Diocesan News

Fr Fitzgerald receives COVID Warrior Award

Fr Fitzgerald Fernandes, Director of the Diocesan Pastoral Centre, Bandra, Mumbai and Administrator of the Clergy Home of the Archdiocese of Bombay, was felicitated as a COVID Warrior by the Hon'ble Governor of Maharashtra, Mr Bhagat Singh Koshyari. The ceremony was held at Raj Bhavan on Thursday, September 10, to recognise exceptional service. 40 men and women from all walks of life were honoured and felicitated.

Fr Fitzgerald has been involved in relief efforts in the Bandra area since the lockdown took effect, coordinating and providing essential rations to poor families, and also opening up the doors of the Pastoral Centre to house nurses and medical attendants involved in the COVID fight at nearby hospitals.

Besides Fr Fernandes, the Governor also felicitated other COVID Warriors and eminent doctors, including Dr Shashank Joshi, Dr Jalil Parkar, DCP Pranay Ashok, Postmaster Mumbai Region Swati Pande, Senior Police Inspector Gajanan Kabdule, Yoga teacher Sunaina Rekhi for their exemplary services. Postman Mohammed Rafiq Kazi, Adv. Amit Mehta, Dr Pragji Vaja, Dr Saumya Bulusu, Kabrastan employee Sabir Salim Khan, sanitation workers, vegetable vendors and a hearse van driver who rendered dedicated service during the pandemic period were also honoured by the Governor.

Stating that service to the poor is service to God, Governor Koshyari called upon service organisations to sustain their social service, even after the pandemic is over. He appealed to the organisations to be compassionate towards the poor and the needy.

Understanding and Handling Stress

Sunday, September 6, 2020, saw a riveting discussion on stress and understanding how to handle it, organised by Nirmala Niketan, Churchgate, and conducted by Fr Ajoy Fernandes sdb via Google Meet. With around 35-40 participants, this discussion about a silent killer spoke volumes about how it affects all of us, whether we choose to acknowledge it or not, especially at a time when the coronavirus pandemic lockdown persisted in arresting our daily activities. Fr Ajoy began the discussion by abridging Baum's 'The Wonderful Wizard of Oz', and its underlying message that we already possess the capacity and courage within us to confront the demons in our life.

Fr Fernandes said that one must identify symptoms of stress and discern what was bringing on such stressors. It could be finding oneself alone and isolated, discriminated against, or disconnected; meaningful connections could greatly mitigate the ramifications of such symptoms. He was able to empathise with students who felt disconnected and lost, to vindicate the notion that we can assist each other in unfamiliar situations, be it extending moral, emotional, financial, or even technical support. A key lesson he gave us was to develop skills to adapt oneself to unforeseen circumstances so that we are better equipped to deal with them head-on. He shared an instance during the macabre Rwandan genocide in 1994, when the Tutsis were being hunted and massacred by the Hutus. A Rwandan pastor hid 7-8 girls in his washroom, where they remained for a considerable amount of time. He coined such acclimatisation as 'downsizing', where there's a reduced sense of familiarity and comfort in the face of something one has not experienced before, and cleverly connected this back to our current lockdown crisis - a state of having 'less than before.'

Fr Ajoy reiterated that one need not compare oneself with others, but instead have a healthy competition with oneself and work on what one has to offer to the world. In this way, even if we face despair, we will have the foresight and fortitude to do away with the false gods of comparison and assess one's competence to obliterate such obstacles, reminding me of Hemingway's famous quote, "There is nothing noble in being superior to your fellow humans; true nobility is being superior to your former self."

Fr Ajoy also touched upon grief and the pain of loss, which tends to keep haunting us through the Kubler Ross model, where we employ various defence mechanisms to block out pain, which may end up manifested in ugly forms of bitterness and anger, and how a system of physical exercise and positive self-esteem might help us cope, even bringing in how fun activities might cause some degree of gratitude and better self-identification.

