25 August 2016

Farewell Fr. Romulo RIP

Please accept my deep sympathy as I join the bereaved family, you and the confreres of the province of Panjim in prayer, offering back to God, his precious gift, our dear Fr. ROMULO. For certain, Our merciful Lord has embraced him in eternal bliss. Surely, Mother Mary, whose Assumption  we just celebrated, has opened the gates of heaven for him. 
Fr. ROMULO will be remembered by very many for his friendly dealings and helpful ways. My association with Romulo began in the formation house in Yercaud, Tamilnad, way back in 1962. I saw him as a very practical and hardworking confrere, a trait that defined his whole life, even through the period of his recent illness. Generous in every way, he reached out to others, unmindful of his own health. He was qualified in the technical field and rendered valuable leadership as Rector in our institutions. True to our Salesian Spirituality, he lived a blend of work and prayer and as Novice Master, was an inspiration to his novices. As the Delegate of the Konkan region, he guided the early steps of the present Province of Panjim. Let us remember him with gratitude and draw inspiration from his life of priestly zeal and Salesian commitment.
Farewell Fr. ROMULO and thank you!

Tony D'S sdb

Gospel Leadership

The Gospel Leadership of Jesus Christ – the only answer for all times.
Modern manuals on Leadership point out repeatedly, that the great leaders of history are  those with a vision, persons who have been open to life, who immersed themselves in it and come face to face with their own vulnerabilities. Such indeed is the Biblical pattern of leadership described as the “suffering servant” in Isaiah 42, and repeatedly exemplified in the Gospels.
The inauguration of Gospel Leadership takes place at the river Jordan. Jesus Christ enters into a real human setting, for his baptism. He chooses to become part of his people, to immerse himself into the community with its need for repentance  and expectation of a Messiah. At the Jordon, attested by his heavenly Father, as “My beloved Son”, Jesus achieves the status of a ‘Messiah”, a leader because he deeply experiences the heart of sinful and suffering people. The temptations in the desert that followed, tried to distort his Messianic leadership by offering him the lure of wealth, power and glory. But Jesus remains true to his identity as  the Faithful Word, the Obedient Son and the humble Servant of God’s Kingdom. He embarks on a new path of leadership, as Isaiah points out, to become one with his people in order to lead them to eternal Life.. It is this Gospel Leadership of Jesus, the Way, the Life and the Truth that is the perennial answer to the challenges of changing times.
Gospel Leadership is Power to serve.
When Jesus preached on the Kingdom of God, he defined the role of leadership as a power to serve and not to dominate. To the ambitious sons of Zebedee He said: "You know that among the gentiles, their so-called rulers lord it over them, and their great men make their authority felt. This is not to happen among you. No; anyone who wants to become great among you must be you must be your servant, and anyone who wants to be first among you must be a slave, to all. For the Son of Man himself did not come to serve but to give his life as ransom for many” (Mk.10, 42-45). It is a power which has an enormous influence in the lives of people who benefit from the service..
The Leadership ministry of Jesus is characterised by the release of God’s power in service as He instructs his disciples, expels demons and heals those who believe. The woman with the issue of blood touches Jesus and power goes out from him. When Jesus sends out the disciples two by two he confers power on them. “Receive the Holy Spirit to heal and cast out demons”. Today, genuine Church leaders  should feel empowered by the same Spirit  and develop ways of making decisions, organizing life and harmonising gifts in our Christian communities. Sad to say, like the disciples competing for primacy and positions, not a few in the hierarchy keep mixing up the two types of power, wanting to rule and lord it over others, instead of releasing the power of service to others. “This is not to happen among you”, Jesus still insists.
The Catholic Priest is a leader ordained for Servant ministry.
If the Catholic Priest is  essentially an “Alter Christus” who may say with St. Paul: “I live not I, but Christ lives in me,”  then his first responsibility is to proclaim the mystery of God and his Kingdom. The clergy participate in the messianic anointing of Jesus and are  “sent” to bring Good News to the poor, the oppressed and the sick, in fact to the world The vast majority of priests and bishops in fact,  provide edifying spiritual witness and committed pastoral ministry. Yet, a vocational crisis in the Catholic Church persists and seems to be triggered, not so much by doctrinal differences on the Priesthood, nor by a clamour for a married clergy; but rather, by an increasing disappointment today with the actual exercise of priestly ministry. Too often, the Catholic Priest has become a hyphenated or multi-task professional; or a business manager absorbed in administrative, financial and organizational activities. Consequently, Priestly ministry, though intended primarily to serve the spiritual and pastoral needs of the community, suffers from fatigue and disinterest? Quite often and not without reason,  some priests are labelled as domineering and arrogant, unavailable and partial, and even dishonest. A few are even publicly criticised and physically assaulted. The unbecoming behaviour of some is often overshadowing the saintly witness of exemplary pastors and perhaps attracting fewer candidates to the priestly and religious life.
In chapter 13, the Evangelist John captures the mind of Jesus on ministerial service .  In a telling gesture, at a very significant moment of the Last Supper, Jesus dramatically rose from the table to wash the feet of his embarrassed Apostles. He made it absolutely clear that his style of leadership which he intended to share particularly with his chosen apostles, was different from what was exercised in other secular or religious groups. Gospel leadership as Jesus practised and preached was never to be associated with dress, and so, no flow ing robes and showy phylacteries; no reservation for prominent places and therefore, no status privileges.
In Jesus of Nazareth, Part II, chapter 3, Pope Benedict XVI sees Jesus washing the feet of his apostles not so much as an act of ritualistic purification.  It may seem that Jesus replaced the ritual concept with a moral diktat, the purity of the heart. Rather, in the “washing of feet”, Jesus did more. He gets up from the table to demonstrate first and foremost His Love for his Apostles. The ritual of washing the feet for Jesus was a gesture of love and a lesson on  humble ministerial service.  “If I, then, your Lord and Teacher, have washed your feet, you also ought to wash one another’s feet. For I have given you an example, that you also should do as I have done to you” (Jn 13, 14-15).  Note  too, that even prior to the Eucharistic mandate: “Do this in memory of me”, Jesus insists: “… that  you also should do as I have done to you” . This is not ritual but reality which introduces us to the person of Christ. It is here, at the washing of feet that the High Priest sets himself up as a Paradigm of ministerial Priestliness and Gospel Leadership.

