Kar Sevaks celebrating demolition of Babri Masjid, 6 December 1992
(C.M. Paul) – Come 28th September 2010, the over due and much delayed verdict will be pronounced on Ram Temple-Babri Masjid land. Crores of tax payers’ money has been wasted protecting that cursed land, past 18 years! Even today a three layer security bandobust is in place!
Both parties (sections of Hindus and Muslims) are determined to build a house for god (allah) on that damn, disputed and desecrated spot where on 6 December 1992, thousands of Kar Sevaks led by none other than India’s “prime minister in waiting” (L.K. Advaniji) tore down the Muslim hallowed spot calling on god Ram. In its wake they allegedly killed 17 Muslims in Ayodhya and burnt down 450 shops, punishing Muslims for the sins of their forefathers.
Whatever the verdict comes now and whomever it favours to build a house for which ever god… no deity worth his name (Ram or Allah) will deign to preside on that cursed spot soaked in blood and where seeds of hatred have been sown over the years…
I am reminded of what Mother Teresa of Calcutta, as a concerned citizen of India, wanted to do when there was the post-demolition national consultation on what to do with that land! She approached the then archbishop of Calcutta Dr Henry D’Souza (now archbishop emeritus living in Kolkata) to accompany her to New Delhi and make her proposal to then Prime Minister P.V. Narasimha Rao to lease the disputed property to her so that she could serve the poorest of the poor of all communities from there. She wanted to spread love and compassion where once blood and tears soaked the earth in which seeds of hatred were planted! After all she had the track record of doing the same from Kalighat Nirmal Hriday (Home for the Dying) from the sanctum sanctorum of Kolkata’s presiding deity Ma Kali, since 1952.
But the wise archbishop killed Mother’s enthusiasm considering it a folly stating it as inopportune proposal and refused to accompany Mother Teresa.
Two years ago (2008) in a conversation with me, the aging church leader recalled the ensuing bloodshed and said with certain regret: “How I could have changed the course of India’s history, if I had then heeded to Mother Teresa!”
All is not lost… still wisdom can prevail, if men and women of good will from both warring factions agree to spread love and compassion from a newly constructed facility on that disputed spot, call it what you may. Why not call it the Ram-Babri-Teresa Temple!
NB: See how Haindava Keralam has misquoted and distorted my writing to promote their agenda…. http://www.haindavakeralam.com/teresa-dreamt-claiming-hk8694
Photo: Courtesy http://www.mubasshir.blogspot.com
Foundation Day (L to R): Dali, Thudian, C.M. Paul, Susanna, Salomi, Rosina and Anima.
KOLKATA – The Daughters of Mary Help of Christians at Park Circus Kolkata celebrated the FMA institute’s foundation day 5th August. The Salesian Sister’s three-member community on Seyd Amir Ali Avenue is on the opposite side of the big Park Circus maidan (grounds) which has the landmark Don Bosco School on Darga Road.
It is about 10 minutes walk skirting the footpath along the grounds… At 6 am in the morning one need not dodge pairs of tiny tots sitting out side some 20 hutments of refugee families from Bangladesh living on the pavement. That time of the morning on a rainy day one only sees 20 x 10 feet makeshift plastic-sheet tenements sitting on the pavement along the park.
Two young Sisters (Anima and Dali) from neighbouring Auxilium Parish community Tengra joined Park Circus community of 3 Sisters (Rosina, Susanna and Thudian) and the domestic helper Salomi for 6.30 am Eucharist.
After a 30 minute cycle-rickshaw ride through the by-lanes and gullies, the junior Sisters arrived to add voice to the singing assisted by the community Superior Sr Rosnia on the keyboards.
The FMA institute started at Mornese (NW Italy) in 1872 with 11 Sisters along with co-foundress Maria Domenica Mazzarello making their first profession in front of Bishop of Aqui, co-founder Don Bosco and Don Pestarino their parish priest.
The celebrant recalled what Don Bosco told the first batch of Sisters: “remain simple, poor and mortified… and I assure you, your institute will have great future!”
The celebrant further encouraged the Sisters not to make the celebration as a mere tick off event. He insisted that the Sisters use the same TIC to make a meaningful day suggesting the need for Thanksgiving, Inspiration and Commitment as key points for their commemoration.
