Articles

Children make for Happy Families

Dr Jeanette Pinto

Do you want to have a happy family? Sure you do! So then what do you do to build a happy family? Building anything takes time, effort, energy, planning, money etc. It doesn’t happen overnight, and one must work consciously towards it. To celebrate the gift of life is the goal of every happy family. Happiness comes with children who are the fruit of a couple’s love for each other, and by being Pro-life. It is a known fact that many children make for happy families.

Families are the essential building blocks of any society, and happy families make a happy society. An individual human being finds accomplishment of life in a family, giving him values to become a responsible social being. Home and families are places where children and elders live with a feeling of security and joy. Despite children being noisy around the house, there are increased positive social interactions within the family and high levels of support among siblings. They are also places of sharing love, care and concern, mutual understanding, adjustments and responsibilities. Love creates an unbreakable bond between family members, making it a happy family.

Making a family happy is no magic formula, as it requires heavy doses of love and understanding to nurture, to be kind and patient, to be life-giving, to facilitate communication, and to make each member feel contented and secure. Having children turns a married couple into a family. There are benefits of having many children in the family; in fact, firstly they are blessed with playmates. Then many hands make light work, even if they are little hands sharing household chores. The home is filled with childhood sounds, giggles, cries and laughter, especially when the older ones have left home. At birthdays and other celebrations, the house parties are enjoyable and fun-filled, leaving a lot of sweet memories. Children enrich family life; you learn to be unselfish. The love and support of family members motivates members to continually strive to be better people.

I myself belong to a large family of twelve children, and I am the eldest. How well I remember the happy times we spent in a modest house in a small town. My dad was a small-time businessman-cum-ace handyman, and my mother an excellent homemaker. There were happy sing-along times, fun situations, joys, twists and turns in life, but together, they steered the family to great success with faith in God. Today, the twelve have expanded into a large family of over a hundred members. Our family reunions are a merry blast of childhood memories, providing laughter, fun and entertainment for free.

The 20th century saw an anti-life culture, driven by materialism, individualism, along with rejection of all things spiritual, and having no reverence or regard for human life. This culture sought to crush the dignity of the human being, and the removal of fundamental humanitarian ethics. People justified the killing of human beings for comforts, greed, business, sporting success or personal pleasure. The anti-life culture of abortion, foeticide, contraception, IVF and euthanasia was founded upon having little or no value or purpose for life. The ‘pill and condom culture’ reduced couples to having a single child or two only. Many parents today repent for inadvertently being part of that culture of death.

Six members of the Archdiocesan Human Life Committee (AHLC) recently attended the Asia-Pacific Conference held in Kerala from January 17-19, 2020. The theme was ‘Faith, Life & Family’. It was a very enriching experience. What struck all the participants was how many families in Kerala, especially among the Jesus Youth community, are staunch Pro-lifers. One session focused on married couples being fruitful and faithful. It warmed our hearts, and it was such a pleasure and joy to see five young married couples having 5-6 children in their families. They were commended, appreciated and felicitated on stage, for their Pro-life attitudes. We were also amazed to see the talents displayed by their children.

Dr Finto Francis, based on his experience as a practising gynaecologist living in Thrissur, expounded the reasons and logic behind the teachings of the Catholic Church on abortion and contraception. In his presentation, he enlisted some of the advantages of having more children, namely:

1. With each pregnancy and delivery, the chance of fibroid uterus (which is the main cause of ill health and hysterectomy in females) is much less. For a woman who has not given birth to children, the chances that she will develop fibroid uterus by the age of 50 years is 50 per cent. But for a woman who has given birth to five children, the probability comes down to 10 per cent.

2. The lifetime incidence of breast cancer is around 10 per cent. By each pregnancy and delivery, the relative risk of developing breast cancer comes down by 10 per cent. If a lady gives birth to five children, the relative risk is reduced by 50 per cent, means the incidence becomes 5 per cent.

3. By giving birth to one more child, the relative risk of ovarian cancer comes down by 30 per cent.

4. The incidence of endometrial cancer is 80 per cent less in those women who have given birth to four or more children.

5. Loneliness, he said, is the biggest problem of the present world, leading to depression. Having more children will give you more chances that you will not be lonely in your old age.

Truly, children are a blessing, and many children make for happy families. If a couple does not have biological children, they have a choice. They can adopt a child, and give him/her a home, and become a happy family, thus building a culture of life.

