Sunday, December 6, 2009

AVAILABILITY -- JOHN PAUL


Apostolic availability – A growing Holy unrest in my availability
"Ye shall know the truth, and the truth shall make you free.”--John viii. 32.
How can I make myself available to the mission of the Lord? Often I have asked myself: is my apostolic availability genuine? If not, then in what way can I be genuine? How can I be true to myself and to God? How can I discern the will of God? How will I know the ultimate truth? Can this ultimate truth-principle make me free and detach myself so as to obey the will of God?
Jesus is our ultimate model in and through Him we learn how to discern and obey the Fathers’ will. He deserves all praise, service and glory. He is the goal of our lives. Considering the work of the Holy Spirit in our daily activities, GC 35 has brought out a wonderful document regarding the goal and purpose of life in the Society. It has rejuvenated the spirit within me and to look up to our model-Jesus. Fr. John English, S.J. of the Canadian Province in his article on ‘goal and purpose of life’ invites the Society to uphold the spirit of discernment and thus make oneself available totally to apostolic work. We need to discern our vocation all time by recalling the various life-experiences and learn to appreciate the constant presence of God in our lives. St. Ignatius of Loyola expresses our purpose and goal in this way: God's purpose in creating us is to draw forth from us a response of praise, reverence, and service to God (like that of Christ) and in this way to experience the fullness of being. (Spiritual Exercises: Principle and Foundation).
1. Discerning Interior Movements:
As I begin to discern genuinely, many different interior experiences take place with in me. Some I have never had before. Some are very strange indeed. Yet, it is good to know that other people before me have had similar experiences when trying to discover their vocation. By paying attention to the spirit which is active within, and I try to concentrate on my willingness to listen to the divine. Stubborn heart will not experience the love of God.
2. Overall Goal and Purpose of my Life:
It is important to reflect deeply on the goal and purpose of all human and Christian life. It gives me a vision to my life. This gives me a perspective on life that helps me to find the freedom necessary to make myself available to vocation I am blessed with. ‘Love one another as I have loved you’ should become the motto of my life always.
3. Sense of Identity as the Beloved of God:
It is in the context of the love of God for each one of us that we set out to discover our vocation. For, it is in response to God's love for me that I will discover God's desire for me. This love of God floods my heart and draws me to him as I serve other men and women in whatever state of their life. It is helpful to reflect prayerfully on the various experiences of my life that indicate God's unique love for me. This knowledge will give me the freedom to be open to whatever vocation I sense God is calling me to be. God cannot fail me. Yet he is beyond my comprehension. So I make an effort to find him in the people I meet every day.
4. I Pray for Light and Strength:
I ask the Lord to move my mind and heart that I may better serve him and his people. Once again I realize that this process is carrying me to seek help from God. The help that I need is both in my mind and in my heart. I need both clarity and strength. I need to recognize the ways in which I can best serve the Lord. But I also need the strength to overcome the many fears and obstacles that I and others will put in my path.
5. Diverse cultural impact:
We indeed come in touch with people who are intelligent and multifaceted. Ignatius was such a man. In spite of having a lot of relationship problems he had genuinely accepted all people. Like St.Ignatius, we too today live in a multi cultural world which can shape our lives, mould hearts and overcome obstacles and fears. Awareness and adaptability to different cultures truly broaden the horizon of relationships.
6. Accept others:
Accepting others as they are is primary to all relationships. Availability is for the service. I will not be able to serve unless I accept others as they are. All my philosophy training will not make any sense unless I grow in openness which would enable me to know others in truth and justice. If I am open, then I will value others’ presence in my life..
I remind myself often that Jesuit is a person whose mission is to dedicate himself entirely to the service of faith and the promotion of justice, in a communion of life, work and sacrifice with the companions. Life, work and service in the community can give me happiness only when I am open to God’s grace. This life in the community ought to manifest in my apostolic availability. The work I do for the growth and happiness of the community is the key to success in the vineyard of the Lord. The more genuine and serviceable I am to the community, the stronger the power of happiness that I will experience. The spirit of the Society enables me to be available to the needs of the deprived people and of the depleted earth which sustains life at various levels. Availability opens many doors and all doors lead to God who is the ultimate meaning of life.
How would Ignatius respond to today’s challenges is a big question. He surely would have given a depth dimension to the Ignatian spirituality and to the Christian faith. It would not be ‘a bed of roses’ for him either. The world today presents new challenges and we need persons of Ignatius’ caliber to face them squarely. There is a lot of scope for better work in the contemporary world. It is only through the Lord’s help that we can make this world a better place to live. Could we make ourselves available to the Lord’s noble calling today? What is your response? Wish you all a very Happy Advent.

Sunday, November 29, 2009

CONGRATULATIONS TO FR.MANOJ &FR.VINAY


"KINDLE OTHER FIRES" SENDS GREETINGS TO FR.MANOJ PARMAR AND FR.VINAY MACWAN ON THEIR ORDINATION TO PRIESTHOOD AT ANAND ON SATURDAY (28-11-'09) AND FOR THEIR FIRST MASS ON SUNDAY (29-11-'09)

A SABBATICAL YEAR EXPERIENCE-- FR.RAPPAI

As you may know I am on a Sabbatical year, after being 18 years working as the director of Gurjarvani. I still continue the work of the President of Signis India, the International Organization of Catholic communicators, thanks to the internet.
Between July and September I attended 4 courses/retreats of 10 or 12 days each at Atmadarshan, Patna, Bihar. Atmadarshan is Jesuit run Pycho-spiritual centre. The courses/retreats help one discover one’s inner self, spend time with the Lord and can achieve inner healing of experiences half or not digested, which cause harm and sicknesses. They have a highly competent team of counsellors/therapists, and I found the experience practical, deep, enriching and liberating.
Half of September and October I was at Gurjarvani, with a ten day trip to Thailand to participate in the Signis World Congress.
In the second week of November I reached Bodhi Zendo, the Zen Meditation Centre at Perumalmalai, near Kodaikanal, a hill station in Tamildandu. I hope to be here till the end of January, 2010, living and experiencing Zen meditation under the Jesuit, Fr.AMA Samy, the only recognized and approved Zen Master in India. He follows the Japanese tradition of Zen, which he mastered in Japan under an eminent Zen Master.
All spend about four hours a day in official meditation in the Bodhi Zendo (Zen prayer room), with a Cross and a statue of Buddha below it. More meditation, as one wishes. After half an hour of meditation, there is a brief meditative walk always.
The daily time table at Bodhi Zendo goes like this:
6.00-7.00 meditation.
7.00-8.00 breakfast
8.00-9.30 Seva (work in the garden, cutting vegetables, cleaning, etc... )
10.30-12.00 silence
12.00-12.30 meditation (optional)
12.30-1.30 lunch
1.30-4.00 silence
5.30-7.00 meditation
7.00-8.15 supper
8.15-8.45 meditation
(Silence after 5.30)
Full silence every Wednesday. Thursdays are free days till the last meditation, and Sundays free after lunch. Kodaikanal is just 12 kms from here, and there are many buses from Perumalmalai, outside the Estate. From the first Thursday evening of every month there is a 3-day Mini Sesshin with complete silence and about 6 hours of meditation with a talk by AMA Samy. During the morning meditation every day anyone can meet the Zen Master for very brief guidance. On Sundays, Eucharist is celebrated.
There is an excellent library on Buddhism, Hinduism, Mysticism, Philosophy, etc.... Good food, vegetarian with eggs, with good fruits and much of the vegetables organically grown here.
What is extraordinary for me is the beauty of nature around here. Deep inside a 500 acre Jesuit Coffee estate, Bodhi Zendo is surrounded by the Palani hills, and far removed from all noise except for the birds. Green mountains all around. Mist, clouds, rain and sun alternate, almost every day. Temperature around 18 C., most of the year. Beautiful Zen gardens, vegetable patches, coffee under Silver Oak and Eucalyptus trees. On a sunny day, the landscape is incredibly beautiful!
There are about 30 rooms, fully occupied most of the year. Booking needed, well in advance. Seekers of peace and meditation, of any/no religion come from many countries in the world; relatively few from India. Some spend 3-4 days, a week, some weeks, some months, ...., some come every year,... People come from Auroville, or after visiting different other Ashrams, mostly in south India. The other day we had a group of older people from the Church of England, with 3 pastors. After that a group of 20 University students from the USA, doing a semester of their studies in India, spent 8 days here.
I am enjoying the Zen experience very much. It takes me deeper into myself - gently, quietly, almost imperceptibly, and the Lord is within.
Rappai

