Celebrating our union and Envisioning the future
Day One – 28 December 2007
Inaugural Prayer and Procession
Venue : In front of the Main Building, Loyola College, Chennai.
Organisers : Arulkadal, Chennai
Time : 09.15 am
The assembly began on a solemn note with traditional music. At 09.15 am Jesuits of Madurai Province and people from the mission assembled in front of Loyola Statue, Loyola College, Chennai. Sch. Dominic SJ of Arul Kadal gave an introduction followed by a reading in Tamizh by Sch. Alex SJ from the constitution of the Society of Jesus . “To discern and choose the mission for the needy and do it for the greater glory of God” was the focus of the reading. Fr Victor SJ, the Mission Superior, invoked the blessings of God through the intercessions of St Ignatius of Loyola.
Thereafter, the gathering moved in procession towards Christ the King Church in Loyola College Campus. The solemn procession was accompanied by Tamil traditional music and a traditional folk dance by children of our mission station .
Venue : Christ the King Church, Loyola College, Chennai.
Organisers : Arul Kadal, Chennai
Time : 09.35 am
The Eucharist was presided by the Archbishop of Madras-Mylapore archdiocese, His Grace Most A.M.Chinnappa DD, SDB and concelebrated by Fr Devadass SJ, the Provincial of Jesuit Madurai Province, Fr A. Victor SJ, the first Mission Superior of Chennai Mission, Fr K. Amal SJ, Rector, Loyola College, Chennai, Fr Lazar SJ, Rector, St Joseph\’s College, Tiruchirappalli, Fr Vincent Britto SJ, Rector, St Xavier\’s College, Palayamkottai, Fr Francis Xavier SJ, Professor at Loyola College and former Provincial of Jesuit Madurai Province.
The liturgy, including the choir was animated by Fr Raj Irudaya SJ, Superior, Arul Kadal, Chennai and his community. The theme of the Eucharist was cwtpy; ,izNthk;> gzpapy; JzpNthk;. In his introduction to the Eucharist, Sch. Inigo SJ, of Arul Kadal, highlighted the need for liberation of the marginalised in the context of the new mission .
The greeting letter from Very Rev. Fr Peter Hans Kolvenbach SJ, Superior General of the Society of Jesus, was read out by the Mission Superior , in which he highlighted the need for a focus on education for the marginalized. It is important to deepen our fellowship with the laity, clear apostolic vision and to grow in the union of minds and hearts.
The first reading was chosen from Phil 3: 7 – 14 and the Gospel from Jn 13: 33 – 35. In his homily, the Archbishop exhorted the Jesuits to be men of undying hope. The mission of the Jesuits should not only cater to educational, cultural, ecological and humane growth of a person but also to the gospel values to be implemented in order to establish the kingdom of God here on earth. Jesus neither claimed equality with god nor with human being but less equal to human being. Jesus\’ attitude should be our attitude- an attitude of being a slave and a servant to others.
Tamizh folk singing by the Arul Kadal choir and a special offertory procession added more lustre to the Eucharist. At the end of the Eucharist, the Archbishop was presented with a memento by Fr Provincial.
The blessing of the Archbishop
Venue : Sauliere Hall, Loyola College Hostel, Chennai.
Time : 11.10 am
The first session after the Eucharist began at 11.10 am in Sauliere Hall with the blessings of Most Chinnapa, the Archbishop of Chennai Mylapore Archdiocese. In his short speech he highlighted some of the salient features of the Jesuits of the Madurai Province.
As he was formerly the Bishop at Vellore, he was taken up by the presence of some of the people from his diocese. The Archbishop recalled the role of the Jesuits in the diocese of Vellore. There were some priests in his previous diocese who were often scared of the Jesuit mission since they entered into conscientisation of the people, although his predecessors did invite them for spiritual talks and retreats.
In the Archdiocese of Chennai-Mylapore, strong steps were taken by Archbishop Casimir Gnanadickam SJ who sent a pastoral letter about the Dalit situation. This created ripples in the diocese but he stood his ground. This has now grown into a new mission named, Chennai Mission with a specific target group, namely the Dalits.
The Jesuits were the first to come forward to openly advocate an option for the Dalits, creating history in the Indian Church. The entire church is grateful to the Jesuits, especially to the 32nd GC , and its then General Superior, Fr Pedro Aruppe, who brought about Social Justice and Preferential option for the poor to the forefront.
The Archbishop was in high praise for the newly formed Chennai Mission. The target and the option people are well reached out. On behalf of the diocese, and on his own behalf, the Archbishop appreciated every Jesuit.
However, let us be patient. Let us not expect the people to respond to the speed in which you are going. Helping the lame people to walk straight takes time and patience.
Let us march forward.
As the Archbishop had to leave immediately, he thanked the Jesuits again and bid goodbye.
Day Two: 29 December 2007
Prayer and Recap
Venue : Lawrence Sundaram Hall, Jubilee Block, Loyola College, Chennai
Organiser : Fr Joe Arun SJ
Time : 09.00 am
Welcoming the gathering into the second day of the Chennai Mission Assembly, Sch. Robinson SJ, the M.C set the mood for the morning session. The day began with a prayer song from Ilayaraja\’s Thiruvasagam at 9.am. After this, Fr Joe Arun SJ presented the highlights of the previous day as a powerpoint presentation . The day-ahead and its proceedings were explained to the gathering.