Our present Holy Father, Pope Francis, a faithful and exemplary Vicar of Jesus Christ is a proactive Leader with a Gospel vision incarnated in concrete gestures, such as washing the feet of men and women of different religions at the Maundy Thursday service. Francis wields power, but as ministerial service. He believes and lives “collegiality” within the Church and with all Nations, Cultures and Creeds. Pope Francis is indeed also a prophetic “Dissenter” who talks and walks in the footsteps of his Master. His fundamental option for the poor and his solidarity with the marginalised, makes him speak out passionately when the need arises. His love for the Universe urges him to gently, yet fearlessly, confront  global issues of our ‘common home”; the miserable plight of refugees and migrants; the inhuman violence and the urgent need of God’s mercy to transform the world. Pope Francis’love for the Church is seen in his personal prayerful and ascetical life; his unsparing commitment to his pastoral responsibilities to foster unity among Christians; to clean God’s temple, marred by sin and scandal and ultimately, to lead all nations on the path of mercy to the peace of the Kingdom.

The Church lives in difficult times but we remain hopeful  that the Gospel leadership of the Risen Jesus Christ, who gave his life for his sheep is becoming more and more visible in our Church leaders and must remain so. Like the Master whose Priestly ministry led to sacrifice on a cross, Church leaders will encounter much suffering and rejection. But then, the grain of wheat must die in order to be a source of life. This is the ‘zeal for Thy House’ which consumed Jesus Christ, our eternal High Priest. This quality of zeal must transform the clergy into Christ-like leaders, in these changing times. The washing of feet must be more than a symbol, the praxis of humble service and sincere love which always  precedes, accompanies and follows the sacramental ministry of every priest, the “Alter Christus” for changing times.