Sunday, November 15, 2009

A little less than an Angel -Navneet Parmar

“The human being may be little less than an angel but is much more than an animal”
When I look at the sky, which you have made,
At the moon and the stars, which you set in their places.
What is man, that you think of him;
Mere man, that you care for him?

Yet you made him inferior only to yourself;
You crowned him with glory and honour.
You appointed him ruler over everything you made;
You placed him over all creation;
Sheep and cattle, and the wild animal too;
The birds and fish and the creatures in the seas.
(Psalm: 8: 3=8: Good News Bible, Catholic addition.)

The Bible gives a clear cut account of a creation story. In the beginning there was chaos and the Lord God brought about order. To do this HE just said, “Let there be,” and it was. The words spoken from his mouth were powerful enough to generate an order and to create creatures that could fly in the sky, walk on the earth and swim in the water.
When the Lord God thought of creating a man, He made himself actively involved. He bent down and stretched his hand out to take some soil. “Then the Lord God took some soil from the ground and formed a man out of it; HE breathed life-giving breath into his nostrils and the man began to live.” (Genesis: 2: 7). So much so that he shared his own breath (life) with man. Thus God mad man little less than HIMSELF.
Bible does not give any account of creation of an angel. This does not mean that the angels are existing from all eternity. Angels were created to serve and praise the Lord God.

They serve him best, his state
is king. Thousands at his bidding speed.
And post o’ver land and ocean without rest
They also serve who only stand and wait. (On his blindness by John Milton)

Angels have an extensive existence and are not bound by time and space. We see in the Bible that an angel of the Lord appeared to Mary. Yet they cannot be in two places at the same time, for their essence and existence are two different qualities. In the case of God this essence itself is existence. Angels are not embodied spirits, therefore they will never die. They had an origin but have no end. Man is an embodied being, hence he will die. The beauty of an embodied being is that he could express his feelings and say “I love you.” or “I hate you”, this is possible, for God has endowed him with free will and intellect. Angels are just pure spirits.

When we, the members of the human family, look around us at the world in which we live, we notice three types of beings, basically. First, there is what is traditionally been called the mineral kingdom, the vegetative kingdom and the animal kingdom.
Let’s begin with the mineral kingdom and the human being. What we have in common is that our body is 65% oxygen, 18% carbon,1.5 % calcium, 1% phosphorous and 1.5% other elements. We are 70% water. As someone has well put it, “We are cousins of stones and sisters are stars.”
As for the vegetative kingdom, it is characterized by four basic living activities: growth, reproduction, nourishment and repair. We share with it these basic functions with the vegetable kingdom.
Finally there is the animal kingdom which, in addition to the vegetative activities mentioned above, also has locomotion (can get up and go elsewhere for food, not being rooted in one place like a plant) and , in addition, gives clear evidence of sensation (that is can see, hear, smell, taste and touch – which include feeling pain and pleasure). All these animal activities are ours too.
And maybe we can pause briefly to ask ourselves what we mean when we say that a thing has life or is alive. Actually life is a kind of short-hand term for a complex of activities; and when a being gives evidence of them, we say that it is alive. A being which is able to move itself without any apparent pulling of strings or shoving or pushing from outside is alive. Here of course, the meaning of motion or movement would be widened from its usual connotations of local motion (capacity to transport oneself from one place to another), and not of plant-life. It would encompass any self-initiative activities (growth, reproduction and the like).

Human being in his/her uniqueness

But there are other equally evident and undeniable activities of human being which distinguish her/him from all other observable realities on our planet. The human being, and only the human being, gives evidence of his activities. They can be listed in various ways. I prefer to sum them up as the following trio: use of a conceptual language, art, religion.
In the first place, I do not say that only a human being has a language, a means of communication: even bees and ants have some kind of language – they inform each other (by tapping their feelers on the ground, or whatever) as to where recently discovered food supplies may be found. But their communication is limited to very concrete and limited topics. Whereas we humans can, by means of abstract ideas and concepts, communicate to each other about theories and notions that go far beyond the creativity. The human being is ever creating new styles of architecture, dress and so on; s/he is able to express her/his imaginative insights in a variety of ways from batik to sculpture to dance and painting. Animals have some instinctive know-how: how to construct their nests, burrows or whatever form of dwelling places they have. Some of them have a more or less elaborate mating “dance’. But they remain singularly devoid of any creative or artistic variations here. The same species or sub-species have always built their nests in the same way as far as we can reach back in recorded knowledge of these things. The scorpion and snake haven’t come out with any new dance steps to vary their mating game. But look at the variety of styles and fads in architecture, dress, dances and what have you which characterize human social life! Finally, a human person is the only observable creature which has been able to form some sort of an understanding of the deity, be it gods, goddesses or spirits. Only a human being has evolved a religion which concerns this whole area of her/his life. Various rites and rituals and religious beliefs have existed among men since the dawn of human history. There is nothing comparable to this in the animal kingdom. These three examples of uniqueness are characterized by one word, “transcendence,” the capacity to go beyond; to be driven from within toward in the world.