Resource Talk: Translating ideas into action: Models and Practices
Venue : Lawrence Sundaram Hall, Jubilee Block, Loyola College, Chennai
Chairperson : Fr Yesumarian SJ
Speaker : Dr Prakash Louis SJ
Time : 09.00 am
Fr Yesumarian SJ, the chairperson of this session, introduced the speaker of the session, Dr Prakash Louis SJ, Director of Bihar Social Institute, Patna. After the introduction, Fr Albert Muthumalai SJ, the Principal of Loyola College, presented a memento. This session that began at 09.20 am lasted till 10.20 am.
Understanding the given topic as a broad category, Dr Prakash SJ focussed his talk and made a presentation on the topic ‘Education, Employment and Empowerment of the Dalits and the Downtrodden: a corporate mandate of the Chennai Mission\’. A few main points are discussed here.
The context was presented by the speaker: to create focused development. Profile of Tamilnadu was statistically approached. Samathuvapuram housing scheme was one of the important profiles that cannot be ignored. Moving from the general scenario of Tamilnadu, the profile of North Tamilnadu was given more focus, for this is the main concern of the new Chennai Mission. In a developed state, the subalterns are not developed at all.
Some of the issues were highlighted: Poverty, Lack of proper and pro-people educational structures, Land ownership – caste and feudal mind set up, Inhuman mortgage system – a structural bondage, Exploitation of women, Naxalite movement due to the caste, feudal and patriarchal social structure, Engagement of governments in populist measures, Illiteracy, Lack of identity – assertion of the Dalits.
A few possible responses from the Jesuits could be the following;
1. Education : mass education, children\’s education- hostels, accompaniment of the students, formal education, personality development and human development programmes, linking secondary education with higher education.
2. Employment : skill oriented training, alternative livelihood, SHG , vocational training centres, an entrepreneur centre for 500 youth,
3. Empowerment : Gender sensitization and gender mainstreaming, leadership formation, skilfully planned summer programmes for tutors, institution building- ambedkar centres which would respond to exclusion and assertion, nurturing local vocations, socio-pastoral ministries.
4. Individual and Institutional constraints: new phenomenon so not to follow Madurai Province model, remove middle class mindset- give rural epicentre, corporate mandate, a sense of common destiny
5. The way forward: undertake social mapping of the region, time bound plan that is monitored and supervised subject to long term and short term evaluations; conviction-commitment-collaboration. We are called to stand in the struggle of the subalterns.
After the presentation, the question hour followed during which a few observations and a few questions were raised. Some of these are presented below:
1. Fr Xavier Alphonse observed that the element of sustainability is a real challenge. The speaker agreed to this and added that the primary resource has to be from the Jesuits, while still looking for other resources, such as the Govt etc.
2. Fr Maria Joe Mahalingam SJ raised the question on the high level of drop outs in the primary education level. Dr Prakash SJ observed that we need to take it as a mission to ensure that the Government schools function properly. Let us calculate our own resources and then work out. We also need to address this issue at the policy level – of networking and lobbying, making the government machinery function better etc.
3. Fr Sahaya Wilfred SJ observed that there we should be careful in using discriminatory language which determines our attitudes. We should be able to tap resources from the haves and distribute it to the have-nots.
4. Fr John Kumar SJ emphasized the need to have statistical based data to have effective ministry.
5. Fr John Pragasam SJ noted that the problem of accompanying the students was a real issue in colleges. He wanted to know if the speaker had come across any model of accompanying the students in a set up like Chennai.
The speaker accepted that he had no personal experience of any prevailing model to respond to this issue.
1. Fr Paul Mike SJ noted that the religious component was missing in the sharing. We need to take into consideration that too. Dr Prakash SJ noted that the religious components were present in the written paper.
2. Fr. Royce SJ wanted to know as to what approach we need to take or adopt to develop Chennai Mission? The speaker responded by saying that we need to based ourselves on rural mission. We cannot take the model of Madurai Province. We should go to the periphery and not target the centre based approach. (for instance, we shouldn\’t be highway Jesuits)
3. Fr. Maria Arul Raja SJ observed that we need to respond sufficiently to the animosity brought within the Dalit community by separatist forces such as Hindutva.
4. Fr Maria Augustine SJ wanted to know about the important activities in Bihar. Dr Prakash SJ said that the work was done in three aspects: institutional building, capacity building and alternative livelihood building.
Finally, the speaker thanked the Madurai Province, the Chennai Mission and Loyola College for the efforts in building up the Entrepreneur Centre that has already attracted companies like TATA etc.
After the question hour, Fr Yesumarian SJ summed up the talk and thanked the speaker.
Vote of Thanks:
The session ended with a vote of thanks proposed by Fr Arokiaraj SJ (Kilpennathur). He thanked Fr Prakash Louis SJ, for his sharing that was filled with clarity and experiences. He also thanked Fr Yesumarian SJ for chairing the session.