Diocese of Vijayawada: Telugu Regional Pastoral Plan (TRPP)

Committed for a Vibrant and Witnessing Church built on the Word of God, Eucharist and the Sacraments: A Seminar on Telugu Regional Pastoral Plan (TRPP)

“In virtue of their baptism, all the members of the People of God have become missionary disciples (cf. Mt 28:19). All the baptized, whatever their position in the Church or their level of instruction in the faith, are agents of evangelization” (Evangelii Gaudium 120). Change… change… change… rapid changes in every sphere of life, is the order of the day. Changes do affect us human persons both positively and negatively. As far as the ministry of evangelization is concerned, the ongoing alarming changes at socio-cultural, religious, economic and political levels, place before the Church new and complex challenges in our mission of evangelization, both within and outside the Church. These challenges ‘can restrain or weaken the missionary renewal in the church’ (EG 51). It is in this context, that we as a church are called to the path of pastoral and missionary conversion (EG 25,27). The one-day meeting organized by the diocese of Vijayawada on 15th July 2019, at Gunadala, in order to present the Telugu Regional Pastoral Plan(TRPP) was indeed a moment of making memory of the faith journey of the past 300 plus years, fondly remembering hundreds of foreign missionaries who relentlessly toiled in the Telugu land (the States of Andhra and Telangana) and sowed the seed of faith. Fr. Valle Joji Babu, the Chancellor& Procurator of the diocese of Vijayawada, introduced the theme of the day by quoting the 23rd General Body Meeting of Conference of Catholic Bishops of India at Chennai (CCBI 2011), which envisaged the National Pastoral Plan for the Indian Catholic Church. Subsequently, in 2013 CCBI brought out the National Pastoral Plan and asked the local churches to adapt to the conditions of their respective dioceses. Consequently, the Telugu Catholic Bishops’ Conference is making an effort to help the dioceses to bring about local/diocesan pastoral plans for an effective pastoral ministry. He also added that the message of Christ never changes but the ways of proclaiming the message have to be adapted to the changing situations for which there should be a pastoral plan. Afterwards, a short Documentary film on the history of the Diocese of Vijayawada (1937-2019) prepared by Fr. Matta Lazar, Divyavani Zonal Director, was screened. This short film on the history of the Telugu Catholic mission, especially the history of the dioceses of Vijayawada and Eluru, brought alive the milestones of the various epochs of evangelization. Most Rev. Thelagathoti Joseph Raja Rao SMM, the Bishop of Vijayawada, in his introductory remarks called the attention of the participants about how to celebrate the faith and transmit it to the present and future generations. He further urged that, changes taking place in the world at various levels are like whirl wind and our faith is being shaken in the currents of these changes, and we need to keep the lamp of our faith alive and ever burning. Therefore, he invited the members of the diocese – priests, religious and the laity to collectively draw up a specific Pastoral plan of the diocese/ parish, based on TRPP. The main resource person of the day, His Grace Mallavarapu Prakash, Archbishop of the diocese of Visakhapatnam and Chairman of Jyothirmai, (Telugu Regional Pastoral Centre), enlightened the participants with inspiring and thoughtprovoking reflections on evangelization/ pastoral care, and emphasized on the duty of proclaiming the Good News to those who do not yet know Christ. Stating that the Church is a believing, worshipping and serving community, he reminded that, as a Living Church, the primary duty of the Church is to proclaim the Good News. We cannot be a Church that is limited to its members inside the Church, but needs ‘go forth’ to new communities, other religions and groups. For Church is a ‘missionary church that goes forth to the poor and needy’ (EG 24,46).There is no Church without Good news. He also exhorted the gathering to be aware of and to introspect on the lack of enthusiasm and sluggishness regarding pastoral ministry. Other aspects he emphasized include, participatory church, collective responsibility, significance of the Parish Council, to be self-reliant churches, to be ‘missionary disciples’ (EG 40, 120) and above all to focus on the ‘pastoral care’ to the people of God at various levels. He invited the gathering for a deeper introspection and reflection proposing the following questions. – what is the actual situation of the people in the parish or villages? What type of pastoral care are we offering to the people of God? What do we want to give to our people? What creative, effective and dynamic means of pastoral care can we think of? – how to integrate the pastoral plan in the liturgical calendar/seasons? – how to make the parish communities self-reliant at all levels? – we are all part of the problem and we need to find the solution together. In the post lunch session, Fr. M. Solomon Raju, Executive Secretary and Director of Jyothirmai presented the booklet of the Telugu Regional Pastoral Plan (TRPP) and highlighted the four basic dimensions: 1. The profession of Faith. 2. The celebration of Faith, worship and prayer life. 3.Living the Faith: Service 4. Sharing the Faith: Proclamation. The preamble, vision and mission, goals and objectives of the pastoral plan, pastoral priorities and Action plan were also presented, highlighting some of the important practical and functional aspects. After the session, the participants were given the opportunity to share opinions and suggestions to prepare the pastoral plan of the diocese based on the TRPP. During the interventions, concerns were raised about strengthening personal and common commitment to various areas of pastoral ministry, such as, adequate planning of the youth ministry, strengthening the Legion of Mary, family apostolate, effective and creative use of the Mass media, emphasis on Charismatic prayer, involvement of Laity and creative means of teaching Catechism to various age groups. Rev. Bishop Raja Rao responded to these concerns and welcomed the suggestions. The participants expressed joy and satisfaction about the meeting and TRPP, a long-cherished dream come true. It is a wonderful gift to have this manual that can qualify the pastoral ministry greatly. There were about 500 participants from 100 parishes, consisting of parish priests, local superiors, catechists and other lay representatives. The meeting was a great impetus to re-awaken and rejuvenate the dormant missionary passion. It was concluded with the joy and hope that more guidelines and follow up of the pastoral plan will be taken up at the level of vicariates and parishes. The resource persons, Archbishop MallavarapuPraskash and Fr. M.Solomon Raju, Executive Secretary and Director of Jyothirmai were felicitated. It was followed by vote of thanks by Msgr. Mesapam Gabriel. The seminar ended with the celebration of the Eucharist presided by His Grace,Mallavarapu Prakash We are grateful to His Grace Prakash Mallavarapu for his presence throughout the day, and for his challenging and positively motivating reflections that helped the participants to blow the ashes of decreased enthusiasm, lack of commitment and to rekindle the fire of missionary passion once again. Our whole-hearted thanks and appreciation to our Bishop Raja Rao SMM, for this initiative, first of its kind. We express gratitude also to Msgr. Gabriel Mesapam, Msgr. Prasad Muvvala, Fr. Eleti William Jaya Raju, Rector and Parish priest of Gunadalamatha Shrine, Fr. Joji Babu, Chancellor and procurator of the diocese, and all other team members who collaborated for the success of the meeting. May Christ, the greatest Evangelizer, the Sower and the Seed bless our efforts! “My mission of being in the heart of the people is not just a part of my life or a badge I can take off, it is not an “extra” or just another moment in life. Instead, it is something I cannot uproot from my being without destroying my very self. I am a mission on this earth that is the reason why I am here in this world. We have to regard ourselves as sealed, even branded, by this mission of bringing light, blessing, enlivening, raising up, healing and freeing.” (EG 273)

-Sr. Sundari Nagothu MSI, Nirmala Convent, Machilipatnam