A Psychological look into human and animal kingdoms.
A human being is neither an angel nor a brute. A human is both lower and higher, both body and spirit, both outer and inner, both mechanical and purposeful.
I would like to high-light specially the behavior of a human which makes him different from both animals and angels. Behavior is a mirror in which everyone displays his image.
Every aspect of our behavior, feeding to reading, depends on the nature and support of society, for we are social animals. We are individuals, but our individuality evolved only within and through our interdependence.
I divide human behavior in to five categories…
1 Innate behavior
It is widespread in all the species. As our physical form has evolved, human behavior too evolves. Invariably a chimpanzee probes holes with twigs, a baby kangaroo will hop. But humans have gone a step beyond and can analyses rocks from moon. I mean humans can control their innate behavior. From the primeval age there were and are men dedicating an entire life for celibacy. Man can be like a fawning dog, a roaring lion, a thieving fox, a robbing wolf, a dissembling crocodile or a rapacious vulture.
2 Learned behavior
A child newly born learns, through experience. As its brain develops it behaves. Dependence, co-operation, plays, problem-solving are some of learnt behaviors. The animals extensively are driven by innate behaviuor (drive). Though there are cases of taming animals but animals by themselves are incapable of learning.
3 Experience behavior
From time immemorial, behavior has been expressive. We know who somebody is by what he does and how he behaves. Let me explain this by taking you all to primal age –at that stage humans relied on hunting for food, hard work was mint for males and child caring for women. Thus the division of labour was allotted between male and female. Eventually social arrangement, old and new emerging tradition, the essential sexual behaviorism and group co-operating paved the way for interdependence
4 Purposive behavior
Human behavior can be oriented on a sense of purpose which is not just fragmentary, but overall, relating to long periods and even to an entire lifetime, taking the form of long-term planning. Such a capacity, implies first that the subject is conscious, informed about the environment and about his potentialities. This awareness, the sense of purpose which guides choices and the effective implementation of purposeful behavior, is the essential feature of the freedom which is the impulse behind all self-constructed behavior. Contrary to other mammals, the human being with an over-riding sense of purpose can transcend the most powerful drives like the need for food or self-preservation and more easily sexual urges. Man hungers and thirsts not only for bread but for the bread of eternal life, truth, beauty, goodness and holiness- there is an aim for his existence.
5 Free behavior
Man is gifted with free will – to choose or not to choose. He is free to take control of himself (even to the point of offering his life), and free to decide his attitude towards his fellows (even to the point of dying for them); man is a creature capable of deciding what his relation will be to his creator. This gives rise to ethics and morality. For something to be ethical there are alternatives modes of action- man is capable of judging the alternative in ethical terms and he is free to choose what he judges to be good. Freedom implies commitment.

Animal behavior is instinctive, mechanical and unconscious. A dog knows a bone but does not know that it knows the bone. There is no possibility of cultural convention, non-competition, co-operation, territoriality, teamwork, selflessness, kinship, tool-use, communication, generosity, reciprocity in animals… man is an animal that bargains – no other animal does this – a dog does not change one bone with another. Man cooks his food.

The angels may have wider spheres of action and nobler forms of duty than ours, but truth and right; to them and to us are one and the same thing. Angels are mighty, frightening and unlimited; in their nature they are spirits, in their behavior they are angels. We humans can only behave a high-degree of flexibility - within the limits imposed by our nature (that is why our freedom is like being a fish in the tank). Angels relate infinitely irrespective of universal boundary. Angels are also serviceable, caring and active.

Thus human being may be little less than an angel but is much more than an animal.

G.C 35 Decree 2:Kindle Other Fires -Sunil Macwan


G.C. 35 Decree 2: A Fire That Kindles Other Fires
(A summary with questions for reflection)



The Society of Jesus has kept its flame alive for nearly five centuries. She has done so against all odds at all times. She continues to do so in present times. And this is no mean task because the world situation today is evermore challenging as it overwhelms people with an abundance of sensations, ideas and images. The Society’s flame – her original inspiration – offers people warmth and light. It is an undeniable proof of the goodness of God towards the Society. Keeping that fire alive enables us to give meaning to people and to provide them focus in a fragmented world.
One outstanding characteristic of the Society has been unity-in-multiplicity. At the heart of this unity is Jesus Christ. Our desire to serve Him; to be prompt and ready to do His most holy will is what unites us. Therefore, “Jesuits know who they are by looking at Him.” And the Jesuits find their identity in companionship. It is the companionship with Jesus who calls and with those who share this call. The foundation of this insight lies in St. Ignatius’ La Storta experience where he was “placed” with the Son and called to serve Him as He carries his cross. That unique experience of Ignatius remains alive in the life of every Jesuit. It calls for a continuous conversion from the life of the world to life for Christ.
Furthermore, this experience leads a Jesuit to view everything in a new light. He looks to find God in all things. Just as Ignatius did, after his experience at the river Cardoner. The Jesuit then endeavours to be a contemplative in action. To see the presence of God in the grim present day realities like poverty, forced displacement, violence between people, abandonment, structural injustice, sin etc. and the desire to seek the face of God in the world takes Jesuits to limit situations. This is achieved through commitment to “the service of faith and promotion of Justice” and dialogue with cultures and religions. Jesuits encounter sources of life and energy but also grave forces of death and suffering. Never for a moment losing faith in God, Jesuits succeed in finding Him in the most hopeless and darkest of realities. Thus, they become evermore truthful “servants of Christ’s mission.”
Jesuits’ mission of hope is to find divine life at the depths of reality. The aim is to find Jesus at work in all places and situations. Hence, Jesuit on a mission struggles with the polarity of being firmly rooted in God at all times, while at the same time remaining involved in the reality of the world.
So, polarities like being and doing, contemplation and action, prayer and prophetic living, being completely united with Christ and completely inserted into the world mark the life of a Jesuit. This pattern is based on the life of Christ on mission. Deep love for God and great concern for the world inspire Jesuits to continue their mission with zeal. It provokes people to know more about Jesuits. The Jesuits in turn plunge into every reality of the world with the belief that nothing is too profane to get involved in for the greater glory of God. They light a fire that enkindles other fires!
In the grace of La Storta, the Father placed Ignatius with Christ, His Son, carrying His cross. For Jesuits, this grace poses a challenge in daily life – that of announcing the Gospel of hope to the poor of this world. The hope that can “restore entire human persons in their integrity, reintegrating them in community and reconciling them with God.”
The Jesuits can fulfill this task by following the example of Jesus. As companions with Him on Mission, his way is their way too. Therefore, the service of faith and promotion of justice as two sides of one reality appears as the core of the Jesuit mission. Along with it availability for the Church’s universal mission to be carried out under the Roman Pontiff - in the spirit of obedience and magis – remains a distinguishing mark of the Jesuits.
To excel in the practice of our vow of obedience is to excel in Jesuit vocation. Along with obedience, the Jesuit vows of poverty and chastity complete our commitment to God’s call. Inspired by this commitment each Jesuit serves the Church in accordance with his particular vocation.
Companionship in the community gives Jesuits working on different missions a common identity. Indeed, identity, community and mission are a kind of triptych that explains our companionship. Our living together as “friends in the Lord” should inspire others, especially the young to join our ranks.
Our mission today is in the global context. It is for the worldwide community. Globalization, technology and environmental concerns have made us aware of our responsibility for the welfare of the entire world. Today, ever more than in the past, we need to work in collaboration with all persons of good will.
There is a lot of diversity among people across the world today. At times this diversity becomes the cause of grave inequality and injustice. Consequently, some prosper at the expense of the others. Jesuits are called upon to go to ‘Nations’ that today include those who are poor and those ignore the existence of God, and those who use God as an instrument for political purposes.
The changing situation of the world changes the context of our mission. Accordingly, today we look to dialogue with religions; promote justice and campaign to save the earth from further degradation. It is a serious challenge before all Jesuits to become and remain whole, as Jesus Christ, in a fragmented world! It is only through fraternal and joyful community living that we can meet this challenge and become whole.

