Landmark Mission Congress Redefines Laity’s Role in Tripura Church

Holy Eucharist at Agartala Mission Congress.

AGARTALA, (Joseph Pulinthanath sdb) – The Catholic Church in Tripura is all set to see greater involvement of laity in the Church’s mission. Calling the just-concluded ‘Mission Congress’ on Laity’s role in Evangelization, a ‘landmark’ in the 15-year old history of the diocese, Lumen Monteiro CSC, DD, the Bishop of Agartala, clarified that true lay vocation consisted ‘not in running the Church but in bringing Christ to the world.’

Centered on the Biblical invitation to be ‘the salt of the earth and light of the world’, the Congress focused on lay people’s role in the evangelizing mission of the Church. Held at St. Arnold’s Ambassa in Dhalai district, the four-day event (6-9 October 2011) brought together 2500 people from the 16 parishes of Tripura and provided them, in the words of Bishop Monteiro, “unprecedented impetus and encouragement”.

The Congress concluded with the annual Eucharistic procession in which over 3000 enthusiastic crowd of believers, clad in colorful cultural attire, braved the scorching heat and walked from St. Arnold’s Lalchuri to Ambassa town and back, holding placards, waving flags, uttering prayers and singing devotional songs. The centre of the colorful procession was the canopy that sheltered the ‘Blessed Sacrament’, which Catholics believe is the real Body of Christ.

In the concluding Mass, Bishop Monteiro reminded the lay people of their duty to bring the ‘light’ of Christ, through selfless love, forgiveness and peace, into dark arenas of life where poverty, hatred, and selfishness still holds sway.

Agartala Mission Congress in Progress at Ambassa.

Fr. Robin Gomes sdb, from Kolkata led the band of eminent speakers and resource persons, all of who were assigned various topics to speak on. The teaching sessions were centred on the words of Christ, ‘You are the salt of the Earth and light of the world.’ Some of the speakers were Mr. Daniel Jamatia MLA, Mr. Eugene Gonsalves, the National Vice president of All India Catholic Union, and Dr. Vincent Darlong, Besides, instruction, the ‘Congress’ also spent much time in prayer, devotional singing and listening to God’s word. The congress also provided to the participants, particularly the youth, who made up more than half the gathering had ample opportunities to show case their talents in singing and acting.

Mr. Paul Darlong, Chief Organizer of the Congress sees the enthusiastic turnout as a sign of faith. “Whereas we had expected only about 1200 people, on the first day itself, the registered number of participants crossed the 2500 mark. It is a sign of our people’s eagerness to know more about Christ.” The purpose of the Congress, in Mr. Darlong’s words was to “thank the Lord, and to renew our faith”.

Ambassa not having hosted such large events earlier, there was anxiety about logistics and other facilities. The local organizers took it as a challenge and admirably rose to the occasion. “Despite many constraints, we tried hard to provide an ambience of prayer,” said Fr. Jaibu Mathew SVD, Parish priest of Ambassa and principal host of the Congress. “And seeing hundreds of faces lost in communion with God, we knew we had succeeded.”

Fr. Thomas Pereira, the Convener of the Congress called it ‘a historic event’. It was the first time that an event of such magnitude was being organized by the lay people themselves. He said that it augurs well for the church in Tripura. It must be said, the train service, which is relatively new in Tripura, contributed a great deal to large numbers turning up for the event, Fr. Pereira said.

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