Important Pastoral Landmarks

THE ARCHDIOCESE OF BOMBAY IN
INDEPENDENT INDIA 

VALERIAN CARDINAL GRACIAS (1950 – 1978)

No overview of the Catholic Church in Bombay can ignore the tremendous contribution of Cardinal Gracias. His indefatigable drive laid the foundations of an Archdiocese that nurtured the spiritual, contemplative, educational, medical needs of the Catholic community while keeping the nation's cares and concerns “especially in the field of development and the struggle for social justice" its own. Too long had the Church been associated with the colonial powers. Now was the time to dispel the earlier notions and to chart a new course.

The Indian nation kept its tryst with destiny in 1947 and the Church in Bombay now under its first Indian Archbishop Valerian Gracias accepted the goals of national regeneration in keeping with the nascent Indian state. Serving the twin objectives of education and health, the Church in Bombay through its schools, hospitals and the Medical Guild was an important part of the city and nation's development.

The then Mayor of Bombay, S.K Patil, at a reception in 1951 to honour the appointment of Archbishop Gracias referred to the "extent of activities, religious, educational and social that are carried out in the Archdiocese of Bombay." His Grace replied, "If freedom brings with it heavy responsibilities, no better service to the city and the country can a religious leader render than by paying for such benefits as will help the country's welfare and prosperity, namely wisdom and fortitude to our leaders, understanding and co-operation among the citizens of all communities, and unselfish and devoted labour on the part of all in the cause of the motherland."

NATIONAL MARIAN CONGRESS

Cardinal Gracias was appointed Papal Legate for the National Marian Congress held in Bombay from 4- 8, December, 1954. This was indeed a landmark event not just for Bombay but for the whole of India.  In the words of Pope Pius XII, “In the very vast country of India…there has been piously fostered among the faithful a fervent devotion to the Queen of Heaven together with a manifestation of the Faith….the Bishops of India decided that at the conclusion of this centenary year of the definition of the dogma of the Immaculate Conception, a Marian Congress for the entire Republic of India should be held with the greatest solemnity and enthusiasm in the great city of Bombay.  …the presence of Bishops, the large concourse of citizens and pilgrims who will come from far and wide and by the weighty subjects that will be treated in the several group meetings this Congress will be a witness to the Catholic faith and the veneration of Our Lady.”  And indeed it was outstandingly so. 

In his concluding address, the Internuncio, Most Rev. Martin H. Lucas, S.V.D. congratulated Cardinal Valerian for the unforgettable days: ‘…every item of the programme went on so smoothly, so perfectly that we must pay a tribute of our admiration for the silent, unseen but efficient work of organisation which has been reflected in the devotional atmosphere, the splendour and the order…’. The Internuncio went on to commend Cardinal Gracias ‘… on having such a devoted army of priests, religious and faithful on whom you can rely completely and who have cooperated s  generously and so wholeheartedly with you in the vast and varied work of preparation which the Congress has called for.’

THE EUCHARISTIC CONGRESS

The Archdiocese of Bombay had the unique privilege of hosting the only Eucharistic Congress that India has had. The 38th Eucharistic Congress was held in Mumbai  (Bombay) India from the 2nd to the 5th of December 1964.This is a tribute to its unique position as a leading metropolis in India.

Its objective was to promote Eucharistic devotion and reaffirm Catholic belief that the "real presences of Christ was in the Eucharist." Attending the congress were Pope Paul VI, a large number of cardinals, and an estimated 20,000 foreign visitors, besides the multitudes from the Archdiocese who came in great faith to the Oval maidan to profess their faith in the Eucharistic Presence of Christ. The scale, grandeur and magnitude of the event so impressed Pope Paul VI that made him write to Cardinal Gracias:

“With indelible remembrances of the incredible enthusiasm and touching sincerity of Our welcome by the Indian People, and from a heart filled with glorious memories of the International Eucharistic Congress in Bombay, which owes so much to Your indefatigable and generous labours, We send You, beloved son, the assurance of Our heartfelt and undying gratitude for Your exquisite hospitality, and for all the kindnesses You have shown Us during Our pilgrimage, asking God to reward You with his richest graces. We lovingly impart to You, and bestow upon Your great Archdiocese, and upon the Hierarchy, Clergy, Religious and faithful of beloved India, Our appreciative and most affectionate Apostolic Blessing.” PAULUS PP. VI

 