Questions for Reflection:
1. What is my ‘ la Storta’ experience?
2. When did it take place?
3. What were the contents?
4. What are the challenges that I continue to embrace as a result of my ‘la Storta’ experience ?
5. Have I undergone a conversion? From what to for what?
6. Is there a harmony in my life between my world-view and my actions?
7. Am I able to find God in poverty – both actual and spiritual – in insults, abuse, sufferings, humiliations, injustices, dishonors, sickness and death, in the depths of darkness where Christ’s divinity is hidden?
8. As a Jesuit, am I able to give people meaning and focus in a fragmented world?
9. Am committed to restore the integrity of creation by facilitating the process of reconciliation with God, world and self?
10. What is my commitment to community life?

Saturday, October 31, 2009

CONGRATULATIONS FR.XAVIER AROCKIAM


Ordination

Deacon Xavier Arockiam was ordained a priest on 10 October, together with two Andhra Jesuits and five Madurai Jesuits. The ceremony was held in St Joseph’s College Church, Trichy, and the ordaining prelate was Bishop Jude Paul Raj, of Palayamkottai. The three-hour ceremony was well prepared, meaningful and grace filled. The magnificent church overflowed with people and a large number of priests, nuns and religious present. About 250 priests participated in the Eucharistic celebration. Our tertian at Shembaganur, Fr Partick Arockiam, represented Fr.Provincial; Fr Antonidoss, the minister of Satya Nilayamand Sch David Roy were also present.
Fr Xavier celebrated his first thanksgiving Eucharist inSt. Antony’s Church, Alampatti Pudur near Trichy. The preacher appreciated Xavier for opting to work in Gujarat,the land with a lot of anti Christian feelings and communal tension. The congregation prayed for the Jesuits of Gujaratin a special way. After the mass Xavier was taken in a procession through the village to his sister’s place where a felicitation programme was held and all were served a festive meal.
Last word: When Xavier arrived at the Jesuit Residence inTrichy many, mistaking him for the PCF of the province asked him where the ordinandi was? You can guess Xavier’sanswer (David Roy).

A Tribute to Rev.Fr.Willam Paul Macwan

A Tribute to Rev.Fr.Willaim Paul macwan

Fr. William Paul was ‘pritipatr’ means to say ‘worthy of love of all’, wrote to me my companion Sunil. That Fr. William was loved by all and he loved all. He was loved by his companions and people which was very much visible at his funeral and at the prayer service who came to pay him homage. His love for nature, music, art, dance, poetry, photography, sports, and scouts in young days was flowing during his ministry as a priest. He went about helping people.Once a catechist master told me an incident about Fr. William. They went to a village to celebrate mass. And Fr. William began his visits to the families. He came across a house. The people of the street told him, “Father, the man in there, is suffering from T.B. Don’t go in.” Fr. William went in and saw him in a very bad health, he said, “How can you leave this man to die this way?” He immediately took the man in a jeep himself as none came forward to touch the man. He dressed the man and took him to the hospital. The vehicle that day he had taken to the village, did not belong to the Fathers. He had to listen to the scolding for taking the T.B. patient in that jeep to the hospital. This did not stop him from doing the good work he began. This was his zeal to work for the poor and needy of our villages.Fr. William Paul had been always on a move. He made sure to visit each and every house in the villages he went. He took so many photos of others but we couldn't find a good snap to print as bookmarks to distribute at his prayer service.When I joined the novitiate he came to see me at home and told me three things and continued to tell me every year. Pray always, don’t miss the prayer. Be committed to the work you are doing, and Don’t get into backbiting and criticizing others, you do your work don’t worry about what others are doing, saying. These tips have helped me through out my formation. As I hear from his companions he too, put these words in practice.On his birthday he told me “By the grace of God a lot of work has been done and good work. God will give me the strength to go through this pain.” “ Praise the Lord and God bless you” were often the words of his greetings.

From the blog http://alpeshjmacsj.blogspot.com

Fr.Alpesh Macwan

Wednesday, October 14, 2009

THE YOUNG PRIESTS MEET AT XTI - SEVASI

THE YOUNG PRIESTS MEET AT XTI - SEVASI:

On 14th October '09 , the feast day of the martyr John Ogilvie SJ, the young priests came together at XTI, Sevasi, to share their experiences. Frs. Snehal, Nagin and Alpesh were present for the meeting with Fr. Lawrence Dharmaraj. The sharing brought out the three aspects of our lives, prayer, ministry and community. We had an opportunity to take part in the Diwali celebration of XTI and talk to students and staff. Fr. Snehal gave a Diwali message – victory of light over the darkness, inviting each student to be a lamp which gives light to the world. It was a meaningful day spent together.

Fr.Alpesh Macwan

Tuesday, October 6, 2009

My Magis Moment!

video

My Magis Moment!
I would like to share my experience where I made use of the opportunity to live 'my Magis Moment' while pursuing master’s degree in science in the year 1981 at Ahmedabad. Even today as I recall, I feel once again a sense of gratitude to God, people, companions in the Society, and Superiors at various stages of formation, for having allowed me to live 'my Magis moment'.
At the time of my studies (Master’s degree in Science), I preferred to reside with the workers of our various educational institutions at Hill Nagar. There were about 30 families sheltered at Hill Nagar – Ahmedabad.( now it is called Sughadpanth where the present prenovitate exists). I preferred that setup to stay and to pursue my post graduate studies to remind myself that my commitment to the study of post graduation was for the sake of the dispreviledged people of Gujarat.

While I was pursuing my studies, I also offered tuition classes for the children of the employees of our educational institution residing at Hill Nagar. The poor families needed some economic help too, with the help of the St.Xavier’s social service institution (with the help of Fr.Erviti), we could run a self employment program of Quilt cover making. Over 30 women benefited from this program. Along with master’s degree in science, I also got the opportunity to deepen the knowledge of Gujarati. That was 'my Magis moment' in the year 1981. Though today these families are resettled in various locations in the city of Ahmedabad, they fondly and reverentially remember those past events and express their deep gratitude for the help offered to their children's education and for organizing a self employment program for the women.

Fr.Lawrence Dharmaraj s.j

Monday, October 5, 2009

Reconciliation with creation!

video

Reconciliation with Creation!

Care of the environment affects the quality of our relationships with God, with other human beings, and with creation itself. It touches the core our faith in and love for God,"from whom we come and towards whom we are journeying". It might be said that St.Ignatius teaches us this care of the environment in the principle and foundation when speaking of the goodness of creation, as well as in the Contemplatio ad Amorem when describing the active presence of God within creation.

G.C 35:3.32

Sunday, September 20, 2009

FROM AFGHANISTAN WITH LOVE

·FROM AFGHANISTAN WITH LOVE.

