Wednesday, September 30, 2009

JamJeb heroes for $200 Alex...

Tony and Jerry with Sr. Georgette Lehmuth, OSF, president of the National Catholic Development Conference, and with Karen and Greg McCarthy from the The Loyola Foundation.

Jerry Cutinha, SJ, S. Tony Raj, SJ and Joe Lacey, SJ concelebrated Mass at St. Alphonsus Rodriguez Parish in Woodstock, Maryland.

Fathers Tony and Jerry with the sisters of JamJeb John Guidera, SJ / with 6th Man & 44.

Thank you very much Tom for coming all the way from Philly. I was very kind of you and John. Thanks a lot for all the support that you and your friends give to Jamshedpur Jesuits. We all Jam men appreciate it very much.

It was great experiencing the universality of the Society and the Church.. I have great stories to tell to your great friends over there in Lupungutu - Greg, Martin, Bene Kichingia.


AMDG Jesu Marang.

Jerry Cutinha, SJ

No sweat Jerry -- but it was John and I on the receiving end of grace.

Every moment spent with these guys will bring you closer to God. I consider the Jams Jesuits to be my brothers and will do anything I can to help them. I've included Fr. Jerry's homily from Sunday, and while it is self-explanatory I will add some back story...

The Maryland Jesuits took over for the Belgium Jesuits soon after World War II and Indian independence from Great Britain. What they've accomplished, under very difficult circumstances, is nothing short of amazing. The tradition has now been passed on to the Jamshedpur Province, and they are continuing to do a wonderful job there -- all for the greater glory of God.

My friends there are what one might call an anomaly in today's world. Walking anachronisms. Men of high intellect and strong faith who dedicated themselves to the Society of Jesus, and they all speak at least five languages. Men who as Catholics are in the extreme minority in a country dominated by Hinduism -- yet it is the Jesuits who educate a majority of the Indian leaders -- as well as those of the lower castes. Men who work in the some of the most difficult environments.

The crimson portion of Jerry's homily is highlighted for a reason. Khadhamal, Orissa was the site of Christian persecutions last year; rapes, destruction of churches and private property, forced re-conversion to Hinduism. (Jesuit speaks of violence in India) The utter destruction of villages while the Indian central government did nothing. Fr. Tony was in Khandhamal (Jesuit Contribution to Orissa Peace Building Process), the entire time, and posed as a doctor so he could stay with his people. So when Jerry, who housed the candidates in Lupungutu who had to be evacuated from Orissa, talks about 30% of the Jesuits in the province volunteering to start a new province in Orissa -- realize that they are volunteering to go into harm's way. This is not like taking a job in Philadelphia, Boston, Chicago or Los Angeles. This is taking a job where there exists a probability of becoming a martyr for the Faith. As Christians the Jesuits detest the centuries old caste system, and by embracing and preaching to the Dahlits and tribals and have-nots they have not only brought them to Christ but have drastically improved their standard of living and educational levels as well -- much to the chagrin of other tribes who did not embrace Catholicism and are envious of their success.

When we met at St. Joseph's Prep two weeks ago to kick around some fundraising ideas I asked Tony and Jerry if there was any thought of, perhaps in a small way, of watering down the whole Catholic/Jesuit message in order to raise money from the non-Catholic majority in India. I asked the question knowing the dangers that these guys face on a daily basis. His answer: ABSOLUTELY NOT. Amen Fr. Tony. They are Jesuits, people know what the Jesuits are all about, and no the Jamshedpur Jesuits would not think of watering down the message of spreading the good news of Jesus Christ.

One doesn't have to look to Hollywood or Bollywood to find superheroes anymore. Currently there are 272 of them to look up to, and they live in Jamshedpur. They don't have capes, rarely wear Roman collars, and aren't nearly as tall -- but they all have SJ after their last names. And I am privileged to know quite few of them. So the next time someone jokingly queries whether Jesuits are Catholics... answer yes, and then ask if he would like to go to Orissa and help them out. If he balks at the suggestion (and he will), he is free to send them a check ;-)

AMDG - Jesu Marang indeed.

Tom Brz (the Fr. Deeney abbreviation)

Jerry & Tony with Joe Lacey, SJ, another Jamshedur Man.

26th Sunday (27 September, 2009)
Readings : Numbers 11.25-29; James 5.1-6; Mark 9.38-43, 45, 47-48

Dear sisters and brothers in Christ Jesus,

We are called to be prophets : to announce the good news of God’s deep love for each of us. The first reading from Numbers provides insights into the working of God’s spirit through us. The highlights our tendency to try to define clearly who is a prophet and who can speak on behalf of God. Yet the suggestion in the first and the third readings is that it is our actions that are meaningful and not whether we are part of some inner circle. So who can speak on behalf of God ? We live in times when rich and famous are often portrayed as the blessed. Yet the letter from James suggests the opposite. Anyone who have riches are to use them for the benefit of others - the less fortunate. When we examine Jesus’ words, we realize that our actions are more important than a simple claim to follow Jesus. As followers of Jesus, we are called to bring blessing to others. The life and love we receive from God (the riches and the strengths that God has given us) is intimately connected to our call to be prophets and our life of service in the body of Christ.

Mark’s narrative in today’s gospel is very enlightening. Evidently, the disciples didn’t like that a stranger should do the same welfare work they had been assigned to do. The apostles did not even consider the fact that sick people seemed to be healed and helped. The stranger was an intruder doing their work. And they tried to stop him because “he is not one of us”. Evidently, they wanted to have a monopoly over Jesus’ saving power: no one should perform such works, unless they had first become members of their group. Jesus corrected His disciples’ attitude and defended a totally different approach: the first and most important thing is not the growth of their own group, but that God’s saving help may reach to as many people as possible.

