Thursday, December 17, 2009


It dawned bright and clear on Monday 14 December and once again we joined the eucharistic celebration of the community in Silchar. We had a sumptuous breakfast with the community and left for Shillong by 9 am. The first part of the journey was what we were anticipating with foreboding, for we would have to traverse the same dirt track that had horrified us on the first day. After negotiating the rest of the road which was not too good we arrived by 10:30 am at Kalani and then moved onwards slowly towards the border of Meghalaya. The daytime crossing proved to be a mite easier than expected. But truth to tell the sorry excuse for a road seemed interminable. One also wonders how such roads can continue to exist in this day and age, where roadmaking has taken giant strides of progress. One only wonders at the governmental ineptitude that allows roads to deteriorate to this condition.

Once the dirt track was over the going proved to be very easy even though it was a climbing path we were on. The kilometers flew by and by 1 pm we found ourselves once more at the outskirts of Klehriat. We decided to dine at a small restaurant just outside the campus, since we had not been able to inform the community of our arrival. The food was delicious and we also had some time to meet the confreres and to freshen up for the last lap of the journey.

Leaving Klehriat at 3 pm we continued our journey passing the infamous Ladrymbai - a shanty town that has sprung up overnight along the road with very poor facilities of hygiene and a worn out road. From there it was quick time to Jowai where the traffic was intense. The light was fading and the line of trucks going on our way was interminable but Ajay was able to maneuver skillfully and by 6 pm we entered Shillong. Of course the evening traffic made further progress difficult and we reached SHTC only at 6:45 pm. It was the end of our trip - hectic, enjoyable and safe. We raised our minds and hearts to God in gratitude for taking us on the long journey without any major hurdles and for returning us safely home without too many aches and pains.

Wednesday, December 16, 2009


D-DAY arrived on Sunday 13 December. After an early wake up and a quick breakfast we made our way to Seling where the ordination was to be held. Our journey which began at 7:15 am came to an end an hour and a half later. The road was smooth and the going easy. Actually Aizawl is not very far from Seling. It is just the next hill but the time of travel is all about descending from one hill and climbing up the next. When we arrived hectic preparations were on to get the last-minute arrangements into place. We had a chance to take a quick peek at the work done by the SDBs especially the school and the church. The ordination ceremony began at 10:30 am and it has been described earlier. After the mass we had time to greet some old friends - SDBs and other religious before moving to the parish house for a quick festive lunch.

By 1:30 pm we were ready to travel again, this time retracing our steps on our homeward journey. Fr. John Zosiama stayed behind for various pastoral services that he will render in his native land. He will also spend some time with his loved ones before returning to SHTC in late January. We had two new travelling companions - Srs. Nildalin and Janicia - both FMAs travelling to their convent in Vairengte. We had a brief stopover for tea at Peace Home where we also picked up some quilts for our community.

By 4 pm we began the descent. This time the going was fast and by 7:45 pm we had covered the journey to Vairengte. Sr. Celestine Thyrniang fma awaited us with a lovely supper to replenish our tired bodies. She was also happy to see her two community members - they had provided some very interesting company for the first leg of the journey. After supper we continued towards our final destination for the day - Don Bosco Silchar.

Leaving Vairengte at 9 pm we arrived at Silchar at about 10:45 pm where Fr. Sebastian Palatty - the Rector and Headmaster awaited us with the keys to our rooms and we needed just a few minutes to bathe and retire into dreamland.

Tuesday, December 15, 2009


We rose early on Saturday 12 December to join the Silchar community for the eucharist at 7 am. The prayerful and devout participation of the hostelites (boys and girls) led us to think that they were all Christians, and it was only at the time of receving communion that we realised only a few of them were Catholics. Soon after breakfast we took a walk around the campus visiting the school and the technical institute and admiring the work being done in this corner of India.

By 9:15 am it was time to hit the road again and to begin our climb into Mizoram. The last part of the Assam road is still being done up - a four-lane highway is in the pipeline, which means the current state of the road is far from satisfactory. In an hour we found ourselves climbing into Mizoram. One of the unique features of the state is that houses are built along the road - often with very little other free space available. This also means that the road is the centre of business, the playground, the place for socializing etc. Drivers beware! The drive was cool and pleasant, the road till Kolasib was smooth in general.

We halted for lunch at Kolasib by about 1 pm. Most of the town had gathered in the centre to welcome and felicitate 3 wrestlers from the area who had won laurels in recent competitions. So security was tight and we heard the program begin with a prayer - not surprising if one remembers that Mizoram is one of the states with the highest percentage of Christians in India. One young man belted out with amazing talent "We are the Champions" ala Freddie Mercury from Queen. Well we had to tear ourselves away from the function for the road beckoned us onwards. The section from Kolasib to Aizawl was rough in parts and the last 20 kms were on a very narrow and winding road. It called for the driver's utmost concentration.

Starting at about 2 pm we reached the outskirts of Aizawl by about 4:30 pm and our first stop was at the home of the sisters of Fr. John Zosiama. We were welcomed by a cup of hot tea and met some of the other family members of Fr. John. We then drove on into the city of Aizawl and took in the various sights ending our tour at the Cathedral - a beautifully constructed Church, with taste and artistic value.

