July 2016 is both significant and historical for the Divine Providence Province in particular and for our Congregation in general because two of our Guanellian priests with open hands and hearts, will set foot in the Solomon Islands to be our pioneering Guanellian missionaries. Fr. Mathias Lourdusamy and Fr. Arockia Raj, both from India, heeded generously and courageously the invitation to stay, and not just to visit, and become bridges of love to a nation full of hope, beauty and gifts but not without struggles, predicaments and challenges. As religious missionaries, by vocation and mission, we are bridge-builders, bringing together in unity peoples of different origin, culture, mindset and race into the same family of God. We can do this in the measure that we are able to go out of our own comfort zones and enter into the world of others. Love is the name of bridges we build.
Our desire to be present in the Solomon Islands, is just but one of the several humble efforts that our Province would like to accomplish in faithful witness to the original wish of our founder, who pointed out clearly in the 1910 Regulations of Servants of Charity that: “the Institution can be providential for our time namely, by renewing the world with the fire of Charity and being an instrument to help spread Divine Charity throughout the world.”
We recently concluded our 12th Divine Providence Province Plenary Council Meeting and 2016 Assembly of Confreres in the United States and we have ended our meetings with renewed enthusiasm and joy in spreading the works of charity by looking more closely and creatively in engaging ourselves in new projects and “seeking out new poor and new needs for the less protected poor in our society.” (7th General Consultation)
Building bridges of love is what has also been consistently in the heart and mind of our Holy Father. With the theme “Love is our Mission,” Pope Francis’ visit to the United States last year encourages all of us to be missionaries of love: “I take this opportunity to thank all those, of whatever religion, who have sought to serve the God of peace by building cities of brotherly love, by caring for our neighbors in need, by defending the dignity of God’s gift of life in all its stages, by defending the cause of the poor and the immigrant. All too often, those most in need of our help are unable to be heard. You are their voice, and many of you have faithfully made their cry heard.” (Speech at Independence Mall, Philadelphia)
Let us continue to dream dreams and see visions. Let us make anew our commitment not to stop as long as there are poor to be assisted and distresses to be relieved. Let us never be tired of giving our best efforts in building bridges of love.
Fr. Soosai Rathinam
Sivagangai – St. Guanella Anbagam Special School decided to visit the cemeteries in the nearby villages during the month of November to pray for the departed souls in Purgatory each Friday. Kalluvalli cemetery was the destination on First Friday, November 6th. The Rosary was recited for the departed souls and blessings beseeched upon them. On November 13th the departed souls of the Pallithammam cemetery received the blessings from the Rosary that the good children recited. On November 20th the Rosary was recited at Anbagam for all the Holy Souls in Purgatory. This was a lesson in the Spiritual Works of Mercy for the good children; assisting the souls on their journey to heaven to see the face of God.
Manila – The postulants of the Servants of Charity: John Baptist Nguyen (Vietnam), Mark Lanuza (Legazpi), Jhonnel Aguilar (Cam. Norte) and Christian Magdaong (Daraga, Albay) had their exposure to the depressed area and leprosarium at Tala, Caloocan City. They stayed for almost a week with the poor families. During the day they worked in Dr. Jose Rodriguez Memorial Hospital with Hansen’s (leprosy) patients. Before immersing themselves with the patients they feared that they might contract the disease. They were given a brief orientation regarding Hansen’s disease. They were informed that it is no longer contagious unless the patient hasn’t been treated. Long-term exposure is necessary before contracting the disease from patients. Their fear was converted to the desire to serve the patients. They made the patients feel special. Nobody is left alone for everybody is somebody. The seminarians were able to become hands for those without them, feet to the paralyzed, eyes to the blind and ears to the deaf. They even shared their joy through singing, dancing, sharing experiences and praying.
During the night they went to their ‘foster parents.’ In just the few days of their stay with these poor families the seminarians were able to truly witness the poverty in which families live. They heard a many stories that helped them understand what it means to be poor. They realized rich people worry about the taste of the food while poor people worry if they will have something for their children to eat.
The families and the patients were filled with joy because of their presence; but the seminarians learned a lot that they will carry in their hearts and that cannot be measured by anything else. They were so grateful for the opportunity to go to the peripheries where the poor are; where Jesus is.
We have just begun the season of Advent which recalls to our memory the coming of Jesus Christ our Savior on Christmas Day. This is a time of hope and expectation for the coming of Christ. We follow the spectacular consequence of our consumerist tradition in shopping and in an external preparation. The mystery of the Incarnation has been reduced to decorations and we have lost sight of the true nature.
It is not only important to know that God became man but it is also quite interesting to learn what type of man he became. I have read in the latest arrival “In Love With Christ”, the secret of St. Francis of Assisi by Father Raniero Cantalamessa O.F.M.CAP, who is integrating the ontological vision of incarnation by describing from John’s Gospel “the word, being God, became man/flesh” and from Paul “Christ, though He was rich, became poor”. Today the humanity and poverty of Christ should be taken seriously in order to understand Christmas. Christmas and the poor cannot be separated. Jesus Christ came for the humble, the little ones, the suffering but this reality never reaches our hearts today.
