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RSCJ: 75 Years of Rich History- Now looks to the Future

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May 21, 2014

RSCJ bigNEWS 2014 - It was the closing celebration of the Platinum Jubilee Year of the RSCJ. Cardinal Ozzie as main celebrant, concelebrated Mass with 8 priests. He exhorted them to build the future, bringing to their work the same depth of quality which they had maintained in the past, along with gentle expansion- not frenzied growth.

The RSCJ insignia- an open heart enclosing the world and a cross at the left hand corner of the banner on the altar was a reminder that the RSCJ are an international order, whose services go well beyond the boundaries of this country.

Quotations from the foundress St. Madeleine Sophie, were imprinted on satin banners urging the congregation to take delight in prayer and in the silence of their hearts, to listen to the voice of God.

The choir had carefully chosen Gospel songs under the direction of Trevor Martin, a director of choirs from Pune. The ceremony opened with the hymn: “Come dance the dawning story. Tell what God the Lord has done”.

Cardinal Ozzie was assisted by Auxiliary Bishop of Bombay, Dominic Savio Fernandes and Fr. Malcolm Sequeira, Vicar General of Pune. Being “Good Shepherd Sunday”, Card. Ossie reminded the vast congregation on the grounds of an anecdote that happened at a Hollywood service. The Pastor was late for the service, and so Richard Burton filled in his place, reading Psalm 23 with great talent and fervor that drew real applause from the gathering. Later however, the Pastor came and so re-read the Psalm. In the silence that followed you could not hear a pin drop. Richard Burton, who was deeply touched, exclaimed to one and all present: “I know the Psalm, but the pastor who has just read it knows the shepherd”.

He congratulated the nuns on the quality and depth of their service despite wide expansion, moving from college education to primary education, urban to rural ministries, pastoral work to education for the challenged, from technical education to health care. He emphasized how the Padma Shri awarded to Sister Karuna Mary Braganza, was a recognition by civil society and the Government of the work done not by one individual but the work done by the institution. He also lauded the Society for its pioneering work in women’s education in India and reaching out to all sections of society – from the affluent to the poor. International missionaries, especially from the English Vicariate had contributed to this effort.

There was a short audiovisual after the mass, with inputs from Sister Ambuja, together prepared with Alex Fernandes. It pictured for the congregation, how the great fire in the neighbourhood, made Madeleine Sophie’s mother deliver her 2 months prematurely and the reason why she was called a child of fire. The vineyards of Joigny in Burgundy, France influenced the young Madeleine to find great meaning in the Gospel saying “I am the Vine and You are the Branches. Without me you can do nothing”.

Madeleine’s Sophie’s induction into classical learning by her priest brother and other hard demands made on her were to shape her and the way she responded to the challenges of the day in the early 19th century.

The audio visual was punctuated by dance, choreographed by Diago Fernandes, that was modern and yet told the story compellingly. Revolving lights on the stage pierced the early evening darkness like search lights.

Two publications were released on the occasion: One called ‘Urdhva Mula’- the Sophia College Logo, covering the history of the Society from 1939-2014, written by the Society’s historian, Dr. Anila Verghese, former Principal of the College and present Director of the Polytechnic on the Sophia Campus, and a Platinum Jubilee Souvenir prepared by Sisters Ambuja and Manisha, capturing the memories and reminiscences of the RSCJ over the decades.

Sister Rita Pinto, Provincial, also a wonderful solo singer, lent her voice to the choir and also did all the formalities for the occasion. The members of the Organizing Committee saw to every little detail of organization with precision. Sister Ananda Amritmahal, Principal of Sophia College, gave the Vote of Thanks with great finesse.

Mr. Hugo D’Souza, a polished compere did his job very well. The support given by the Parish Priest, Fr. Vernon Aguiar and the School Principal, Fr. Kinny went a long way in making the evening’s function a success.

The finale was a procession of some of the young nuns and young people of the Parish to the altar, where they placed their lighted lamps and then knelt down with their arms folded in prayer.

And now begins the next chapter in the Society’s history. As Cardinal Ozzie said, the importance given to formation in the Society was again underscored by the quality of all the events planned for the evening. It was this same attention paid to formation that made Archbishop Roberts, who invited the RSCJ to first start work in India, entrust the work of formation of the Little Sisters of the Poor to them initially. As Sister Ananda concluded, the whole year had been not only a time for celebration but also one of renewal for the RSCJ.

Janina Gomes

Source: Religious India Bulletin, May 14, 2014

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