OFM Franciscans - India

News & Events

A Confluence of Love, Peace and Joy in Dindigul

                                                                         -Bro. X. Henry Jose

A journey of less than 15 minutes from the Dindigul Junction through the rural countryside opens up a path to a different world. A world dominated by innocence and purity. As we reach closer to the destination a large Banyan tree serves as a landmark adjacent to which a narrow lane courses down. The path is lined with gooseberry trees and man-made fence. Further into the path, there stood a beautiful magnificent grotto of St. Francis of Assisi. The construction was under progress and it would be named “Amaithiyagam” which literally means Abode of Peace. The grotto serves as an entrance to Paasathottam (the garden of affection or garden where affection thrives). It is the refuge for the underprivileged people of the society; a safe haven for those who are driven to the peripheries owing to the stigma imposed upon them and serves as home for children who are directly (HIV Positive) or indirectly (Children of our beneficiaries) a victim of the deadly virus HIV/AIDS. PAASAM-FLAME, the NGO run by Friars presently under the care of Friar Xavier Durairaj caters to the needs of these people in the form of food, medicine, education of children, moral and psychological support.

Alienation is an alien word once inside the Paasathottam. There is always the sound of joy, laughter and fun. Moreover, it is an impossible task to escape from the beautiful and innocent smile of the children that spontaneously springs up the moment a stranger or guest enter. Even the construction workers busy with the completion of Grotto have to go through this ordeal. That is why as I mentioned earlier, it is a world dominated by innocence and purity. The children under the loving and watchful care of the Friars are taken care with love and affection and at the same time trained in discipline and education to face the harsh reality that they would be soon encountering in their lives.

It was my great privilege to be in PAASAM. I was fortunate to arrive before the start of children’s camp (exclusively for infected and affected children) scheduled to begin on the 1st of May. Nearly 45 children participated in the camp. The staff and volunteers were of great help in organizing the children and accompanying them from morning till night. On the 2nd of May the camp officially began with the Eucharistic Celebration presided over by Friar Peter Salethnathan along with friars Xavier and Irudayaraj. The children and staff were then divided into groups and assigned responsibilities for a smooth and uninterrupted proceeding of everyday activities. From 3rd of May the children were enriched each day with new and exciting knowledge and talents by resource persons. Sr. Anuja MBBS of Holy Cross convent, opened the minds of children to basic human anatomy and physiology. She also dealt with health and hygiene. Mr. Arokyaraj trained the children to improve their handwriting. It was hard-work as it involved flexing the muscles near the palm for a long time. The hand writing class went on for 2 full days from 4th – 5th and after that only an hour till the last day of camp. Mr. Babu Dasan and Mrs. Gunasundari engaged the children with art and crafts on 5th May. With the help of discarded and waste materials such as unused CDs, plastic straws, broken bangles etc. the children were taught to create wonderful craft works. These handiworks now adorn the walls of PAASA ILLAM. 6th and 7th were another significant days of the camp; Mr. Sivasantha Kumar, a veteran who travels throughout India creating awareness to fight for the rights of the underprivileged and the oppressed, also labouring for equal rights for women and girl child was the resource person. He had come to teach children about street play. He enthralled them with his motivating and stirring speech on the conditions of downtrodden people of our society. He was instrumental in opening the minds of children to new thinking. The next day, Mr. Walter, a young aspiring student himself, pursuing Ph D in Botany also well versed in many forms of folk dances trained the children in four forms of traditional and fold dances such as Bharatanatyam, Karakattam, Pinnalattam and Jigattam.

The children were enrolled in these dances based on age groups and they picked it up fast and practiced really hard to put up for the program on the final day of the camp.

On the 8th of May, we went for a picnic around Pollachi, near Coimbatore district. We visited two dams, Aazhiyar and Amaravati; a yoga training and research centre (Arivu thirukovil) and crocodile farm. Of all these places, the crocodile farm fascinated the children with wonder and terror. Obviously it was the first time for many, including the staff to witness a crocodile at such proximity. It was a great day of fun and enjoyment. After returning home, we thanked each other and most importantly God for his gracious love and protection.