Finally we drove back to Durtalang where we turned into "Peace Home" - a centre for women who seek detoxification from addictions - belonging to the MSMHC sisters. We were welcomed by Sr. Rose Pythei and her team. After a quick wash we sat down to an enjoyable supper. After supper and a long chat with the sisters we retired to our room for the night. Our beds were made with quilts and blankets for unlike Silchar, Aizawl and its environs get pretty cold at night. After a long chat with Fr. Mattachan who had also come in for the ordination we hit the sack.

Monday, December 14, 2009


Just back from a tiring but enjoyable trip to Mizoram - one of the easternmost states of India. We were there to witness the priestly ordination of our SHTC student Deacon Dominic Thuan. A goodly crowd of about 1000 people had gathered to participate in the service which was presided over by Bishop Stephen Rotluanga of Aizawl. The service was held in Mizo and moved smoothly. It was a touching ceremony with moments of deep significance like the prostration of the deacon for the litany of the saints and the silent laying on of hands by the bishop followed by all the concelebrating priests. After the service there was a felicitation program for the newly ordained priest.

Well the journey to and fro was pretty eventful - and we did it in 4 days...albeit with many stops and at a leisurely pace. We began from SHTC on Friday 11 December morning - the original group consisted of Fr. George Maliekal - Rector of SHTC, Fr. John Zosiama - Registrar of SHTC, Ms. Blandina Lamare - a friend and collaborator in Salesian work in Shillong and yours truly. Of course not to be forgotten was our driver Ajay Tirkey. The first leg was through the Khasi hills into the Jaintia hills. We passed through the town of Jowai - part of the coal belt that has grown phenomenally rich due to the 'black gold' that is being mined constantly with all the repercussions that this entails. We paused for a solemn lunch at the Don Bosco centre in Khleriat. The Salesians here run a parish, a couple of schools and other youth activities. In the pipeline is a mini-stadium that is being completed. The MSMHC sisters are close collaborators in the work. Frs. John Mathew, Marius and Kenny were on hand to welcome us and treat us to lunch prepared with much care. We took a look round the campus and soon bid goodbye to our kind hosts and get back on the road.

At 2:30 pm we were moving on towards the border of Meghalaya and on into Assam towards the town of Silchar which was to be our night halt. The road was smooth and the going was good until we crossed into Assam at about 5:30 pm. Then began an ordeal that words cannot describe. The road seemed to vanish into a cloud of thick dust. By then the darkness was thick and the only thing that kept us going along that bouncy dirt track - which is officially part of the National Highway connecting Meghalaya with Mizoram and Tripura - was the procession of vehicles trudging relentlessly along the same path. This section seemed unending and at about 6:30 when the worst seemed over we paused for a tea halt. Unfortunately the place we chose served no tea just some 'chana'. So after the pause we took to the road again. This time the road was better but still very rough. Two level crossings also kept us from speeding to our destination.

Finally, at about 7:45 pm we sighted Silchar and our relief almost led us to miss the turning to our Don Bosco centre. Thanks to some very good lighting we sighted the centre and entered to enjoy the warm welcome of the confreres and the technical students who reside in the hostels. We were eager to get to the rooms prepared for us and to get the dirt, grime and most of all the memories of the torrid time we had endured out of our systems. By 8:30 pm we were in the refectory for a leisurely chat and supper with the confreres of the community - Frs. Sebastian Palatty, Ignatius Sangma and Br. Regi. They shared with us information about the centre and its activities - principally the school and technical institute. After supper we soon hit the sack and enjoyed the restful bliss of warm beds. It was a very consoling end to a day that had been fairly up and down.

Tuesday, December 8, 2009


We broke up for the winter vacation on 5 December. And our community has moved to different parts of India and some overseas too. It is time for winter camps, for mission experiences, for village visits, for time spent at home with family and friends.

Here in Shillong the mercury keeps dipping and what is more alarming is the level of ailments reported by the common man. Normally they say that winter is the healthiest time but this year things are not going too well.

Yesterday - Solemnity of the Immaculate Conception - many of us were present for the first religious profession of 15 MSMHC novices. What a beautiful ceremony and for many of us it was a time to recall our first steps in religious life as we rededicated ourselves to the mission we undertook years ago.

So happy Advent to all. We await his coming into our hearts and we prepare to welcome him in the poor, the suffering and the weak...He comes, He comes, He ever comes...

Thursday, November 19, 2009


Here are some recent pictures of the wedding of Janice and Nigel which I was fortunate to attend. Interestingly the symbol of the butterfly was chosen to highlight the need for a metamorphosis in marriage. Here is part of the "offertory prayer" explaining this symbolism:

"God our loving Father among the many wonders of your creation is the butterfly. The butterfly stands for pleasant change because of its metamorphosis from a less attractive, crawling caterpillar to a beautiful, soaring butterfly. It symbolizes the ending of one life for Nigel and Janice and the beginning of another. Nigel and Janice are essentially morphing in the same way that a butterfly does. Their single lives are over even as they remain individuals and together they are starting a new life. The butterfly also expresses the beauty of the eternal love and commitment that Nigel and Janice have pledged to each other."

Sunday, November 8, 2009


The time just flies by...

Just the month of November seen us enjoy fantastic music from the Rexband on All Saints Day...a massive crowd of about 15,000 were on hand for the show. It took place at Calvary - Shillong with the beautifully lit Cathedral in the foreground...On All Soul's Day we made our way to the cemetery for a very meaningful eucharist once more attended by a large crowd of people. This year the crowd was not as large - primarily because it coincided with a big football match pitting the local heroes "Lajong Sports Club" and "Salgaocar Goa"...To me the beautiful decoration of the graves was a very moving sight...And then the faith that brings so many to pray for loved ones who have passed on to the Lord...

