THE SYRO-MALANKARA CATHOLIC CHURCH
MAJOR ARCHIEPISCOPAL CURIA
CATHOLICATE CENTRE, TRIVANDRUM- 695 004, KERALA INDIA
SYNODAL COMMISSION FOR SOCIAL APOSTOLATE AND DALIT CHRISTIANS
Chairman: Most Rev. Dr. Joshua Mar Ignathios,
Amalagiri Catholic Bishop’s House Punnamoodu,
Mavelikara 690 101, Mob: 9447141642; Email: firstname.lastname@example.org
Secretary: Rev. Fr. Varghese Mattamana
Social Service Directors
1. Rev. Fr. Bovas Mathew Meloott (Trivandram), ‘Srothas’, St. Mary’s Campus, Pattom P. O., Trivandrum 695 004, Mob: 9447319454
2. Rev. Fr. ………. (Marthandam), MIDS, Edavilagam, Kuizhithurai, K.K.Dist, 629165, Mob: 09442340036
3. Rev. Fr. Binny Nedumpurath (Mavelikara), Chethana, Kayamkulam P.O. -690 502; Mob: 9447246044
4. Rev. Fr. …………………. (Pathanamthitta), Malankara Catholic Church, Oonnukal P. O., Pathanamthitta 689 647
5. Rev. Fr. Wilson Thiruvalla Nirakandathil (Tiruvalla), Bodhana Training Centre, Tholassery, Tiruvalla 689 101, Mob: 9847824833
6. Vettikattil Rev. Fr. George (Bathery), Executive Director, Shreyas, Sulthan Bathery, Wayanadu Dt. 673 592, Mob: 9447142590
7. Rev. Fr. Geevarghese Melepeedikayil (Moovattupuzha), St. Mary’s Catholic Church, Vengola P.O., Perumbavoor, Ernakulam 683 554, Mob: 8086880700.
8. Rev. Fr. John Kunnathethu (Puttur), KIDS. Keplu, Bennur P. B. No. 23, Puttur, Karnataka 574 201
9. Rev. Fr. Sam Pathackal (ETRI), St. Mary’s Malankara Catholic Church, P. B. No. 18095, Pipeline Road, Sankinaka, Mumbai 400 072
10. Rev. Bro. Kurian Kavilayil OIC, Bethany Ashram Generalate , P. B. No. 06, Vadavathoor, Kottayam 686 010
11. Rev. Sr. Anice DM, Maria Bhavan, Kudappanakunnu P. O, Trivandrum 695 043
12. Rev. Sr. Vineetha SIC, Bethany Sisters Generalate, Vadavathoor P. O, Kottayam 686 010
13. Rev. Sr. Rose Nadackal OSS, Holy Spirit Sisters, Thiruvalla 689 101, Pathanamthitta Dist.
14. Rev. Bro. Giles Thekkemury CMSF, Moritz Bhavan, TC 03/ 48, Pattom PO, Trivandrum 695 004
15. Mr. T.M. Varghese Thannivila, Diocese of Mavelikara, Mob: 09445390841
16. Mrs. Valsa Chacko, Diocese of Bathery
17. Mrs. Marykutty Kulanada, Diocese of Pathanamthitta
18. Mr. S. Kumar Kanjiramkulam, Major Archdiocese of Trivandrum
19. Mr. Biju Chathankari, Archdiocese of Tiruvalla
20. Mr. Christal Antony, Diocese of Marthandom
THE REPORT OF THE FIRST MEETING OF THE SYNODAL COMMISSION FOR THE SOCIAL APOSTOLATE __________________________________________________________________________________________________
1. Welcome and Introduction
A meeting of the Synodal Commission for Social Apostolate and Dalit Christians was held at the Catholicate Centre, Pattom on 6 April, 2006. Most Rev. Dr. Joshua Mar Ignathios, the Chairman of the Commission, welcomed the members of the Synod Commission.
1.1. Self Introduction of the Members
Members of the Commission introduced themselves, by stating their names, present ministry and experience.