Dr Jeanette Pinto is a former Principal of Sophia College, Mumbai, and member of the Diocesan Human Life Committee.

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Building the Family once again

Desiree Lobo

It was common to narrate stories when dozens of people came together to celebrate festivals like Christmas or some other holiday, and have families gather around the table – cousins, uncles, aunts, grandparents, parents—sharing and partaking in the festivities. It was tradition. After the meal, you could see a stack of plates in the sink, and hear the murmur of mischievous children playing in the background. The scene was nothing out of the ordinary, but today, sadly, the dense harmony of siblings and extended family members is fragmenting, and the once happy family is now anecdotal, etched only in the memory of the past. Over the past century, the structure of the once united family has undergone many changes. Large families have become smaller, and smaller families are becoming more fragmented. Of course, many will argue that life in general has progressed for the better, but in pursuit of that better life, have we instead made it worse for our children?

Today, the family faces challenges due to rapid changes in the outlook and understanding of marriage and family among people in modern society. We've moved from large, extended, inter-connected families to smaller nuclear families that have grown more detached, because they are more vulnerable to societal pressures. These pressures have been brought on due to consumeristic and hedonistic trends. Therefore, upholding the Sacrament of Matrimony and the responsibilities it bears has become a challenge for many families. In India, particularly, the unity of the once sacred joint family system is slowly disintegrating, and the family structure that has been an integral part of our cultural value system is now becoming a catastrophe for many. How do we learn to live together, and how can the Church sustain our cultural identity and responsibilities in the face of modern life?

On March 19, 2016, the Solemnity of St Joseph, Pope Francis signed the Post-Synodal Apostolic Exhortation Amoris Laetitia (The Joy of Love: on Love in the Family), emphasising the role and responsibilities of people to not just uphold their marriage vows, but understand the true essence of being a family. One of the features of Amoris Laetitia is the concern the Holy Father shows on behalf of the Church, since the Church is a "Family of families" and hence, the well-being of the family is ultimately the well-being of the Church. Hence, the Church is essentially like an accompanying mother to married couples and families. Pope Francis has identified the appalling effects on families of the evil of violence, addictions, poverty, unemployment, homelessness, gross materialism and greed that lead to isolation, loneliness, and fragmentation of families and peoples everywhere. He also stated that the Church has a mission of proclaiming the Gospel of Life, right values and perspectives regarding marriage and family life. Married couples and the Church should strive to promote a meaningful, happy and fulfilling married life in the family. The Marriage Preparation Course is therefore a pertinent and rather critical stage in helping married couples to sustain themselves in their commitment to marriage and family life. The Church therefore has a duty to help couples in their weaknesses and struggles, and to help them to persevere in their faithfulness.

In Amoris Laetitia, the Holy Father has given some guidelines to married couples, as well as pastors who have the responsibility of extending assistance to married life and family life. Married life is not just in the hands of husband and wife, but also children, the youth and elderly and other members related to the family to play their respective roles.

The Church is fully aware of the challenges, difficulties, problems and confusion that the family faces. On one side, are the teachings of the Church and the challenges of the present culture; on the other side, however, the question which is raised is "how to support married couples and families and help them face the challenges while still being faithful to the commitments and obligations of marriage and family?"

The Pope moves between the ideal and the reality, offering the Church's vision of marriage and the family, but also dealing with the facts on the ground. He does not shy away from complex and controversial issues including divorce, abortion, domestic violence, euthanasia, same-sex marriages and gender ideology, and stresses the need to care for the most vulnerable in society, especially the elderly and people with disabilities. He refers to "the sexual abuse of children, which is considered to be all the more scandalous, when it occurs in places where they ought to be made safe." (AL 45)

Pope Francis, through Amoris Laetitia, invites us not to lose hope, but to walk with families who suffer, and married couples who are in trouble and feel alienated. Therefore, in order to strengthen the bonds and broaden family relationships in the face of modernity and the challenges it presents, we need the mothering of the Church, faith in God and the ability to pursue happiness beyond material wealth. We need to go back to those anecdotal events, bring back the big table, the conversations that included grandparents, parents, children, aunts, uncles, and rely on the value of marriage, the vows we take and the importance of stability it creates for our children and the society around us. Before we start to look for solutions to problems in society, we need to start solving problems within the family.