We attended a big "Green Festival" on Friday (7 November) at which most of the schools from the city came together to speak for the environment and take pledges to preserve it. From the various presentations one could note a new awareness of the urgency to redress consumerism and work for ecological balance.

Tuesday, September 29, 2009


Every now and then I find myself hearing someone talk (a sermon or a conversation) but not listening. As a priest for some years now I have had the odd occasion when I truly felt like I was talking to deaf people during the homily. Most of them were people with perfect hearing but the absence of any will to listen.

But this Sunday I had a truly amazing experience. I concelebrated mass with 12 other priests for a group of about 60 children in a school for those with hearing and speech difficulties. I have never seen such an eager group of listeners. Some had their eyes glued to the celebrant's lips (as they lip read his words) and others concentrated totally on the sister who was "signing" the words of the liturgy. What rapt attention! What total concentration! When the time came to sing they belted out the songs with deep conviction many of them also signing the words with their hands.

And I prayed the Lord to open my ears to listen better to all the wonderful messages that I hear daily.

Monday, September 21, 2009


It quaked again - so what's new - it has been doing this frequently since I got here. For one thing, if this was the end for me it could not have come on a better day. I would have come into this world and gone out the same day just 48 years apart. But, I live to tell the tale, even as we remembered all those who lost their lives.

Here is one news report and it ends with a recap of the major quakes in the last two months...quite a list there...

Tremor rocks the north-east

GUWAHATI/KOKRAJHAR/SHILLONG/ITANAGAR: For a fifth time in 40 days, an earthquake rocked the North-East on Monday afternoon and claimed at least three lives in its epicentre, Bhutan.
Measuring 6.2 on the Richter Scale, this was the strongest of the nine tremors that rocked the region this year.

Bhutanese officials confirmed that three persons died at Mongar, about 180 km east of Thimpu, and five were injured. Sources said the victims were believed to be labourers from Assam's Baksa district. Some unofficial reports, however, put the toll at seven.

Kunjang Wangdi, the deputy commissioner of the Bhutanese district of Sarpang, said some of the victims were Indian workers and they died in the Gyalposhing area when a building collapsed. He, however, could not provide the exact toll. Bhutanese website Kuensel Online quoted government officials as saying that reports of damage poured in from eastern Dzongkhags.

In the northeastern region of India, Monday's tremor triggered a widespread panic across Assam with hundreds of people seen running out of their houses in sheer desperation, frantically looking for safer places.

According to the Borjhar-based Regional Meteorological Centre (RMC) in Guwahati, the earthquake occurred at 02.23 pm with an epicenter in Bhutan between 27.3? North latitude and 91.5 ? East longitude.

"This was the strongest quake in the North-East this year," RMC director D K Handique said.

Even as officials of the state disaster management department claimed no casualty or damage to property was reported, TOI found some highrises in Guwahati developing cracks. A seven-storey building in the city's Bhangagarh area tilted and touched another apartment. A witness said people staying in the two buildings ran out of their houses. "All 72 families staying in flats were scared," said a member of the apartment society.

Kamrup (Metro) deputy commissioner Prateek Hajela said he had got news about some buildings developing cracks and asked his officers to verify the reports. The lower Assam districts of Nalbari, Baksa, Kamrup and Kokrajhar bordering Bhutan were also jolted by the quake.

Hitesh Das, the deputy secretary of the state disaster management department, said they had verified reports from eights districts. "So far, no casualty was reported. We are awaiting reports from other districts. We have already put all district administrations on high alert," he said.

State revenue and disaster management minister Bhumidhar Barman has convened an emergent meeting on Tuesday to assess the situation.

Met officials in Shillong said there was no immediate report of any damage to life or property in Meghalaya. Tawang, the Buddhist monastery town in Arunachal Pradesh, too, experienced the quake for about seven seconds. Sources said there was no report of any damage.

Incidentally, the North-East is located in the seismically active Zone V, making the region one of the most quake-prone areas in the world. Assam had already experienced two high-intensity earthquakes one in 1897 and the other in 1950. The two tremors had triggered some topographical changes in Assam and changed the courses of a number of mighty rivers, including the Brahmaputra.

2009 Quakes

Sept 4: 21:08 am Indo-Myanmarese border M 5.9

Aug 31: 12:57:44 am Manipur-Nagaland region M 5.3

Aug 19: 4:15:15 pm Sonitpur M 4.9

Aug 11: 3:13:39 am Manipur M 5.6

Thursday, September 17, 2009


I was sent this story some time ago taken from Shiv Khera's bestseller You Can Win, and I shared it with the community today.

When I was in Toronto, I heard a story of two brothers. One was a drug addict and a drunk who frequently beat up his family. The other one was a very successful businessman who was respected in society and had a wonderful family.

Some people wanted to find out why two brothers from the same parents, brought up in the same environment, could be so different. The first one was asked, "How come you do what you do? You are a drug addict, a drunk, and you beat your family. What motivates you?" He said, "My father." They asked, "What about your father?" The reply was, "My father was a drug addict, a drunk and he beat his family. What do you expect me to be? That is what I am."

They went to the brother who was doing everything right and asked him the same question. "How come you are doing everything right? What is your source of motivation?" And guess what he said? "My father. When I was a little boy, I used to see my dad drunk and doing all the wrong things. I made up my mind that that is not what I wanted to be."

