comes from living life for others and perhaps it surpasses the limited joy springing from individualism. Mary is a perfect example to be followed in discerning our call to live for others. To die to one’s egoistic dreams and live for others sounds great but is not painless. However, the life of Mary assures us that a life lived for others has a different satisfaction altogether.

4. Reaching out: The term ‘missionary’ implies reaching out to others. This ‘reaching out’ does not only mean helping people in need. It also signifies coming out from the clutches of our prejudices, biases, laziness, and above all our self-centered life. It is not possible to reach out to others unless we free ourselves from all that pulls us to ourselves. A true missionary is defined by his or her capacity to give of themselves totally for the cause of others. When we consider the life of Mary we witness her inner concern and longing to live and help others. Though she receives the biggest possible favour of being the mother of God, which could have been the reason for her pride and celebration yet in all her humility she hastily reaches out to serve her cousin Elizabeth who was in need of help in her pregnancy.  The concern of Mary at the wedding feast in Cana depicts the missionary heart of Mary. She is presented as a woman who perceives the need of others and without even waiting for any request she reaches out to help. Mary was not bothered about her joy and comfort but she received satisfaction doubly in living for others. In the same way each one of us are called by the Lord to assist others. Our community provides the best opportunity to strengthen our missionary heart. We do this by valuing the other brother a little more than ourselves. However, we must keep in mind that a missionary does not reach out to others with his/her own plans and aims but rather owns the aims and aspirations of his/her flock and strives in turning their dreams into reality. It is the dreams of the flock that becomes the dreams of the missionary. Therefore, reaching out to others entails listening, understanding and acknowledging others as they are and helping them to realize the God given purpose of their life.

5. Returning in: Fr. Philip Barjo, my novice master would say this about our Sunday ministry: ‘A true missionary is one who being strengthened by the Eucharistic Lord moves out to shepherd the flock and in the evening returns to the Lord with all the joys and sorrows experienced and offers them to the Lord.’ The title granted to Mary as the ‘Mediatrix’ adequately illustrates her as a shepherd who goes out, in a sense listens to her flock and then returns to the Lord bringing all their cries and petitions. Many people recommend their prayers through Mary to Jesus. Many people even believe that when Mary offers their prayers to Jesus they will be heard for a son always has a soft corner for his mother. In fact, Mary truly listens to the praises and prayers of her children and implores the Lord to bless them. Similarly, every missionary takes the word of God to people. During the day he/she engages himself/herself totally in missionary activities; listens to the problems of his/her flock, tries to alleviate their difficulties in whatever way possible and in the evening returns to the Master. A missionary knows that he/she cannot solve all the peculiar problems of the people. Hence, he/she surrenders to the lord all the difficulties and infirmities of peoples and begs the Lord to bless them. In our community we are already practicing this aspect of the missionary activity and perhaps we could heighten this by listening more attentively to the problems of our brothers and in a special way praying for them.

Conclusion: The life of Mary sets a perfect example of a true missionary heart. Viewing her life we see how she lived for others. It is easy to proclaim that Mary lived for others the problem is when I question myself: Am I living for my brothers or for others? Do I have the strength to listen with my whole self to others? Do I have the courage to put the needs of my brother before mine? Dear brothers, let us implore the Lord for the grace to move from empty praise of Mary to the imitation of her missionary heart.

Saturday, 22 February 2014

Callistus Caravario - Proto-Salesian Priest

Callistus Caravario was the priest who accompanied the Salesian Bishop Versiglia, about the previous article of the blog talks of, on his journey when he was martyred . He was born at Cougne, a small town in Northern Italy on 8 June 1903.  His family was not rich but hardworking and God-fearing.  The family shifted to Turin in 1908 and Callistus came into contact with the salesians. In the Oratory he was known for his piety, study and good character.  Moreover, he was attracted by the salesian way of life. He also had the chance of meeting the salesian missionaries.  Thus he was sent to Foglizzio to do his novitiate. On 19 September 1919 he made his religious profession and continued philosophical studies at Valsalice.
In 1922 when he was in Italy for the General Chapter, Bishop Versiglia, then Vicar Apostolic of Shiu Chow, spent a few days in Turin. During these days Bro. Callistus along with his companions met the Bishop and expressed their desire to become missionaries in China. Although the superiors did not allow him in the beginning looking at his missionary zeal they sent him to China. And so on 10 November 1924 he reached Hong Kong. He was asked work in Shanghai and East Timor. He learned the language and was attached to the people. On 18 may 1929, on the eve of Pentecost, he was ordained a priest by Bishop Versiglia. On that day he wrote the following memorable words to his mother: “Now your Callistus is no longer yours, he must be entirely the Lord’s, wholly consecrated to his service…. On your part, from now on, think only of praying that I may be a holy priest, setting good example to all entirely dedicated to the cause of the Lord.”
Soon after his ordination he was sent to Linchow mission along with the bishop. He began the mission with the same fervour of the mission in Timor. He learned the language well in a short period of time and engaged himself in various activities for the faithful and the young of the missionland. However, his primary motive was to lead a holy life. In fact, two days before his martyrdom he wrote to his mother, “Pray, I repeat, pray much for me that I may be a holy priest… I know that so far you prayed that I might become a priest. Now that I am one, pray that I may be a holy priest…”
The holy priest was martyred along with Bishop Versiglia on their way to Tin Chue Tong Mission by the fanatic pirates. Both the clergy fell unconscious with the strong hit by the rifle butts. They were forced to come to the land and they did so with the help of the catechists.  Fr. Caravaio tried to negotiate, offering money but the brigands were interested in taking their lives and abusing the women catechists. Bishop asked the pirates to take his life and spare the young priest but his plea fell in deaf ears. The two knelt down in deep prayer and the women who sat down a few meters away could see that the two priests making their confession to each other. Moments later the silence of the place was shattered by five rifle shots.

