Rev.Fr.Philomindoss Antony John
Pastoral Centre Director and Co-ordinator of all the Commissions
St.Xavier’s Pastoral Centre,
Netaji Nagar –I
Keeping in mind the constant call of the late Pope John Paul II and in the light of the Second Vatican Council which brought to light the very nature of the church as missionary, the Arch-Diocesan Pastoral Centre came into existence in 1989 with the name of the Patron of Indian Mission - St.Francis Xavier.
The building of the Pastoral Centre was originally constructed in the year 1976, commemorating the bicentenary of the Archdiocese of Pondicherry. The original idea was to conduct Retreats, Seminars and meetings for the Priests, Religious and Laity. Since then, there had been various Pastoral programmes taking place in this Centre.
Primarily it is a centre where all Pastoral commissions’ meetings, training programmes and seminars take place.
Planning for the meaningful celebration of the different themes of the given year, expressing the solidarity to the faithful affected by the violent attacks on the Christians from different parts of India.
A full-fledged multi track digital audio recording theatre is functioning at the Centre.
The Pastoral council of the Archdiocese of Pondicherry and Cuddalore was constituted on 10.03.2007 with the Archbishop as the President by his office and the Pastoral Centre director as the co-ordinator. The Pastoral Council consists of 144 members, of which 105 are lay people (50 men, 55 women).
The following are the recent outcome of the Pastoral council
In view of the ‘year of Priest’ there was mutual cordial discussion between the clergy, religious and the laity on the expectations.In view of the year of Laity, the active participation of the Laity in the life and ministry of the Church was insisted upon with two major thrust on forming the parish pastoral councils and Anbiyams (basic Christian communities) in all parishes.
There was a joint declaration that we together face oppositions against the church in general. Proper training and formation of the lay people not only in the religions sphere, but also in the society to form good leaders. Much importance and attention should be given to the formation of youth and children in parishes.“Kristuvar Vaazhurimai Iyakkam” – fighting to get out birth rights in the civil society as citizen of India.Political awareness to all and in particular forming lay people a good political leaders actively involving themselves in politics.
The main focus of the commission is to organize the ongoing formation programme for the diocesan clergy on a regular basis and addressing the pastoral needs of the religious in the Archdiocese.
Vocation promotion is the primary task of the commissions’ Secretary. The commission takes care of the formation of both minor and major seminarians, assigning ministry places during holidays and arranging the Annual get together are part of it.
The ministry of catechism covers the following three different areas:
In all catholic schools catechism classes are conducted with standard text books and a well framed syllabus. Exams are conducted and certificates and prizes are awarded every year.
overseeing the catechetical formation in the parish level through the Sunday catechism classes.
as a preparation for a meaningful celebration of sacraments like First Communion, Confirmation and Matrimony. printing hymn books, publishing prayer pamphlets, arranging seminars on Liturgy are part of the liturgical ministry of the commission.
According to the need and signs of the time, new means of mission were undertaken in the task of evangelization. One such pioneering work is the proclamation of the Gospel through commission and media. In order to achieve this aim we have established Commission for Evangelization for our Archdiocese in 1989.
The commission carries out its work under three levels:
Basic Christian Communities: ‘Anbiyam’ aims at build up a small Christian’s community as Eucharistic communities with gospel values as its solid foundation. 75% of the parishes in our Archdiocese have the presence of BCCs. Formation of BCC / Training Programmes of BCC were conducted in the parishes with the support and guidance of the local parish priests. Parish animators training meetings, revitalizing BCC’s in the parishes together with Anbiyam Sunday celebrations, re-orientation seminar on BCC and follow up programmes of BCC were conducted.
The Catholic Youth Association in the parishes, the Young Christian Students’ Movement (YCS) and the Young Students’ Movement (YSM) are functioning under this commission.
Marriage preparation courses consisting of a series of lessons are conducted with professionally trained personnel and audio- visual materials. Couples for Christ programme is conducted for the couples by the commission. Marriage Information Bureau run by the commission helps those who are at the age of marriage to find their life partners.
There are Parish Councils and Finance councils in all the parishes of the Archdiocese to assist the Parish Priest in carrying out the three fold ministry of the church Leading, Guiding and shepherding in the local church. The Parish councils were formed in all the Parishes after giving proper formation and training by the laity commission in the Pastoral Centre at Uppalam in Pondicherry.
In the Parish Councils there are many sub committees like liturgical Committee, Socio-economic committee, Catechetical Formation Committee, Family Welfare Committee and etc. These committees in the Parishes take care of the needs of the parishioners and assist the parish priest in making the liturgical celebrations more meaningful with proper preparation and participation of all the people.
Small Groups like Basic Christian Communities are formed and prayer meetings are held in the houses of the faithful. Laity Formation Centre is located in the Pastoral Centre at the Uppalam in Pondicherry.
The Laity Commission gathers twice in a year and plans out and execute the programme for the whole year. The following activities have been carried out at Parish level, Vicariate level, Diocesan level, Regional level and National level.
It works in collaboration in ecumenical way to look after the welfare of all the Christians. This Forum sees to that the freedom of religion and other socio-economic political and cultural right of the Christian is not violated. This forum also cooperates with other religious councils as Hindus and Muslims. There are inter-religion faith and dialogue meetings.
The laity council of the Archdiocese of Pondicherry-Cuddalore to look into the needs of the other Christians at Villupuram and Cuddalore District. A separate laity commission has been formed wherever there is any problem in the parishes because of the caste, politician and social reason the laity council tries to solve the problem and bring peace among the people.