1.2. Introductory Address by the Chairman
Most Rev. Dr.Joshua Mar Ignathios drew the attention of the members to the Acts of the Apostles. The early Christians considered everything as common and was ready to share their possessions with others; so there was no gap between the haves and have-nots. Today the gap is increasing day by day. This calls forth for a more human itarian approach from the side of the faithful for the development of the marginalized. We ought to continue the activity of sharing what we have with the less privileged ones. All our Eparchial Social Service Societies, Bethany Rural Development Society, Congregations of the Religious Sisters are sharing God’s love, care and compassion with such people. The Chairman recalled and shared the approaches of the late Mar Ivanios and Mar Gregorios in the field of social development. They combined social activities with evangelization.
Dalit Christians form a significant part of the population in the South. The five districts of the Archdiocese of Trivandrum of the Malankara Church gave prime importance for the works of up-liftment of the Dalit Christians from the very beginning. However, there is much more to be done for their development and integration into the main stream of the Malankara Church. This would require initiating special programmes. We have, therefore, to develop and mobilize a common and effective policy for the socio-economic and political empowerment of the Dalit Christians. Reservation for the Dalit Christians is one of the important means to achieve the above goal.
Pope John Paul II of happy memory said, that the Malankara Catholic Church is the fastest growing Church in the Catholic Church. This is because of the social evangelization promoted in the past by us within our territory. The Chairman emphasized the important role of the Synod in supporting the Malankara Church to achieve the aims of the Social Apostolate and particularly the development of the Dalit Christians. He sought the active support and co-operation of all members in achieving these aims.
1.3. The Roles and Responsibilities, Vision and Mission of the Synodal Commission and its Members
Fr. Antony Valiyavilayil, Chancellor of the Curia, shared his thoughts on the role of the Commission and its members. He explained the three roles of the Church, namely, the sanctifying, teaching and governing of the Church related to the priestly, prophetic and royal functions of Christ in his salvific mission and how they are to be realized by the Malankara Catholic Church in her scope as autonomous Major Archiepiscopal Church. He explained in detail the responsibilities of the Chairman of the Commission, the Secretary and the Consultors.
The particular objectives of the Commission also were delineated. It shows the solicitude of the Church for the needy, in order that fraternity may be fostered, and that the charity of Christ may be manifested. It is the function of the Commission to stimulate the Christian faithful as participants in the mission of the Church, and to give witness to the evangelical charity and to render their support for this cause.
The pastoral care of the Dalit Christians is of great solicitude for the Malankara Catholic Church. The holistic development of this community is of special concern to the Synodal Commission. It endeavors to restore all their rights that are due, from the government. Through appropriate reservation policies, job opportunities in the institutions of the Church are to be reserved for this community.
The commission fosters and co-ordinates the activities of eparchies and religious congregations and other organizations that work to help the poor people in their need. It co-operates with the other national and international charitable and non-governmental organizations operating in the field.
2. The Vision and Mission of the Commission
Rev. Fr. Premkumar, the Secretary of the Commission emphasized the need for setting up the Vision and Mission for the Commission to guide its activities in future. The goals could be short term (up-to a duration of next two years), medium (up-to four years) and long term (up-to ten years). He proposed the following short-term objectives:
2.1. Create a Data Bank about the Malankara Catholics at the Commission level to form a baseline for future interventions.
The Data Bank should include – details of all Malankara Catholic families including their socio-economic status.Special attention is to be given for collecting information on women, children, Dalits and the disabled. Necessary interventions in future could be planned making use of the information made available in the data bank.
The Members welcomed the idea to form a data bank of the Malankara Catholic families. A common format for collecting information should be designed and the responsibility for collecting and analyzing the collected information will be with the concerned eparchial social service societies. The entire information from the eparchial societies will be recorded in the prescribed form (e.g., in printing or CDs) and entrusted to the Commission.The Members also shall seek the help of the Commission for guidance if necessary at the different stages of this activity.
2.2. Registration of the Commission under the National Societies Act
Rev. Fr.Varghese Mattamana, Asst.Executive Director, Caritas India evaluated and admired the development activities of the Malankara Eparchial Social Service Societies. He said that the Eparchial Social Service Societies (ESSS) of the Malankara Church could be considered as first grade Social Service Societies in India. He also shared the need for linking the Synodal Commission with National and International agencies. We should always put emphasis on what we could contribute to the social development of the Nation. It will be good if we do stakeholders analysis by ensuring participation of all the concerned.