REORGANISATION OF THE ARCHDIOCESE

The megalopolis of Mumbai or Mumbai Metropolitan region overlapped the jurisdiction of the Archdiocese of Bombay till very recently. In 1998 the Diocese of Vasai was carved out of the Archdiocese of Bombay. As the city at the "Gateway" grows, so does the Archdiocese. It now includes Christians of many language groups: a reflection of the historic cosmopolitan fabric of the city of Mumbai. Pockets of Tamilians, Bengalis, Keralites and even those from the North Eastern states join the Marathi and Konkani speaking Catholics, the Goans, the Mangaloreans and others, in worship in parishes like far-flung Malad or in Belapur or other newer parishes of Navi Mumbai. The Archdiocese makes efforts to provide for special Masses in these varied languages and Marathi or Konkani choirs are known to lend their voices in praise all over the city. Foremost in the field of education through the last century, the Education Board of the Archdiocese stands at a threshold facing the challenges of falling standards and rising numbers seeking admission. The Church's efforts to strengthen family and community are crucial given the anonymity of the urban implosion.

SIMON IGNATIUS CARDINAL PIMENTA (1978 – 1996)

Cardinal Pimenta was born on March 1, 1920 in Marol, a suburb of Bombay India. He completed his studies in philosophy and theology at the Seminary of Bombay, and obtained a Baccalaureate in Pedagogy and Mathematics from the State University.

He was ordained a priest on December 21, 1949. In 1954 he obtained a Doctorate in Canon Law from the Pontifical Urban University in Rome. Upon returning to Bombay, he served as Secretary to Cardinal Valerian Gracias, and as Vice-chancellor, and Defender of the Bond. From 1959 to 1960, he was Rector of the Cathedral of the Holy Name, professor of Liturgy at the Seminary, Episcopal Vicar for the formation of young priests and for the liturgy. This was followed by his appointment as Rector of the Major Seminary, St. Pius X, Goregaon. He has several published works to his credit.

On June 5, 1971, he was appointed Titular Bishop of Bocconia and Auxiliary Bishop of Bombay, receiving his Episcopal Ordination on June 29 of the same year. On February 26, 1977, Pope Paul VI nominated him Coadjutor Archbishop of Bombay and on September 11, 1978 he was installed as Archbishop of Bombay.

As Archbishop, he called for a Diocesan Synod and was very active in pastoral and charitable activities especially in managing 12 hospitals and 44 dispensaries. He dedicated much of his energy to Catholic education. He served as President of the Catholic Bishops' Conference of India for three consecutive terms until 1988.

He was created and proclaimed Cardinal by Pope John Paul II in the Consistory of June 28, 1988, when he also received the titular church of S. Maria Regina Mundi a Torre Spaccata.

On November 8, 1996, at the age of 76, Cardinal Pimenta resigned his post becoming Archbishop Emeritus of Bombay.

Simon Ignatius Cardinal Pimenta, Archbishop Emeritus of Bombay, Cardinal-Priest of S. Maria "Regina Mundi" a Torre Spaccata passed away on 19thJuly 2013 at Clergy Home, Bandra where he was in temporary residence due to ongoing repairs at the Cathedral House, Cathedral of the Holy Name. He was 93 years old.

RECENT PASTORAL LANDMARKS

The Church in Mumbai bears the responsibility to provide for a rapidly growing population and a laity that is as diverse linguistically as it is culturally, financially and socially. Over time, there has been a need to constantly introspect, and to take a good look at history for, if not, we may be condemned to repeat the mistakes of the past. This constant soul searching has resulted in important pastoral landmarks that must shape the present and future thrust of this Archdiocese. 

 

1. 1984 – Think Tank: ‘Thrust of the Archdiocese’

The outcome was the publication of documents that highlight:

  • Reading signs of the times – an understanding of the Social context we live in.
  • Church as Community - (Ecclesial Spirituality and its significance).
  • The Servant Church – an understanding of collaboration in the Church with the evolving roles of laity & clergy.

 

2. 1990 - Birth of the Priests’ Consultation

This looked at:

  • Priestly renewal in the context of the spirituality of a pastoral agent.
  • Parish renewal in buying into the thrust of the Archdiocese, sharing a common vision, the relevance of the parish and the building up of Eucharistic community towards pastoral animation.
  • Diocesan renewal seen in the context of accountability, democratic leadership policies and structures. The coming of age of a prophetic church, involved with its flocks with a pointed outreach and a dynamic lay collaboration.

 

3. The Synod of 2001

The next big milestone in the Pastoral initiatives of the Archdiocese was the Synod of 2001.