Both were deriving their strength and motivation from the same source, but one was using it positively and the other negatively.

(Shiv Khera, You Can Win, New Delhi: MacMillan India Ltd., 1998, 102-103)

In life we meet all kinds of people, some appreciate and help us grow modeling good values. Others put us down, cause us suffering, and are poor role models. What we become is not about them but about us. We can draw good from both types of people deciding the kind of people we want to become. The choice is ours and we cannot blame others for what we make of our lives.

Thursday, September 3, 2009


Much time has passed since the last posting. The class schedule is getting hectic. And then for a week I was away in Mumbai at a family reunion. It was great to spend time together with most of my family - all three living generations of it - after a long gap. Besides the good food and drink, we spent some quality time together. Each of us had chances to recount the good times, to evaluate things that had not gone the way we would have liked them to, and to receive counsel for the days ahead. Well as they say good advice is cheap - what really matters is putting some of that to good use.

The occasion was Dad's 80 birthday. Here are some pics posted by my cousin Roymario of the party we had.

Greetings and prayers to all...

Thursday, August 20, 2009


Guess what - we had another quake! It happened (Wednesday) exactly a week after the first at 4:15 in the evening. At first it seemed like some heavyweight was rushing down the corridor to my room. But, it was soon clear that this was another quake. This time I sat still in my chair and before I knew it all was back to normal again. My insertion is becoming a reality. No one else took serious note of the was taken in stride.

Wednesday, August 12, 2009


Early this morning at 3:18 am - to be precise - we had some "rock and roll"...not the harmonious musical kind - but the shake, rattle and roll of a small earthquake. At the time of writing we are still awaiting news of how strong the quake was and reports of damage if any. We are all safe but for those among us who had their first quake experience, you can tell that it was an 'unforgettable' experience.

So while we pray that all those injured will be restored to good health, we also pray for those who may have to bear the loss or destruction of property. The earth is still settling down and that is what causes earthquakes - we hope to be able to settle down without causing quakes.

Sunday, August 9, 2009


(Reflections on the readings of 19 Sunday in Ordinary Time)

As a young boy, I have indelible memories of a good lady - a family friend - who loved to sing a song called "Johnny Zero". It was the story of a boy who did not do too well in school and was nicknamed Johnny Zero. Well, with due encouragement he slowly turned his academic performance around and one day the teacher was proud to announce that "Johnny Zero had become Johnny Hero".
Reading through the experience of the prophet Elijah we could note a similar trajectory but in reverse. From being the great hero of Yahweh who had the courage to take on the prophets of Baal who enjoyed the patronage of Queen Jezebel, in this Sunday's pericope he is almost a zero - running from a band of assassins out to kill him. He is broken, discouraged and gives up. And it is Yahweh who sends him food and drink to strengthen him along his journey.
In today's Gospel we see Jesus present to us the Eucharist - His Body as food for nourishment. In the face of criticism and opposition - he is unfazed and goes on to present the meaning of Eucharist. The "Bread of Life" discourse is a message of hope. The reading suggests the bread of life, the Eucharist, as the breaf for the journey of faith as we journey up the mountain of God.
Our lives are very often roller-coaster rides - sometimes we are up and sometimes we are down and very often we are somewhere in between. Zeroes to Heroes thats the way it goes. But, what remains certain is that we have a loving God who cares for us and will not leave us alone. He comes to be with us.
God provides a mysterious food called manna for the Israelites in the desert. However, they were told not to stockpile the manna, but to gather only what they needed for one day. Jesus told his disciples not to worry about tomorrow. He said, when you pray to your heavenly Father, you are to say, “Give us this day our daily bread.” No matter how difficult life may be, for those who trust in God, and who live one day at a time, the manna falls every day. We are not told to pray: "Give us today our weekly rations," but "Give us this day our daily bread."
So in the face of problems and difficulties - the message is clear. Jesus is not necessarily going to remove those blocks and obstacles, but he is surely the one who is going to be with us, strengthening and nourishing us with the Bread of Life.

Friday, August 7, 2009


(D. Maria Gerald sdb)

The inauguration of the Academic year 2009-2010 of Sacred Heart Theological College, Shillong on 6 August 2009 commenced with the Eucharist at 8:30 am which was presided over by Most Rev. Dominic Jala sdb, Archbishop of Shillong. Among the concelebrants were Rev. Fr. Francesco Cereda, Salesian General Councillor for Formation, and the Salesian provincials of Guwahati, Kolkata, New Delhi and Dimapur. In his sermon, Archbishop Jala invited the students to an experience of God drawing a parallel to the Feast of the Transfiguration of Our Lord. He exhorted one and all - staff and students -to an experience of the transfigured Lord which would result in proclaimingHim to others. The mass was followed by a break for refreshments. By 10:15 am. all had taken their seats in the College Auditorium for the commencement of the Inaugural Function.