Their martyrdom was recognized by the church and they were proclaimed Saints on 1 October 2000. The mortal remains of St. Caravario is kept at Ho Sai in the church of St. Joseph. 

Bishop Aloysius Versiglia - Proto-martyr of the Salesian Congregation

Aloysius Versiglia was the first salesian bishop who was martyred in the mission land.  He was born at Oliva Gessi, Pavia, Italy and entered the Valdocco Oratory at the age of 12. Inspired by the Don Bosco Aloysius wanted to follow him and thus received the religious habit at the hands of Blessed Michael Rua on 21 October 1888.  Subsequently he made his first profession on 11 October 1889.  As a religious he was outstanding in virtues. He edified others more by his example than by his words.  He was ordained a priest on 21 December 1895 by Mgr. Richelmy, Bishop of Ivrea. It the very first year of his priesthood he was sent as Rector and Director of the Novices at Genzano.  The young Rector solved all his difficulties not with his authority but with prayer, penance and silence.  Much later, the salesians who were formed under him spoke highly of their beloved Rector with nostalgic feelings.

He was chosen to lead the missionary expedition to China in 1905. The missionaries reached Hong Kong after six months of sailing. Very soon he sent a report to the generalate about the growing mission in China.  His tireless work in the mission land crowned him with the Episcopal title.  He became the bishop of Shiu Chow.  As a bishop his priority was the work of evangelization at the same time he also concentrated on expanding the salesian works. He also gave sound formation to his diocese.  Even as a bishop he had to face lot of difficulties like civil war, poverty in the mission station, paucity of personnel and misunderstanding with the major superiors.  In spite of all these hardships he was dazzling with virtues like his Eucharistic piety, filial devotion to Mary help of Christians, his humility, missionary zeal and so on.

The holy bishop travelled with Fr. Caravario and some catechists on a boat on a pastoral visit to the Linchow mission on 25 February 1930.  When the boat was at the confluence of the rivers Sui Pin and Siu Pak Kong all of a sudden 10 armed men (Communist Pirates) appeared and seized the three catechists who were on the missionaries’ boat after looting the valuable things.  The bishop and Fr. Caravario opposed them with all their strength to defend the safety and the virtue of the three young Christian women.  At last, these two clergymen were beaten and were shot at.  The catholics of the place took the corpses and did the funeral rites.  Pope Paul VI recognized their martyrdom in 1973.  Finally, Bl. John Paul II numbered them among the Blessed on 15 May 1983 and canonized them on 1 October 2000.            

Saturday, 25 January 2014

Risking to Live

Br. Sheldon Dias

To laugh is to risk appearing the fool.
To weep is to risk appearing sentimental.
To study is to risk being called a nerd.
To accept one’s fault is to risk being termed a coward.

To stand for your convictions is to risk being a loner
To reach out for another is o risk involvement.
To place our ideas before a crowd is to risk their loss.
To love is to risk not being loved in return.

To live is to risk dying.
To hope is to risk despair.
To try is to risk failure.
To be true with oneself is a risk to be false with others.

To be a religious is a risk of being non-secular.
To be a Salesian is a risk being calls a mere social worker.
But not to risk,
is the biggest risk we take.

Wishing you many opportunities

to take risk in life.

Wednesday, 1 January 2014

Believe in His Love

Let us believe He still loves us.
                                           -Br. Felix Almieda SDB

It is difficult to see light when everything around you is filled with darkness. Our faith in Christ places before us this great challenge to be able to love even when we don’t receive love in return. Anybody could affirm this but would find it so difficult to follow. While reading the many persecution  accounts of Christians who are being suppressed I was giving way within myself to a lot of anger and hatred towards those who were responsible for all these things and was wondering that if just by reading  I could get so angry what about those people who have had a real experience of it.

I am sure that in life all of us might have had the feeling of being persecuted sometimes probably because we might had felt that we are being used, mocked and treated unjustly. It is here that the ‘Christ’ response makes the difference . People who were being persecuted as mentioned in these accounts and also those who are being persecuted even now have proved that Christ has made a difference in their lives .They have proved that nothing in this world will ever be able to separate them from the love of Christ .I was wonder struck by the way people responded with the willingness to forgive .This is something that I probably I would have ever thought of doing on the other hand I would have done my best to receive justice till the end. This I know for myself that being an instrument of peace is not as simple and joyful as it looks; it requires a convinced attitude and a strong faith.
Anybody reading the incident of the martyrdom of St.Stephen  would see in it  a perfect example of the Christ response .As Christians we are called to live just as Jesus lived .It is indeed difficult but not impossible for those who have decided to commit themselves to Christ .Jesus calls us every moment to have an experience of Him ,an experience which will strengthen us in moments of difficulty and pain ,when we feel vulnerable and weak .He himself promises us that he will never leave us even till the end of time .Let us be assured that no matter what happens his grace will take us through .It is difficult to say that everything happens for good but we need to have courage and believe that God is in control .He will never abandon us for St.Paul will say “who will ever separate us from the love of Christ.”

            May Christ fill us with hope as we celebrate his birth, for his love will strengthen us always.