Principal’s Inaugural Address – Monday, July 13, 2015

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By , August 21, 2015

Fr Leo

Respected Rector, Fr Mike Thanaraj, Registrar, Fr Stanislaus Alla, 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.

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

Mr Mukesh Singh and Mr Cornelius Kerketta 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 Ahmad 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.  Mrs Elsy Jose works in this office as secretary and office assistant.

Vidyajyoti publishes the monthly journal – Vidyajyoti Journal of Theological Reflection. Mr Peter Francis 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 our new staff members. This year we have been blessed with four new persons in our Faculty – Rector, Administrator, students’ counselor and a full-fledged lecturer.

Though the new Rector Fr Mike Thanaraj has already given us his message as we begin the new academic year, let me introduce him to us. Fr Mike Thanaraj comes to us with many years of experience in formation, socio-pastoral ministry and administrative responsibilities. He was province coordinator for social action and communication and Director of Tribal Research and Training Centre at Chaibasa for eight years. Then he served as Provincial of Jesuit Jamshedpur province. Last year he accepted the responsibility as Dean of Juniorate at Sitagarha. We thank you Fr Mike for accepting to shoulder the responsibility as Rector of our Faculty Welcome to you Fr Rector.

Our new administrator Fr Mohan Joseph is not new to Vidyajyoti. He did his B Th studies at VJ. Later he did M Th at Jnana Deepa Vidyapeeth, Pune. He comes to us with rich experience especially in socio-pastoral ministries in Karnataka and Guyana, South America. Welcome to you Fr Mohan.

This year we have one more students’ counselor, spiritual guide, in the person of Fr Michael Alosanaia. He comes to us with vast and depth experiences of guiding and accompanying people. After finishing his theological studies at Gregorian University, Rome he served as Rector in two places – St Xavier’s College, Palayamkottai and Papal Seminary, Pune. He was Novice Master at Beschi Illam, Dindigul and Tertian Instructor at Goa and Kodaikanal. We are grateful to you Fr Michael for your readiness to offer your services to our students and staff as counselor. Welcome to you Fr Mike.

We warmly welcome back Fr Rajkumar Joseph, who is rejoining our Faculty after completing successfully his doctoral studies at Johannes Gutenberg University, Mainz, Germany. He did his thesis on “Baptismal Rebirth and Illumination Necessitate Progressive Discipleship: A Systematic Enquiry into the Sacrament of Baptism in the Light of Justin Martyr, Clement of Alexandria and Hindu Initiation Rite.”

The long felt need of the Faculty to have a staff member specialized in Liturgy and Sacraments has been fulfilled in Fr Rajkumar. Welcome to you, Rajkumar.

Now I would like to express our heartfelt thanks and gratitude to two persons – Fr Joe Sebastian and Br Patras Minj – to whom we could not say thank you and farewell during the last academic year. Fr Joe Sebastian was Rector and professor of theology at VJ for the past six years. I would like to place on record his supportive guidance to the staff and students of VJ, and especially for his initiative and supervision of the construction of the Residence for our sisters students. Fr Joe will be leaving shortly for Rome to be spiritual guide for seminarians and priests in Collegio Urbano, Rome. We wish him God’s blessing for his new ministry.

Br Patras Minj was administrator of our College for the past two years. We gratefully remember his services and thank him. Now he has gone back to his province and has been appointed administrator and Treasurer at Agricultural Training Centre, Namkum. We assure him our prayers.

Frs Anil D’Almeida and Joseph Puthenkulam are now doing Tertianship at Kodaikanal and Sitagarha respectively. They will be back with us in January 2016.

Fr George Gispert-Sauch is recuperating from his illness in Mumbai, Please pray for his good health.

Now coming to the student strength, this year we have 241 students enrolled in the College – 179 at the National Theology Centre and 62 in the 3 Regional Theology Centres, which are extension centres of Vidyajyoti College. I specially say SWAGATAM, VANAKKAM to the newcomers.

Dear friends,

This year marks an important milestone in the history of Vidyajyoti College. The Distance Education Programme in Theology, known by the acronym DEPTh, is a recent venture of Vidyajyoti, aimed at making theological learning accessible to lay men and women in India and other Asian countries. It was inaugurated in January 2013, and we began admitting students from June that year. It is designed as a two-year Diploma programme covering 60 credits. Over 100 students are presently pursuing the programme. Fr P T Mathew is the Director of the programme and many staff members of VJ are actively involved in the programme. I am happy to announce that two learners from Delhi have already completed the course successfully, and they will be awarded the Diploma today during this function. I congratulate them both in advance. I request all our students and staff to bring DEPTh to the notice of your lay friends who desire to deepen their Christian faith and commitment.

 Fr Rector, dear staff colleagues and student friends,

 Now let me share with you a few reflections as begin a new academic year.

