The parish of St Jude is tucked away between the national park in the East and the bustling railway station to the West. Within this very large and populous area is a tiny community of 800 Catholics most of whom struggle to eke out a respectable living. But what we do not have in material terms we more than compensate with our spirit of community. We are a small Church with a big heart!
It is this large heart (with the help of so many in the Archdiocese) that made us one of the first and perhaps continued to be the only responders to the people who fell victims of the tragedy on the first of July 2019 in which 31 people lost their lives and more than 250 families were rendered homeless.
The parish community had just adopted a new mission statement, ‘the Judean Family; striving to witness to the love and service of Christ to all people’ and it seems that Jesus took us very seriously in our outreach ‘to all’. Out of the 250 families that we reached out to only one was Christian.
But while the torrential rains battered the slopes of the National park where the tragedy occurred, it also showed no mercy to the rest of Malad East. Several homes in our parish were destroyed or submerged under water, leaving people with nothing. After having served others most in need, the parish as a family, reached out to our own.
With the help of the parish unit of the SVP, the blessings of the parish council, the permission of the finance committee and the collective go ahead of the community we took up a project that came to be known as #HomesWithDignity.
‘Homes with dignity’ is not just a project for the poor but for anyone in the parish who wishes to live in a home with dignity but was unable due to some reason. The project was handed over to the SVP unity of our parish. It was they who did the initial investigations, sourced contractors for the families, scrutinised quotations, helped write applications and saw each project to completion.
The renovations ranged from practically a new home with plumbing and electricity, to bathroom additions for those who used common toilets or modification made for special children. From refrigerators, to beds and often down to a bed sheet, homes were transformed and lives were changed.
The parish chose to make available the generous donation of His Eminence, Cardinal Oswald Gracias, Archbishop of Bombay, when he dedicated our new Church on the 8th of April. On that occasion he gave the Church 25 lakh Rupees. As a parish we believed that God has blessed us (through many of you) with the gift of new Church to worship and serve Him (which we do in our ashram consisting of ten destitute men). Now that we built God a worthy home it was time for us to build the homes of our Catholics who have served Him.
The project stands today at 16 completed homes and three are in being worked on as I write this article. It is our hope that we will renovate 25 homes by May 2020. I am humbled by the love and concern of my parishioners for each other; they have truly lived the love and concern that we read of in the Acts of the Apostles.
Finally, this Archdiocese through its many parishes with the collaboration of the clergy and laity has been doing great works of charity. St Jude’s is no model parish because each parish in this Archdiocese exists to serve. Credit must also be given to leadership; time and time again our Cardinal and Bishops in their address to the clergy have reminded us that money given to the Church must be spent.
Echoing this charitable policy of the Church, even government demands that all charitable institutions should not hoard money; it makes for poor sense. If we as institutions raise money for charity then those genuinely in need of charity must find a home in our institutions, for what so ever we do to the least of our brothers and sister ( irrespective of faith ) we do unto Our Lord Jesus Christ
Fr Warner D’Souza
Priest, charged with the pastoral care of St Jude Church and Co-ordinator of the Commission for Pastoral Initiatives.