Among the highlights of this annual academic event was the keynote address delivered by Fr. Cereda entitled: "To Do and Study Theology after the Synod of Bishops on the Word of God". The ordinary General Assembly of the Synod of Bishops held at Rome from October 6-26, 2008 examined the theme of "The Word of God in the Life and Mission of the Church". It underscored the division that had crept in between exegesis and theology. Fr. Cereda indicated ways in which this could be remedied using the insights of Dei Verbum, establishing a new rapport between exegesis and theology, and through the practice of Lectio Divina. The presentation of the Academic Report took the audience down memory lane recalling salient events of the year gone by, while presenting the new avenues opening up in the year ahead. Each of the provincials present also had a chance to share their views on the college and indicate ways in which all could use the new year and its possibilities to grow in their faith and knowledge. The release of three books (two in English and one in Khasi) that have been authored by professors of the college was done by Archbishop Jala. The two in English are entitled: Salvatorians among the Khasis by Dr. Aloysius Hemrom sdb and Contextual Theology by Dr. Barnes Mawrie sdb.

The Academic Function was followed by time for the students to get acquainted with the program of the new semester and to elect their representatives. This year the college has about 130 students in the various programs it offers. They hail from different parts of India as well as from Myanmar and Sri Lanka. The faculty has 22 professors (of whom 12 are in residence) on the permanent teaching staff, with another 27 visiting professors. The year ahead holds great promise for growth in knowledge and holiness, two pillars of Christian life and ministry.

Wednesday, August 5, 2009


The worldwide celebrations on 4 August in honor of St. John Marie Vianney, the patron of priests took on added significance in Sacred Heart Theological College, Shillong where 52 clerics took another step in their proximate journey to the priesthood. At the solemn Feast Day eucharist presided over by Rev. Fr. Francesco Cereda, General Councillor for Formation, 26 brothers received the ministry of lector and another 26 were instituted into the ministry of acolyte. They hail from 9 of the 10 Indian provinces, from the vice- provinces of Myanmar and Sri Lanka, with a few belonging to some of the other congregations studying in the college.

In his homily, Fr. Cereda exhorted the young clerics to root themselves in the Word and the Eucharist in preparation for their priestly ministry. Cls. Pratap Damor and George Dabre from the Mumbai province were among those who received the ministry of lector.

This important celebration was preceded by the annual spiritual retreat animated by Fr. Tom Polackal, the Spiritual Father of the community, who led the students to reflect more deeply on their experience of God and their call to ministry. Our prayers continue for all these young men as they move forward in their vocational journey preparing themselves to be dedicated ministers in the Lord's vineyard.

Sunday, August 2, 2009


On a promising and sunny afternoon, it was an invitation I could not refuse - Come along and view some of the sights of the city of Shillong. So we set out to see among other things - Elephant Falls. A large cloud cover over the city did not deter us from making the trip. We had barely purchased our tickets for the visit and made our way into the parking lot when the heavens literally opened in a torrential downpour. After a patient wait of 45 minutes we decided that rainfall or not we were going to have a look at the falls. So with water falling all around us, we made our way carefully to the falls. Fortunately there were rather comfortable steps to descend and good safety railings.
So sheltered by our umbrellas we made our way down. What followed was some truly breathtaking sceneries. Here are a couple of pictures (taken from someone else's camera) - to give you a glimpse of what we saw. Our companions - two visitors from Italy - were left gaping at the beauty of the waters rushing down the moutains.

Suffice it to say that what we saw was worth the drenching we received in the bargain.

Thursday, July 30, 2009


After a couple of weeks of 'holiday time' atmosphere we are getting back to business. Actually there was no real holiday because when some went for their holiday ministry others were at their MA exams and right through July there was a Khasi course for the newly arrived brothers and a few others.

Now the gang is back - almost all of the 85 odd brothers and most of the staff. Truly there is never a dull day - today began the annual retreat animated by Fr. Tom Polackal - our in-house spiritual father. That assures us of 6 days of spiritual renewal in an atmosphere of silence and prayer.

In the meantime we have among others an interesting project happening in our campus (in truth this is just one of the many things on hand). Fr. Gravier Augustine, Fr. Nazarius Lakra sdb and Sr. Jancy SMI are with us as they team up to prepare Catechetical material for the students of the 10th, 11th and 12th Standards. They are convinced that the synergy created by their praying, studying and working together on the texts along with the availability of phenomenal library resources in our college will help them achieve their goals expeditiously. Add to that the serene ambience of a theologate and one can see that they have their priorities in place. We assure them of our prayers for the successful completion of this project.

Monday, July 13, 2009


This evening I was looking at Wikimapia to locate Shillong and my new community on the map. I intended to pinpoint my exact location for family and friends over the continents who would like to see the place where I now live. I was amazed at how easy it is to find one's location. In truth it is also just a wee bit frightening. All one needs is to look for another famous/familiar landmark nearby and then lo and behold one can trace the place one lives in.

I began with Savio Juniorate (already marked on Wikimapia) which is quite close and then slowly made my cyber journey to our house, discovering enroute that someone has already identified Sacred Heart Theological College. The map seems to be recent with the new annexe clearly visible.

So, this is one more step before I can post some recent pictures of the wonderful campus I am blessed to live in. Welcome to my world!!!

Thursday, July 9, 2009


Dear friends,

My long silences have become so common that you could be forgiven for thinking that this blog has now been discontinued. Well this time too I have the perfect excuse for the delay in posting.

I have been moving to a new location - to take up a new job and face new challenges. The old remains an indelible memory and yet one moves on to be enriched by the newness that life brings...

I now belong to a new community in a new province. Sacred Heart Theological College is situated in North East India in the state of Meghalaya (the land of the clouds). This community is part of the Salesian province of Gauhati.

Till there are pictures to post or ideas that coalesce for sharing check out the link in the previous paragraph. Here's assuring all of you that this blog will continue and hopefully be updated more regularly...