During this academic year 2015-16 many events will be celebrated in ther world, preparations for which are already in full swing. With you I would like to reflect on two of those events – one in the Catholic Church and another in the Indian sub-continent. These events are celebrated to have transforming effect in the lives of the people.

The Catholic event “Extraordinary Jubilee of Mercy” was the focus of our inaugural mass. The beginning of the Extraordinary Jubilee of Mercy on 8th December this year will mark the 50th anniversary of the closing of the Second Vatican Council. Saint John XXIII, who inaugurated the Council, indicated the shift the Church through the Council was taking. He said: “Now the Bride of Christ wishes to use the medicine of mercy rather than taking up arms of severity.” This aspect of mercy is what Pope Francis desires. He wrote in the Bull Misericordiae Vultus: “How much I desire that the year to come will be steeped in mercy, so that we can go out to every man and woman, bringing the goodness and tenderness of God!”

Pope Francis invites us to be agents of the tenderness of God especially to those who are on the fringes of the Society. He wrote: “In this Holy Year, we look forward to the experience of opening our hearts to those living on the outermost fringes of society: fringes which modern society itself creates. How many uncertain and painful situations there are in the world today! How many are the wounds borne by the flesh of those who have no voice because their cry is muffled and drowned out by the indifference of the rich! During this Jubilee, the Church will be called even more to heal these wounds, to assuage them with the oil of consolation, to bind them with mercy and cure them with solidarity and vigilant care. Let us not fall into humiliating indifference or a monotonous routine that prevents us from discovering what is new! Let us ward off destructive cynicism! Let us open our eyes and see the misery of the world, the wounds of our brothers and sisters who are denied their dignity, and let us recognize that we are compelled to heed their cry for help! May we reach out to them and support them so they can feel the warmth of our presence, our friendship, and our fraternity! May their cry become our own, and together may we break down the barriers of indifference that too often reign supreme and mask our hypocrisy and egoism!”

In this spirit of solidarity with those pushed to the outermost fringes of the Indian society, we approach the 125th birth anniversary of Dr Ambedkar, the main architect of the Constitution of India. When I recall the story of Dr. Ambedkar what comes to my mind are the words of St. Paul to the Corinthians.  He wrote: “God chose what is foolish in the world to shame the wise; God chose what is weak in the world to shame the strong; God chose what is low and despised in the world, things that are not, to reduce to nothing things that are…” (1 Cor. 1: 27-29). Against all odds Ambedkar rose to great heights and engaged himself radically in the struggle to create an egalitarian Indian society.

As a person belonging to the Dalit caste, he bore the brunt of the diabolic caste based discrimination and humiliations. Despite his spectacular academic achievements – with two doctoral degrees from world renowned universities – back in India Ambedkar continued to face discrimination and segregation in his work places. All these negative experiences transformed him into a prophet denouncing the social discrimination rampant in India. Ambedkar organised public movements and marches to demand the rights of the Dalits. As Chairman of the Drafting Committee of the Constitution of India, Ambedkar struggled strenuously to make provisions in the Constitution to secure economic, political and social justice for the deprived sections in Indian society. He continued his struggle to establish a just and egalitarian society till he breathed his last.

April 14, 2016, will mark the 125th birth anniversary of Ambedkar and preparations are already in full swing for its celebration. The celebration of his 125th birth anniversary will be meaningful for us Indian Christians only when individuals and groups commit themselves and work towards the ushering in of a community of brothers and sisters. On this occasion Christians in India will do well to remember once again the words of Saint John Paul II to the Bishops of India during their “Ad Limina” visit in  2003:.”Any semblance of a caste-based prejudice in relations between Christians is a countersign to authentic human solidarity, a threat to genuine spirituality and a serious hindrance to the Church’s mission of evangelization. Therefore, customs or traditions that perpetuate or reinforce caste division should be sensitively reformed so that they may become an expression of the solidarity of the whole Christian community.”

Similar prophetic perspective is presented in Laudato Si of Pope Francis, who underlines the interconnectedness between environment and social crises. He calls us to introspect and see how we treat the earth and each other. He writes:

We are faced not with two separate crises, one environmental and the other social, but rather with one complex crisis which is both social and environmental. Strategies for a solution demand an integrated approach to com­bating poverty, restoring dignity to the excluded, and at the same time protecting nature (Laudato Si, 139)

Pope Francis calls for solidarity and preferential option for the poorest of the poor. His call for common good as an ethical imperative vibrates with Ambedkar’s struggle for an egalitarian society. He writes:

In the present condition of global soci­ety, where injustices abound and growing num­bers of people are deprived of basic human rights and considered expendable, the principle of the common good immediately becomes, logically and inevitably, a summons to solidarity and a preferential option for the poorest of our brothers and sisters. This option … demands before all else an appreciation of the immense dignity of the poor in the light of our deepest convictions as believers… This option is in fact an ethical imperative essential for effectively attaining the common good (Laudato Si, 158).”

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. But the strategy of Jesus is one 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.

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.