Principal’s Inaugural Address – Monday, July 14, 2014

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By , July 19, 2014

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               Respected Rector, Fr Joe Sebastian, Registrar, Fr Gilbert Menezes, my staff-colleagues, co-workers, sisters and brothers,

               You have been already welcomed by our dear Rector. Nonetheless, I add my words of welcome and greetings to each and every one of you as we step into a new academic year with its many opportunities and challenges. Let us begin this year with confidence and courage.

               Since our coworkers have to attend to their respective responsibilities, I would like to first introduce them to you and express our gratitude to these our committed co-workers who look after all the temporal needs of the college.

Miss Priyanka Wilson is the new Secretary at the office.

Mr Tarcitius Kullu is the office attendant, telephone operator and in-charge of xeroxing.

Mr Mohan Lal and Mr Mukesh Kumar take care of the overall cleanliness of the college.

Mr Suresh Kumar ensures that VJ stays evergreen all through the year.

Mr Bhindeshwari is in charge of the maintenance of the house

Mr Melchior takes care of post.

We have three co-workers in the library:

Mr Masroor Ahmed attends to the circulation of books and entering of data into the computer

Mr Dinesh Prasad takes care of the general maintenance of the library

Mr Vincent Tirkey is the Binder.

Vidyajyoti College has a distance education programme in theology.  From this academic year Mrs Elsy Jose works in the office as secretary and office assistant.

Vidyajyoti publishes the monthly journal – Vidyajyoti Journal of Theological Reflection. Mr Lucas Samy works in the office of the Vidyajyoti journal.

We are grateful to them for what they are doing for us. As a sign of our sincere gratitude and appreciation of their committed service let us give them a big hand.

Dear staff colleagues and student friends,

Now I would like to introduce and welcome some of our staff members. Let me begin that by welcoming back to the Faculty Fr. Francis Gonsalves who has returned after a sabbatical year. We are happy to have you back with us Francis. Welcome.

Last year during the academic year two new staff members joined us after their doctoral studies – Fr Antony Valan after his doctoral studies in Biblical Theology at Berkeley, USA and Fr Christopher after his doctoral studies in Canon Law in Rome. Though they have already started teaching at our Faculty last year we welcome officially these our two young budding scholars.

This year we are blessed with two new teaching staff members, both our former students. After having done M A in Islamic Studies at Aligarh Muslim University and M Th at Vidyajyoti, Fr Victor Edwin did his M Phil at the University of Birmingham, United Kingdom. Now he has submitted his doctoral dissertation at Jamia Millia Islamia, New Delhi and has joined the staff of Vidyajyoti and takes on the additional responsibility of director of VIDIS.

Fr Edwin Rodrigues has joined the staff this year after doing his M Th studies in Biblical Theology at Jnana Deepa Vidyapeeth, Pune.

We welcome both our Edwins.

Now coming to the student strength, this year we have 260 students enrolled in the College – 173 at the NTC and 88 in the 4 RTCs affiliated to VJ. I specially say SWAGATAM,VANAKKAM to the newcomers.

Fr Rector, dear staff colleagues and student friends

The theme of the inaugural mass this year Doing Theology for Discerning God’s Optic has already set us on the right track by highlighting why we do theology at Vidyajytoi. The word “discerning” brings to our mind St Ignatius of Loyola and the Society of Jesus founded in 1540 by him and his friends, mostly students in the University of Paris from various countries in Europe.

This year is an important year for the members of the Society of Jesus, their collaborators, well-wishers and beneficiaries. As members of this Jesuit-run Faculty of Theology we look forward to August 2014 with gratitude and hope: on August 7, two centuries ago, Pope Pius VII restored the Society of Jesus to life in the universal church.

Allow me to dwell a little on the historical happenings that led to the suppression and restoration. As Amartya Sen has rightly said, “We cannot live without the past even though we cannot live within it either.”

After nearly two and half centuries of quite exciting and innovative history (experience-based education, autonomous tribal communities the so-called Reductions in South America, scientific mission in China, inculturation in India, etc.), a letter of Pope Clement XIV signed in 1773 suppressed the Society of Jesus.

In spite of the traumas of expulsion from different countries from 1759 onwards and the universal suppression by the Pope in 1773, a fragment of the Society of Jesus continued to exist in the kingdoms of Russia and Prussia – paradoxically in Orthodox and Protestant countries, when the Catholic monarchs sounded the death knell of the Society of Jesus in their countries. In India the Hindu raja of Mysore wanted the Jesuits to continue their work in his kingdom while the Catholic Portuguese viceroy of India, Manuel de Saldanha, was busy expelling the Jesuits from India. In different parts of the world ex-Jesuits lived for four decades in the hope that the Society would be one day restored. A few were fortunate to see their hope fulfilled and re-entered the restored Society of Jesus.