I am fine here. How about you? These days I continue to go to the school and to the orphanage. In the school, I take classes for class 4th, 5th and 7th standards. It's difficult to teach without knowing the local language, but it is a joyful experience at the end. Furthermore, I take English class for the girls and the boys of the returnee . So whole of the morning hours are packed with around 6 to 7-hour teachings. I m enjoying my stay and the little work I do here. This is the week of id here, so we have holidays. The election results are not yet out and now and then there is some trouble .However, we are safe. There are many well wishers around.
Life in the community is too good and the best thing we enjoy being , being in the community and cooking on Fridays when the cook is given leave. You may find the country is unstable but from here I don't see the way it is projected. The work of the school where I go is almost getting over. Almost 40 lakhs are being spent for 100 children, but we still hope to get many new families coming in the township. That’s all here. The days go on. There is a very little difference in the activities. We cannot do much because of the security measures. So we have to restrict to something that we do regularly.
From Afghanistan

Sandesh.G

Thursday, September 17, 2009

Incarnational Approach to Theologizing

Incarnational approach to theologizing.
During the second year of my theological formation I tried utmost to theologize from the point of view of incarnational approach. I tried to make use of the week-end ministry in Sanand mission for that purpose. Besides having the week-end ministry, we were offered to spend a week long village exposure to learn contextual theologizing. I grabbed this opportunity to try my incarnational approach to theologizing in Sanand mission. The spirit was high but the body was weak, and I could not complete a week long stay in a village called Meital in the Sanand mission. However, with a renewed spirit I expressed my deep desire to the Dean of the theology Fr.Francis Parmar about my plan to do theology in the village setup and cover the topics of missiology and ecclessiology in the context of a mission village. I took Fr. Mangalam, a misssiologist and then the parish priest of Sanand as my guide and hence began my stay in the village, in the first week of our Diwali holidays.
Methodology:
There were three activities that characterized my initial stages of the contextualized theologizing.
1.Diary writing: At the end of each day, I used to spend an hour jotting down my observations related to the topics that I had planned with my guide.
2.Theoretical input: A continual theoretical input was made available through private reading, done in consultation with my guide.
3.Week-end meetings: Every week-end I would meet my guide to sort out things, to integrate what I was going through, to look at the theological perspectives and implications of the experience. Besides I would meet Fr.Darrel to nurture my spiritual life and look at my psychological growth.
Involvement:
I then felt the need to learn their customs, to learn their attitudes, to enter their world-view so to say, to enter their frame of reference – in short to identify with them as much as possible and in doing so knock of the spectacles of my frame of reference. I saw the ecological imbalance in the village – it being a year of severe drought, I saw plenty of dead cattle. Reflecting on this, I realized that man is in continuity with the creation. Man is no isolated being and the whole of creation is an extension of man and man is an integral part of it. If a part of creation is destroyed, man is maligned in the process. I saw a lot of waste land there and reflecting on this, I realized that perhaps ‘forestation’ was required.

A group comprised of mixed casts, having a special inclusion of people from the lowest rung of the society with the Koli Patels was formed with the help of the Behavioural Science centre Ahmedabad. Rural SEWA- a self-help women group who was working in the near by village too started approaching the government with the similar objective ‘Forestation’. The Mamladar of Dholka who had the power to allot the waste land for the forestation program, decided to award the waste land to the SEWA group. At the end I had to terminate the little initiative with a reluctant heart. However, a mixed cast inter-village cricket tournament met with a huge success. There were about ten youth teams with mixed casts participated in the tournament. Though it was a small initiative in the contextual learning and involvement during my theological studies in 1988, it made an indelible mark in my memory and my spirituality.
Fr.Lawrence Dharmaraj s.j

Monday, August 31, 2009

Sn(eh)ake Jyoti _Sevasi Baroda.

Sn(eh)ake Jyoti
The surrounding of Sneh Jyoti is blessed with greenery in abundance. Full-grown Chickoo trees, a variety of plants, flower plants, banana trees and vegetable garden adds beauty to Sneh Jyoti. Thanks to the eco-friendly people who are the cause of this environment. Along with a few visitors, animals too envy the gorgeous premise of Sneh Jyoti. Foxes, stray dogs, wild cats, hares, birds and a variety of snakes are frequent trespassers. The inmates tolerate any creature except the cobras. Under somewhat trying circumstances our Sch Sunil Macwan faced a cobra last week with considerable presence of mind. The snake in question, totally unaware of the altruistic intentions and ecological concerns of Sunil, did not take too kindly to his attempt to relocate it in a better environment and made known its displeasure in no uncertain terms by a nasty bite. Sunil took the bite in a true spirit of indifference and sent the offending party to his eternal reward. Sunil was rushed to the hospital where he was kept under constant observation for 24 hours in the ICU. He is back with us and has made it clear that his love for snakes remains undiminished in spite of this minor set-back. (Sebastian V& Harry Martis).

Monday, August 17, 2009

The celebration of the feast of St.Ignatius in the Pre-novitiate.


THE FEAST OF ST.IGNATIUS. Jagdishkumar.G
Introduction.
Each and every person is a supreme gift of God. All are gifted with unique talents. Some are good in singing and others are good in playing. Some have the ability to speak very well while some others are good in drawing, dancing, music etc.. Similarly St.Ignatius too had a special gift from God – the gift of finding God in all things and persons.
Preparation for the Feast.
Prior to the feast, we had novena prayers to St.Ignatius. By the grace of novena prayers, I regained my confidence in my vocation. Besides saying the novena prayers I used to pray at night before going to sleep. I prayed for my good health and thanked the Lord for my vocation to the pre-novitiate.
Mass.
The feast day mass was celebrated by Fr.Cedric Prakash. He gave us a good sermon. In the sermon he talked about the life of St.Ignatius. The mass was very meaningful to us. All sang very well. Finally we sang the Ignatian march at the end of the mass and we greeted each other.
Hymns.
We sang hymns in different languages, Gujarati, Tamil, Malayalam, Marathi, Hindi and in English. It was a great joy to sing in different languages. We sang those hymns wonderfully. Moreover we prayed in our own mother tongues and that made us to feel at home.
Skit and Quiz.
We were all divided into three groups. Each group had six members in it. Everyone participated in the skit as well as in the quiz. The quiz was on the life of St.Ignatius and on the life of the missionaries in Gujarat. Through this event I gained much knowledge about the life of St.Ignatius and about the life of the missionaries in Gujarat.
The new learning.
I have been celebrating the feast of St.Ignatius of Loyola since 1996. But this time I learned more about the life of St.Ignatius and his spirituality. He was not only a leader and guide some 500 years ago, but he is a leader and guide for me today. He converted St.Francis Xavier by uttering the words of Jesus “What does it profit a man if he gains the whole world and looses his soul”. It made an impact on the life of St.Francis Xavier. These words of Jesus are resounding in my ears even today. They are challenging me to deeper conversion of heart. Over all it was a memorable feast.

Pawer Jagdishkumar G
Second Year pre-novice.

Wednesday, August 12, 2009

The feast of St.Ignatius -Brijesh Parmar


THE FEAST OF ST.IGNASTIUS
INTRODUCTION:
Each and every Jesuit celebrates the feast of St. Ignatius on the 31 st of July. We pre novices also celebrated the feast of St.Ignatius on the31st July. We had many games on this feast. We prepared skits, and some others made posters. We were divided into three groups. It was a great experience for me to do works in groups.

PRAYER:
We had a novena to St.Ignatius and it was conducted well. I liked the novena. Everyday we prayed to the Lord through St. Ignatius. During the novena we had readings form the life of St. Ignatius. We reflected over those reading and it was a great experience for me.

MASS:
On the31st of July we had mass in the morning.Fr.Cedric Prakash gave us a good sermon. During the mass he explained to us about the four noble qualities of St.Ignatiu by the use of an acronym ‘FIRE’. F stands for fidelity, I stands for intellect, R stands for renewal and E stands for energy. These four qualities were explained to us very well.

POSTERS:
We have good painters in our pre novitiate. They drew good pictures on the life of St. Ignatius of Loyola. They were all encouraged by our director.