The laity council works as the mediator between the people and the Hierarchy in the involvement of socio, economic and personal Development of the parishioners.
Much importance is given for the formation of the Laity by conducting sessions on Lay Leadership, Laity in the Church, Bible etc., Laity Forum, Laity Council, Christuvar Vazhvurimai Iyakkam and Women Commission function under this commission. Establishing Parish Pastoral Council and creating political awareness among the Laity are the prime tasks of this commission.
The objective of Prison Ministry is to bring Release, Renewal and Rehabilitation of Prisoners. To transform Prisoners into responsible citizens and bring about a crime free society.
Prison visit , Juvenile and observation homes visit, Consultation meeting with Police, legal experts and social activist, Inter- religious dialogue and ecumenism was held at Pondicherry and Karaikal. National conference of Prison Ministry of India was held in 2007 on the theme “Punishment is Human, Rehabilitation is Divine”. Eye camp was conducted in Central Prison, Cuddalore District of TamilNadu in December 2007. Around 353 prisoners was screened and 45 prisoners advised for cataract operation, 154 prisoners given spectacles.
The commission carries out the following activities: To coordinate and collaborate with all the Christian workers to build the kingdom of God and to help Christian workers to be apostles in the world on work. It gives top priority for building up the Catholic Workers Movement as a means for apostolic actions. It works to get justice to employees in Christian Institutions. It has concern especially for weaker sections (domestic workers, women and daily rated) who are the victims to exploitations.
The Women Commission gathers twice in a year and plans out and execute the programme for the whole year. The Archdiocesan Women Commission caters the needs of the women in the Archdiocese of Pondicherry-cuddalore. It gives training for Leadership of women. It helps to form women groups for their social, economical and political development. Awareness Programme is being conducted periodically on physical and mental health problems.
They are not considered equal to men. So they are treated as secondary citizens. In the families the position of women is that they are meant to get married, beget children and work in the fields. They need not be educated because it is an economic loss to the family, if you spend for education.
Dowry is the gravest problem. The girl’s parents have to give lot of money to the bridegroom. Because of this many girls do not get married. If the dowry is less there is harassment of the girl by bridegroom’s family. There are thousands of incidents happening everyday in our society.
Due to the social oppression discrimination, women in their young age are put under great social pressure. Many mental health problems arise among young girls. Some of them are hysteria, tension, mental agony, mental disorder, suicide and due to these many physical ailments come.
Sometimes they are just treated as commodity without respect for their self or personality. They are just used an things and they are at the pleasure of men, Observing the above mentioned problems we carried out many programme for women Empowerment.
It promotes sense of justice, equality and human dignity among all sections of the people with a specific option for the upliftment of the downtrodden. Conducting awareness programme, job placement for the unemployed, special coaching classes for IAS, IPS entrance exams, fighting for the Dalit rights from the government are some of the salient tasks of this commission.
Media Education Classes for school students, youth and for those in the religious formation.
Producing ACD,VCD television programmes on festive occasions, publication of hymn books etc.,
Stage programme, sound and light productions.
Both in JIPMER and General Hospital Pondy, it is very difficult to get admission because huge crowds come every day. So, unless we have either a Doctor or Nurses to recommend, it is impossible to get admitted.
In case of patients for whom surgery is a must, the date is fixed but it will be postponed again and again for many weeks. ofcourse our good Catholic Doctors, Nursing Superintendents, Head Nurses and Staff Nurses play a great role by their strong recommendations and successful surgery is done.
When blood is needed for the operation, the poor villagers do not know where to go and whom to approach. “The helpline”, managed by one Mr.Dacline Rudolf Raj, Youth Jesus of our Cathedral Parish, Pope John Paul College students, St.Joseph’s College students of Cuddalore and Petit Seminaire, readily help us by donating blood.
Financial help is given to the poor patients to buy medicines and to get back home when hey get discharged. Our Archbishop helps such poor patients and I too help them in my own little way. Patients who go to Private Hospitals get heavy bills which the poor villagers find very difficult to pay. The Doctors when approached in person or through recommendation letters are very generous and give good concessions.
Visit the patients in Government Hospitals in the morning and JIPMER in the evening times, to pray to bless to give Holy Communion and anointing if necessary. Even Hindus and Muslims request our prayers and blessings.
Our good catholic Nurses give the lists of Catholic patients either in person or through Telephone. Our Parish Priests send the patients with a letter or inform through Telephone if they are already admitted. When patients are in I.C.U. or C.C.U., catholic nurses get the required permission to anoint them.
They give accommodation both for the patients and their attenders. Our good M.C. Sisters provide meals for them as long as they stay as out-patients. One Mrs.Jeccintha Mary to take the patients to the G.H. Puducherry. She helps them to get the case sheets, to meet the concerned Doctor, to have the investigations done and to get admission too.
Plays a great role in the medical field by a silent service.
On every 2nd Sunday of the month, the members of C.N.G.I. meet at Fathima Church, Thattanchavady to recount and recollect their daily healing ministry. They are encouraged and motivated by the Gospel message to realize the dignity of their healing ministry as the continuation of Jesus the Divine Physician. It is a recognition, appreciation, encouragement and a boost to do their noble service.
Once in three months they go to Shrines or Ashrams to do their one-day recollection, we invite Bible scholars and expert Resource persons to conduct the seminar.