CRI Mega Event: CRI National Assembly 2018

The largest national gathering of major superiors in the world is the triennial Assembly of Major Superiors, organized by the Conference of Religious, India. The 2018 Assembly took place in May.

Venue: SRM Institute of Science and Technology, Kattankulathur, Tamilnadu. Dates: May 27-30, 2018.

STRIKING STATISTICS: Major superiors registered: 578 (468 Sisters, 24 Brothers and 86 Priests). Plus: 12 regional secretaries and four others. The superiors included 64 generals, 19 delegates for their congregations, 365 provincials, 28 regional superiors and 102 delegates of provincials, from all over India. Age distribution: from the 30’s and to the 70’s.
Archbishop Giambattista Diquattro, our Nuncio, presided over the Inaugural Eucharist and gave the inaugural address. He was with us all the four days, finding time to meet all those who had asked for that.
The main celebrants at the other three Masses were: Bishop Theodore Mascarenhas (CBCI Secretary General), Bishop Neethinathan of Chengalpat and Archbishop George Antony Samy of Madras-Mylapore. The written evaluation shows that the group really appreciated their homilies.

Topics and Speakers: The twin theme of the Conference was, in line with Pope Francis’s guidelines and challenge to religious: “Understanding our Setting” and “Reaching Out to the Peripheries.”
In his opening address, Fr V. M. Thomas Vattathara SDB, the out-going CRI National President, spoke of “The Challenges Facing the Religious Today.”
Next, Fr Selvaraj Arulnathan SJ (Director, Indian Social Institute, Bangalore), looked at “The Current Social Situation and the Role of Minorities.” His talk was supplemented by a short intervention by Bishop Sarat Nayak (Chairman, CBCI SC-BC Commission) and an appeal by the Dalit Viduthalai Payanam.
Fr Jegat Gaspar Raj made a passionate appeal on matters of ecology.
Fr Paul Moonjely, the new director of Caritas-India, presented ways in which Caritas and CRI can collaborate. “The Use and Abuse of Social Media” was the topic addressed by Mr Leslie of Madras Christian College.
Padma Shree Sunitha Krishnan, founder-director of Prajwala, gave a stirring address, “From Pain to Power: Rescue and Rehabilitation of Victims of Human Trafficking.”
Medical information on organ donation was provided by Dr J. Amalorpavanathan.
Fr Paul Parathazham, Director, St. John’s Academy of Medical Sciences, Bangalore, gave a clear presentation about St. John’s, with special emphasis on opportunities available to women religious.
The CBCI Secretary for prison ministry, Fr Sebastian Vadakumpadan, spoke of the wonderful service done by religious in this ministry and how we can do more.
The CBCI document on avoid sexual harassment at work was presented by Supreme Court Advocate Jose Abraham, who had helped the CBCI Women’s Desk to prepare the document.
A very inspiring talk on the vision and practices of Christian Medical College (CMC), Vellore, was given by Dr M. C. Mathew, who had been President of the CMC Council.
Fr Xavier Arul Raj, a senior advocate, presented a comprehensive legal framework for religious mission, and answered questions.
The plight of inter-state migrant workers was highlighted by social activist Ms. Geetha Ramakrishnan.

Further: The Assembly also took time for the reports of the regional CRI units, with statistics on the number of members and institutions in the various regions and a quick look at the main activities of the past three years. We also filled up a form on Follow-Up after the Assembly.
In the Sectional Meetings—separate meetings of Sisters, Brothers and Fathers—the new sectional executives were elected. The new National President is Brother T. Amalan FSC. The two vice-presidents are Sr Rose Celine Fernandes BS and Fr. George Panthanmackel MSFS.
Two dance programmes bought beauty and relaxation to our proceedings.
The material which each participant received included, among other things, a visiting card pendrive, which also served as a photo ID, with hundreds of useful documents loaded on it. This selection was collected and checked by Fr Cleophas Braganza SDB.
There was warm and very evident appreciation for the wonderful hospitality extended to us by the SRM University authorities. They really went out of their way to offer us excellent accommodation, their huge and beautiful auditorium for our sessions and well-prepared meals, always on time and graciously served. SRM also provided buses for pick up at the airport and railway stations, as well as transport on the campus.
We are also grateful to Fr Don Bosco Lourdusamy SDB, who contacted SRM on our behalf, and really did more than we asked for every step of the way. While we honoured the SRM founder-chancellor, Mr Parivendar, the vice-chancellor, Dr Sandeep Sancheti, and the registrar, Dr. Sethu Raman, on the dais, we also thanked and honoured others who looked after us at SRM. As a mark of their affection, the founder-chancellor gifted all the participants with a specially designed mug (which includes a photo of Pope Francis).
The organization and success of the Assembly owes much to many persons. We have thanked them on the stage and in person in Chennai. I will do that again in detail in my next letter to the Major Superiors. Thank you, participants, for your presence. Thank you, team-mates at the National, Regional and Local CRI units, for your wonderful support. Thank you, SRM family! Thank you, lay volunteers! Thank you, wise and committed resource persons, who really threw light on our path and enthused us with your passion creating a better world.

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