The poet Robert Frost wrote “good fences make good neighbors.” There are good fences and bad fences. Good fences give us a sense of identity, privacy and security. Bad fences divide the world into the good and the bad, the saved and the lost, the haves and the have-nots. Good borders make friends. Bad borders make enemies.

Jesus did not claim monopoly on his message of salvation. He welcomed all who did his work even if they did not belong to his company. We have yet to learn the lesson of the inclusiveness of Christian faith and love. Christ welcomes companions on the road of faith from all races, classes, genders, nationalities, and creeds! Yes, creeds !

We have always lived within borders. For one reason or another, borders have always been important to us. But there are two sides to borders – positive and negative. Borders are often there for security, for protection, and that is positive. The problem with borders, however, is that they can cut us off from the rest of the world, the larger realm of God’s creation. When our borders are taken too seriously, we become provincial, blindly patriotic, and spiritually circumscribed. My borders can become the limits of reality to me.

Today, Tony and I stand before you to celebrate the great pioneers – those great men and women – who believed in good borders, good fences that helped them to leave their own borders of Maryland and the USA and make friends and partners with a nation thousands of miles away, relate to unfamiliar cultures, and invest their time, resources and own lives. We are here to thank God with you for the story began 62 years ago when the 6 Maryland Jesuits who left the borders at the port of New Orleans on 14 November 1947 – the year when India got independence.

Maryland Jesuits (with the support of their families, parishioners, dear ones, and benefactors) who began this narrative, lit a fire in Jamshedpur (India) and it was handed on to Jamshedpur Jesuits in 1956 when Jamshedpur Mission became an independent vice-province and a province in 1983. The seed sown by these pioneers from Maryland has grown into a mighty tree of about 225 Jesuits – young and old, keeping that flame alive and the fire burning. Among these 225 Jesuits are the 7 American born Maryland Jesuits who are still part of Jamshedpur Province – one is an Indian citizen.

A ministry which began as an English medium school in Jamshedpur city (600 kms south of Calcutta in India) has spread into varieties of ministries. In 62 grace filled years Jamshedpur Jesuits have started and are running 32 primary and secondary schools catering to the needs of about 35,000 students. We run 4 institutions of higher education – two of which are nationally acclaimed Management Institutes. We run 3 vocational training centres, 2 formation houses, 3 social action centres, 3 youth organisations, one spirituality centre. We started about 30 parishes and thus saw the creation of Jamshedpur Diocese in 1962. The story does not end there. The fire kindled by the people of Maryland wants to kindle more fires – we are about start a new province / region in the State of Orissa in July 2010.

This is not just a story of the Jamshedpur and Maryland Jesuits – this is our story – the story of all of us gathered here. Yes, the Jesuits went out there and worked - but the without the support of the people of Maryland – the families, the dear ones and the benefactors of the Jesuits worked or visited Jamshedpur, this enormous work would not have been possible. The Jesuits’ work and your support made a tremendous difference to the lives of millions of people in the last 62 years – the tribals, the dalits, the leprosy patients, the youth and those at the margins. The hero of that story is Jesus who has called us to be prophets to go transcend our national boundaries. We know that this parish of Alphonsus Rodriguez has had a special relationship with Jamshedpur Province especially its two institutions at Chaira and Rerua.

I am sure there are millions of out there in Jamshedpur would have liked to come here and thank you for becoming part of their story. We two are here representing those millions of faces to express their gratitude and we know we cannot thank you enough.

Our special thanks to you for the support you showed during the anti-Christian violence in Orissa last year. Your financial support to the victims of the violence made a difference. Our Indian Central Government began to take action just because the people in the US put a tremendous pressure on our Prime Minister when he visited America then. We felt the tremendous consolation and support from the universal body of the Church. It taught us lessons of being a Church – the body of Christ.

In spite of the animosity existing against Christians in the State of Orissa, the threat to life and property did not deter the Jamshedpur Jesuits stop or postpone the creation of Orissa region. “Now or Never” “it’s to time to go” “It is the need of the hour” was the cry. Encouraged by the words of our own Fr. General and the pioneering spirit that we have inherited from the Maryland Jesuits, 70 of the 225 Jamshedpur Jesuits have opted to work in the new region of Orissa.

Christians are only 2.4% of the Indian population. In the Gospel we hear that Jesus did not claim monopoly on his message of salvation. He welcomed all who did his work even if they did not belong to his company. We too have learnt the lesson in the anti-Christian violence, of the inclusiveness of Christian faith and love. There were thousands of people – Hindus, Muslims, Parsees, Jains and Buddhists who supported us and stood by us. They have taught us how to work for peace – peace built on justice. Our primary effort in Orissa as we create a new region would be to join hands with those men and women who do a lot of good work for the betterment of humanity, for peace and justice. The Spirit of Jesus is alive in such people. They must be welcomed as friends and allies, never as adversaries. They are never against us, as long as they are in favour of all human beings, just as Jesus was.

The flame lit by the Maryland Jesuits will still burn and will kindle more fires. We have 73 young, energetic and enthusiastic Jesuits in formation. The future is bright and hopeful with your support and our hard work we can together partake in the mission of the Lord in bringing good news to the world – of freedom, peace, justice and human dignity.

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