Kolkata, 25 October 2019:
First day blessings of God poured out on the convention in the form of rain during the whole day . But neither the rains nor the flooded muddy field of the St Xavier's College ground could prevent the jubilation of 5000 faithful who had turned up from 50 dioceses across the Hindi-speaking parts of the country; including the 1500 from parishes across Kolkata.
Held for the second time in the country, the three day national convention’s theme this year was "The prophetic role of SCC today". Even as the choir sang hymns in praise of Yeshu, the archbishops and bishops gathered in, at sharp 9 am for the inaugural ceremony. All the guests were received on stage and welcomed with flowers and utorios. After the lamp lighting ceremony His Grace Thomas D’Souza, Archbishop of Calcutta addressed the gathering. Then a Bible Procession saw the Bible being brought on a palanquin to the stage where it was enthroned by Bishop Clement Tirkey, regional SCC chairperson. The Word of God was read from Eph 4: 1-7; 11-16.Bishop Anand Jojo of Hazaribagh broke the Word for the Assembly. He stressed that God wants us to be united in love and harmony despite the diversity in society. "We need to return to the Lord, listen to Him understand and imbibe His teachings . Remember there is strength in unity. We must serve society selflessly." After a prayer for the success of the Convention and a dance performance, Rev Fr Francis Scaria in his Key note address set the tone of the convention by defining the term “prophet.” According to the Old Testament a prophet is one who is called by God, anointed by God faithful to God and who listens to God. No one can become a prophet by himself. God has to choose him and make him a prophet. A prophet stands at the breach as he has the task to remove the weakness of the community.
He is the guard of Gods people, a warrior for the Church. The life of a prophet is a message. He is the one who reconciles people with the Lord. Rev Scaria went on to outline the six points which a true prophet must follow.
1. He has to listen to God
2. He has to save what he has heard and learnt in his heart and make his path pure.
3. He has to create a special relation with God
4. He has to dutifully follow His words and live according to His will and His words.
5. He then has to make the people listen to him by spreading it fearlessly.
6. He has to consult with God.
We need to beware of false prophets, said Scaria, pointing out that Jesus was like the greatest prophet of the Old Testament, Moses; but also so much more.
Up next was a CD release made Sr. Christin Joseph on “integrating SCC way of life in the Seminary “ based on the experiences in the Morning Star seminary who has modelled it. Rev Fr Ignatius Sarto's vote of thanks brought the morning session to an end.
After a short tea break, the Inaugural Mass commenced. With Archbishop Thoma s D’Souza as the main celebrant, and 15 other Bishops and 100s of priest concelebrating. In his sermon His Grace dwelt on the two seas the Sea of Galilee and the Dead Sea: While the first was life giving the latter was not. We needed to be like the Sea of Galilee and serve society to make our lives meaningful said the archbishop. Holy Communion saw 30 Fathers giving communion to the gathering, under colourful umbrellas.
In the post lunch session, Bishop Gerald John Mathias underlined the duties of a prophet. Our mission as SCC units was not just prayers and social service but to use SCCs as instruments to transform people's lives. We need to light the world and bring people back to the right path. He stressed that it would be a good idea to go back to the early church by recapturing its spirit. We are living in a society full of social evils so it is our duty as prophets to clean it and raise our voices against these evils. We can make a start by doing things like carpooling, not wasting food, water and electricity, self-employment opportunities and fight for our human rights.
We need to know how our brethren can use the various government schemes on offer. Christians need to shine like stars in the sky to lead the people who have lost their way. Five people were invited to share personal testimonials on how SCCs had benefited them. Fr Avinash from Asansol; Sameer from Ajmer; Peter from Tezpur; Fr Lucas from Barielly and Custudio from Delhi, all spoke emphatically for the time allotted to them.
Most Rev Vincent Aind the Bishop of Bagdogra then took the stage to speak on the importance of the Eucharist. It is the symbol of unity love happiness and purity and is Jesus's presence in our lives, he concluded. The eagerly awaited segment of the day was the cultural programme. The SCC teams from Hazaribagh, Delhi and Khandwa put up short plays on their SCC meetings while the teams from Orissa and Assam put up suburb dance performances.
