Woman, an icon of Compassion

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The plight of women in every country and continent is almost pitiful when it comes to dignity, opportunity and rights. Everyone needs to do everything possible to improve situations of women. No one can deny the fact that a woman – most probably the mother – played a great role from the very beginning of one’s life.

In one of his monthly prayer intentions presented as a video Pope Francis choses the theme of protecting the women and providing them with dignity. He wishes “women may be honored and respected and that their essential contribution to society may be highly esteemed” in every country of the world. However, Pope asks “is that enough (only) to recognize these contributions of women?” What can be done to improve the miserable situations of women globally?

Women’s role starts in the family and permeates all areas of human activity. First of all women are concerned with the ‘well being’ of all and strives to achieve it. She selflessly aspires the good of her child and all those who are under her care. A mother longs to see her baby growing; each breath of hers unites with the child. She dedicates her life for the child who grows under her mantle in the initial years of his/her life. Women have a natural tendency to nurture others. It begins and ends in benevolence. “Mothers are the strongest antidote to the spread of self-centred individualism” (Amoris Laetitia 174) Generally, women aim the good of each one because their hearts are interlaced with maternal care for all.

An aspect that makes women unique is the feelings of affection for others. As a mother, daughter, sister, wife, grandmother, friend, and a colleague she adorns herself with affection. She has a maternal heart, which overflows with compassion and sacrificing love. However, this aspect is not as much valued by the society, as it should be. On the contrary, the capacity for affection is misunderstood as her weakness. If the society respects women and recognizes her worth, the predicament of women might improve. The society needs to learn to acknowledge women more than an object. Her warmth and care is to be considered as a generous gift and not as her obligation.

Yet, it is true as Pope Francis mentions in his video message, “We have done little for women who are in very difficult situations: despised, marginalized, and even reduced to slavery.”

Woman also shall be recognized for their great heart of compassion. There is no limit for her sensitivity towards others especially for the needy. She is an ocean of compassion, so broad and deep. Those who look at it from far enjoy the calmness, coolness and color. When you go closer you really come in touch with the depth of it. Still you can remain untouched by your egos, fears and doubts.

Maternity, the aspect of a women being mothers is the most significant of women’s roles. St. John Paul II’s “Mulieris Dignitatem” framed femininity as linked to motherhood, which is necessarily compassionate and nurturing, regardless of whether or not an individual woman is actually a mother. Pope Francis underlines the value of maternity even to the extent of saying that “motherhood is not a solely biological reality, but is expressed in diverse ways” (Amoris Laetitia 178).

The best example we see in the mother of Jesus, Blessed Virgin Mary. She is a woman and incomparable mother, a mother of the earth and heaven. Overflowing compassion and care for us, the children of God are immeasurable like an ocean. In fact, the apex of maternity is shown to the human race through Jesus her son and that loving heart fosters each child of God.

In this Holy Year of Mercy, everyone, every one shall learn to consider a woman with all respect and compassion. Pope Francis also gave emphasis to the circumstances of women, saying, “We must condemn sexual violence against women and remove the barriers that prevent their full integration into social, political and economic life.”

We come across numerous incidents of women being raped, harassed, abused and thrashed. There are some occasions when women themselves join in humiliating activities of human trafficking and sex business. In our own religious circles sometimes we are apathetic to others and do not support each other as it ought to be. Respect for women shall be cultivated only when women respect other women with dignity.

The culture of feminine respect shall start from the family where all roots develop to care for the mother earth together with the mother who brought you to this world as per the design of God. May this year of Mercy purify our hearts, cleanse our eyes, and wash our brains and attitudes in order to look at the ‘Icon of Compassion’ with all reverence and love.

 

 

 

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Novel Spectacles

inner vision

Alleluia, Alleluia!

I bought a new spectacle recently, which enhanced my visibility of things. With the new glasses I was all excitement in watching the nature and viewing programmes in TV. As I joyfully spent time in doing my work on computer, I thought of the millions who are deprived of sight. I thanked my God for the precious gift of sight, which makes my life more lively and fantastic. However, during the meditation the Spirit led me to the realization that spiritual blindness is worse than the optical dimness.

A good pair of specs makes me happy as it gives clarity of sight and makes me look smart. Nonetheless, how beautiful and smart we would be if we see the Lord, face to face in our daily events and persons! This Easter invites us to view things, events and people with a new lens of compassion, understanding and love.

The Easter candle must light up our hearts to realize that we need to see beyond. Pope Francis once said to the religious leaders, ‘go to the peripheries’ and look around to see the reality of life than seeing, being at the center. Do we see the Risen Lord who begs for mercy in the midst of killings in Middle East, in the cyber youth who seek to get the mercy of God and get liberated, and the many groups of people who are marginalized and oppressed? Can we see the crucified Jesus again and again in those women who are raped and killed so brutally today?

