19 Irla: Experiences in growing the SCC - Fr. Ravi Thanaiah Marneni

posted Aug 21, 2018, 11:27 AM by Neil D'Souza   [ updated Aug 21, 2018, 11:27 AM ]
The Small Christian Community is the Church at the grass-roots level. What began as a small seed of an idea, at the Bombay Priests Synod in 1980, is today an abundant crop in each and every parish in the Archdiocese. The dedication of Bishop Bosco Penha - and the tireless and relentless passion of his team comprising priests, religious and laity - was instrumental in making this movement a great success.

At Our Lady of Health of Velankanni Church, Irla, the Parish Priest at the time, Fr Antonio Grugni, called for a meeting of a few dedicated parishioners, and expressed his desire to start with the SCCs in Irla. This was in 1998. Eight zones were identified, and two FILMC members – Mrs Lorna D'Souza and Mr Ashley Nazareth – volunteered to be our guides. Fr Grugni went around celebrating the Eucharist in the various zones, and personally invited the parishioners to take up the challenge of being animators and starting SCCs. Many people enthusiastically volunteered, and the SCCs were born! Lorna and Ashley attended the SCC core group meetings, training the animators and making them self-reliant. The Steering Committee meetings saw the animators of the eight communities come together to share their successes and challenges, and became a forum for training the new entrants. Our animators took full advantage of the training programmes organised by the FILMC to further enhance their skills in building better communities. The quarterly meetings of the Parish Coordinators at the diocesan level broadened their perspective, as the animators were introduced to the activities of the other parishes. Bishop Bosco's faithful responses to our quarterly reports were encouraging, and guided our wavering footsteps.

We have had our ups and downs in terms of active animators, but we have stood firm and grown through it all. Over the years, then, the SCCs have become an integral part of our parish. The annual Eucharistic celebrations, followed by a gathering of the community members on the occasion of the feast of each community's patron saint, has kept the families of the community together. This has become an event that the families look forward to, year after year. We have an average of 4-5 active animators per community, and there are activities organised every month. During Lent, Stations of the Cross are conducted at the community centres and in church; the Rosary is recited during the months of May and October; our Lady's statue visits the homes of our families; various tasks are undertaken during the annual novena celebration; stalls are set up on Mission Sunday; institutes and homes are visited; and carols are sung before the Christmas Vigil service.