The evening ended with songs from the Kolkata Christian Choir, led by Dilip Gomes. On 26 October, Day 2 of the Convention, delegates stayed at their host parishes instead of coming to St. Xavier’s. There, along with the local community they shared Mass, meals, prayers and cultural shows. Each of the 13 participating Parishes had a bishop as guest, or an SCC National Team member, too. 27 October, Day 3of the SCC National Convention kicked off on a musical note with the charismatic Raymond Baptiste singing hymns like Shukriya, Aaj Yeshuzindahai, Parmeshwar Pita and Ho teri stuti aur aradhana. The special guest for the day was Mot Rev Anil Couto, the Archbishop of Delhi. Rev Fr Peter Emmanuel and Rev Fr Thomas Vijay conducted an interactive session with the SCC animators where they were asked what challenges they had to face to do God’s work among the masses. Like on Friday, few were called on stage to share their success stories in their local SCCs. Addressing the gathering Archbishop Anil Couto said we need to keep God before us to fulfil our mission forgetting our petty differences, cultural and language, etc.
After a short tea break and an action song Nachoonga gaaonga, Sister Christin Joseph and Rev Ignatius Mascarenhas presented the theme ,“ Gospel Sharing builds SCCs as prophetic communities” with a power point presentation . Bp Ignatius said we need to be aware of the signs of the time and work together to combat the evils that have crept into society. A prophet is one who is never made on his own strength but on what God had told him to do. The word of God is the prophet’s food. Jesus as a prophet transformed the mind of the people. We need to make Jesus our icon.
Sister Christin comparing food to the word of God said don't rush but enjoy the food in small amounts in the same way
savour the word of God. If we savour God’ s words , we become the word of God. She challenged the Assembly to form their conscience with the values of the Word of God and to become the conscience of the Society. She said SCCs as the miniature church and prophetic communities have the potential to reclaim its role as the conscience of society as well as engaging in active formation of Christian conscience, despite the blow to its credibility and integrity in the present days. . Rev Ignatius pointed out that meeting and communicating has become the biggest challenge today. We need to bring people together and heal their hearts. The need of the hour is unity and harmony and listening to the cry of the poor as Pope Francis urged. Sr. Christin once again challenged the assembly to be like Jesus in proclaiming the Reign of God and to stand against everything that is opposed to Kingdom values within ourselves and in the society. Prophets have to be the paths themselves to transform society from within. Christ is not a picture we see but a living God and He is on a mission and it is through the SCCs that His mission can be fulfilled. The SCC as body of Christ must make the invisible Christ visible in the neighbourhood as Christ made visible the invisible Father, “…those who have seen me have seen the Father.”
Holy Mass followed with the chief celebrant being Archbishop Anil Couto. In his homily he pointed out that it is difficult to share with one another but this has been made possible with the help of the SCCs. In fact India is setting an example to the whole world and the West is looking to us to guide them. Remember there is no end to reflecting on the word of God. God has chosen you all to be his prophets so go forth fearlessly. Jesus has taught us how to bear our cross and walk behind him as humble apostles of peace. This is a big responsibility for the SCCS but it's a joyful one as you have been chosen to give light to be the salt and bring about newness everywhere. Twenty four priests gave Holy Communion to the around 5000 gathering, in a very efficient manner. Finally, Rev Fr George Jacob gave the vote of thanks.
Calcutta’s Archbishop Thomas D’Souza and the Vicar General, Msgr Dominic Gomes were felicitated with shawls and mementoes for hosting the national convention so beautifully. Sister Christin and Fr Thomas Vijay were given a standing ovation for their untiring efforts to promote SCCs through out the country for the last 30 years especially in the Hindi Region of the country and to make the event such a great success, too. Fr Faustine Pinto gave the concluding remarks while Archbishop Thomas D’Souza gave the final blessing, after which the Bible, and the convention were formally closed and the gathering went for a scrumptious final lunch before departure. Many at home across the country watched both days of the Convention at St. Xavier’s on their phones and Internet devices as the event was webcast Live on the Calcutta Arch diocese website and shared on various Social platforms, too.