We ask for the intercession of the Holy Family of Nazareth to watch over families all over the world during this time of crisis.

Desiree Lobo is currently pursuing research at the Australian National University, Canberra, in Climate Change and Sustainability.

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Being Church in the time of Social Lockdown

Isabelle de Gaulmyn & Massimo Faggioli


In his small Italian village of Robbiano, which lies between Milan and Como, Don Giuseppe was sad. Like all the churches in Lombardy, and like all those in Italy, his church was closed due to coronavirus. The priest was suddenly confined, and could no longer celebrate Sunday Mass with his parishioners. He was technically unemployed.

But Giuseppe is also a "cyber-priest" who actively uses social media. So he contacted all his parishioners through Telegram Messenger and asked them to send him a photo of themselves. And now, the priest is smiling again. His parish church in Robbiano remains empty, but Don Giuseppe has taped the photos of all his parishioners to the pews. He can once again say Mass in front of his congregation of paper...

The anguish of a Parish Priest

The anguish of Don Giuseppe, a Parish Priest with no faithful and no church, is a good symbol of the anguish of religious leaders in the face of this crisis. Over the centuries, people have turned to the Church in times of natural disaster or war, joining its processions, celebrations and Masses, looking for consolation, hope and relief from their sorrows.

But what can be done when the Church itself, as today, is part of the danger?

When religious gatherings become a lightning rod for spreading the virus, as happened at a huge gathering of evangelicals in France? When being close to others, a virtue that Christians advocate, now means acting irresponsibly? Some Catholics have criticised Church leaders, arguing that they have too easily accepted the government directives to ban celebrations. God does not quit the game, they say.

Isn't Sunday Mass, and the Eucharist, basically just as important as the care of doctors and pharmacists? The priests' hands should not tremble before the virus, they say, as though this were simply a matter of being brave.

They have forgotten the commandment in Deuteronomy (6:16) - "Thou shalt not test the Lord thy God." It is the same response Jesus offers the Tempter in the desert. (Mt 4:7) We know very well that it is not usually through great events or celebrations that God is made manifest. Rather, it is through the gentle breeze that comes from the gestures of solidarity that have been spreading everywhere in recent weeks. There are a thousand and one ways of expressing our "closeness" to others, whether there's a priest or no priest, communion or no communion.

Privation allows us to perceive the essential

Of course, it's hard to hear that our presence is not necessary. However, privation undoubtedly helps us understand what is truly essential—the need of others and relationships, of which we are currently all deprived. Deep down, in our individualistic society, we have forgotten this to a certain degree.

Don Giuseppe admits that he's never seen so many faces in his church in Robbiano before. They are faces made only of paper, of course, but more than he could have ever imagined. It wasn't just the handful of faithful who come to church every Sunday morning that sent him photos. The whole village did!

And because of media attention, people from all over Italy have been sending the priest their photos. It is as if the Church's absence has become an opportunity to witness to God's presence.

News ways of being Church

"Instead of watching Mass on the computer, why don't we read from the Bible together?" That's how our eight-year-old daughter reacted on Sunday, March 15, when we gathered to watch the celebration of Mass at home, where we've been self-quarantined for over a week.

Our daughter is used to seeing me as an Extraordinary Minister of the Eucharist at our parish, where she's preparing to make her first communion. That ceremony, by the way, will most likely be postponed. She really misses not being able to attend Mass right now. Our Parish Priest usually has lay ministers lead a special biblical catechesis for the children during the Liturgy of the Word, which she, her little brother and their classmates attend. Just like us, she is going through a difficult moment. But, even at her young age, she's grasped the theological point.

The situation of protracted total lockdown and social distancing is pushing all of us – and in a rather unexpected and abrupt fashion – to explore new ways of being Church. No one should romanticise what is happening. Given the lockdown, not only the celebration of Mass, but also the Church's pastoral activity has almost totally stopped. This is a serious problem.

One Italian bishop from the Lombardy region (ground zero of the pandemic in Italy) said that they are very worried."This is like a crash course in Church and the media for us," he said. "We can use the media as a substitute for our on-the-ground pastoral activity, but only up to a certain point."

The coronavirus emergency is forcing all of us to re-conceptualise our religion. Not just intellectually, but also visually, emotionally and anthropologically in all of us. This is a formidable test for our theology, liturgy and sacramental life, ecclesiology, and the relations between Church and State. It is particularly challenging to our moral theology. Epidemics and pandemics tend to awaken brutal survival instincts in all of us. They can also provoke other reactions and behaviour that contradict the message of the Gospel.