Wednesday, May 27, 2009


The last weeks have seen a string of deaths among people known to me...

  • On 15 May Fr. Maurice Figueiredo succumbed to his injuries sustained in a road accident in Goa...a tragic end for a dedicated catechist and pastor...
  • On 22 May it was Archie Braganza - the grand old man of our parish who went on to his heavenly reward after suffering much in the last few months...
  • On 23 May Marcus Brahmane - also a senior in our parish went home to the Lord... a good Christian who made many sacrifices for the education of his children...
  • Then yesterday we received the sad news of the death of Fr. Giuseppe Moja in Italy...a true son of Don Bosco - albeit 'tough as nails' and 'quick of tongue'...
  • Today it was the turn of the good lady Magdalene D'Souza(popularly known as "Maggie") from Nirmala Home who passed away...a quiet soul who served faithfully and without too much of a fuss...
All of them are sorely missed....

The Easter Season is as good a time if any to recall that for Christians death is not the end but the beginning of a new and everlasting life...

Eternal rest grant to all these good people Lord and may your light shine upon them and all of us...May we know your true peace!!!

Tuesday, May 12, 2009


It has been sometime since the last post and once again tragedy seems to make the pen move.

I received news a couple of days ago that a good friend has been diagnosed with cancer. She says she knew it was coming, but with the load of other responsibilities just kept putting off the visit to the doctor. Well now her worst fears have been confirmed.

I would like to share with all the readers of this blog her words - some of the most beautiful I have heard in a long time inspired by Mark 4:35-41. She will I hope pardon my use of them, realizing that they can bring solace to many in pain whose faith does not pre-empt worry, anger, frustration and depression. She writes:

"Having the Lord in the boat does not give us the guarantee that storms will not come our way. The only thing we know for certain is that He will get up from his sleep before we sink. The problem for me is that I don't want Him to sleep even for a second!"

So don't be too upset if in facing the problems of life your faith does not seem powerful enough to remove anxiety and worry. You, too perhaps wish that He does not sleep even for a second on His watch.

Good news - He never sleeps.

Sunday, April 26, 2009


Here are a couple of pictures of the farewell mass celebrated for Fr. Vincent Vaz in the Divyadaan chapel a few hours after his demise last Sunday 19 April, a little before his mortal remains were transferred to Mumbai for burial...

Sunday, April 19, 2009


With a heavy heart we carry the sad news of the sudden passing of our dear Fr. Vincent Vaz. Like a good son of Don Bosco - he died working. He celebrated mass this morning for the inmates of the Nirmala Home and then returned to the community. He was last seen quietly praying his breviary. Br. Sredny took him his regular glass of juice and then left. At lunch time he did not show up and then when he would not respond to the knocks on the door, Fr. Savio and other confreres forced the door open only to find him slumped in the washroom. He had passed away sometime earlier.

After his body had been prepared, a requeim mass was celebrated in the Divyadaan chapel by Fr. Savio the rector of Divyadaan and other priests of the campus. Many religious and parishioners turned up at short notice to bid a fond and tearful farewell to Fr. Vincent who had been confessor, confidante, professor and many other things to all present at the eucharist.

We will miss him - his uprightness and discipline, his pastoral availability and his total dedication to work and study. We are sure he has entered into the eternal peace of the Divine Master whom he so joyously and zealously served in his 74 years of life, 58 years of profession, and 45 years of ordination. May his soul rest in peace.

Saturday, April 4, 2009


The last few days have not been among the best ones I have lived. Two days ago I was called to the bedside of a parishioner - Theresa - who is now in the terminal stages of cancer. She thought she had conquered the big, bad 'C' with chemo and radiation but 'C' returned and is now gradually taking control of her body. Theresa is a fighter and many of us who know her are certain that she is not going without a fight. Yet, it is so sad to see her body wasting away.

She told me that she was not afraid to die - and her voice had deep conviction when she said it soon after she had received the Sacrament of Anointing and the Viaticum. But, she is sad and terrified at leaving behind her young son - Vivek - who is 10 and her doting husband - Valerian. She kept repeating to all of us present - "Take care of my Vivek and my Valerian."

Yesterday she was moved to a hospice for the terminally ill where I am told she is at peace with some top-class palliative care. She is relaxed and peaceful, feeling much better and stronger. But we know it is a matter of time.

Questions keep cropping up - the regular kind that afflicts the human mind when faced with innocent suffering and premature death. "WHY LORD?"

For now there are no answers - we can just live the questions...and in the meantime here is a beautiful poem that was sent to me...Yes, He who walks on water can calm the stormy seas of our life. Amen.

Tuesday, March 24, 2009


Today marks 19 years to the day God was gracious to share the gift of the priesthood with me. It is both a humbling and exhilarating moment. I feel humbled by what the Lord has been able to do inspite of my unworthiness and weakness. I also feel thrilled that I have been blessed in so many ways as I share the gifts God had given me to serve his people. And here is my all-time favorite poem on the priesthood: "The Beautiful Hands of a Priest"

We need them in life's early morning,
We need them again at its close;
We feel their warm clasp of true friendship,
We seek it while tasting life's woes.

When we come to this world we are sinful,

The greatest as well as the least.
And the hands that make us pure as angels
Are the beautiful hands of a priest.

At the altar each day we behold them,

And the hands of a king on his throne
Are not equal to them in their greatness
Their dignity stands alone.