Jesus came to this world to bring peace and fullness of life. But today catastrophic wars; bottomless cruelty due to extremism and particularly terrorist violence in the name of religion which take away innocent children; people in the war zone; and also false propaganda against life is a great threat for humanity! As religious and people of God, we are called to remain full of hope and to make a grateful remembrance of the recent past and thus open our doors to others. The Year of Consecrated Life speaks of “being in love, of true friendship, of profound communion”. Henceforth, let us take seriously our complexities of Christian living by “being alert and stay awake” to encounter the living Savior of flesh and blood.
Fr. Soosai Rathinam
Manila – Summer Enrichment Program(SEP) is part of the Servants of Charity and Guanella Center’s summer program for children through the educational assistance program. The objective of this SEP is to help the children review their lessons from school especially in subjects that they need to improve on or are having difficulty with like Math and English. Over the two week period they made great improvements in their vocabulary skills, spelling, and reading comprehension as well as in mathematics. They have also gained new friends and strengthened their rapport with their peers and teachers. The program began on April 9th with around 80 students at different levels and ages. The program ended on April 29th with a simple and meaningful ceremony. Some students performed songs and dances to entertain the guests and they all received a certificate and an award. The children enjoyed a simple snack after the presentations. It was truly a blessing to be part of the program helping to impart knowledge to children from poor families. I hope and pray that I would be again part of the team on the next Summer Enrichment Program.
Bangalore – The Novices of Guanella Preethi Nivas and their Master went to Thalavadi on a mission exposure for one week. The Guanellians at “Nazareth Illam” minister to mentally ill patients with some government aide. The sixty patients came from three different districts of Tamilnadu, where they were picked up from the streets, were unattended, violent and pathetic. The service of Guanellians to these inmates is praised by neighbors and anyone who visits, in fact they are ready to help provide for the needs of the center, because the priests commit themselves to serve them with immense love and live with them as one family. This mission has brought the identity of our institute to the lime light. The four novices were trained in how to serve them before interacting with the inmates; creating a bond with the inmates; some of whom then shared about their families, life stories and explained their journey to Nazareth Illam. Though the inmates do most of the works of the center, it was a time of joy for the novices to be with them, chatting, working, feeding and playing. The medical treatment, loving ambiance of the house, concern, love and care of the fathers cure them. Some of them even recover and return home
“We cannot stop serving as long as there are poor to be assisted and distresses to be relieved.” – St. Louis Guanella
Bangalore – December 7th was a special day for Guanella Preethi Nivas as it celebrated World Differently-Abled Day. Guanellian Lay Movement members planned and organized the event, coordinated 500 volunteers from different areas, transported many special people, led the cultural programs, and helped with the Liturgy and food.
On the day of celebration, brothers traveled to different institutions and brought the special people to our house. Around 850 special children came together to sit around the Altar of God. The Mass began at 10 a.m. and was presided over by Rev. Fr. Provincial Superior.
Following Mass, a cultural program was organized by the GLM, and our dignitaries provided gifts to our special people. Mr. U. T. Kadhar spoke and said, “Any power that comes from politics is only temporary, but it is the religious who serve the poor and have their title permanently because it comes from God.” Fr. Soosai Rathinam asked everyone to take special care of the differently-abled and explained how St. Guanella showed caring towards the good children. Sr. Victoria also wished the gathering well and compared her joy to that of St. Guanella in serving the poor.
Finally, the special people climbed on stage and performed dances, skits, and music. Lunch was served to everyone, and the volunteers provided food to the special children. After that, the special people were taken home to their institutions. GPN became a more grace-filled place because of this gathering of special children who brought special graces from God.
Cuddalore – Recalling these words of the Bible, the seminarians of St. Joseph Seminary worked hard to prove it. By the grace of God and His mercy, and much hard work the harvest was bountiful. On October 13th all the confreres contributed according to their capacity; joyful at receiving the fruits as a gift from God. Remembering the words of the Bible, “The laborer deserves his food,” these servants of God received rice for their needs. Because nothing is possible without Him who guides us in our daily lives, thanks is given to God through our prayer.
Madurai – The beginning of Guanellian missions in India is the Madurai Mission. On September 4th this year, a new mission for wandering, aged and mentally ill persons began. This house is called “GUANELLA KARUNAI ILLAM”. Things are going well at the center with seven people, brought in by car and bike, to care for. There are many more deserving poor people nearby who want to come to the center. St. Guanella’s dreams are coming true in India at Madurai. Please pray for this new mission.
Saigon – The government hospitals in Ho Chi Minh City do not have enough beds for people who are poor. In some hospitals two patients share a single bed. In one small room meant for five patients, there are more than ten. Most poor families cannot give adequate treatment to their beloved elderly. There are cases of families abandoning their beloved ones in the hospitals and the patient becomes an ‘orphan.’ Some of these people are brought to a center called ‘Nha Co,’ where the Servants of Charity serve on Sundays. Most of these patients are in their final stage of sickness and die very early; and some people survive for a long time; some even ask Br. Ngoc for Baptism. Br. Ngoc informs the priests and on Sundays baptism is given to people who desire it. Fr. Felicks calls this “Baptism on the Death Bed.” It is certainly a grace from God. An old man he recently baptized could hardly hear what was being said and did not respond during the baptism rituals. He only looked at Fr. Felicks with amazement and smiled a little. It was a moment of grace for him.