If the Church is to be a presence in all of this, it must be so in ways that are different from its normal default position. The current pandemic is testing the capability of the institutional Church – including the papacy and the Vatican – to be present, almost invisibly, without being able to rely on the apparatus of the visible Church.

Like Fish out of Water

There is so much of Christian spirituality that can be rediscovered at this extraordinary time. I was listening on March 14, via internet, to the sound of the bells warming the air of Rome's totally empty streets. It was like the beginning of Grand Silence for a community where all differences are now relativised. It reminded me of a monastery, and the saying of one Abba Antony, one of the Desert Fathers: "Just as fish die if they stay too long out of water, so the monks who loiter outside their cells."

Many of us are going to have to live inside for quite some time, and it's not clear for how long. Catholics need the Sacraments, but our body is already the temple of the Holy Spirit. This is a moment to experience solidarity with others, especially with the most fragile, as we fulfil our Christian and civic duties. Catholics will continue to believe. We will continue to keep our faith community united through social network, offering support to each other, as we anticipate the day we can resume our normal liturgical life. This is a time to trust the sensus fidei of the people, and find ways that are both creative but also very traditional (the liturgy of the hours, lectio divina, family celebrations of the Word) to sustain us as we cross this desert.

Isabelle de Gaulmyn & Massimo Faggioli write for la Croix International.

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Life Transformed by Death

Christopher Mendonca


The Experience of Lazarus (a first-person account):

Jesus was a friend of the family.

I was ill, and we sensed that the illness might be terminal.

Getting in touch with one's nearest and dearest

seemed the obvious thing for my sisters to do at this point.

Given the reputation Jesus had for healing,

the hope of a cure was not beyond our expectation.

On hearing the message, Jesus' reaction, however

was reminiscent of his response to his mother's request

at the wedding feast in Cana.

"This is no concern of mine,

My hour has not yet come."1

"This illness is not to end in death;

through it, God's glory is to be revealed."

Yet, though he loved us dearly,

he delayed coming to visit us by two days.2

What happens next?

The last thing I remember as my eyes grew weary

was a feeling of disappointment, being let down,

and what is worse,

being told that this was meant to be

the prelude to the spectacular.

Fine way to console a dying man!

I breathed what I thought was my last breath

leaving the others to hold theirs,

whether in joyful anticipation or eerie suspense, I do not know.

Holding one's breath is often the prelude to a sigh of relief.

Little do we realise that it is akin to

entering the silence, that pause

between the inhalation and exhalation of God

that continually renews and restores Creation.

I was about to enter it, but not totally unaware.

The terminally ill sense they are approaching

this period of transition, this 'Passover'.

The bystanders, however, invariably wish

that this moment, this 'kairos' be postponed.

Death is the abstraction we fear.

Bringing into this silence all one's memories,

everything and everyone that one must leave behind,

possessions as well as relationships,

one's accomplishments, as well as failures,

particularly the reconciliation and hoped for closure

that one was not privy to experience in one's lifetime,

we experience inner peace, watching them pass by

with a sense of acceptance, and no desire

to either hold on to the good,

or accelerate the unfinished business

in a last burst of energy as one nears the finish line.

In that moment is revealed the Reality of the God who IS,

beyond our imagination, beyond thought, beyond words,

in whom we live, move and have our being.3

The fear of darkness ebbs away

as the LIGHT exposes its non-existence in its presence.

The emptiness that sadness brings is transformed

into the fullness of the joy of finding oneself;

loneliness gives way to communion.

But many of those who watch, stand by, uncomprehending.

"Could not this man who opened the eyes of the blind man

have done something to keep me from dying?"4

Death is an event in LIFE.

Dying, on the other hand, is a process

woven into the very fabric of life itself.

Now, having journeyed back into life in time,

I know that events in sacred time

have an existence beyond chronological time.

The Death-Resurrection phenomenon must of necessity, however,

unfold itself over a period of time.

The events of my life and death became a kind of sacrament.

The kenosis, the self-emptying of Jesus

accomplished once and for all in sacred time

would manifest itself

over a period of three days in chronological time.

But only so that we might understand

that it takes place every time we enter that silence,

that pause between the inhalation and exhalation

of the breath of God beyond time itself.

