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National Seminar (South Zone) on Skills for Biblical Pastoral Ministry

The National Seminar of the South Zone (Karnataka, Kerala, Tamil Nadu, Telugu, and Western Regions) on Skills for Biblical Pastoral Ministry was organised on 22 to 24 August 2023, at NBCLC, Bengaluru. As many as 61 persons (regional secretaries, diocesan directors, office staff, and volunteers) from five regions were trained in skills for Biblical Pastoral Ministry.

Tuesday, 22 August 2023 [Day 1]
The National Seminar began with a solemn Holy Eucharistic Celebration at 5:00 pm presided over by His Excellency Most Rev. Antonysamy Peter Abir, Bishop of Sultanpet and Chairman of the CCBI Commission for Bible. On the Feast of Queenship of Mary, the President reflected on Mary’s role in accepting the word of God and responding to it. Rev. Dr. Stephen Alathara, Deputy Secretary General of the Conference of Catholic Bishops of India, concelebrated at the Holy Mass.

The inaugural function was held at 6:25 pm at the Amalor Hall, NBCLC. Most Rev. Antonysamy Peter Abir presided over the function. Rev. Dr. Stephen Alathara was the Guest of Honour. Rev. Dr. Anil Pereira, Regional Bible Commission Secretary of the Western Region, was the keynote speaker. Rev. Dr. Nysson Luka, the Associate Director and NBCLC, and Mrs. Shaina Dass, lay minister of the word of God, Archdiocese of Madras-Mylapore were the special invitees.

The inaugural function began with the enthronement of the word of God.

Rev. Dr. Yesu Karunanidhi, Secretary to the CCBI Commission for Bible and Convenor of the Seminar, welcomed the gathering, and introduced the dynamics of the Seminar. He briefed the historical development of the CCBI and the Commission for Bible.

Most Rev. Dr. Antonysamy Peter Abir, the Chairman, in his presidential address (a) narrated the four stages of the ministry of the word; (b) clarified the context that necessitates the ministry of the word; and (c) spelt out the importance of the ministry of the word.

A brochure on Biblical Pastoral Ministry, which was prepared and designed by Fr. Yesu Karunanidhi, was released by the Chairman. Rev. Dr. Stephen Alathara and other dignitaries received the first copies. The brochure brings out in nutshell the basic tenets of the ministry of the word.

Rev. Dr. Stephen Alathara, in his felicitation, underscored the contributions of the Commission for Bible to the CCBI and exhorted the ministers to have passion for the ministry of the word of God. Rev. Dr. Anil Pereira, the keynote speaker, reflected on ‘Biblical Pastoral Ministry’ from Biblical, theological, and pastoral perspectives. Rev. Dr. Nysson Luka stressed the importance of the word of God in our lives. Certificates of Diploma were distributed to the online and postal course students.

On the dais an empty chair was kept in the light of the present Synodal exercise, which invites the voice of everyone to be heard.

At 8:30 pm the participants gathered for an informal ice-breaking session, and for group discussions in respective regions. Each group discussed the present activities, challenges, and future plans of the region.

Wednesday, 23 August 2023 [Day 2]
Rev. Fr. Kiran Babu, Regional Secretary of the Telugu Region, presided over the Holy Mass. Rev. Dr. Vincent Sequeira of the Diocese of Mangalore was the homilist. Rev. Fr. Mariano D’Costa concelebrated at the altar.

The group photo was taken at the end of the Mass.

At 9:00 am, Rev. Fr. Vignan Das Gangula, Associate Director of Communio of the CCBI, made a presentation on the vision, mission, and objectives of Communio. Most Rev. Antonysamy Peter Abir, Chairman of the Commission, handed over Rs. 12,000 as the contribution of the National Seminar to Communio.

The sessions on Skills for Biblical Pastoral Ministry were conducted by Mr. Shaji Mathew, artist and storyteller, and founder of Ark. Mr. Shaji exposed to the audience the skills of storytelling and art as the effective medium for Biblical Pastoral Ministry. Some of the key takeaway expressions are: kidfluence, planting the image, planting the seed of the word, storytelling, involvement, dynamism of ministry.

In the afternoon, the reporting of the Karnataka, Kerala, Tamil Nadu, and Telugu Regions was held.

Thursday, 24 August 2023 [Day 3]
The Holy Mass was presided over by Rev. Dr. S. Stanislas, Regional Secretary of the Tamil Nadu Region. Rev. Fr. Nirmal of the Diocese of Karwar preached at the Holy Mass, and Rev. Fr. Shaju William of the Archdiocese of Trivandrum was the concelebrant at the altar.

In the forenoon, the reporting of the Western Region and the National Commission was held.

