Isaac Gomes Asso. Editor

reports from Kolkata


Isaac GomesThe very eagerly awaited The Herald Catholic of the Year Honours Award event was held by the Archdiocesan Social Communications Commission (ASCC), Calcutta on Thursday 14th December 2017, at St Anthony’s School hall. The programme (5-8 pm) was an instant success thanks to the eight-month build-up, packed-to-capacity audience, festive ambience, outstanding performances by all artistes and great teamwork among ASCC members. It was the first time such an event was organised in the annals of the Archdiocese of Calcutta.

This Award was instituted to respect one of the resolutions of the Archdiocesan Pastoral Plan (launched in August 2015) for Social Communications Commission – to honour at least one Catholic layperson during his/her lifetime, for contribution to the community. (Please refer https://goo.gl/THrmGQ).

The countdown for the Award had begun with an Archdiocese-wide pulpit announcement on 28 May, 2017, World Communications Day. This inaugural edition had 18 nominees proposed by respective parish priests from Kolkata and other deaneries. Synopses on all the 18 nominees were published periodically in The Herald, for the information of readers and their feedback on the nominees.

The broad criteria for selection were (1) Candidate’s Contribution to the Parish (2) His/her reputation in the parish locality (3) Integrity as a Catholic. Cross-checking on the nominees was also done with two/three parishioners of the concerned parishes.

By 04.45 pm all the dignitaries, the nominees and the three judges viz. Rev. Fr. Dominic Savio, Ms. Jessica Gomes and Mr. Varghese Kunjachan had arrived. At 05.15 pm, Fr Devraj Fernandes, The Herald Editor, extended a warm welcome to all – the dignitaries, the judges, the nominees and the audience.

The dignitaries comprised Archbishop Thomas D’Souza – Archbishop of Calcutta, Ms Ranju Alex – General Manager of the JW Marriott Kolkata and Multi Property Vice President East India., James Kujur – Minister-in-Charge of Tribal Development, Javed Khan – Minister for Disaster Management, Government of West Bengal, Fr Dominic Gomes- Vicar General, Rev Dr Ivan Satyavrata Chairman World Vision India, Fr Felix Raj – Vice Chancellor, St Xavier’s University, Dr M.P. Rozario – Principal St Sebastian's High School and Joachim Ashim Campoo, In-charge of World Vision India Kolkata Region. 

Image may contain: 11 people, people standing and indoorThe very well-trained Armenian Church Choir took the stage first and immediately captivated the audience with a surprise Bengali song Aaji Shubho Diney, Peetaar Bhabaney (on this auspicious day, we are in our father's home) followed by two English renditions.

Image may contain: 9 people, people standing and indoorAfter this, Auxilium Parish Choir-1 sang four Bengali songs of Christmas Season and 

Image may contain: 5 people, people standing and indoorand Auxilum Parish Choir-2 did two lilting Hindi songs. 

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Ms Ranju Alex (photo above) gave the keynote address.

Archbishop Thomas D’Souza, Guest-in-Chief praised the organisers for such a novel initiative.  He said there are many unsung heroes and heroines in our parishes whom we would never be able to repay for their contributions or even acknowledge them adequately.  These men and women have been serving the Church like a cheerful giver and God loves a cheerful giver like the widow in the Gospel.  Quoting the words of Jesus, he said to the nominees, “Whatsoever you did to the least of my brothers and sisters, you did it to me.”  After all service is a fruit of love as St. Teresa of Calcutta reminds us. All these men and women who served the Lord, the Church and their fellow beings, are examples for us and inspiration to carry on doing the Lord’s work to the best of our ability as long as we are here on earth. He thanked and congratulated the nominees who he said were not working for prize or praise but only out of love.  He said whoever the Award will receive it in the name of all others who are not just Catholics of the Year but Catholics in everything they do.  Image may contain: 3 people, people smiling, people sitting The three-member judge panel: Ms Jessica Gomes, Fr Dominic Savio and Mr Varghese Kunjachan

Everyone waited with subdued emotions as the three judges took the stage. Fr Dominic Savio on behalf of the judges said it was extremely difficult to single out one winner as each nominee was outstanding.  He said that during his interaction with the nominees he discovered (1) The Church of Bengal was very rich spiritually with so many generous laypersons working alongside priests, for the Church and the Community. (2) Faced with the nominees, he himself felt challenged in his own commitment and sincerity to God. Therefore to be fair, his own view was that all the nominees should get the coveted Award.  He fervently hoped that this event should be held every year. He also mentioned of Mr Varghese his fellow judge who felt that each parish should hold Catholic of the Year programme.

Based on the candidates’ profile and criteria sheet comprising the parameters Presence, Review Report, Activities Report, Outstanding Achievement/Quality and Interaction Impression,  Ms Jessica Gomes, Principal Loreto Entally, announced in Oscar-Award-style, CHARLES MANTOSH, philanthropist, as The Herald Catholic of the Year, to the applause of the full-house audience. All other nominees were honoured with Mementoes. 

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    Charles Mantosh – Winner of The Herald Catholic of the Year Inaugural Award 2017

After the Vote of Thanks by Farrell Shah, Director ASCC, the event shifted to the adjoining basket ball court where a stage with The Herald Catholic of the Year banner had been set up, with beautiful illumination. First to take the stage was India’s one and only Usha Uthup. Savita sang thereafter. Then “The Blessed”, the Priests’ Band comprising Fr Dominic Gomes, Fr Gregory Monteiro, Fr Neethi Das and Fr Devraj Fernandes arrived on the stage in all-black outfit and belted out English, Hindi and Bengali carols to the amazed audience which enjoyed tea/coffee and cakes.

Image may contain: 3 people, people on stage, people standing and suitMen in Black : The priests' band "The Blessed" perform

In between, Archbishop Thomas D’Souza released the Souvenir of Synod 2017 which was held in Morning Star College, Barrackpore in September 2017. The carols continued with Chris Lobo.  The surprise package was an electric performance by Glen who had come down from Australia.  His baritone voice and walking into the crowd took the audience's breath away while they enjoyed the continental dinner.

To encourage excellence, in future editions of this award, The Herald and ASCC will consider sector-wise contributions to the community in education, health, professional excellence, sports, etc. This event may not have been successful without the generous support of the donors who wish to remain away from of public glare. 

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