HYMNS:
The pre novices are from seven different states. We learnt songs in seven different languages. In the beginning we felt a little awkward to pronounce but later on we managed to learn and we sang beautifully. It was a marvelous experience.

PRESENTATION:
We the second years took classes on the life of St. Ignatius and on the Society of Jesus in Gujarat to our new comers .This helped us to know more deeply about the life of St.Ignatius and the Society of Jesus in Gujarat.


REFLECTION:
St.Ignatius might have lost the battle at Pamplona but he never lost courage and he won a great victory for God by becoming a true soldier of God. Through the team work I also learnt many things from one another for my daily life. Unity can be built only by the teamwork. More over the team work helped us to accept each other. In short the feast day of St.Ignatius on the 31st July was a memorable one for me.
By. Brijesh Basilbhai Parmar.
2nd year pre- novice.





Saturday, August 8, 2009

A.M.D.G - All for the greater glory of God


A.M.D.G - ALL FOR THE GREATER GLORY OF GOD
Joy is a gift from God .Often we are not aware of the gift which the great Lord is sharing with us .I asked for strength, but the Lord gave me difficulties to make me strong. I asked for wisdom, but the Lord gave me problems to solve. I asked for prosperity, but the Lord gave me intellect to bring about prosperity. I asked for courage, but the Lord gave me dangers to over come. I asked for love, but the Lord gave me troubled people live with. I asked for favors, but the Lord gave me opportunities. I received nothing which I asked for yet I gained everything I needed.

If we compare these words with Ignatius’ life, he might have prayed or desired to be a great man that he wanted to become such as a general of an army and so on. Did he get the life which he really wanted? No. God wanted him to be a great general in his kingdom, by placing Ignatius as his servant and companion of Jesus. He then helped Francis Xavier to become a missionary of the East by uttering these words “What does it profit a man if he gains the whole world but loosen his very soul.” He realized the worthlessness of this world and worked for Christ who gave the everlasting wealth of joy and love. Ignatius was a fire that kindled the other fires. As a soldier he encouraged others even in difficult times and he continued doing so by being a soldier of Christ and finally he founded the Society of Jesus .The motto of the Society of Jesus is, “A. M. D .G”- “All for the grater glory of God”.

As I have come to know the life of Ignatius, I ask myself a question, could I also aspire to imitate the virtues which he had? The grace that I have experienced during these days of novena to saint Ignatius, has left an indelible mark in my life. The feast of St.Ignatius helped me to experience a sense of belonging to the Society of Jesus and it has gently challenged my relationship to Jesus.

Am I growing in my relationship with the Lord? Do my attitudes & behaviors help me to be a servant of God? Ignatius could find his relationship with God not only in specific times reserved for formal prayers but also every other minutes of the day. His mind and heart was so full of the love of God which helped him to be a good servant of God. So I hope and pray that I too may grow in virtues and become a fire that kindles the other fires.

Jose Francis Varickamakkil

The celebration of the feast of St.Ignatius in the Pre-Novitiate.


The feast of St. Ignatius.
Introduction
There are so many saints in our catholic church whom we honor. Among them, there is only one who is known as a soldier to fight for God. He is known as St .Ignatius of Loyola. He is not only a model for us to imitate but he is also a help to discern and understand our own personal vocation. I want to share my experience with you about the way I went about preparing myself to celebrate the feast of St. Ignatius in the pre-novitiate.

The preparation for the feast
There were many activities organized for the feast of St. Ignatius; skit, quiz, games, hymns in different languages and team work. We were all told about St. Ignatius’ life and also about the Society of Jesus. This helped us to know and understand the Jesuits more. I was amazed to know about his spirituality. Besides this we had an hour long classes for four days to know more about the life of St. Ignatius.

Group work
We were divided into three groups. Each group was told to put up a skit on St. Ignatius’s life. There was fun and happiness to act and to perform in a group. Every one had a role to play. It was very interesting to see the variety of presentations. We had invited some of our fathers, sisters, and friends. Every one was delighted to see the performance on the stage. We used a whip, a cannon ball, a crucifix, a small statue of Mother Mary and a paper-sword as props to enhance our presentation.

Individual work and Games.
We had prepared special prayers for the novena days. This made us to deepen our faith very deeply. We played all kinds of games, such as Basket ball, Table tennis, Ohno, Carrom, Chess and cards. We enjoyed a lot while playing. The finals were held on the feast day. We won many prizes.

Prayer and Mass.
Some of the thoughts of St. Ignatius lead us to pray and reflect very deeply. Every one offered their special prayers and intentions on the feast day mass. It was nice to pray in different languages. The feast day mass was offered by Fr. Cedric. He gave us four important messages. Those were fidelity, intellectual life, renewal, and energy. The chapel was filled with our companions and well wishers.

Paintings.
Each group had a chance to paint a picture of St. Ignatius. Then they were all displayed on the notice board. Later on those pictures were displayed in the Loyola Church on Sunday. The pictures looked alive and real. Everyone was thrilled to see their own presentation.

Presentations to the First Years.
I had a chance to explain about St. Ignatius’ life to my first year companions. This presentation helped me to come to know more about St. Ignatius and the Jesuits working across the globe.

Hymns in different languages
Pre-Novices are from seven states and we decided to sing in seven different languages as a sign of unity in diversity. Everything was done well and it was well- organized. Everyone was interested in working, acting, singing, helping and sharing with each other. Each team gave their best in their undertakings. On account of this the feast of St. Ignatius was well-celebrated.

Conclusion
During the feast days I also renewed God’ call within me. Ignatian insights helped me to understand God’ call. Through the novena prayers God worked in me too. The feast of St. Ignatius was an unforgettable experience for me and for my companions. Now we can understand how Ignatius and his companions, though they were from different countries yet bonded together as a single community to work for the Lord and for his people.

Lawrence Irudaya raj A
Pre- novitiate.

Friday, July 31, 2009

My understanding of God--Navneet Parmar

MY UNDERSTANDING OF GOD IN VARIOUS STAGES OF MY LIFE
Introduction.

The initiation into Christianity through baptism was not just putting me into the fold but the introduction to God, when my mind was not capable of comprehending even the ontological aspect of myself.No sooner did I become capable of grasping the things or persons around then the various idols of gods were thrashed into me. Having their pros and cons, these idols have influenced my lifestyle a lot. Hence I will delve into my past and present to bring out how my understanding of Gpd has evolved.

Hulky God

When I was 3 or 4 years of age, my parents taught me not only to join hands and close the eyes and thus nurturing the seed of faith but also God who was like a hulk, huge in form dwelling beyond the sky. Here, unconsciously or unintentionally I was introduced to god for whom we were just tiny creatures. God, who was beyond my reach. Hence whenever I joined the hands or closed the eyes I could not create any fatherly image rather an image of a giant before whom I was standing like an ant.

Magician God

When I was more or less 5 or 6 years of age, I came across God who captivated my little mind and left me marveled and amazed.In my catechism classes too I was taught that God created everything. God said, “let there be and it was.” Just like the magician who lifted his hat and lo behold there was a rabbit out of nothing.The creation story, story of Abraham and Isaac, story of Moses etc motivated me to join the classes on the regular basis. Here God became answer for everything that was in the universe. HE became most powerful and almighty. HE was the only creator and hence the gods of people of other faiths were false. They were not gods.Slowly the understanding transformed into such a strong belief that I thought; only Christians worshiped true God.