The Park Circus community which runs a primary school for about 150 children and helps in the parish church across the street bought the building from a Khasi Catholic lady some 50 years ago.
Mother Teresa with Fr C.M. Paul at Mother House
KOLKATA — It was the morning of Bengal bandh (total strike) – August 16, Thursday 1990. Sharing the worm-wooden bench on the corridor connecting her Mother House office on 54A Lower Circulalr Road and chapel, as editor of The Herald, oldest Catholic weekly in India (estd. 1839) I had the privilege of interviewing Mother Teresa of Calcutta.
Energetic and exuberant, Mother Teresa looked twenty years younger as she chuckled and joked through the interview enjoying the peace of the deserted road minus the clanging sound of the electric-tram bells and blaring bus and taxi horns. The relative peace was interspersed with the howls of “howzz that” of youthful cricketers who took over the deserted road. The interview lasted about an hour covering 15 topics including, priests, women priests, feminists, Marxists, media, mission, conversion and laity.
In the course of the interview on 16 August 1990 to mark her 80th birth day Mother Teresa lamented lack of Indian Christians volunteering for work among the poorest of the poor…
Her eyes lit up narrating a touching incident. She said: “Few days ago a man came with a little boy and said – “My son loves you so much that for three months he did not use his pocket money. I also love Mother and I felt shy in front of my son. So, I also did not smoke for three months.”
“And [so] the little boy gave his money, all ten paisas [ coins]…”
“But we don’t see that coming from our families…. If you come here to the Mother House in the evening, you will see about half the church [chapel] full of foreign volunteers. Go to Kalighat, Prem Dan, Sishu Bhavan more than sixty people are here [there] – but not one Indian… We have to be taught. Where are people? I miss them, you know.”
(Ref: The Herald, Calcutta, 24-30 August 1990, p.7)
Straying Faith book cover
KOCHI (C. M. Paul) — Vazhithettunna Viswasam, Edited by Rev Dr Kuriakose Mundadan, S.H. League, Alwaye, 2009, 300 pages, Rs. 100. firstname.lastname@example.org
This timely book, with 30,000 copies in its second edition within two months of first publication, explains the phenomenon of the growing number of Christian sects in India and particularly in Kerala. It is the result of an extensive research conducted by 2nd year Philosophy students of St Joseph Pontifical Seminary Alwaye under the direction of Rev Dr Thomas Kannany MST.
Forty eight seminarians panned out to various parts of the southern Indian state which claims its Christian origin to the days of Jesus Christ’s own disciple and Apostle Thomas. In an opinion poll they contacted 10,000 Catholic homes and collected data for eight survey questions. In a second opinion poll they interviewed 1,000 Catholics returning from the Gulf countries with a second set of eight questions.
The book written in Malayalam language contains writings on Catholic faith-life related topics by 31 eminent scholars. The book is divided into three parts.
The first part has 14 topics pertaining to history and growth of sects as well as features some of the prominent sects operating in Kerala and India in general.
Another 14 topics in the second part deals with Catholic Church traditions, interpretation of Holy Scriptures, sacraments, priesthood, veneration of saints and so on.
The third part, explains in detail the shocking results of the opinion polls conducted in October 2009.
It is a must read book for pastoral workers as well as every Catholic interested in his or her personal faith formation. A replication of the opinion polls in other states or language groups is bound to throw up equally shocking results. Enlisting philosophy and theology students of regional seminaries for this project would render hands-on-experience to future pastors in grappling with phenomenon of the growth of Christian sects in their region and help them to brace up against its onslaught.
The book is endorsed by the president of the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of India His Eminence Varkey Cardinal Vithayathil and Kerala Catholic Bishop’s Council Chairman Archbishop Mar Ignathios, as well as Archbishop Powathil, Bishops Chakyath, Chakalackal, Puthur and Syro-Malabar Synod Spokesperson Dr Paul Thelakat.