Physical death is not necessary for us to experience it.

It takes place when we choose to pay attention in time

to the Reality of God's presence within us beyond time.

For my sisters and friends, I was alive once more,

but the happy ending of this episode is not so much

being able to hold once again what we were afraid to lose,

but rather our freedom to give it away at any time

without a sense of loss.

With no 'self' to bemoan our loss, we begin to have life

and to have it in all its fullness.5

References: 1. John 2:4 2. John 11:4-6 3. Acts 17:28 4. John 11:37 5. John 10:10

Christopher Mendonca is a feature columnist on themes of special liturgical seasons of the year.

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Wonder

Bishop Bosco Penha


The Vespers of Thursday in the first week (of the Holy Office) have these lines in the Hymn:

For the wonders that astound us

For the truths that still confound us

Most of all that love has found us

Thanks be to God.

Wonder! As I grow older from day to day, my life seems to be filled with a constant and unending sense of wonder. The wonder of God and of His doings. All around me, I see much of His beauty, creativity, power, majesty, concern for detail, capacity for unending variety, and all executed in such a simple, casual, matter-of-fact manner that it is easy to miss the million-billion-trillion dollar spectacle, and I choose instead a life of unseeing and unreflected boredom.

What a wonderful world

I never tire of singing with Louis Armstrong:

I see skies of blue and clouds of white

The bright blessed day, the dark sacred night

And I think to myself "what a wonderful world"

And I think to myself "what a wonderful world."

Have you looked, really looked intensely at a jackfruit, a pomegranate, a custard apple, a bunch of bananas and other fruits; at roses, carnations, daffodils and gladioli and other flowers; at ants, caterpillars, fireflies and snails and other insects; at deer, tigers, rabbits and horses and other animals; at ravens, sparrows, parrots, mynahs and other birds; at pomfrets, shark, gold fish and catfish and other fish; at gold, silver, copper and iron and other minerals, and so on and so forth? And, please note, all the originals are designed by God. We human beings can only cultivate and duplicate them after the originals have been made available to us. Doesn't all this fill you with wonder?

Look at the Trees

Every tree fills me with wonder and reminds me of the poem by Joyce Kilmer:


I know that I shall never see

A poem lovely as a tree

A tree whose mouth is fully pressed

Against the sweet earth's flowing breast

A tree that looks at God all day

And lifts her leafy arms to pray

A tree that may in summer wear

A nest of robins in her hair

Upon whose breast the snow has lain

Who intimately lives with rain

Poems are made by fools like me

But only God can make a tree.

Every tree is a masterpiece of God's Creation, and He gives them to us so liberally that we take them for granted, that we can cut down thousands of these precious gifts as was done recently in Mumbai! A small seed planted in the ground and nurtured becomes a huge tree with sturdy roots going deep into the ground, stem, bark, branches, leaves and fruits. Fruit-bearing trees can yield thousands of fruits, for years on end.

The Galaxies

Come next to the sun, the moon, the stars, the planets and galaxies. Listen to two persons filled with wonder at these miracles of God's handiwork:

Bernie Owens has this to say:"We find ourselves marvelling at the infinite spaces and beauty the astrophysicists show us. At the same time, they speak about how tiny our earth is in relation to the rest of the cosmos. We stagger with wonder as geologists and astronomers tell us our earth was born over four billion years ago, and that our galaxy is one of billions in an ever expanding universe. We are moved to praise and wonder…." (Owens, Bernie: More Than You Can Imagine, Pauline Publications, Mumbai 2015. Pg. 28)

Listen to Janina Gomes: "I have often wondered what sort of God has created such a marvelous universe. We belong to a galaxy – the Milky Way that is about a hundred light years across, arching the night sky. The total number of galaxies cannot be counted, and the observable universe alone may contain hundred billion galaxies – staggering, is it not? Can we then think of the Creator God in any other way than as unmeasurable? (Gomes, Janina: God the Creator speaks to us in the book of Job in the New Leader, January 16-31, 2017, page 29)

The wonder of our bodies

Have you ever stopped to reflect on your own body? Just take one organ - the brain. This is what David Walter, a scientist philosopher, tells us about the human brain:

"The human brain, as we now know, contains on average about 100 billion specialised cells, called neurons, that do all the thinking, but they constitute only about 10 per cent of the brain cells. They need a supporting structure of other cells called 'glia'. Each neuron is connected to as many as 10,000 other neurons through tendrils technically known as 'dendrites', forming a vast network. This network is constantly shifting connections that are established across the tiny gap between dendrites, known as a 'synapse'. Electrical impulses surge everywhere as we think new thoughts, but to bridge the synapse, chemicals called neurotransmitters are used. Amid the chaotic swirls of electrons and chemicals, no one has ever found memory. Although the memory centres have been identified, no one has ever proved that memory is stored there. The notion that we store memory the way a computer stores it, by imprinting microchips with bits of information, is not supported by the evidence. The physical composition of the brain, it must be remembered, is as mushy as well cooked oatmeal porridge!" (Walter, David: Awakening to the Awareness of A Greater God, PRINT HUB, Mumbai, March 2016, page 198.)

This organ and so many others, each amazing in themselves, find their place in intricate systems all working in harmony in the body: the circulatory system, the digestive system, the respiratory system, the reproductive system, the nervous system. In the nine months that the foetus is in the mother's womb, all these systems are knit together into an intricate, harmonious whole. When this little bundle is delivered to the world, one can hardly imagine that all this complexity can work sufficiently well, and with hardly any trouble over eighty to ninety years! And we say miracles don't happen! Each of us is a walking miracle, but so seemingly ordinary that it is all taken for granted.

You created every part of me;

you put me together in my mother's womb.

I praise you because you are to be feared;

all you do is strange and wonderful.

I know it with all my heart.

When my bones were being formed,

carefully put together in my mother's womb.

When I was growing there in secret,

you knew that I was there;

you saw me before I was born. (Psalm 139 vs. 13-15)

The Wonder of Human Beings

The stream and flow of humanity. Human beings in their hundreds and thousands. Babies, children, adolescents, adults, the aged – each unique and unrepeatable. Each a world in himself/herself, a marvellous blend of the physical, intellectual, emotional and spiritual. Each person made in the image and likeness of God, with an intellect that can span the universe and a heart that can embrace the world.

Their activities and achievements – academics, sports, art, music, drama, the wonders of science and technology. So much of goodness, talent, skills, grace and beauty. If sometimes one human being can so fascinate and delight us, what about the charms of the whole of humanity?

The Wonder of God

I have often asked myself: what kind of a God is this who creates such wonder? Then I realise that He himself is the greatest wonder of all! To understand something of Him, I have to look at the Crib and the Cross. In the crib, I see the infinitely powerful God become a baby – weak, helpless, but overwhelmingly lovable, stretching out his arms and asking to be cuddled and kissed. The God of Heaven and Earth in my arms – a wonder of poverty, humility, simplicity and lovableness. On the Cross, I see a naked figure covered with wounds, totally giving, arms outstretched to embrace the whole world – a God who suffers and dies for us. This God is, indeed, the greatest wonder of all, and He is constantly searching for us to fill us with His love, peace and joy.

I want to conclude with a verse from the Morning Prayer of the Third Monday (Holy Office) which says:

The Father gives his children

The wonder of the world

In which his power and glory

Like banners are unfurled.

May the power and glory of our God fill us with constant wonder and delight.

Bishop Bosco Penha is an Emeritus Auxiliary Bishop of Bombay.

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CISCE – A Future Perspective

Vanessa D'Cruz

Mr Gerry Arathoon, Chief Executive and Secretary, Council for the Indian School Certificate Examinations (CISCE), New Delhi, was in Mumbai to review and explore a collaboration with the Government of Maharashtra and the BMC. He also met His Eminence, Oswald Cardinal Gracias, Archbishop of Bombay, in this regard. Vanessa D'Cruz interviewed him.

How is the CISCE different from other Boards? How is your pedagogy, techniques, curriculum design unique?

Firstly, we believe in an environment-friendly method of functioning, and hence have all our facilities online; right from registering the candidate, the affiliation process, the payment gateway, the answers, the marksheets, results, etc. - everything is online.

Also, the curriculum is very child-friendly. Our research team introduced a new curriculum from Pre-school to Std VIII about four years ago which has been much appreciated. Our core strength is English. We stress on reading and communication, and are proud of the fluency that our children possess in both speech and the written form. That doesn't mean we neglect the regional languages. Mr Aditya Thackeray, Honourable Minister of Tourism and Environment, Government of Maharashtra, is a fine example. He displays such confidence while speaking in English, as well as his own mother tongue Marathi, that I feel really proud that he is a by-product of the CISCE.