At rare moments, God brings together a multitude of forces which collectively generate the power to produce incredible results. 470 delegates – 5 bishops, 111 priests, 60 religious sisters, 6 religious brothers, 1 seminarian, 287 lay men and women – were participants in the First Synod of the Archdiocese of Bombay, held at St. Pius College, Goregaon, Mumbai, from January 21 to 26, 2001. For them this was, indeed, one such rare moment!  The theme was: "The Church in Mumbai, light to the nation and the glory of God's holy people' emphasising that the Church for our times is that of a 'Participatory-Servant Church'.

Initiation and Progress

The preparatory process was implemented through a series of Synod Papers for discussion at various levels, giving opportunity to the members of the Church in Mumbai to reflect and comment on their pastoral life, both as individuals and as communities.

A pastoral survey was used to collect data on aspects of human living: personal, family, work, neighbourhood, parish and society in order to understand the Church community and the pastoral situation in Mumbai. A team of experts in the fields of sociology, psychology, anthropology and management were then asked to give a complete "reading" of what the respondents were saying.

The next stage addressed the question: "What was God inviting us to do at the turn of the millennium, as a community of Christians in Mumbai"?

Seven ‘core values’ emerged:

  • We are called to be an all-embracing Church as a community of equals and with gender equality.
  • We are called to renew our faith.
  • We are called to renew our family life.
  • We are called to be truly an Indian Church.
  • We are called to network with others.
  • We are called to respond to the InfoTech revolution, and
  • We are called to improve the quality of life.

The next step examined a concrete vision for the future, keeping in mind the derived information that: "The Church in Mumbai wants to become a PARTICIPATORY SERVANT CHURCH".

"Setting the Goal" – the compiled Paper - spelt out this objective and proposed initiatives for the practical implementation of these goals.

Next, 154 priests of the diocese participated in the enriching "Diocesan Live-in". Some of the major concerns that emerged were:

  • Need for greater professionalism at different levels - to have plans at the diocesan, deanery and parish levels and ensure the continuity and regular evaluation of these plans.
  • Need for more transparency and accountability - a system of shared responsibility where each one is held accountable for his / her role in the functioning of the church.
  • Need to build Team Ministry - networking, utilizing the enormous resources available and moving together so that no one experiences burn out, being over-burdened or isolated.
  • Need for on-going formation - regular training programmes for priests and laity for their faith renewal, to update and prepare them to meet the challenges of the times.
  • Need to involve laity at various levels - greater professional involvement on their part, becoming part of the decision making process and taking responsibility.

The feedback formed the basis for the final Synod Working Paper: "Called to Abundance of life". This Paper focused on making concrete these goals, in terms of the following propositions for implementation:

  • SPIRITUALITY FOR NURTURING ABUNDANCE OF LIFE
  • OUR MISSION OF SOLIDARITY FOR CREATING ABUNDANCE OF LIFE
  • TRAINING FOR PROMOTING ABUNDANCE OF LIFE
  • PARTICIPATIVE GOVERNANCE FOR ESTABLISHING ABUNDANCE OF LIFE

The abundance of life which Jesus offers must begin with a renewal of faith (God-experience), and ongoing spiritual nourishment through personal, family and liturgical prayer as well as familiarity with the Word of God. The Synod discussed three aspects of spirituality in this context: incarnational, communication and dialogical which must flow into mission. 

While we are nourished through our Eucharistic celebrations, there is a danger that for those who do not participate under proper dispositions of faith and love, these celebrations will be empty rituals. From this understanding, emerges the need for a mission of solidarity with all sections of society, especially the marginalized, with the family which is under threat today, and with the youth who represent the hope of the Church and Society.

Effective exercise of this mission needs ongoing formation of all sections of the Church and a collaborative way of governing – Laity, Religious and Priests.

Conclusions and Outcome

At the end of the Synod discussions, on January 26, 2001, a Statement of the Bombay Archdiocesan Synod (SBAS) was presented to the Archbishop containing suggestions as to how the Church in Mumbai could be renewed both from within and in its external outreach. What was the Spirit calling the Church in Mumbai to do, at the dawn of the Third Christian Millennium?  The discernible answer was “Communion”: communion with God, within our families and in our parishes, in the Archdiocese and with the Church Universal, with other Christian denominations and religious traditions, and with our society and environment. This would lead to a qualitative change of our lives and lifestyles, both personal and communitarian.

The consequent Pastoral Letter of the Archbishop delved deeply into this “spirituality of communion” by first considering personal communion with God, and then passing on to a communion with the Universal Church, within our families, our parishes, our Archdiocese as a whole, with the poor and marginalised, with those who do not share or Catholic faith, and with society and nature around us.