Fr. C.M. Paul with Project Mornese animators & Kolkata participants
ROME – The Bangkok based Asian Catholic news agency www.ucanews.com published 4th June 2010 an article under the headline “Salesian priest ‘embedded’ with the sisters.” It was a story put together in Bangkok from my blog on project Mornese in www.cmpaul.wordpress.com. It was subsequently published in www.cathnewsindia.com and www.religiousindia.org and several others. Not only that, www.ucanews.com has still [1st July] on their home page with link and write up on my blog “NewsGrab”. I was amazed by the flutter (interest) the article on “embedded” priest created among my “friends”.
The 31 English speaking Sisters who daily followed my blog and sent the link to their friends had no problem with the word. They hailed from three continents, ten countries and 16 provinces. May be they did not understand the meaning of the word!
Soon after the piece appeared on UCAN site, I got a letter from a concerned friend who wrote “I read the UCAN story calling you an “embedded” journalist. Worse still you are embedded with the Sisters. The term is pejorative and is used with misuse of journalism for propaganda purpose. I would not like to see you as an embedded journalist even if you are with good FMAs.” That was a compliment to the Sisters and my writing talent, which my friend did not want to see tarnished with “propaganda” writing. Fare enough!
Some other well informed “friends” in the Salesian University Rome and even in the Social Communications Faculty had a debate on the word “embedded” accusing me of seeking sensationalism.
Anyone reading through the piece will see that there is nothing sensational other than the word in the headline which definitely worked to grab their eye balls… normally the same guys would flip over such drab piece on a renewal programme by a bunch of nuns! Compliment is due the copy editor and headline writer at the UCAN office. The headline worked, buddy!
If so, why should there be any grudge… The piece got noticed and read because it had an eye-ball grabbing word. Or is it a matter of attitude, bias or perverse perception!
“Seems a very childish 14-year-old-boy-behind-the-bike-shed response to a word that includes “bed” but doesn’t have anything to do with it. Says some alarming things about how their [my “friends”] minds work. Just nuts!” responds Bill Condie UCAN editor in Bangkok who used the word in the story.
“It was a nice little joke based on journalists in the Iraq war attached to fighting platoons.
I don’t think they [my detractors] quite get what sensational journalism is if they think this is,” explains the Australian journalist, who heads UCAN editorial operations as news editor. Condie has “spent 30 years in British secular press.”
Those who missed the eyeball grabber may do a Google search on “embedded priest” or just click the link below.
Nizza shrine: Our Lady's statue gifted by Don Bosco
NIZZA-MONFERRATO, N. Italy (C.M. Paul) – About 90 minutes of drive, mostly on tortuous road from Mornese is Nizza Monferrato, the first headquarters of the Daughters of Mary Help of Christians (FMA) from 1879 for about 50 years before they moved to Turin and then to Rome. Don Bosco visiting Mornese met Maria Domenica Mazzarello in 1864 and was pleasantly struck by the girl. It was the same Don Bosco, who on 5 August 1872, chose her as initiator of the Daughters of Mary Help of Christians in the same year and took the vows, along with her 10 companions.
In 1879, the FMA governance was transferred from Mornese to Nizza Monferrato and Maria Mazzarello died there on 14 May 1881 at the age of 44 years. During these two years she made 44 visits to her 22 houses in Italy and France. At her death, the FMA already counted 165 nuns and 65 novices in 28 houses ((19 in Italy, 3 in France and 6 in America). She was canonized in 1951 and her liturgical feast is celebrated on May 13.
Sisters in prayer at Maria Mazzarello's room
The FMA institution enshrines the sanctuary of Lady of Graces. An FMA authority on the history of the shrine Sr Eugenia Meardi FMA took the group on a guided tour of the sprawling campus of the first major FMA Institution which runs a primary as well as a high school.
Starting from the shrine of Our Lady of Graces they visited Mother Mazzarello’s room on the first floor of the old Franciscan monastery, the vineyard, the Church of the Sacred Heart and the place of memories. The morning concluded with Eucharistic celebration in the Sanctuary of Our Lady of Grace which houses the paper maches statue of Our Lady Don Bosco gifted to Mother Mazzarello. It was here in 1885 that Don Bosco saw Our Lady walking about the institution and protecting it under Her mantle.
