The Small Christian Communities movement is holding a national convention in Goa, November 18-21, to mark the conclusion of the Year of Faith. Bishop Thomas Dabre of Pune, writes on the significance of the event and the importance of Small Christian Communities for the Church in India. (ed.)
During the last 30 years promotion of Small Christian Communities has become a noteworthy feature of the Church’s pastoral life all over the world. I was privileged to attend International Seminars on Small Christian Communities in Bolivia, Germany, South Korea, Philippines, Thailand and Sri Lanka. There is an earnest effort being made to revitalize Christian life in various countries. So much so that Pope John Paul II and Pope Benedict XVI have encouraged the pastoral initiatives to launch these Small Christian Communities.
The CBCI and CCBI can proudly claim that the Church in India too has as a policy decision mandated the insertion of formation of Small Christian Communities in the Pastoral Ministry of the Church at all levels from national through regional to diocesan and parish levels. As a result about 68000 small communities are working in the various dioceses.
The results over the years have been positive, to name but a few
1.The Laity has enhanced familiarity with the Bible.
2.The clergy’s greater involvement in the actual life-situation of the faithful.
3.Emergence of grass-roots level lay leadership.
4.Increase of unity, sense of belonging and joyfulness.
One of the significant insights of the Second Vatican Council is the Church as communion. With all its divinely instituted hierarchical, juridical, institutional and organizational aspects, the Church is by essence a communion of the disciples of Jesus Christ. The Holy Trinity which is communion of Father, Son and Holy Spirit is the source, pattern and exemplar of the church as communion. In today’s globalized world of means of communications, social networks and occupation hazards, authentic communion and fellowship is on the decrease.
The celebration of the sacraments, liturgy and worship in the church buildings should also fructify in relationships of love, care and concern. The Small Christian Communities facilitate the spirit of communion and community among all the sections of the Church. In this enterprise of taking the Church to the people, the Holy Father,Pope Francis is leading from the front.
The document of the Second Vatican Council on the Word of God, DEI VERBUM the episcopal synod on the Word of God and Pope Benedict’s apostolic exhortation on the Word of the Lord, VERBUM DOMINI have all underlined the supreme importance of the Word of God in the life and mission of the Church. The Small Christian Communities inspire the faithful to personalize and appropriate the Word of God and to act according to it in personal lives and in the community and society as well. The word of God is at the centre of the small communities.
The Church in India will officially conclude the Year of Faith with the forthcoming National Convention on Small Christian Communities in Goa from November 18-21 this year. The Holy Eucharist, the Word of God and community spirit are essential parameters of Small Christian Communities. The Year of Faith is intended to rediscover and deepen our faith. The Word of God, the Eucharist and the community are the main components of our faith life.
The theme of the Goa National Convention is interesting and inspiring. SCCS: A Home and School of Communion and Faith. It is well founded both theologically and ecclesiologically. The presence of over70 Bishops, hundreds of Priests, nuns and several thousand people will make a new Pentecostal manifestation of the Church in India. It is intended to take the ecclesial movement of Small Christian Communities forward.
May it be realized that the small Christian communities are not aclosed, sectarian ghetto. To be Christian is to be universal and inclusive. In India the Church’s openness to other religions is of decisive significance for its mission. Jesus was fully universal and inclusive. That is why authentic small Christian communities will reach out to the people of other religions and cultures and languages in their neighbourhood and areas.
Though we have achieved much success in the promotion of Small Communities, we still have a lot of ground to cover. Can we say, the Small Christian Communities have become the way of life in India, at least in their spirit and perspective?? Have they become the normal way of doing the Pastoral Ministry? Are the small Christian communities regarded and feltas a Church in miniature?
I am confident the National Convention will be a huge contribution to answer with full confidence these questions affirmatively.