For there in the stillness of morning

Ere the sun has emerged from the east,
There God rests between the pure fingers
Of the beautiful hands of a priest.

When we are tempted and wander

To pathways of shame and sin
'Tis the hand of a priest that absolve us.
Not once but again and again.

And when we are taking life's partner

Other hands may prepare us a feast
But the hands that will bless and unite us,
Are the beautiful hands of a priest.

God bless them and keep them all holy,

For the Host which their fingers caress,
What can a poor sinner do better
Than to ask Him who chose them to bless

When the death dews on our lids are falling,
May our courage and strength be increased
By seeing raised o'er us in blessing
The beautiful hands of a priest.

Monday, March 16, 2009


Some days ago I was reading about a very tragic case that occurred in Brazil. A young nine-year old girl who had been repeatedly raped by her step-father, was found pregnant with twins. The doctors judging that carrying the pregnancy to term would almost certainly jeopardize the life of the child-mother, performed an abortion. On hearing of this the Archbishop of Olinda and Recife, Jose Cardoso Sobrinho was quick to point out to the automatic excommunication incurred by the doctors and the mother. His tone came across as harsh, unfeeling and legalistic. Something did not ring true about this approach but there was no gainsaying its orthodoxy. While deep within myself I felt very uncomfortable. I just could not put my finger on the reasons.

Then yesterday I read something that brought home the reason for my discomfort, and made me feel a little less alone (I was in some very esteemed company when I felt unhappy with Archbishop Sobrinho’s reaction). Here are the views on this issue of Archbishop Rino Fisichella, President of the Pontifical Academy for Life. He took a personal approach. The girl “in the first place should have been defended, hugged and held tenderly to help her feel that we were all on her side” he wrote in the Vatican newspaper, L'Osservatore Romano, March 15.

The perspective is clear and is the truly Christian approach. It reflects the words of Jesus: “Be ye merciful as thy Father in heaven is merciful.” Would that my entire approach to life and people is marked by this same mercy and compassion, and especially when it concerns the weak and the helpless, who feel condemned already and have no need to be consigned to some deeper abyss of denigration.

Lord make us all merciful and compassionate!!!

Thursday, March 12, 2009


(I received this in an e-mail today and wish to share it with all who read this blog...)

Try this 3-minute retreat as you sit before your computer will certainly help you have a better day...
Happy Lent!!!

Wednesday, March 11, 2009


(Reflections on the scripture readings of Wednesday in the Second Week of Lent)

Jer. 18,18-20
Mt 20,17-28

I was reflecting on today's Gospel where Jesus warns his disciples to expect mockery, ridicule and persecution when they proclaim the Good News. In the first reading - Jeremiah is lamenting similar happenings in his life. This brought to mind instances in the recent past when the same seems to take place with disheartening regularity. We have the persecution of persons in our own land - India - whose only crime is to work for the upliftment of their needy brothers and sisters. They are opposed by fascist forces who do not want any selfless service for the underpriviledged or the downtrodden. When the message is not palatable the easiest way out is to "shoot the messenger".

But here is a personal experience that turned out positively. I was once asked by a relative to communicate a rather unpalatable truth to his father. This was the cause of much heartburn and pain in the life of the family. Well, living 2,000 kms away this seemed a rather easy task. Needless to say it was not so. Once the truth was told in as charitable a manner as possible, the recipient went into typical "attack is the best form of defence" mode. I was at the receiving end of some choice epithets maligning my vocation and intentions. Well, that was the last I wanted to hear of this case and the good news was that I lived far from the said family. But a couple of months later I received a letter from family thanking me profusely for my intervention. In the course of time, my relative had begun to take the suggestion seriously and work on his behaviour making himself less obnoxious and more a pleasure to live with.

So when they mock and ridicule and persecute you for telling the truth just remember that always the message gets home: a bit later from our perspective but in God's perfect time.

Saturday, February 21, 2009


Parents and well-wishers of Don Bosco School Nashik gathered to witness the 14th Annual Day of the school on 20 February 2009. The program was replete with the trademark dance, drama and song that have come to characterise this annual event.

The Chief Guest for the evening was Mr. Nitin Upasani, the Secretary of the SSC and HSC Board (Nashik Division), a person who combines exquisitely a vision for education with excellent administrative skills. In his keynote address he shared with the parents some insightful words on educating children in the current socio-cultural milieu. "Giving their dreams wings is more important than getting them to live your unfulfilled dreams," he said. He also pointed out lacunae in our current education system and noted the need for a more mature use of the mass media among the younger generation. The school annual report was an eye-opener to many of the parents for it highlighted the accomplishments of the students in the curricular and co-curricular fields with some of the more intrepid among them receiving recognition at the national and international level. Mrs. Manjula Upasani did the honours of awarding the prizes and certificates to the successful students of the last academic year. The various items portrayed the cultural diversity of India threatened as it is by the divisive forces of corruption and communalism. A strong patriotic message was also delivered - as a fitting response to the recent terrorist attack in Mumbai in 26/11/2008.
They said it in words, they said it in rhyme, they said it in dance and they said it in mime. The bottom line was clear - with a vast collaborative effort involving teachers, parents and the budding stars - the sky is the limit. Dreams need wings but they also need a strong moral compass to ensure the journey reaches its true destination, and Don Bosco's vision provides just the right dose of each.