Our communion with God must lead us towards an “Abba-Father” experience and to proclaim our unswerving faith in Jesus Christ, the Risen Lord and Saviour, to carry our cross daily as a sign of true discipleship, and to make our lives so Spirit-filled and Spirit-led as to overflow into love for the Church and for our neighbour.

As a sign of our communion with the Church Universal all the faithful in the Bombay Archdiocese were encouraged to study the Documents of the Second Vatican Council, the Catechism of the Catholic Church and other documents of the Papal Magisterium.

The current state of decline in society can be largely traced to the loss of importance attached to the basic institutions of marriage and family. Both these institutions are vital to the well-being of humanity. The youth are a living sign of the springtime in our Church: they are a precious part of our community and have an important part to play in the Church. Their pastoral care must be given the highest priority in the Archdiocese.

After the family, the parish is the prime nucleus in the local Church. It must reflect the peculiarities of the local situation and the catholicity of the Church Universal. Unity in diversity – which is a sign of the working of the Holy Spirit, of communion in and with Him – must mark all the components of a given parish: the parish team, the parish pastoral council, the religious working in the parish, the SCCs, associations, ecclesial movements and new communities, and even individuals not belonging to any particular group.

Priest formation does not end with ordination. The priest engaged in pastoral ministry needs constant updating in Scripture, Theology, Liturgy and a number of personal skills.

Religious Institutes are to participate more closely with the pastoral plan of Archdiocese in the parishes where they live. Laymen and women should now be conscious of the fact that they are called to play an active and important role in the vineyard of the Divine Master and to ‘put their hands to the plough’.

The phenomenon of Catholics leaving the Church to join Christian sects and new religious movements should be a matter of special concern for everyone. Preventive measures could be taken to avoid defections, such as creating an atmosphere of warm fellowship in our parishes and SCC meetings, starting classes to deepen the knowledge of the Sacred Scriptures, etc.

The Church acknowledges that there exists in other faith and cultural traditions “elements which are true and good”, “precious things, both  religious and human”, “elements of truth and grace”, “seeds of the Word” and “rays of the truth which illumine all mankind”. These values merit the attention and esteem of all Christians. The spiritual patrimony of those traditions is a genuine invitation to dialogue.

There is another dialogical language which is understood by all and embraces the whole of society. It is the universal language of genuine, authentic love expressed in a sincere commitment to civic and political issues, and in a wholehearted involvement in humanitarian works and in questions relating to social justice.

In the name of development and technology, immense harm is being done to Mother Nature. The Church encourages its members to respect and care for the precious heritage of nature.

Implementation and Follow-through

The Bombay Archdiocesan Synod Implementation Committee (BASIC) was formed and included all bishops, some priests, religious, laymen and laywomen. Through the various ecclesiastical bodies like the Archdiocesan Pastoral Council, Priests’ Council, Parish Pastoral Councils, Council of Deans and various Commissions connected with Liturgy, Justice, Family, Youth, Catechetic, Bible, ‘BASIC’ oversaw the implementation of the Synod recommendations and the various components presented in the Archbishop’s Pastoral Letter. Dedicated publications were prepared to convey the correct interpretation of the Synodal resolutions. BASIC also called a midterm assembly (MTSA) to assess progress and consider time bound pastoral priorities for the next 5 years. I.e. 2006 – 2010.

For the Mid Term Synod Assembly, four hundred and seventy-eight delegates from all the parishes and sectors of the Archdiocese met in January 2006.

Some of the concerns that arose from the deliberations were:

An earnest need was felt for a holistic spirituality. This meant catering to the material, human and spiritual needs of the human person. A holistic spirituality is rooted in a personal relationship with Jesus the Incarnate Word through prayer, silence and contemplation, while, being immersed in the lives of people.

The family needs to be strengthened through a parish structure i.e. a Family Cell. Family guidance needed to focus on equality between the spouses, greater openness to life and attention to pre-marriage and post-marriage care.

One of the characteristics of youth is energy and dynamism. Youth represent the present Church and are the resources for the future. Key plans for a parish-based ministry for the Youth emerged. E.g.: the formation of Neighbourhood Youth Groups (NYGs) within SCCs, leading to the establishment of the Parish Youth Council (PYC) constituted by representatives of NYG. The setting of a Parish Youth Animation Team (PYAT) in each parish, the launching of Creative Ministries for Youth, and so on.