Finally, there was a question-and-answer session, ranging from topics like time management to substance abuse, work situations causing stress to even understanding how anxiety and stress were interlinked. All in all, this was an intriguing session, and Fr Ajoy Fernandes was instrumental in contextualising how the light at the end of the tunnel may just be the torch we are carrying all along.

Mikhail Philip Kattuparambil

CSA trains Domestic Workers for COVID-19 Safety

Many households are reluctant to allow their domestic help to return to work for fear that they may also be welcoming the COVID-19 virus into their homes. Domestic workers too are anxious that they may pick up the infection from their employers, or on their travel to work, but they need to work to feed their families.

The Centre for Social Action (CSA) realised that if domestic workers are to get back to work, it is necessary to build the confidence of their employers. This meant educating domestic workers on the safety measures needed to protect themselves and their employer's home.

A COVID-19 Safety Training course for domestic workers was held online from September 7-11, 2020. The training focused on giving them authentic knowledge from official sources on how the virus spreads; how to use and dispose of protective gear items like masks and gloves; proper hygiene to be followed while entering and exiting a house; how to ensure adequate ventilation at their place of work; how to maintain a safe distance from the family members of the employer; safety practices in dealing with the sick, elderly and infants; and how to disinfect floor, table-top surfaces, electrical and other equipment, etc. They were also guided on how to avail of health insurance under government schemes, and were assured of continued support in case they need any further help. Each participant received a participation certificate at the end of the course.

Don Bosco Nerul pandemic outreach continues

The month of August has seen the easing of the lockdown and opening of businesses. Many have got back to earning an income. Yet, many are still at home without a job or any form of income. Don Bosco, Nerul continues to reach out to those in dire need. It is a challenge to sift those who are not in need from those who require aid.

Families in Karave Gaon, Belapur, Panvel, Kharghar, Turbhe and Seawoods are being reached out to. Besides these needy families, a couple of other needy groups were an Orphanage in Seawoods, where, besides giving them food essentials regularly, the clerics from Don Bosco Nerul have been conducting interactive songs, games and other activities for the orphan children. Another needy group, 'Divyang Samajik Sanstha', comprising more than 125 handicapped people who have been totally dependent during the lockdown period and in need of constant support have also been helped. Collaborative ventures with them to find workable career options, training, using or making their identity documents to avail of government schemes are in progress, apart from providing them with ration during the lockdown.

The move is to shift from food relief to helping the needy obtain a skill to make them job ready. Some of the mothers of the Oratory children went to 'D-Mart' and 'Reliance Fresh' for jobs; they were asked for a Class X certificate. Since none of them had completed their schooling, they took up the challenge, and now 17 women between 19-45 years have enrolled, and are taking online coaching classes to appear at the end of this scholastic year for their SSC through the National Institute of Open Schooling (NIOS) system. They also have Life skills and spoken English coaching besides their regular online tuitions. Preparations are on for another batch.

Don Bosco Nerul is now exploring ways of helping poor families become self-reliant, encouraging entrepreneurial activities, 'Learn to Earn' skills, etc. This is a time of transition from giving food relief to training and seeking jobs for the needy.

BIS Mumbai

Hope and Life Association, Archdiocese of Bombay

For the widows of the Archdiocesan Hope and Life Movement, this lockdown is a very demanding time, particularly for those who live alone. They miss the camaraderie of the monthly meetings! Dr Jeanette's comforting messages do keep the spirits high. On Fridays, at 12 noon, all the members in Mumbai pray together in solidarity. The maxim ROTO (Reach Out To Others) brings a smile to many faces.

In the Bandra Deanery, the members of the Hope and Life units of St Anne, St Andrew, St Peter, St Theresa, St Vincent de Paul and Mount Carmel parishes connect through WhatsApp, but take care to personally inform those who are not online. The phone is the life-line for those in distress, and those who need a patient listening. Daily requirements and medication are provided with the help of the parish.

The Executive Committee held its first online meeting on September 15. A challenging task, yet fulfilling, as we planned beneficial and practical ways of rejuvenating the members. We "Hope" that the fruitful realization of the plans generates abundant "Life".

Cynthia D'Souza