Report and Pictures: Dr Eugene D’Souza, Mumbai
Daijiworld Media Network - Mumbai (GA)
Mumbai, Dec 5: In a gathering of priests and laity, presided over by Bishop Bosco Penha at St Pius X College-Seminary, Goregaon, Mumbai, on December 4, 2008, eleven out sixteen diocesan priests from all over India were presented the CPCI National Award for Excellence. Five of the awardees including Fr John Fernandes of Mangalore could not attend the programme due to various reasons.
In his introductory remarks, Fr Sebastian Poomattan, the president of Catholic Priests Conference India (CPCI) underlined the reasons for establishing this organization in 1987. He pointed out that for highlighting the selfless service rendered by the diocesan priests in various fields; it was decided to institute the CPCI National Award for Excellence from this year. Out of 35 recommendations received from different parts of India, 16 were finally selected by the governing body for this award.
Dolphy D’Souza, president of the Catholic Sabha, Mumbai, in his brief speech highlighted the need to integrate the Christian community with people professing different faiths in order to promote communal harmony. He emphasized that the diocesan priests can play an important part in promoting interfaith harmony and understanding.
Bishop Bosco Penha in his presidential address stressed the need for reforms in the church. He greatly appreciated the work being done by the CPCI in providing a forum to the diocesan priests and made a suggestion that the CPCI could institute an award for sympathetic, compassionate and kind priests as these qualities are essential among the priests in order to bring God’s sympathy to the people.
On behalf of the awardees Fr (Dr) Valerian Fernandes, Vicar General of Aurangabad diocese thanked the CPCI for the award and pointed out that the awards have made the recipients humble. As the priests are for the people, the awards also belong to the people whom they serve.
Bishop Bosco Penha honoured each of the eleven awardees by presenting a shawl, a plaque and a citation. The eleven awardees personally present for the awards function were:
- Fr (Dr) Valerian Fernandes, Vicar General, Procurator and Chancellor of Aurangabad Diocese
- Fr Joseph Muttumana of Ernakulam, Kerala, known as the ‘Milk Miracle Priest’.
- Fr Francis Britto of Mumbai, a prominent environmentalist and writer.
- Fr Theodore Lakra, the Human Rights Activist Adivasi Priest from Ambikapur, Chattisgarh.
- Fr R H Lesser, born in England but dedicated to missionary work in India; presently at Udaipur, Rajasthan. Known as writer priest, Fr Lesser has written over five thousand articles and 85 books on various themes
- Fr Zakarias M of Jabalpore, Madhya Pradesh has been known as ‘Priest-Doctor’, who has saved the life of over 3000 persons from snake-bite
- Fr Francis M Britto of Raipur, Chattisgarh, known as a ‘Priest with Thousand Stories’
- Fr Kuriakose Mampilly of Ernakulam, Kerala, who endevours for attainment of justice, peace and contentment for all through an inclusive financial security approach
- Fr Joseph Chittoor of Mananthawady, Kerala, a specialist in herbal medicine
- Fr Edwin M John of Kottar, Tamil Nadu, the promoter of neighbourhood parliaments
- Fr Allwyn D’Silva of Mumbai, founder-director of Jagruti Kendra, Jerimeri, Documentation Research and Training Centre, Goregaon, member of Asian Justice and Peace Commission, Coordinator of Prison Ministry in Mumbai.
The five priests who could not attend the award ceremony are:
- Msgr C J Varky of Thamarassery, Kerala, the Pioneer Missionary in Malabar
- Fr Thomas Kulangara of Archdiocese of Thiruvananthapuram (Malankara Catholic Rite)
- Fr John Mariae of Diphu Diocese, Assam, working among the tribals of Assam
- Fr (Dr) John Fernandes of Mangalore, Karnataka, founder-director of Mangala Jyothi-diocesan Biblical, Liturgical and Catechetical Centre, founder President of CPCI, Professor of Theology, St Joseph’s Seminary, Mangalore. Presently Professor and head, Mangalore Diocesan Chair in Christianity, Mangalore University, Convener of ‘Dharma Samanvaya Abhiyan and Social Justice Forum
- Fr Christdas Baba of Bettiah, Bihar, works among leprosy patients.
Catholic Priests’ Conference of India is a voluntary agency of Diocesan priests instituted to promote the cause of the Diocesan Priests of India. There are about 14 thousand Diocesan priests in India rendering dedicated service. Most often their services are not duly acknowledged nor promoted. This award ceremony was an attempt in the promotion of Diocesan priests’ unknown and unsung ministry.