What is special about the CISCE is that we offer a basketful of subjects. The student need not choose a stream which is rigid, but can opt for different subjects. For example, a Science student taking Physics and Mathematics can even opt for Psychology, Accounts or Commerce.

We also exhibit great flexibility. We even allow the child to take the exam, if he/she wishes to, from a nursing home. We have made arrangements in the past, when one of our students was travelling abroad, representing the state for a sporting event, to take the exams in the country's embassy.

We also organise several training programmes for the teachers to keep themselves updated with the changing times. Since we are a flexible body, if the teachers are unable to visit our venue for the training sessions, we make it feasible for them to attend it in their own cities by sending our master trainers there. Hence, you can see that the Board itself is very futuristic in nature.

Many of our readers would like to know if this Board is tough.

It is not tough. It is the way you approach the subject. Our syllabus has scope for itself. The teacher studies the scope and teaches the relevant content and portion as per the age group. For example, The Merchant of Venice can be taught at different levels – Std IX and X, Std XI and XII, and then again at graduate and post-graduate level, understanding its scope. The training of teachers to this effect is very important.

Students can avail of a lot of aid online. They can check past papers and the students' performance, the answers that were expected and what the students have written, the marking scheme, etc. - all good reference material for the students. Videos for various subjects for Std XI and XII are made available too. This puts the parents as well as the students at ease.

What about the preparation of students for competitive exams?

The CISCE does its bit, just like all the other Boards, to meet the needs of the students to attempt competitive examinations. The mindset that one should join the CBSE to crack competitive exams is now overruled, as the exams are now conducted by the National Testing Agency, and not CBSE who used to conduct the examinations earlier.

Why should the ABE schools look at transitioning or opting for the CISCE Board?

We have had a long association with missionary schools across India, not only in the cities, but also in the suburbs. Thanks to the priests and religious sisters, we have ICSE schools in Punjab, where students are first-generation learners, and we are very happy to have them on board.

What we offer:

We are an autonomous, private organisation.

It already has the flavour of an international Board.

All students who complete the course are well-placed across the world in important portfolios.

The fees for the IB Board are much higher, but the advantage is the same. It all depends on the child's performance.

We provide great flexibility in the choice of subjects, as well as the functioning.

We organise regular workshops for teachers which, in turn, benefit the child. Our students thus display great fluency in speaking and expression in writing.

Lastly, and most importantly, we are a child-friendly and management-friendly Board. We are very accessible, thus making us a very viable option.

I was very humbled to meet with His Eminence, Cardinal Gracias, and apprise him about the functioning of CISCE.

What do you think of the BMC schools transitioning to the CISCE Board?

I was extremely pleased to know about this venture of the BMC, and thanks to Mr Francis Joseph of SLN Global Network, I was able to meet Honourable Minister, Mr Aditya Thackeray, and Ms Vandana Krishna (Additional Chief Secretary, Department of School Education and Sports, Government of Maharashtra) who recognise the Council. They have requested me to review the curriculum and books of the SSC Board. I am honoured to be a part of their venture, and I am looking forward to many more opting for the same.

What is the procedure for transitioning or opting for the CISCE Board?

The process is not very rigid. All you need to do is:

Procure a No-Objection Certificate from the Government.

Ensure the land papers are in order. We need you to have a minimum of half an acre land.

Have a separate/independent structure.

Start the affiliation process.

What is the strength of the CISCE Board?

I am proud to say that we have more than 2,500 schools in India and overseas, namely in Dubai, Sharjah, Indonesia, Singapore and Thailand. I am overjoyed to let you know that we have our very first European school in Rome, Italy run by Indians. European education is expensive and not affordable by all Asians, hence the Council was approached. The advantage for Indians would be that if they ever wanted to return to India, their kids could be admitted in any of our schools here with ease.

What are the innovations and plans of the CISCE for the future?

We are a pan-India national private Board. The Council would like to have a flavour of a foreign Board or University. We are in collaborative talks with countries like United Kingdom, Australia, Finland and Singapore for a bridge course, working within the framework of the National Education Policy. We want to reduce rote learning and move to a practical approach to learning. n

Vanessa D'Cruz is a teacher and a reporter for EduFocus, the magazine of the Archdiocesan Board of Education.

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