Policeman God

As I started my schooling, during the same period of time I was introduced to the policeman god or the watchman god. Who kept constant watch over me, so that I never do anything wrong. And if I did I would be punished.To certain extent it helped me to be a good boy. Especially to be away from stealing, telling lies, speaking ill of someone. This concept had certain moral and ethical influences on me. At the same time I had developed fear for if I had done something wrong which was not pleasing to Him then I would be punished. By this time I had also developed the concept of heaven and hell. Hence I would be sent to hell if I had broken the 10 commandments.

Racist God

As I grew and became more mature boy, my understanding of salvation became rigid. I do not quite distinctly remember how I developed the understanding that only Christians would get salvation. On the Day of Judgment all the others would be doomed for they did not recognize the only savior; they have been worshiping false gods and idols. I would be saved for I was a Christian chosen by God.

The dhobi and Paracetamol

GodWhen I reached to my teenage, the understanding of loving and caring God did developed. Nevertheless the image of prodigal father had great impact on me. My god was a forgiving God hence I did not have to worry for whatever I did, HE would surely forgive me. HE would wash away my sins and make me as white as snow. HE would not allow me to be a strayed. If I did so HE would bring me back and accept me.Another image I developed was that God was always there to help me out in my difficulties and troubles. Hence I would run to Him whenever I had problem. HE would work a miracle and do away with it. When there was no problem I did not require him. In my happy time neither I disturbed Him not HE would poke his nose. So God became like paracetamol tablet when I had headache I would take it and my pain disappeared.

God of all

When I came to high secondary school, I had privilege to have friends from all major religions, Hinduism, Jainism, Islam and Sikhism. These friends had contributed a lot to change my images of racist god to God of all. Though I did not know much about theses religions except the names of Gods and Holy Scriptures, all I knew for sure was that God was and is one. He loved/loves everyone equally irrespective of cast creed and colour. Neither I nor they had any problem sitting with each other and having food and water. We participated in religious festivals and at times in the rituals.Thus I came to realization of indiscriminating God who manifested himself in different ways according to the different cultures.

God working trough Agents

Earlier I used to question God for all the havoc, upheaval, chaos that was in the world. Today I have realized that it’s me who has to work for peace and harmony.God has unique ways to call each one of us for different tasks. It was my working with Gurjarvani [centre for communication] on a vocation movie, where I heard God calling me to be his instrument among the poor people of south Gujarat. I had gone to south Gujarat to give some shots. There I came across the tribal and their challenging lives. They were totally unjustly treated and deprived of basic human rights. I saw God working there trough some committed and dedicated Jesuits for the empowerment and well being of the tribal. I really saw God slogging and laboring for the just and equal society.God is not just for the reach people but also found dwelling with those who required the basic necessity for a good dignified life. Hence I felt the urge within, God calling me to labour with him.

Friendly God

After joining the society the concept of God changed drastically. Now HE did not remain dwelling outside but within me. HE became a friend who was always with me in all the circumstances whether I was happy or sad. The sharing did not remain one way traffic rather it became reciprocal. The desire for mutual companionship is fulfilled in HIM and perhaps a common bond of love. In HIM I find freedom of choice, accountability, truth and forgiveness. This friendship becomes tactual in the Eucharist when I receive the Holy Communion.God manifests his love to me through all people and to people through me. Today God has become part and parcel of my life.

Conclusion

After coming to JDV and attending the classes my understanding has not changed but my faith in God is been purified and has become more strong. Even today God remains loving, caring and friendly to me. Specially learning the different idols I realized that how I had been worshiping them. The course on the Indian religion has helped me to broaden my understanding of different religion and appreciate the richness of each one of them. Simultaneously it has helped me to understand my religion in much better way.I do not necessitate any proofs to believe in God nevertheless reason does play a role. The God I believe in his very much active in each one of us and not passive, God who loves every human being equally. God who is unique thence likes to manifest himself in unique ways to all of us.To conclude, god is love and we all are embodiment of love. Therefore God manifests himself through all of us when we love each other. When we love each other we become fully human and fully alive.

PARMAR NAVNEET

Wednesday, July 29, 2009

News From Afghanistan


Activity Report of Sohadat Township
The primary objective of the Jesuit Refugee Service (JRS) is to accompany, serve and advocate the cause of the refugees and the displaced people. Keeping in mind this ideology, JRS Herat stepped in when other NGOs and a few of the returnees were stepping out of Sohadat. In its journey in Afghanistan, JRS Herat was called upon to take up the ‘failed project’ of the Sohadat Township to render quality humanitarian service to its inhabitants. The main focus of our involvement in this place is on education, health and livelihood programs. Prior to the arrival of the JRS, the people, who had already settled in the township and the people who had occupied the land but were yet to start staying in the township were in a dilemma about the future of their children as there was no school around the locality. The people were afraid that if they got settled in the Sohadat Township, they would have to put an end to the education of their children. Taking into consideration all these facts and the objective of the JRS, the education programme in the Sohadat Township was initiated along with the decision to provide infrastructure for the school.
Inauguration
On 1st of April 2009, the school was inaugurated in the presence of the Director of the Education Department of Herat and representatives of DoRR, and UNHCR, and other distinguished guests from various government departments and non-governmental organizations. Thanks in millions to Fr. Maria Joseph SJ for organizing this function.
The regular time-table and activities
The pages of knowledge started opening in each classroom, soon after the inauguration ceremony. The classes begin with the morning assembly during which the students and the teachers pray for God’s blessings on them and sing the national anthem. In addition to this the students have some exercises during their assembly. The students are made to take the initiative to conduct the assembly. There are 7 periods for them during a day and the week is completed when six working days are over.
Teachers, students and the activities in the school
In its belief that the community resources are the best resources, it was decided to employ candidates from the township itself as the teachers in the school. Accordingly we asked for applications. But while scrutinizing the applications and later at the time of the interview, it was found that not a single applicant had studied beyond class 8. Having no other alternative, announcement was made about the vacancy for teachers in the Sohadat Township. There were number of applications. We invited all the applicants for a workshop on teacher training. During this training program, besides imparting to them certain basic teaching skills, we also introduced them to the triple mission of the JRS. At the conclusion of this program, we selected sufficient number of candidates who had proper understanding of the subjects and basic teaching skills, and also showed interest in JRS’s triple mission. Only those who had finished their class 12 were considered. In addition, all the candidates had to be returnees. Fr. Jimmy got them interviewed and Fr. Maria Joseph got the teachers to undergo further training under the guidance of Ms. Zahara and Tahere. The four days of training and personal interaction helped me to locate the interest of the applicants and appoint them for this academic year, with three months of probation period. The teachers who were appointed are mainly from the city. On every working day, they are taken to the township in a vehicle hired by the JRS.
The number of the students at the beginning of the school was just 55. The academic level of the students and their learning capacity were considerably poor. Though HELP, an INGO working in the Sohadat Township, had organized some classes for the children, it lacked an academic approach.
The school started with the classes 1, 2, 4 and 5. Later we introduced class 7 also with the students mainly coming from the neighboring villages and a student from the township itself. The reason for the addition of the new class was due to the demand from the neighboring villages.
The school has some special programmes such as knitting and tailoring. The Common Programme (CP) every Wednesday provides the students with an opportunity to exhibit their talents in writing, singing, public speaking, acting etc. It is also an occasion for the teachers to give their feed back to the students about their overall performance in the areas of discipline, study and so on. The discipline in the school has improved considerably as the days have gone by. There are in all 117 students in the school and 29 in Shakiban High school.