On the evening of 10th our beneficiaries started to arrive for their usual monthly gatherings and celebration for the next two days. The blessing and opening of grotto was scheduled on the 11th. To make it a successful event, responsibilities were divided and the preparations went on in full swing. Our beneficiaries were of great help in the cleaning and decoration of our campus. The program began at 06.30 pm. Our Vice Provincial Fr. Charles Bernard OFM and Most Rev. Fr. Thomas Paulsamy, the Bishop of Dindigul diocese were the chief guests for the occasion. The event began with Fr. Charles Bernard OFM opening the grotto by cutting the ribbon. The Bishop blessed the grotto and the surrounding spaces. Friar Irudayaraj led the congregation with prayer service. Friar Xavier addressed the gathering and also spoke on the meaning and importance of “Amaithiyagam” connecting it aptly to the significance of Portiuncola for us Franciscans in India. The Bishop gave a short and powerful message from the Gospel and appreciated the friars for the noteworthy works undertaken. He also assured the friars for any ensuing help pertaining to this mission. During the ceremony, Friar Charles Bernard spoke about the 800th year anniversary of Francis’ encounter with the Sultan and connected it to the present context. After the ceremony everyone proceeded to the hall for the cultural event. Followed by that, dinner was served in the garden and the day came to a close. To mark the last day of the camp, our Minister Provincial Fr. Praveen Henry D’Souza Ofm along with the Vice Provincial Fr. Charles Bernard Ofm, Project coordinator Fr. Baptist D’Souza Ofm and Sr. Anjela (former provincial, FSM, Yercaud) were invited to make it a solemn celebration. The guests were welcomed at the entrance with garlands and percussion instruments. The Provincial prayed before the grotto and blessed the gathering of the people. We then marched towards the hall for the Eucharistic celebration which began at 8.30 AM. The Eucharistic celebration was then followed by cultural program. During the course of the program, Friar Praveen D’Souza addressed both the adults and children separately and gave them hope, courage and perseverance for a better future. Friar Charles Bernard during his speech sang few popular songs from old Tamil movies that depict the love of God towards the destitute and the downtrodden. Friar Baptist D’Souza created joy and laughter with his Tamil dialect and proceeded to speak without a translator on the importance of positive approach towards life. Gifts were then distributed for the children, guests were honoured, volunteers and benefactors were felicitated and on the whole it was an event of joy and gratitude.

As I was in PAASAM, from the beginning of the camp to its end, certain questions were stirring me. Here I am, in the midst of the most unfortunate of children, who are heavily laden with sorrow, loss and despair, and yet what makes these innocent little ones to smile and spread the fragrance of joy to others? What is that secret behind this impossible feat? Well, I may not have found the answer in its entirety, but one thing is clearly evident. The children here, irrespective of their setbacks are fully accepted as they are, and the children have surrendered themselves totally to the love, care and protection of the Friars who in turn have embraced these children as gift from God. Similarly, the beneficiaries look up to the friars as people sent from God to redeem their life from its deplorable condition. The amount of help and services undertaken on their behalf to improve their living standard is enormous and astounding.

To undertake a noble mission like this and carrying it forward needs a different quality of mind and heart. From what I observed, the friars who ran this mission before and who are running it now have not approached it as an external badge that can be taken off or just as another moment in life; but rather, as something that cannot be uprooted from their being without destroying their very self. Being a good Samaritan to all those wounded and caste away on the road of life is the basic tenet of PAASAM and marked by this quality, the Friars go forward preaching the good news, occasionally using words and have touched the lives of people and brought out the smile from the depth of their being. PAASAM indeed is the confluence of love, peace and joy of the Crucified Christ.

 

ST. FRANCIS OF ASSISI

ST. FRANCIS OF ASSISI

ST. FRANCIS

ST. FRANCIS

FRIARS' BIRTHDAY (September)

Date

Name of the Friars

Events

Year

02

+ Matthew Walsh

Jayaseelan P.R.

Home

Ordination

1969

2001

04

+ Kentigern Stuart

Home

1995

08

Arokiam John

Tom John

Arockiasamy P.

Niranjan Toppo

Birth

Solemn Vows

Solemn Vows

Birth

1976

1999

1999

1993

09

Salun Kispotta

Birth

1995

10

Athanasius Xaxa

Birth

1959

11

+ Paulinus van Halderen

Home

1999

13

Bangalore Friary

+ Vincent Roy

John Sekar

Blessing

Home

Birth

1952

1959

1982

14

Anthony Pushparaj

Birth

1976

15

+ Fidelis Magee

Home

1979

17

Stigmata of Francis

Varghese Sebastian

Richard D’ Silva

Assisi Illam Dindigul

Feast

Birth

Solemn Vows

Blessing


1947

1956

2010

18

Joseph of Cupertino

Feast


19

Mesia Elias Moses M.

Birth

1973

20

Tom John

Birth

1961

23

Padre Pio

+ John Forest Hogan

A.J.Mathew Joseph

Feast

Home

Birth


1962

1989

24

Shalom Friary –Hyderabad

Blessing

1995

25

Sagaya Soosairaj

Birth

1968

26

+ Fabian D’ Souza

Home

2010

27

+ Conrad Gomes

Home

1993

28

Nicholas D’ Souza

Lourdu Augustine

Pradeep Anthony L.

Birth

Birth

Birth

1945

1976

1992

29

Sushil Beck

Salim Baxla

Birth

Birth

1973

1974