On August 7, 1814, Pope Pius VII said mass at the altar of St Ignatius in the church of Gesu in Rome, and then solemnly promulgated the restoration of the Society by the Apostolic Letter Solicitudo Omnium Ecclesiarum (“The Concern for all the churches”) in the Chapel of the Marian Congregations, in the presence of many cardinals and about 100 Jesuits – some of them novices, others survivors from the Society before 1773. The  Society restored by Pius VII was the same as that was founded and approved in 1540. In his Letter Pope Pius VII, while mentioning the appeals made by others for the restoration of the Society of Jesus, saw the Jesuits as “the strong and expert oarsmen” during the tumultuous time that the church was going through at that moment:

By the time the Society was restored in 1814, the world had changed dramatically. Two democratic revolutions and the Industrial Revolution had set the world along new paths. They paved the way to another revolution inspired by the academic work of Karl Marx. The restored Society was challenged to respond to the changed circumstances of the new world order.

The confiscation of the space and property of the mission of the old Society of Jesus proved to be a blessing in disguise. The restored Society of Jesus was challenged to venture into new avenues and respond to the new situation with courage and creativity, without being bogged down by its old baggage. As in the old Society, missions to different parts of the world were an integral part of the new Society. In 1831 Pope Gregory XVI told Fr Roothan, the then Superior General of the Society, that he was very keen that the Jesuits take up some of the mission areas they had worked in before.

As it was in the Old Society, the needs and requests of the people were the deciding factor in the coming of the Jesuits from the restored Society to India. After the restoration of the Society, the first Jesuits arrived in Bengal in 1834 followed by the French Jesuits to New Madura mission in 1838. Later Jesuits from different countries came to work in different parts of India. These missions in course of time led to the formation of many provinces and regions in India.

This year 2014 marks the 200th year of the Restoration of the Society of Jesus and we commemorate this event with gratitude, humility and renewed vigour. The aim of this commemoration was spelt out by Fr Adolfo Nicolás, S.J., Superior General of the Society of Jesus and Chancellor of our Faculty of Theology, in his letters. He wrote: “We can be thankful for what we have received, remember how much we have discovered, improve our ways of being servants of the Lord’s mission, and repent if necessary for falling short of the mark… We wish to understand and appreciate our past better so that we may go forward into the future with ‘renewed fervor and zeal’ for our life and mission today.”

As we commemorate the second century of the Restoration we are aware of God’s graces to us despite our shortcomings and failures. The clarion call at the moment is to be guided by the Ignatian charism of discernment of spirits. As Pope Francis mentions: “Discernment is always done in the presence of the Lord, looking at the signs, listening to the things happen, the feeling of the people, especially the poor.”

Not only the centenary celebrations but also the beginning of a new academic year is a clarion call for all men and women to become servants of the establishment of the Reign of God here on earth. For that to become a reality we have to destroy the life negating realities in our world. One of the most devastating and dehumanising reality that stares at our face, in spite of the many achievements we boast of, is the global poverty. According to the World Bank Report released on October 10, 2013, the number of people living in extreme poverty is 1.2 billion people living in extreme poverty. What causes excruciating anguish is that one in three of these 1.2 billion people living in extreme poverty are children. In India more than 800 million Indians live in extreme poverty.

Pope Francis has called Catholics to confront global poverty. In his apostolic exhortation Evangelii Gaudium (“The Joy of the Gospel”) Pope Francis underlines the root cause of the situation of poverty in the world and challenges us to say no to the idolatry of money. He wrote:

Just as the commandment “Thou shalt not kill” sets a clear limit in order to safeguard the value of human life, today we also have to say “thou shalt not” to an economy of exclusion and inequality. Such an economy kills. How can it be that it is not a news item when an elderly homeless person dies of exposure, but it is news when the stock market loses two points? This is a case of exclusion. Can we continue to stand by when food is thrown away while people are starving? This is a case of inequality. Today everything comes under the laws of competition and the survival of the fittest, where the powerful feed upon the powerless. As a consequence, masses of people find themselves excluded and marginalized: without work, without possibilities, without any means of escape.

Dear sisters and brothers

In the world today we see a power of evil whose strategy is basically a strategy of greed and lust for power. Jesus has another strategy, and that strategy is a strategy of poverty and solidarity. As dedicated disciples of Jesus we are called not only to embody the ideals of Jesus Christ, but also to transmit a Christian vision and a sense of hope for the church and world of today and tomorrow.

Dear staff colleagues we are called to help our students in such a way that animated by a mature faith and personally devoted to Jesus Christ, they can find Him in others and having recognised Him there, they will serve Him in the neighbour. In this way we shall contribute to the formation of those who will participate in the process of making our world more just and more human.

To conclude, I appeal to all of you to make your stay at Vidyajyoti and at Delhi a fruitful one, a meaningful one, a transforming one. Many and great are the challenges before us. But with the grace of God and our generous cooperation we can dare.

Thank you.