Behind the smells and bells of the Catholic Church.

As many of you know, my domestic help Pinky, lost her baby a week after he was born. We named him John Paul after the great Pope. Pinky paid tribute to the Parish community when she said, “I carried the baby for nine months in my womb and after he was born the members of the parish of St Jude carried my baby and looked after him.” Pinky’s story  reflects the Kingdom of God  and the greater calling that needs to be explored and lived beyond the bells and smells of the Catholic Church. 

 Indeed, for ten days, the women of the Parish stood solidly in Mumbai’s Sion Hospital with not even a chair to rest. The over crowded and over worked Government run hospitals of Mumbai are ironically cruel to caregivers. Little corners of crowded staircases were all they had to rest their aching legs to say nothing of the sweltering summer heat which hovered around thirty five degrees centigrade. But they stood and watched over the baby, day in and day out.

 I was told that some of our youth  of St Jude’s Church, Malad East, emptied their pockets and gave of their money to say nothing of their time. Sylvia Fernandes who co-ordinates much of our youth activities, ensured that a female parishioner was always besides the child as men were not permitted in the ward. The men of the Parish like Manish Dmello helped Pinky’s husband, John, in running around to get medicines and medical reports while my staff of Jovita Mendonca, Jonny Dcruz, Shailesh Shetty and Joynel Fernandes, took turns in the hospital and co-ordinated the financial payments; all this while I was away in Australia. The Parish ran as a parish should; the laity at its helm.

Pinky’s story of faith, in the face of personal loss, has warmed many hearts. Yesterday Bishop Barthol Barretto, the  Auxilllary Bishop of Bombay, who heard of her story, made an impromptu visit to the parish. He visited the site for the new structure of our ashram and Church and also visited Pinky’s home. The prayer that he led the family into, was filled with loving words of compassion  and this was backed by kindness when he gave the family Rs 5,000. He then visited another home where he heard the confession of an elderly lady.

I was deeply touched by the actions of Bishop Barthol who came most simply dressed, using public transport. Having worked with him at youth camps when he was a young priest I have experienced his simple manner of life. I also had the pleasure of working with him as the Dean and now as a priest to a Bishop. He truly has the mind of Christ as he walks with his flock. 

 The Church is in need of great reform. To my mind, that reformation has been set in motion by Pope Francis, though it has not always trickled down to the grassroots. We can’t sit on past laurels of charity. For example, Gurudwaras, run  by the Sikh community around the globe, are constantly dishing out food to the poor, daily; perhaps far more than the once famed Church soup kitchens. And then perhaps we also don’t hear of Christian charity because we hold that the right hand should not know what the left is giving; which I hope is case.

 Still, much more needs to be done. We need to become a hands on, grass root Church. I sometimes suspect that we have hidden from the tougher calling of charity and love for the poor, behind the comfort of the cloud of incense and the peeling of bells. Have the poor been obscured and their voices drowned out my the clamour for cult? Make no mistake, one is not compensated or substituted by the other. The Church must be a blend of worship and work.

 Bishop Barthol leads the way and I am blessed to have shared the evening with him. Yet to my mind, what we do as a Church is not enough simply because we can do much more. The Church in Bombay (read Bishops, priests and people) must have at its heart, a constant and abiding love for the poor. This love must leave the institutions we have built and perhaps now become prisoners off.

 Jesus not only left us the Eucharist as an eternal memorial but He also left us the poor when he said, “the poor you will always have” and again, “Whatsoever you do the the least of my brothers and sisters that you do unto me.

 God bless you Bishop Barthol. May your tribe increase.


Fr Warner D’Souza

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6 thoughts on “Behind the smells and bells of the Catholic Church.”

  • True so true..
    Life today has become a fast lane .people planning and saving for tomorrow.
    Its very easy to push aside the ones in need since we r busy making our plans for the future of our families..
    I dont know how much is right or wrong with the way we live now planning for our own future.
    Yes i do pray tha we can find a way of helping out just a little at least ..a lot of little can make it big..

  • John Paul I believe is an angel in heaven with watching over and taking care of not only his own family, but also the family of St Jude’s parish.

  • John Paul I believe is an angel in heaven with Jesus watching over and taking care of not only his own family, but also the family of St Jude’s parish.

  • Our responsibility is to fulfil the mission of Christ; the church helps us put that mission into action on a daily basis. Wishing you peace, joy and happiness Bishop Barthol!

  • Sylvia Fernandes · Edit

    May God continue to guide us all to go out and serve him thru the poor and the ones who are needy of help watsoever. There’s definitely an Angel, John Paul, watching over us an interceding for us. What takes years to build a community and go out in service, the infant made it possible in a week. What a blessing!!

  • Fr. Barthol is truly “Love in Action”…Loads of love n cheer to all the Malad East people – a humble sweet parish. And many more thanks to Fr. Warner for observing and acknowledging when people reach out in mercy. The sheep replicate the shepherd 😉


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