The members also pointed out that the Malankara Church has a growing presence in different parts of the country. For example the Malankara Church has sizeable population in places like Bombay, Delhi, Pune, Chennai and other metropolitan cities in India. Therefore, there is need for a national approach in development with special focus on the regional priorities. The members welcomed the idea of the national registration of the Commission as a social charitable organization, which will help supporting and promoting development activities of the isolated and widespread Malankara communities in different parts of India.
In order to initiate this registration and other formalities connected with it a committee was formed consisting of the following members.
1. Mr. T. A Varghese
2. Mr. M. J. Jospeh
3. Dr. S. P. Ravikumar
4. Fr. Jose Kizhakkedath
5. Mr. A. Raj
6. Mrs. Mercy Sarojam
2.3. Improving Collaboration of Different Departments and Pious Associations within the Church
It was suggested that the participation of priests in the social activities should be assessed and promoted. Sharing of knowledge and collaboration among our ESSS should be promoted for better impacts. The non-involvement of parish priests in development activities should be a matter of concern. We could overcome the above problem by organizing some workshops and dialogues for priests to direct them towards social development.
The service and manpower of pious associations should also be used for the development activities in a more collaborative manner. In this context, it was also suggested that we should explore the possibility of how the other commissions and departments could contribute towards social development
2.4. Strengthening the Eparchial Social Service Societies
The members observed the efficient and effective functioning of the Eparchial Social Service Organizations and the quality of their services. It was also felt that each eparchial organization has its own strength. However, it was observed that the strengths, opportunities, experiences and threats of the ESSSs also vary. Mr.T.A.Varghese suggested that the Commission should specify its role in supporting the ESSSs in their crises from time to time. These crises may be due to different reasons ranging from leadership changes to inability to mobilize necessary resources for the activities.
Therefore it was suggested that each ESSS should make a SWOT analysis, which will help to know the Strengths and Weakness of the ESSS and be further aware of the present situation in order to improve their functioning.
2.5. Facilitate/Promote Cross - Learning Among Different ESSSs
ESSSs of the Malankara Church have accumulated vast experiences in so many development issues. These experiences need to be documented and shared with other ESSSs. Therefore the members suggested that the Commission should initiate a cross - learning process. Many ESSSs require support for proper documentation of their findings/experiences. The members suggested that the Commission should help the ESSSs to properly and scientifically document their experiences and findings for wider sharing both within and without the Church. Effective sharing is important for creating proper identities and images for the Church. Therefore suggestions experts of the ESSSs also should extend their services to one other.
2.6. Creating a Value-based Identity for the Malankara Church
The members observed that the Commission has the responsibility of promoting value-based development - focussing on human dignity and values, social justice, national integrity and peace. There are many examples to show that the Malankara Eparchial Organizations focused on these values and principles in their programmes. In this context, Mr. M. J. Joseph put forward a number of ideas – Better leadership- training of community members, change in development approach from top to bottom, more active participation in sharing our perspectives in political changes, greater involvement in the socio-economic and political policies of the State, in order to make our voice test in the State level development - activities. In this regard, we have to formulate appropriate methods of communication.
2.7. Focus on Dalit Christians
The members observed that the Dalit Christians are still marginalized and facing complex problems in their status - relationships with others. The approach for uplifting the Dalits was discussed in detail. Many members, particularly Mrs. Mercy Sarojam, shared their experiences regarding the difficulties of integration of the Dalit Christians. There were different opinions on the concept and approaches. Therefore it was felt necessary to further discuss the issues that are facing the Dalit Christians and to formulate common draft approaches/policies for discussion at the appropriate forum before finalizings.
2.8. Formulation of Medium and Long Term Objectives
The members observed the need for formulating medium and long-term approaches and objectives for socio-economic development, particularly of the Dalits, for the Malankara Church. In this context, it was suggested that the Commission should also formulate its Medium and long - term Objectives. It is suggested that the Commission should form an expert group to chalk out the framework for the purpose. The draft framework will be discussed later in the appropriate forum for finalization.
Rev. Fr. Prem Kumar proposed the vote of thanks to the Chairman and all the Members for their active participation and valuable contributions to the Commission.
A meeting of the expert team was fixed for 20 May, 2006. It was decided to hold the next meeting of the Commission on August 30 and 31, 2006.
The meeting was concluded with the Blessing of Most Rev. Joshua Mar Ignatios, Chairman of the Commission.
Fr. Premkumar, M.S.W
Fr. Premkumar, M.S.W