Silent Voice

        A/7  Rodrigues Compound, Malwani Village, Malad (W), Mumbai, 400095.   Contact No. 98707 19628
E mail:    silentvoice58@gmail.com
VM: 014/2012
25Th, July, 2012
Inner view of the Cathedral

Inner view of the Cathedral (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Hello Friends,
Church authorities in Archdiocese of Bombay are in the process of carrying out a mammoth exercise, to seek image makeover, called Archdiocesan Consultation. It is being debated by knowledgeable people from various fields, in the Examiner and other media. Your VOICE also tried a bit with small inputs to Archbishop Cardinal Oswald Gracias, through a letter attached below, which may apprise you of what SILENT VOICE thinks about it.
From the ongoing debate it is understood that the exercise has been embroiled in controversies.
WORKING COMMITTEE OF ARCHDIOCESAN CONSULTATION HAS ISSUED a booklet called STRATEGY PAPERS which lists eight areas, to PPC members, who are supposed to discuss them and elicit the views of Laity, Religious and Clergy.  The one area which attracted our attention is listed at no. 8, RELATIONSHIP WITH LAITY.  On going through it, we found nothing different from what is happening now. It emphasizes on Laity to be on various Church Committees so that the Laity can work for Church. Here again comes the same problem. The people in the committees will be considered as Laity by Church authorities, who could be just 5% of the total. The 95% of the SILENT MAJORITY will be ignored, as is the case at present. We do not consider ourselves qualified enough to comment or question Pastoral aspects of the Church. But we don’t see any role for Laity in Parish Administration, particularly in Property and Finances, which is a contentious issue for discontent between Clergy and Laity.  It seems the Clergy doesn’t want to share this responsibility with Laity.
In Paper 7, RELATIONSHIP WITH HIERARCHY, the Survey Highlight states at one point,(PG 59), that ‘ close to 75% members of PPC agreed that there was accountability in the financial management of the parish with only a minority of 9% saying there was no accountability in the financial system operating in the Parishes’.
This we find amusing. It is a well known fact that Property and finance matters are out of the purview of PPC. These matters are never discussed at PPC meeting. In short there is no transparency vis a vis Finances at Parish level and that is what SILENT VOICE is striving to bring in. Therefore, it would be interesting to know as to who are these members, who agree that there is accountability? And how could these questions be posed, to the interviewees?
Again in Paper 7, (PG 61) under heading, Conflict and Conflict resolution, following paragraph attracted our attention:     “When new ideas are shot down or scorned at by senior and experienced priests, other priests with creative ideas feel discouraged and fear sharing their views. This is detrimental for making progress. Therefore efforts must be made to create an atmosphere of trust and acceptance. Bishops must be able to draw out quiet priests to speak up and listen with patience and respect”. This statement brought instantly to our mind the incident at OUR LADY OF GOOD COUNSEL CHURCH, SION; where Parish Priest Fr. Leslie D’cunha was unethically transferred for discontinuing the parallel Parish that was being run in elite colony of Everard Nagar; with blessing of Hierarchy for around eighteen years. For doing so he invited wrath of higher ups. Similar are the stories about other members of Clergy, who in spite of being capable, are posted in insignificant places, for years together. Wherever posted, they carry out their duty sincerely, remembering their VOW OF LOYALTY TOWARDS OUR MOTHER CHURCH. Their Loyalty is misused by the Hierarchy for not towing their line, which is unfortunate and detrimental to unity of the Church.
We only hope that this is not an another attempt by Clergy to divert attention from real issues which are plaguing the Church Administration; and pray for the successes in real sense of this ARCHDIOCESAN CONSULTATION.
Follow the links to go to the media reports mentioned above.
P. S.:   The following letter addressed to Archbishop was also sent to the Editor of Examiner, the Community weekly for publishing. As usual it was never published.
Cedric Fernandes did not get any response from Archbishop, nor did SILENT VOICE.
           Voice  OF A  SILENT MAJORITY
Constituted Under Para 29 of Christifideles Laici
(Post Synodal Apostolic Exhortation of H. H. Late Pope John Paul II)
A/7, Rodrigues Compound, Malwani Village, Malad(W), Mumbai,400095. Contact no. 98707 19628.
E Mail:         silentvoice58@gmail.com
To,                                                                                                                                          21st, June, 2012
Most Rev. Cardinal Oswald Gracias
Archbishop of Bombay,
Sub:                Archdiocesan Consultation.
Your Eminence,
A recent article in Mumbai Mirror titled; Church seeks image makeover to make faith more relevant, was just like any other, on Church matters, to us. However, a letter from Cedric Fernandes, a Parishioner of I. C. Church, Borivali, to you and Dr. (Sr.) Mudita Sodder, RSCJ; in the Examiner of 9th June, under the title, Holistic Approach, Compelled us to have a second look at it.
In the first place, we ask; what is the reason for the Church to seek image makeover? Isn’t it an acceptance of the fact that Church has moved away from its people? And what are Church authorities trying to achieve from this mammoth exercise?