St. Maria Mazzarello's room today
After lunch, the group had prayer at Mother Mazzarello’s room which measures just 15 feet by 8 feet. It is a typical cell of the Franciscans who had earlier occupied it. Her writing table is in tact. The floor still has tiles from Maria Mazzarello’s day. She as well as other Sisters used to have two beds in each room to accommodate large number of Sisters in the community.
Madre Marinella addresses Sisters in English
The next stop was at Casa San Giuseppe, a few kilometers away. It was an international novitiate which prepared FMA for several missionary expeditions. Today it houses some 45 senior Sisters among them Madre Marinella Castagno (92 years old) 7th successor of Maria Mazzarello. She was superior general for 12 years (1984-1996). Earlier she was a member of FMA General Council in 1973 making the canonical visits in various provinces. From 1975 until 1984 she was responsible for youth ministry, a role which gave her an insight into the different educational and pastoral situations in the Institute. The project Mornese was her brain child. She was out at the entrance of the institution hale and hearty to greet everyone in fluent English. She recalled several Sisters in the group by their name. Later, she addressed the group in the chapel. After a brief prayer together, Madre Marinella joined the visitors for refreshments and gelato (ice cream).
From there the group proceeded to the Nizza cemetery where the General Councilors who died in Nizza are buried in the crypt of the FMA Enclave.
29 June, the group leaves Mornese early morning for Rome with a brief stop over at Pisa.
Saying Rosary outside La Rocchetta shrine.
LA ROCCHETTA LERMA, N. Italy (C.M. Paul) – The Project Mornese English language group of Sisters went on a pilgrimage to Our Lady of Graces shrine at La Rocchetta Lerma after lunch, 26 June. A group of 12 Sisters went by foot in the blazing sun on an 8 km route by road with Sr Edna Mary Mac Donald. While a second group of 12 Sisters went by bus covering 6 kms with Sr Maire O’Byrne. Four senior Sisters were given a drop by car to the hill-top shrine where Maria Mazzarello would take her girls and Sisters for outings. The last bit of the hill-cart road to the shrine is rather steep climb which takes about 25 minutes.
The main Sanctuary “Our Lady of Rocchetta“, built in 1290 is on one side of the river Piota. It depended on the monastery of Cistercian Nuns of Santa Maria di Banno. Beside the church is a building, originally used as a hospice for people travelling through the area.
Sisters await the line bus to return to Collegio.
In 1619, Agostino and Cecilia Spinola were Marquises of Lerma. They vowed to restore the shrine and place there a painting which they had in their castle if they were blessed with son. They were blessed with the birth of twins and a canvas of the children with their parents was placed above the main altar. The painting of Our Lady was inserted into the centre of this painting. Since then devotion to Our Lady of Rocchetta has grown among the inhabitants of Lerma and the surrounding areas. The shrine today is in a poor state of repair as it is seldom used. The valuables once housed there have been transferred to Lerma parish church.
The FMA Cronistoria records that in July 1876 “the day finished with a pleasant walk to the sanctuary of the Rocchetta, honoured by the company of the parish priest and the marquis and marchioness d’Oria of Mornese (II, 197).
It was here too that while the Sisters were on a pilgrimage-picnic to celebrate the feast of Mary Help of Christians, Mary [Mazzarello] made address for a little girl, who was in rags, from the petticoat of one of the Sisters (II, 249-250).
“When the assistant reported that we had been exceptionally good, Mother would arrange an outing to the sanctuary of Rocchetta. The picnic supplies would be sent ahead with a man who had a wagon. As you can imagine, the whole day was a real treat for us.” (Maccono I, 332).
Abp S. Ferrando SDB
On August 3rd 1976, a plaque was unveiled and blessed to commemorate Mary Mazzarello’s visits to the shrine. It is reported that Salesian Archbishop Stephen Ferrando of Shillong-Guwahati, founder of the Missionary Sisters of Mary Help of Christians blessed the plaque. In early 1969, when the Government of India declared that foreign missionaries must be recalled and replaced by locals, Archbishop Ferrando resigned and retired to Italy, where he died June 21, 1978. He was born in Rossiglione N. Italy bordering Ovada close to Mornese, September 28, 1895. The Diocesan Inquest of Servant of God Stephan Ferrando opened on 8th October 2003 and concluded on 3rd August 2006.