When love flows
After the dedication of the new Church in April of this year, the parish family of St Jude in Malad East discerned as its mission statement the following; ‘The Judean Family, striving to witness to the love and service of Christ to all’. What we never envisaged was how seriously the Lord will take us on our mission statement to love and serve “all”.
On the night of the first of July, parts of a fifteen foot, two kilometre wall, built on a hillock to prevent further encroachments from a workers colony, came crashing down. Unknown to all, the incessant rain had collected behind these walls like a reservoir and when the foundations gave way death rolled down in a flash killing 29 people, severely injuring a hundred and completely destroying more than a hundred homes
Ambedkar Nagar and Pimpripada are literally in the backyard of our spanking new Church. In the midst of reaching out to our own parishioners whose homes were flooded that night, word came to us of the wall collapse. Fr David Castegnetti, a few youth and myself went to visit the site only to find ourselves in the midst of an unimaginable tragedy; homes destroyed, people buried under the rubble or simply washed away in the ‘nullah’ while thousands of onlookers whom I now call ‘tragedy tourist’ looked on.
Social media is a powerful tool given to us by God for the good of others and my first message went live on Facebook from the site, the second went to my brother priests on our priest whatsap group and then to the laity. What happened next has left me ever so humbled and grateful for the love we as Catholics have for the least and the lost. Within minutes, responses and calls flooded my phone. Friends in Orlem sitting down to a pound party mobilized their neighbours to action, priests of the Archdiocese of Bombay, religious brothers and sisters and our Bombay seminarians jumped in to help.
Many priests sent personal donations and donations from their Churches, youth groups and prayer groups came in hundreds to volunteer, the Bishop of the CNI Church also sent in two of his pastors to reach out to us. Bishop John and Bishop Allwyn also visited the site and finally we were most blessed by the visit of His Eminence, Cardinal Oswald Gracias at our Church on the 11 of June 2019.
His Eminence interacted with the victims who shared their tragic stories of the loss of their loved ones. His Eminence blessed and assured the victims of the pastoral support of the Church while also distributing aid to those who were present. His Eminence also announced a further relief of Rs. 15 lakhs to the victims in a phased manner.
In these days the Archdiocese has worked as one team, we were ‘one in heart and mind’ (Acts 4:32). Aid in the form of fresh food, water, tea along with relief material flowed in a steady stream into St Jude’s Church. Our little Church in Malad East became the conduit for the love and concern of the clergy and laity in the Archdiocese. For the last fifteen days, long after all the ‘tragedy tourism’ and relief from some agencies have ended, the Church of Bombay continued and continues to reach out to these victims. In the days to come this humanitarian relief will take on some shape and form to protect the rights of these people while respecting the law of the land.
The parishioners of St Jude and the first responders were no experts in disaster management; we simply did what our Lord has commanded us to do, for whatsoever we do to the least of our brothers and sisters that we do unto HIM. Personally, I believe that each one of us, by virtue of our Baptism have the Spirit of God dwelling in us and that spirit stirs in us the call to respond as so many have done these days, in so many different ways.
In these days, the Archdiocese of Bombay became the face of Christ to those who lost loved ones, homes and possessions. We are the only Jesus they perhaps will ever see.
Fr Warner D’Souza