As Mr. Fernandes has said, this exercise has already been termed as a hog wash and we agree with him. There was so much confidentiality attached to the exercise that even the persons at Parish level had no answers to any question. The persons to answer the questionnaire were picked up at random, irrespective of their qualification, Capacity to understand and willingness to participate in this exercise.  Help was provided to people unable to answer, in the form of volunteers from PPC, who did the job for them. Fr. Larry Pereira’s Letter (Examiner: 16th, June) gives credence to our observation. Mr. Fernandes has aptly described situation at his parish and what is required off the Clergy, towards people, i. e. Laity.
Dr, (Sr.) Mudita Sodder has hit the nail on the spot. “We need to see if we are able to reach out to people the way WE want to, and check how we can reach them better if they have problems”- Fr. Gilbert D’lima. – “Why should we reach out to people the way WE want to? We need to reach out to people the way THEY want us to, or even expect us to and then we need to check how we can reach them in the best possible way. (“What do you want me to do for you?” asked Jesus and the blind man retorted, “I want to see”)”. – Sr. Mudita Sodder.
Your Eminence, this exercise, it seems, is to divert people’s attention from the miserably failed, similar attempt, which was started some years ago. We are referring to Small Christian Community (SCC). No we are not condemning it. It has its pros and con, like every such matter has. While it has brought Communities together, at least when they meet, during planned, enforced occasions; the divide between The Clergy and Laity has widened. Ordinary member of Laity is required to go through Animator and Coordinator, to reach the Parish Priest.  We know this statement will be contested; nevertheless, that is the truth. Recently, an exercise what carried out, with the instructions from hierarchy, it was announced. Priests from the Parish paid a flying visit to every family from Parish, which had mixed reaction from Parishioners. Some termed it as farce. The Parish Pastoral Council is comprised of Coordinators of SCC’s, whether they are fit to be, or not. Some of them start behaving, as if they are the Catholics of Superior Denomination, because they are closer to God, I. e. the Parish Priest. Well, the SCC was a good concept; however, it has been hijacked by some members of Church Hierarchy, to garner power for them. This is the feedback from some members of Clergy and it can be noticed, if observed minutely.
Your Eminence, Fr. Savio Fernandes, in response to the letter related to Lyndon D’silva’s interfaith marriage, has advised us,”In future, if people come to you with grievances against priests, please direct them to those priests or to their Parish Priest to sort out their problems – this is the Christian way. Rather than indulge in calumny, we should work to bring about a healing”. Your Eminence, Why would Parishioners approach a THIRD PARTY, as Fr. Savio has referred, for redresses of their grievances, if the parish authorities were sympathetic towards them?
Sr. Mudita has rightly stated, All they need is a listening ear and perhaps, marg darshan– spiritual direction, someone to reflect back to them what they are doing, or what is right or wrong”. To come closer to people, we don’t need these exercises. All is required is for the Clergy to change their ways while dealing with Laity. To us Laity means every practicing Catholic and not only the ones closer to Parish authorities. That is the situation at the moment, and also the perception of Laity at large.
Besides, Secrecy of Church administration, Vis a Vis Transparency in Property and Finance matters, is a biggest hurdle in Clergy Laity relationship. In this context we would like to repeat a question, which was asked to you during our last meeting. “Your Eminence, Do you think, all is well with Parish, just because no parishioner comes forward to complain about undesirable activities of parish authorities?” To which you replied, “NO”.
Your Eminence, it is a need of this hour that faith of the Laity is restored in Church administration. We do not wish to dictate to you, but leave it to your wisdom to do it. We are sure, if sincere efforts are made, it is not impossible.
Yours always, in our LORD JESUS CHRIST.
Attached:    1.         Media Report
                           2.         The Letter from Cedric Fernandes.(Addressed and mailed to you.)
                           3.         Sr. Mudita’s Letter. (Examiner 9th, June)
Copy to:         Cedric Fernandes, Parishioner, I. C. Church, Borivali.
                           Editor, The Examiner, to Carry in the forthcoming issue, in any form possible.
15th June 2012
H.E. Cardinal Oswald Gracias (private)
Your Eminence,
I refer to the reported article on the Blog “Silent Voice” and in the Mumbai Mirror page 8 dated the 8th instant, headlined “Church seeks image makeover to make the faith more relevant.
Strangely in an effort to make an image make-over to keep up with the times, the church had undertaken a mammoth survey to get to know the parishioners plight, and expectation and implement the same, is already being termed as hogwash, in terms of the churche’s projected justification, earnestness, care, and concern for its parishioners rather than vice verse.
Whilst Para four deals with a list of the eight areas that had been considered for change to be implemented and committees been formed, it is pertinent to note, and I’m sure you will agree from the reports and letters being handled by your office, there are more than 60% of the parishioners who would ensure to put Church Finance, Property and Parishioners Redressal, to head this list which is silently being kept out of the parishioners purview, and whose present &past committee consist of the same privileged few, passed on by the Church Trustees, in the have a Heart Parish Club.
