THE OCDS IN UNISON - First Provincial Congress
October 30th to November 1st, 2015, will go down in the annals of the Karnataka-Goa Province, as we organized the First OCDS Provincial Congress at Pushpashrama, Mysore. The campus was beaming with 70 Secular Carmelites from 8 local communities around the Province (Mira Road – two communities, Mangalore, Margao, Mysore, Koteshwar, Vijayanagar and Kushalnagar). We had the esteemed presence of Fr. Alzinir Debastiani OCD, Delegate General of the Secular Carmel, who was making his maiden visit to India.

The Congress was inaugurated on 30th October in the Pushpashrama hall. The CSST postulants led by Rev. Sr. Canice CSST, set the tone by invoking God’s blessings through a prayer dance. The dignitaries and representatives lighted the giant lamp and Fr. Silvestre D’Souza, Provincial Councillor for Spirituality (Convenor of the Congress) laid a red carpet to all those present. Fr. Alzinir Debastiani was adorned with the traditional Mysore Peta. All the presidents of each local unit were escorted to the dais by Fr. John Pinto and welcomed with a flower bouquet.

Fr. Charles Serrao, Provincial Superior, who had just returned from his Pastoral Visit of Canada, expressed his joy to see such a good participation. Though coming from various parts of our Province speaking different languages, he said that this would never be a barrier for interactions, giving the example of how he conversed with a Japanese lady for over two hours in a journey by train from Rome, without either knowing the other’s native language!

Rev. Fr. Alzinir Debastiani in his key-note address highlighted the salient features of the Secular Carmelite, gave an overview of the Secular Order of the Teresian Carmel in the world with some statistics and offered a message with five verbs taken from the recent Apostolic Exhortation of Pope Francis, Evangelii Gaudium. An enacted song by the CSST postulants on St. Teresa was the last item of the inaugural function, before the formal vote of thanks by Fr. Deep Fernandes, Delegate Provincial of the OCDS.

The afternoon opened with ice-breakers conducted by Frs. Richard Menezes and Rayan Pais, which successfully enhanced the bonding! The members were all formed into groups with a particular colour and Carmelite Patron Saint. The first input session was by Fr. Alfred Menezes who described the life of St. Teresa chronologically and focused on some key episodes or experiences she had, which would be inspiring for the Secular Carmelites. Then all were led to the play ground. Frs. Joaquim Rodrigues and Deep Fernandes were able to entice all to forget their age and ailments, as they thoroughly enjoyed a series of group games. At the end, the Secular Carmelites took delight in ganging up against the Priests in a friendly encounter!

The Eucharistic Celebration in the Shrine, was enhanced with the rite of Promises. Six members from the Mysore unit made their first promises and another six their definitive. Fr. Provincial presided, while Fr. Oswald Crasta preached the homily. After supper, each local community presented a cultural programme. The performances which were well written, directed and choreographed by the members themselves, was a display of their talents. They contained pertinent messages and the flawless execution proved that they had put in great efforts in their preparation.

The next day, 31st of October, 2015 began with morning prayer and a meditative rosary, it being a Saturday. After breakfast the second input session was offered by Fr. Jeevan Tauro, who dwelt on aspects of Carmelite Spirituality in the context of family life. His practical insights, propelled the members to ask many questions and clarify their doubts. Following the tea break, Fr. Joaquim Rodrigues conducted the Quiz on Carmelite History, the lives of our Saints, the Karnataka-Goa Province. The unique mode of questions led to quite a heightened tension among the groups, while the engrossed and full participation was a telling sign of their interest in the subject.

The whole afternoon was devoted to the Centenary Celebrations of the St. Teresa of Avila, which has a separate write-up. Our friars managed to drag all on to the floor with scintillating music and folkloristic songs, during and after supper.

The last day, the 1st of November, 2015 – was the solemnity of All Saints. The day began with Morning Prayer and meditation led by Frs. Ajith Rodrigues and Rayan Pais. Fr. George Santhumayor was the main celebrant at the Eucharist and Fr. Silvestre D’Souza broke the Word of God. The community of Margao animated the liturgy, while the members from Mira Road joined the choir. The last working session was organized by Fr. Deep Fernandes, who enunciated the identity and mission of the OCDS. He gave a set of six questions to each group. Representatives then came forward one by one with their reports and suggestions in the presence of the Delegate General and Provincial. There were final messages from the two dignitaries and feedback about the entire programme by three members.

Fr. Provincial proposed that regional gatherings of various communities speaking the same language could come together every year, while the Provincial Congress would be held once every triennium. The Delegate General requested the Province to works towards the formation of a Provincial Council. These suggestions would be further discussed in the appropriate fora.
Fr. Wilfred Rodrigues like a live wire electrified the whole gathering and was the master of ceremonies, ensuring the lively participation of all. Fr. Silvestre D’Souza thanked all those who worked strenuously and unitedly for the success of this first venture of its kind, especially:
- The Dignatories
- All the Spiritual Assistants
- Fr. Joseph Pinto for the accommodation and food arrangements
- Fr. Alfred Menezes and community for providing all the facilities
- Fr. Ronald D’Souza and the Philosophy students for the preparation of the hall and stage
- Fr. Lawrence Miranda for the banners and printing

Interspersed among the session, the gathering sang ‘Nada te turbe’ and two anthems: one on Mary and another on St. Teresa. It was announced that all the OCDS members of the Province will henceforth be presented with an identical Scapular for the investiture and a uniform with the logo when making the first promises. The OCDS of Canada were fondly remembered for their generous financial contribution towards this purpose. Prizes were distributed by Fr. Alzinir to the three groups scoring the highest points.

Curtains came down on a memorable event, and the participants will treasure the moments spent together as one Teresian family. All will be given a group snap as a memento of the Congress.

In the afternoon, while most of the OCDS went on Mysore Darshan, accompanied by two philosophy Brothers, the Spiritual Assistants gathered for a session to evaluate the Congress and plan for the future. Fr. Alzinir, reiterated the observation made by his predecessor, Fr. Aloysius Deeney, that among the Indian Provinces, ours was the one that has begun well and that we are heading in the right direction. Fr. Provincial observed that he was impressed by the team-work of the friars and the presence of the Spiritual Assistants all through. In order not to turn the Secular Carmel into a pious association, he cautioned that we maintain a certain standard and recruit candidates accordingly. Other decisions taken for the future were:
- Forming of the Provincial Council soon
- Canonical establishment of our communities in Mangalore, Margao, Mysore and Mira Road
- Strict implementation of the syllabus approved ‘ad experimentum’ by the Provincial Council
- Proper documentation at the local and provincial level to be expedited
- Finalization of the uniform for the OCDS
- Attempts to form new units. We are glad that Fr. John Pinto has initiated the first steps to establish one at Rannipura.
Long live the OCDS! God bless all those who contributed their precious mite!


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