Ending the Year of Faith in S. Gujarat
To the sound of ALLELUIAS rising like a benign mushroom cloud into the atmosphere of
South Gujarat, the Year of Faith came to a glorious
end. People of many faiths or no faith gathered in the thousands packing the
large, colourful tent designed to accommodate ten thousand devotees.
The star of the celebration was undoubtedly Fr Anil Dev whose faith in and love for the Word of God gave life, joy and vibrancy to the occasion. He is the charismatic head of Matrudham Ashram in
where thousands, mostly Hindus, gather every week-end to listen to the Word of
God free from the complexities of ritual and Canon law. (Watch him on U Tube or
the TV channel ZeeJagran). He was ably supported by a team of lay preachers
while a group of lay men and women prayed night and day out of sight in the
chapel for the gift of the Spirit for preachers and faithful all through the
South Gujarat Catholics were well represented: devotees from 23 of 24 mission centres, from Jhalod in the North to Borpada in the South, made it to the festival of faith. Distance did not deter Bishop Godfrey and the Jesuit Provincial Changa from attending it. Accomodation was provided in the hostels of the school, and Mahila Mandal halls for those who stayed overnight. A community kitchen on the grounds of
run by the Christian
Brothers provided meals, tea and snacks for those who attended the sessions.
Snehdhara Hostel and Dispensary were constantly alert to the needs of the
participants. Jagruti H. School
Credit for the obvious success of the function goes to the members of the Parish Council of Mandal and their parish priest, Frs Kishore and Francis D’Sa who met every month for a year to plan the event. They had the generous help and experience of Fr James Vaz who had earlier staged the opening of the Year of Faith in Dadhwada. Those who had it generously lent their expertise to the different kinds of tasks that had to be done. It was heartening to see the enthusiasm and joyous spirit with which the lay leaders, men and women, went about the tasks they had planned and taken responsibility for with a minimum of supervision but with great joy and spirit.
Fr Francis D’Sa prepared a brand new choir of boys and girls and a group of altar servers that included girls in smart uniforms just for the occasion.. Fr Jelastin used his expertise in Charismatic preaching, prayer and singing to prepare the parish for the event with retreats in the villages and filled in for the main preacher during breaks.
Some of the usual measurements of success of a mass meeting do not apply to a Bible Convention: attendance figures and cash totals. Shared experiences after the Convention revealed the presence of unusual levels of joy, peace, kindness, sharing, and cooperation among the leaders and volunteers and the almost total absence of competition, in-fighting, envy and jealousy. It’s what made running such a large Convention child’s play and convinced the volunteers of the powerful presence of the Spirit at the Convention.
An offshoot of the event was the interest of the missionaries of South Gujarat in the missionary methods of the Ashram in
so well adapted to the culture and genius of the nation. Fr Anil has
agreed to return in the very near future to train the missionaries and lay
leaders of South Gujarat in the approach he
has developed. He stressed the importance of breaking the Word of God for the
continued development of the faith of the people. (Vally de Souza)