Further many erstwhile parishioners who have opted to be part of the survey were denied participation, in favor of the unknowledgeable favored few.  Could the respective parishes display the names of those who conducted the survey?  Transparency and Accountability been blown away by the hierarchy lest white washed skeletons would be awakened??  My recent meeting with the Parish Priest of I.C. Church Borivali in response to my request as a parishioner to discuss several issues and grievances followed by my written response (Minutes), and my observation and recommendation thereof, has had a verbal response of disdain and termed as Unofficial and frivolous whilst inquiries on my credentials were questionable in the parish circles.
I would be hopeful if the finding would be put in public domain, which would make interesting reading for parishioners, rather than thought provoking talks and reflections on the faith which is the order of the day not forgetting the disdain and descent show to interfaith couples contemplating marriage.  Why was the great talk of building interfaith communities, when these priests blatantly flout their norms? What is the credibility of a Christian in the world around him, could we lead by example if the Pastors show their indifference?
The recent article on your meeting with “Silent Voice” which is on public domain, is a step in the right direction, and speaks in no uncertain terms your acceptance and acknowledgement to set things straight.  Parishioners are looking for Answers not Silence or Dictatorship, Community Building not Division. Unless the message “Do As I Tell You, But Don’t Do As I Do” is reversed there will be a dwindling of parishioners leaving the community that the Good Lord sacrificed to Save Mankind.
Yours in the Service of Jesus Christ
Cedric Fernandes
Cc:  Greg Pereira. Silent Voice (request follow up)
Holistic approach
Sir, With reference to the article, “Bombay Archdiocese to focus on laity relations” in UCAN India on May 29, 2012, I missed the words “and women religious” in Fr De Lima’s statement, “Once their report is prepared, the Church will seek more data from priests”. I am aware that women religious (nuns) are included in the laity of the Church. If the Archdiocese has asked Nirmala Niketan, a women’s institution, to reach out to the community for a feedback, cannot the same Church ask women religious also, who outnumber priests and are closer to humankind, and who have more, or at least equal data as priests, about the laity in the Archdiocese ?
Secondly, Fr. Gilbert (the Coordinator of the Working Committee of the Consultation to seek ways to improve the Archdiocese’s relations with laity) made a comment which needs a comment. He said, “We need to see if we are able to reach out to people the way WE want to, and check how we can reach them better if they have problems”. Why should we reach out to people the way WE want to? We need to reach out to people the way THEY want us to, or even expect us to and then we need to check how we can reach them in the best possible way. (“What do you want me to do for you?” asked Jesus and the blind man retorted, “I want to see”).
All they need is a listening ear and perhaps, marg darshan– spiritual direction, someone to reflect back to them what they are doing, or what is right or wrong. I am a through bred Bombayite, and I am proud of the Archdiocese of Bombay. Here’s wishing Archdiocese all the very best for the consultation to be held November 12-14.
DR. (Sr) Mudita Menona Sodder RSCJ, Bihar
Examiner dated, July 14th, 2012
Reaching out to the laity
Sir, ‘Consultation’ is about ‘what the laity and religious expect from the Church’. A suggestion: The clergy must ‘reach out’ to the laity in a ‘different way’. For instance, after the Mass, the celebrant usually takes time out to be with the faithful, reaching out to them. People usually greet the priest first and then a few strike up a conversation with him. But they are usually the same people. I would like to see the procedure turned the other way about, with the priest greeting the people first. It is necessary to identify and reach out to the neglected and lost sheep. Basically they are all good people, who feel neglected and nurse imaginary grievances. A warm hello followed by a nice little talk with them will dispel all their imaginary grievances and win them over to the main flock.
If more priests could take a break from their work and come out in the evenings to visit families, it would be even better. They can also help in distributing Holy Communion. People still feel privileged receiving Communion from the hands of a priest. Eucharistic ministers are only a necessary alternative. Giving Communion must always be seen as a special privilege and a sacred duty of the clergy.
Prof. Robert Castellino, Orlem.
Blog :  http://www.silentmaj.wordpress.com

1 Comment

  1. Silent Voice said,

    July 26, 2012 at 3:41 pm

    From: alphonso tao
    To: GREG PEREIRA ; Alphonso Tao
    Sent: Thursday, 26 July 2012 2:20 PM



    Sub: Please CONSIDER advising the Archdiocese of Bombay, to have quarterly meetings at its Deanery level and also at the Archdiocese level for the Parishes Church Property Committee and Parishes Church Finance committee.

    In Archdiocese of Bombay, all the Churches under its jurisdiction, its associations, Cells, committees, Movements, etc… meet every quarterly at its Deanery level and also at the Archdiocese level, BUT the Parish Church Property Committee and Parish Church Finance committee DO NOT meet so. Why is this discrepancy? Why no transparency for Church property committee and Finance committee?

    Let’s kindly consider having uniformity in administration for ALL the units of the Churches of the Archdiocese of Bombay .

    Regards & thanks,

    Tao Alphonso,

    Dear Alphonso Tao,
    It is a very good suggestion. Forwarding this matter to Archbishop for now. Will speak over this at length with you and chalk out a proposal for furnishing it to Archbishop.
    Thanks once again.


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