To identify the marginalized in a parish would be the task of the PPC and SCCs of the parish. With the help of these bodies, the Parish Priest would then set up a Centre for Community Organization (CCO) to cater to the needs of the marginalized. The objective of the CCO, staffed by full-time trained social workers, is to give "a perspective and vision to the task of empowering the marginalized.” The CCO's task is not limited to organizing some outreach activities, but it seeks rather to build community through mobilizing people on social issues, empowering, and thereby creating leaders.

If the Archdiocese is to effectively pursue the above mentioned initiatives, there will have to be a greater enrolment and involvement of people in each parish. Hence, each parish will have to focus on those segments of people who occasionally or seldom take an active part. Based on current participation levels, the parish will have to set year-by-year goals for increasing the percentage of participation.

Achievements of BASIC - the Implementation body    

  • Formulating Parish Vision - Mission statements in parishes
  • Strengthening SCCs & CCO
  • Initiating the Community Welfare Fund
  • Creation of an Archdiocesan Dialogical Centre
  • Setting up Offices for Parish Councils, laity training & lay collaboration in ministry
  • Organising Parish Council Training Programmes for effective functioning
  • Renewing Liturgical Celebrations
  • Organising Pastoral Care Management Seminars for priests
  • Fostering a ‘god experience’ with contemplative prayer, personal prayer, catechesis, scripture, and knowledge.
  • Establishing new ministries

It is imperative for an Archdiocese to take a step back and ponder upon all that has happened in time and evaluate it with honesty, for those who choose not to remember the past are condemned to repeat it. With one eye on the rear-view mirror we navigate into the future hoping that we as a Church will always be aware of the changes in this fast paced world so that we become a beacon of light to the community.

 4. The Archdiocesan Consultation 2012

Another milestone among the Pastoral initiatives of the Archdiocese was the Archdiocesan Consultation of 2012. The Consultation was an after product of the Synod (2001). The Consultation analysed the eight important aspects of parish ministry outlined by the Archdiocese. It collected feedback from the Laity on aspects of relationship with the Church. The Archdiocese Consultation witnessed a vibrant renewal of pastoral commitment with the cooperation and inclusion of all who comprise the Archdiocese: Clergy, Religious, Laity.

The Archdiocesan Survey (2012) revealed a number of facts.  Some of them were that majority of the people  do attend Mass on Sundays (80.2%), read the Bible and are helped in their faith formation by it (72.2%), and were able to give witness to their faith by undertaking family responsibilities seriously (72.8%). On the other hand, some significant comments of the Survey (2012) state that ‘The reality of faith is not being experienced by many’ and ‘Life has become commercial’.

 5. The 37 Million Diyas Campaign

Exploitation of girls and women is not new in India. 37 million of the female population  were denied their basic right to live with dignity and many more are likely to be exploited, oppressed and eliminated. This startling difference screams out for gender sensitization in the country. The 37 Million Diyas campaign was undertaken in order to take a stand on the increasing violence against women. The Archdiocesan Women’s Commission launched this movement across the Diocese on 27th January 2013. It takes a stand against the female genocide that is happening even now by way of female feticide, female infanticide, bride burning, dowry deaths, marginalisation and malnutrition.

6. Archdiocesan Heritage Museum

The Archdiocese of Bombay has evolved continuously and by setting up the Archdiocesan Heritage Museum recently, it has created a future for its past. In order to protect and preserve the rich and ancient traditions of the Church, the Archdiocesan Heritage Committee was set up in 2006 by the then Archbishop, Cardinal Ivan Dias. On September 25, 2011 the Archdiocesan Heritage Museum housed on the first floor of St. Pius X College, Goregaon was blessed and inaugurated by His Eminence Cardinal Oswald Gracias. It has a collection of artifacts ranging from manuscripts, religious objects, paintings, vestments, sculptures and liturgical books. One of the features of the museum is the timeline painted on the wall of the museum showing the stages of Christianity in the region from 6 AD onwards.

7. The Catholic Communication Centre

The Archdiocese has also established its own Communication Centre which works towards spreading the Word of God through a new form of Cyber ministry.  In this digital age, the Church has been making optimum use of technology in its work.  The Centre offers a host of facilities namely production of short films and documentaries for promotion of activities as well as for social awareness, advertising promos, teaser campaigns, effective communication methods, creating brand identities for parishes through design of logos and Parish stationary, Internet consultancy, media awareness and education through workshops for children, youth and parents, and sound consultancy for churches. The Centre is to the Catholic Church what advertising firms are to commercial products.

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