The present activities that are held in the regions and that deserve our appreciation are the following: Bible reading, handwritten Bible, Bible Quiz, Logos quiz, seminar on Biblical themes, Bible printing, revision, printing and distribution, Bible for children, vacation bible school, Biblical retreats and recollections, Bible Marathon, Bible Vista, lectio divina, enthronement of Bible in families, Bible Diary, Parish animation programs, Bible in the liturgical year, Seminar on Dei Verbum and Verbum Domini.

Some of the challenges to Biblical Pastoral Ministry that were spelt out in the reports are: lack of passion for the word of God, lack of team, lack of lay collaboration, lack of financial, personnel and pedagogic resources, duplications in ministry, lack of participation, lethargy, lack of ministers and vocations, lack of monitoring or review mechanism, and multiple responsibilities.

The present activities of the National Bible Commission: inspirational role, national seminar (once in two years), connecting to the regional secretaries (visits to the regions, quarterly online meetings), meeting of the national consultative team, evolving tool kit for Biblical Pastoral Animation (brochure, and handbook), coordinating Bible Translation, Revision, Production, and Distribution, and Bible celebration and integration (Word of God Sunday Celebrations. Intertextual Reading of Sacred Scriptures).

The current programs at Saint Paul’s Bible College are the following: (i) Online Diploma – Two Year Program; (ii) Postal Diploma— Two Year Program; (iii) Advent Lectio – Certificate course; (iv) Lenten Lectio – Certificate course; (v) Read Bible in Original – Certificate course; (vi) Biblical-pastoral retreat for the religious; and (vii) Read Bible in 36 Days.

Fr. Yesu Karunanidhi shared with the participants the SWOT analysis that he made about himself and his ministry.

The plans of the Commission are: (i) A Primer on Biblical Animation of Pastoral Life. Book. Release on 22 Sep ’23; (ii) List of Regional-Diocesan-Religious Secs. Update. Dec ’23; (iii) Database of Indian Bible Scholars. Mar ‘24. With CBAI; (iv) Saint Jerome Award for Creative Ministry. Sep ’23; (v) List of Catholic Translations: English, and Regional languages. Dec ’23; (vi) Audio Bible. Konkani. May ’24; and (vii) Biblical Pastoral Ministry Cell in all Dioceses. May ‘25. 50%

The prospective projects of Saint Paul’s Bible College are: (i) Review of outcome and impact. Sep ’23. External audit; (ii) Taking Saint Paul’s Bible College physical. Bhopal. Dec ’23; (iii) Intermediate, and Advanced Programs. Mar ’24; (iv) Textbook: Intertextuality and Methods. Sep ’23; (v) Share Your Research. For scholars in the making. Mar ’24; (vi) Scriptus Manus Template Print. Dec ’23; (vii) Annual All-India Competition. Dec ‘23. and (viii) Lectio Divina for homiletical preparation. With VSCR commission. Mar ‘24.

The aim of the Commission is ‘to do something for the word of God every month’: Jan. (Word of God Sunday), Feb. (Bible for the Religious), Mar. (Lenten Lectio), Apr. (Bible Trans. Studies), May (Vacation Bible School), June (Bible # Youth & Children), July (Read the Bible in Original), Aug (Handwritten Bible), Sep (Bible for families), Oct (Bible and mission), Nov (Lectionary and Bible), Dec (Advent Lectio).

In the light of the CCBI Strategic Planning an exercise of making an action plan with goals, objectives, key performance indicators, and activities was conducted. Each regional secretary / diocesan director is asked to make his / her own action plan for a year.

Checklist for 2023-2024
It was decided unanimously that these following works will be done by 2023-2024 at the National / Regional / Diocesan Levels: (i) Writing a well-defined job description and roles prescription; (ii) Creating a list of diocesan and parish coordinators; (iii) Setting up a consultative team; (iv) Planning and executing one-month-one-activity; (v) Ensuring delegating, executing, and reporting; and (vi) Establishing Parish Bible ministry cell, empowering lay faithful.

Collaboration and Gratitude
Fr. Vijay Jaunet of Karnataka Region, Fr. Laurence Culas of Kerala Region, Fr. S. Stanislas of Tamil Nadu Region, Fr. Kiran Babu of Telugu Region, and Fr. Anil Pereira of Western Region deserve our gratitude for their collaboration, teamwork, and support in coordinating the National Seminar (South Zone). Thanks to all the Diocesan Directors who not only participated actively but also were resolved to renew their ministry; to all the participants who sacrificed their time, energy, and resources to be part of the Seminar; to Mr. Babu Hart for the one-man-army choir; to the team at NBCLC for their welcome and hospitality.

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