The number of students kept on increasing for little more than a month since the families kept on migrating from the city to the township. Besides these, another 29 students (girls 16, boys 13) are studying in Shakiban high school. The vehicle hired by the JRS takes the boys to Shakiban in the morning. In the afternoon, it takes the girls to the school and brings the boys back to the township. We very much appreciate the services of HELP which sends its own vehicle to bring the high school girls back to the township in the evening.
There are in all six teachers: 2 male and 4 female. The qualification of the teachers is very low. Five of them have just completed their 12th Std. and the sixth one is a local teacher who is doing her 10th class. She is a mother of two children. In addition to the teaching staff we have a program assistant and two co-workers: a male and a female. The school is affiliated to Mansurali school, Shakiban, which is 12 kms. Away from the Sohadat township. There is regular monitoring of the school by the observation department of Shakiban. The officials of the Mansur Ali School, Shakiban too come to the township for the monitoring of the school.
Administration and functioning
Afghanistan is in the process of building up an appropriate system of education. Though Ministry of Education has outlined standard educational polices through the support of international community, the implementing local government departments are yet to reconcile with the new approaches. This is the biggest hurdle with regard to the administration in the system of education which does not allow any creative and need based education for the students belonging to different age groups. In class one of our Township school, there are students in the age group of 5 to 14. There is regular monitoring by the Shakiban School to which the township school is affiliated and they try to force many of the things upon the school under the label of education department. The education director of Zindajan district makes occasional visits to the school and makes demands which are not proper to his office. The focus of the education director does not seem to have the vision for the holistic development of the students.
Though there is a lack of employment opportunities all over the country and the government salary is very low, still we find few takers for the opportunity to be employed in Sohadat in spite of higher salary and daily transport facility. City parents feel very insecure to send their daughters to such a ‘far-away-distance’ and men like to work as part timers and demand very high salary even when they lack the required professional qualification.
The examination system in the school meets the basic requirements of the ministry of the education i.e. 2 exams in a year which is mid-term and final exam. But in addition to this the administration of the school is having additional exams for the students (internal assessments). The administration is still reviving the system for the evaluation of the student. Also, there is an open day for the school when the parents come to the school to see for themselves the progress of their children. The statement of the marks too will the part of the evaluation process.
The teachers and the students are regularly monitored. They are given feedback about their performance and these feedbacks, which pave the way for their improvement, are much appreciated by the staff
The school has constituted a school committee, which consists of the representatives of the people of the township. It discusses number of issues with regard to the school and the children. They are the link between the school and the people of the community.
The response of the parents is very positive. They are happy with the progress their children have made in various areas. There is a mixed feeling about educating the girls. There are families who have started sending their girls to the schools but some do not. Some parents are not in favour of having coeducation too.
The security is a major issue in the township, since there have been few cases of kidnapping and killing by the Taliban in the neighboring locality. IRC has wound up its activities and HELP’s activities come to a standstill when there is a security problem. JRS continues to put up its brave face and carries out its commitment in the interest of the nation and the people.
The JRS staff welcomes Fr. James Augustine S.J., the program director and Sch. Sandesh. Fr. James and Sandesh joined the team on April 23 and June 21, 2009 respectively. Though a lack of proficiency in the local language prevents them from interacting with the children and staff, their heart language has won many twinkling stars. Sandesh has started English classes for the high school students and more than 50 of them attend the classes. Girls attend the classes before they go to school and boys attend on their return from the school. Another 20 boys will be joining his classes from the neighboring villages. Leaving in HIS hands, hope this place would turn out to be a centre of learning and a bridge to build up relationship between all sects and sections of the society. Sandesh is busy in setting up the school office and keeping records up to date. We wish them all the best in their initiatives to make this school one of the learning centres and a model Jesuit School in Afghanistan.

Infrastructure:
As the number of students keep increasing, the existing facility is no longer sufficient and safe. A small corner of the corridor serves as the staff room and the store room. There is no space available to arrange any extra- curricular activities and safeguard the office documents.
The children in the neighboring villages (Old Taghi Naghi, Sanga Bast, Sharifabad, Desurkh) are also deprived of Schools. The village elders repeatedly request us to arrange transport for their children or to conduct classes in their villages as well. The lack of space prevents us from admitting children from the surrounding villages into the Sohadat School, or to organize vocational skills-training for the returnee children/community. With the support of UNHCR and BPRM, the JRS started the construction of a school building with four classroom and two extra rooms for the staff. The proposed budget is USD 40585 of which UNHCR is contributing USD 18,169 worth construction materials, and BPRM USD 20, 000. JRS will provide for the balance amount from the contribution it received from IRC. The entire building is constructed by using the skills of the community and each family takes pride in their contribution to the school.
Health center
The Health program that had started in the month of November 2008, had to be stopped until an MoU is signed between JRS and Public Health Department of Herat. In the month of May the MoU is signed but we are not able to start this program because of the lack of space. The medical Clinic requires a minimum of two rooms, one for the Doctor and the other for the Pharmacy. The construction of a two-room clinic is going on along with that of the school building, and on its completion, the health sub centre will be inaugurated.
Livelihood programme
Tapping the skills and talents of the returnees, coordinating with Government Departments like DoRR, and collaborating with other agencies (HELP, IRC, BPRM, UNHCR, WDOA), the JRS strives to rebuild community life and livelihood of the returnees through an integrated community development program. The JRS made a complete survey of all the houses, meeting all the members of the family in their own shelters to find out about the various skills they are equipped with. It was truly a very pleasant surprise for all of us involved in the survey to come to know that many of them are actually skilled in various ways. There are expert welders, tailors, masons and carpenters. There are women who are expert beauticians. But what they lack are the tools and equipments necessary to put those skills into practice and start something of their own in the township. Then there are the farmers who are interested in getting fowls, goats and sheep to start some form of income generating activity.
For creating a favourable environment for the reintegration of the returnees and strengthening of the available skills of the community JRS approached CRS for the support. On July 21, 2009, it has credited USD 6000 to carry out this program and already 6 families have benefitted from this program. Another 33 families will be getting goats or sheep this week. With our support, the township has a meat shop, welding shop, gas shop and masons with complete set of masonry tools. If the expenditure is more than the JRS support of USD 120, the receiver adds up his/her money to make this program successful. JRS team in Herat believes that this is a small step in the process leading to the creation of a sense of self reliance in the community.
The overall intervention of JRS has ignited hope in the hearts of community. The two powerful symbols, light and knowledge, through electricity support last year and now education, have established strong bond between us. The community feels the JRS team is committed to their welfare and dreams their dreams. The informal friendly interaction has helped the JRS team to communicate the kingdom values and inspire them. Educating parents and community elders, creating an interest in female education, cultivating an attitude of sharing, inspiring the community to work hand in hand and building up a good relationship with the neighboring villages are the challenges ahead.
Jerome Sequeira SJ
Program Director – Herat