Guwahati- (Story: Matters India Reporter) The Annual week-long faith-exposure programme organized by the Archdiocese of Guwahati for young people in religious formation concluded 23 January.
It has been growing in strength and diversity during the last decade and this year there were close to 600 participants including aspirants, candidates, postulants, novices, junior sisters, seminarians, and brothers doing their regency.
“You must see Jesus in the people you meet in the villages,” said Archbishop John Moolachira while inaugurating the event at the Tamulpur mission of Guwahati archdiocese. “He goes with you to the villages. There is nothing you cannot do with his help.”
Teams of young people moved in groups to some 40 villages like the first disciples that Jesus sent out.
A helpful message on health and hygiene was found welcome everywhere. Some words on education and suggestions for possible ways of strengthening the local school not rarely re-shape the future of a village community. The need for cooperation and inter-community harmony can never be over-emphasised. A reflection on social evils like drinking, drug-taking, and domestic violence must be carefully handled lest it disturbs some elements. But sharing the faith ultimately gives meaning to the entire exercise.
“Over the years, the interest of religious superiors in the Guwahati Faith-exposure programme has grown,” says Fr. Varghese Kizhakevely, the Vicar General of the Archdiocese, who was the chief organizer of the programme.
Fr Kizhakevely recalls, “Beginning with some 60-70 participants eight years ago, the interest of more and more congregations has grown in the programme beyond expectation.”
Aside from visit to the villages, the young formees are given talks by active missionaries and dedicated men and women in the field of health, education, social development and peacemaking.
Fr Kizhakevely laments, “Many religious leaders have felt that devotions often become mere rituals, apostolic resolutions merely go into historic records and theological reflections end up only as statements, very little going into action.”
The entire Archdiocese gathers for the occasion. Archbishop Moolachira is present with the teams throughout. He moves to the villages with them. Many of the priests of the diocese and senior sisters are present for the occasion to encourage, help, complete and conclude.
Four bishops of the region came to address the gathering, all emphasising the practical dimension of the ministry.
Archbishop Thomas Menamparampil who initiated this venture 8 years ago too seeks to be present whenever he can. He says, “ideas ought to move into action, even grow into institution and movements. Even in the context of anger due to a tragic event, injustice, or absolute poverty,
we can derive energy and motivation to launch a work of compassion, love, and forgiveness.”
Fr. Kizhakevely recalls that the entire programme arose out of a “midnight idea” which Archbishop Menamparampil shared with him when they were returning from a trip to Arunachal Pradesh. During the discussions in that late hour the Archbishop proposed the idea of bringing young people in formation to direct action and far into the field of service. This has the greatest motivating power, as Mother Teresa showed in her life.
Over the years the programme has been shaped and reshaped based on experience including Holy Mass, practical talks, walk to villages, diverse activities, return, evaluation, cultural programme and conclusion.
As the number of participants grow and convictions deepen, it becomes evident that young people are ever looking for challenges, that search for God is something close to the heart of people, and that Jesus is an answer to many social problems.