Saturday, February 14, 2009


As we reflected on the scripture readings of today (Sixth Sunday in Ordinary Time - Year B) - for me the theme that kept leaping out of the readings was "UNTOUCHABILITY". We in India have wide experience on what this means. We had a whole section of society considered "not touchable" for they had the power to contaminate and corrupt all that they touched. In the gospel of today - Jesus breaks the barriers that separate the touchable from the untouchable.

I remember this story narrated to us by the retired Archbishop of Bangalore - Alphonse Mathias - many years ago. While a student in Rome he was travelling with one of his priest companions (an African) by the local transport. Shockingly a lady on the bus (she was white) kept looking pointedly at the African priest - staring actually. This was rather disconcerting. The last straw was reached when she reached out and rubbed the skin of his hand, checking to see if the black colour rubbed off or was real. The priest had a good sense of humour and a good dose of self-esteem. As if by reflex, he reached out similarly and rubbed the face of the lady's baby checking if the white colour was real...or if it was just make-up.

How often our touch kills and destroys people - and by touch I mean not only the physical touch but all the ways in which we interact with others. If only each of us could use our 'touch' to build up and heal rather than to 'divide and kill'. Ample opportunities to break down the barriers of untouchability present themselves to us daily...if only we use them to break walls - then the healing of the leper by Jesus can become a paradigm for a world of love, of the healing touch, and joyful interaction.

(Image taken from The Change Blog)

Wednesday, January 28, 2009


If you have felt this way after seeing a powerpoint presentation - you are not alone...
I was reading an interesting piece on the web about making powerpoint presentations more effective and would like to share it with all of you...Here is the kernel....

In his recent book, Clear and to the Point, Stephen Kosslyn explains that the four rules of PowerPoint are: The Goldilocks Rule, The Rudolph Rule, The Rule of Four, and the Birds of a Feather Rule. Here's how they work.

The Goldilocks Rule refers to presenting the "just right" amount of data. Never include more information than your audience needs in a visual image. As an example, Kosslyn showed two graphs of real estate prices over time. One included ten different numbers, one for each year. The other included two numbers: a peak price, and the current price. For the purposes of a presentation about today's prices relative to peak price, those numbers were the only ones necessary.

The Rudolph Rule refers to simple ways you can make information stand out and guide your audience to important details — the way Rudolph the reindeer's red nose stood out from the other reindeers' and led them. If you're presenting a piece of relevant data in a list, why not make the data of interest a different color from the list? Or circle it in red? "The human brain is a difference detector," Kosslyn noted. The eye is immediately drawn to any object that looks different in an image, whether that's due to color, size, or separation from a group. He showed us a pizza with one piece pulled out slightly, noting that our eyes would immediately go to the piece that was pulled out (which was true). Even small differences guide your audience to what's important.

The Rule of Four is a simple but powerful tool that grows out of the fact that the brain can generally hold only four pieces of visual information simultaneously. So don't ever present your audience with more than four things at once. This is a really important piece of information for people who tend to pack their PowerPoint slides with dense reams of data. Never give more than four pieces of information at once. It's not that people can't think beyond four ideas — it's that when we take in the visual information on a slide we start to get overwhelmed when we reach four items.

The Birds of a Feather Rule is another good rule for how to organize information when you want to show things in groups. "We think of things in groups when they look similar or in proximity to each other," Kosslyn pointed out. Translation into PowerPoint? If you want to indicate to your audience that five things belong in a group, make them similar by giving them the same color or shape. Or group them very close together. This sounds basic, but it often means taking your data apart and reorganizing it. Kosslyn's co-panelist, Stanford psychologist
Barbara Tversky, explained that one of the fundamental principles of data visualization is, ironically, misrepresentation in order to get at the truth.
Even these goofy names for each rule of PowerPoint follow a principle from cognitive science: it's always easier to remember an unfamiliar idea if it's named after something familiar.

the rest can be read at

Wednesday, January 21, 2009


While a day like Christmas is fixed in our minds and on the calendars on December 25, many of the important feasts of the Church year move, based upon the date that Easter is set. Easter changes each year moving to the Sunday after the "Paschal Full Moon," and can fall between March 22 and April 25.

In ancient times before calendars were common, most people did not know the dates for the upcoming Liturgical year. On Epiphany Sunday, the upcoming dates were "proclaimed" after the gospel in this way:

Dear brothers and sisters, the glory of the Lord has shone upon us, and shall ever be manifest among us, until the day of his return.

Through the rhythms of times and seasons let us celebrate the mysteries of salvation.

Let us recall the year's culmination, the Easter Triduum of the Lord: his last supper, his crucifixion, his burial, and his rising celebrated between the evening of April 9 and the evening of April 11, Easter Sunday being on April 12.

Each Easter -- as on each Sunday -- the Holy Church makes present the great and saving deed by which Christ has for ever conquered sin and death. From Easter are reckoned all the days we keep holy.

Ash Wednesday, the beginning of Lent, will occur on February 25.
The Ascension of the Lord will be commemorated on May 21.
Pentecost, joyful conclusion of the season of Easter, will be celebrated on May 31.

And, this year the First Sunday of Advent will be on November 29.

Likewise the pilgrim Church proclaims the passover of Christian the feasts of the holy Mother of God, in the feasts of the Apostles and Saints, and in the commemoration of the faithful departed.

To Jesus Christ, who was, who is, and who is to come, Lord of time and history, be endless praise, for ever and ever.


(Taken from the website of Collaborative Ministry)