Cl. Romero D'Souza sdb
NASHIK, JANUARY 16, 2012: On January 14, 2012 the FYMPh brothers of Divyadaan, Salesian Institute of Philosophy, Nashik organized the annual symposium entitled "Challenges to Religious life: Philosophical Reflection" under the guidance of Rev. Fr Robert Pen, the Principal of the institute.
The symposium began with the opening prayer, after which Fr. Robert welcomed the guests in which he highlighted the challenging, controversial and yet pertinent nature of the topic of the symposium. The moderator Cl. Naresh Neelam then introduced the topic as well as the three speakers Clerics Bosco Carvalho, Nobin Narzary and Pritam Barla to the audience. The three talks, which then followed, were products of a lot of research, synthesis, study and reflection by the MPh brothers over the three months.
The purpose of this symposium was to reflect on religious life today and the crisis it faced in the twenty first century. While exposing the situation of religious vocation today as becoming more challenging, complex and complicated in the background of the various modern trends like consumerism, globalization, technological explosion and digital revolution. The speakers called for clear re-thinking of our consecrated lives and focus on the mission, that is, of following Christ radically.
Cl. Bosco Carvalho was the first speaker; he spoke from an Anthropological Perspective highlighting the challenges such as: Tradition versus Innovation; Cultural Pluralism (Cultural Alienation, Multicultural Membership, and Inculturation); Community Life and Individualism (New Understanding of Community Life, Individual above the Community, Institutionalization and Objectification); Obedience and Freedom (Authoritarianism and Mediocrity); Religious and Laity; Prayer and Activism. After presenting these sub-points he proposed valid and valuable responses by which one can attempt to a renewed life through Personal Responsibility and Dialogue.
Cl. Nobin Narzary, the second speaker, spoke from an Ethical Perspective exposing various issues and problems which have pilled up because of lack of moral and ethical code of discipline among the religious. He underlined and made bold major concerns such as: The blurring of Value Systems, The avalanche of powerful media of communication a cultural revolution, The Relevance of Celibacy Questioned and Unearthed Immoral Acts of Clergy and Religious (such as Pedophilia and Priests accused of various misconduct). He further suggested probable responses such as: Not changing the mode of life but changing the motivations; Not choosing another way of life but living as Alter Christus; Not having change in the form of life, but having change in the formation of candidates especially in the field of affective maturity; and Not having change in concept or value of celibacy itself, but in the person and his/her behavior who is psychologically sick.
The third speaker Cl. Pritam Barla spoke from the Socio-Economical Perspective presenting the world today as characterised by rapid changes in terms of global, social and political advancements, technological growth and consequent ethical issues. While highlighting the triple explosions namely Money, Media and Technology, he explained how these have brought about radical changes in people's perspectives, worldviews, attitudes, values systems and relationships. These changes in socio-economic field have further challenged the religious life too. The challenges focused herein were: Speed Culture, Image Culture, Loss of Sense of Vocation, Amnesia for the Poor, Gradual Disappearance of Social Consciousness and Social Responsibility, Institutionalization of Formation, Vocational Fragility, Secularized Life style, Financial Mismanagement, Affective Immaturity and Lack of Faith in Divine Providence. Finally, he put forward some possible responses such as: Fidelity to Mission, Contemplation in Action, Radical Witness in life style, and Contextualization of Formation.
After these expositions an attempt was made to philosophically reflect on the challenges presented to Religious Life and the floor was left open to the audience for clarifications and questions. The participants raised many pertinent questions which led to a lively and enlightening debate. The discussions were fair and satisfactory, and the outcome was worth as we gained insights for living a renewed religious life.
The moderator finally concluded the symposium by summarizing the entire discussion as follows: Religious life is challenging; yet we are living it in freedom. Rather than limiting, it enhances our humanness. (Late) Pope John Paul II, in his Apostolic Exhortation Vita Consecrata, teaches that "consecrated life stands at the very heart of the Church. Religious are signs of God's grace who practice the spirituality of communion and dialogue, resisting the disruptive forces at work today. The consecrated life, deeply rooted in the example and teaching of Christ the Lord, is a gift of God the Father to his Church through the Holy Spirit. The profession of the evangelical counsels of the Religious is the characteristic features of Jesus the chaste, poor and obedient one." Challenges are many and the deviations or distractions from all sides pull and attract us. Consecrated religious persons must come out of their comfort zones that they have carved out for themselves and get involved in the lives and struggles of people. The mission needs to be prioritized and taken up with love, care, and patience. It may be acclaimed that it is there that we touch the hearts and lives of the people, mould and shape their minds for the future and rekindle in them the flames of hope. Amidst these situations the Lord's presence help us go further and calls us to live the life of witness radically.
Cl. Daniel Adaikamal gave a fitting vote of thanks expressing gratitude to the Rectors of Divyadaan and Capucin community, to the staffs and students of Divyadaan as well as to all the other participants from various communities for their lively participation. Fr. Robert Pen, the coordinator was thanked in a special way for his availability, support and for his valuable suggestions.
Thus the symposium was not merely an academic endeavor but rather an opportunity to gather valuable insights to be authentic and convinced religious. Indeed the efforts of this small step, has surely left a significant mark in the hearts and minds of those present.