Women become not only suffocated by the patriarchal Indian society, increasingly prescribing the morality for women but also get tortured by a section of men who see women and uses them for their visceral pleasures. The virile violence is no more restricted to the brutality in the streets but spread to the convent cloisters, which thought to be extremely safe. What have we to say, and do regarding this?

May the Risen Lord give us his light and vision to see Him alive around us and bear witness to His living presence through our consecrated life and mission. Let the consecrated people sing alleluia, recognizing the Lord in all walks of life and share that joy of being with him to the impoverished of the society.

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Learning the Culture of Encounter

Increasingly engulfing media influences our life in ways beyond imagination. Media is no more a domain of experts and professionals, everyone around us use and ‘own’ media.im2

Media bring about crucial changes in society and it significantly influences our religious life. Knowledge about media and its skills become a prerequisite to be a successful missionary and religious today.

Sadly, effects of the media seminars we participate do not last more than a couple of days. Even after the courses and seminars our approaches, strategies, mission and life itself remains unchanged in respect to media. Lack of a strategic formation that integrates media skills may be a prominent reason for this.

Church Documents

Catholic Church’s puritan approach to media had prevented its members creatively using this great force of the society until a couple of decades ago. To some, media is still a cultural force that has to be kept away. Not many may be aware that Church encourages its members including the religious to “encounter media courageously” (Pope Francis, 2013, Address to Plenary Assembly of the Pontifical Council for Social Communications) as well as to train the religious with a spirit of immediacy and urgency (Inter Mirifica, 15) for the critical use of media. For, the Church is well aware that its apostolates will be ineffective “without the knowledge in communication” (Communio et Progressio, 111).

Secondly, the consecrated people including some of those trained in social communications take an instrumental approach to media which limits them to be preoccupied with establishing media infrastructure as well as paying disproportionate attention to technological aspects. This attitude deters us from focusing on to the content and the core of media ministry of the Church.

Our media and communication efforts shall have the exclusive objective of witnessing to Christ. The challenge of this witnessing is “to rediscover, through the means of social communication as well as by personal contact, the beauty that is at the heart of our existence and our journey, the beauty of faith and of the encounter with Christ.” Therefore, media ministry does not mean inserting “expressly religious content into different media platforms, but also to witness consistently, in one’s own digital profile” (45 WCD, 2011) in personal witnessing.

Such a communication ministry is modeled after Jesus’ communication through which we are enabled to ‘giving of self in love’ (CP, 11). Media thus shall become a platform where we communicate the life giving presence of the Trinity to others by re-establishing relationships. It involves healing, education, entertainment, and information sharing. To live each day meaningfully, our liturgical celebrations would become an experience to be shared. The New Media skills may give a different personal experience to create an atmosphere of more profound listening, sharing and interaction.

New Media

This is the era of New Media. The idea of new media is different from mass media, which helped sending a limited number of messages to a homogeneous mass audience within a constrained space and time. Whereas new media is a more decentralized media system highly individuated, user friendly, interactive and woven more closely to the fabric of daily life. Examples of new media are the social media (Twitter, Facebook, WhatsApp, etc), online broadcasting and music, online newspaper, magazine, etc.

The main advantage of new media are: 1) cheaper; 2) handy and smarter; 3) highly interactive; 4) unimaginable reachability.

Social media, for example Facebook, keeps people interactive with relevant personal data available online 24/7 days of their life. There is an equal and reciprocal control over the content and using. Facilitated by Internet your messages are reached to your audience wherever they are and bring your community closer from the corners of the world.

Media in Formation

Let us go back to our pertinent question: why are religious congregations still lagging behind in the area of media? It is because we take an instrumental approach that focus on form rather than content. It is because we think that media is not a business of ‘Me’, but of others who are experts. It is because we have not defined the ‘audience of our mission.’ It is also because we do not have any passion to communicate God’s love.

These attitudes can only be reined if only we could integrate media training in our formation. In order to enter into meaningful encounter with the media friendly young generation as well as to make our mission more salvific, all sisters need to be trained in knowledge and skills of appropriate media. Media and communication shall be understood also as handmaid to other ministries such as education, social apostolates, pastoral work and health ministry. In the previous issues of Cumin we have covered these aspects in relation to media.

We require starting media training from the initial stages of formation itself. The following is a proposal for media and communication training in formation:

Objective of Media Formation

We need to objectify our media formation for the purpose of introducing the dynamics of media and to familiarize with its possibilities. Students shall be encouraged for a media ministry as a way to witness to Christ and extend the Kingdom of God as well as help them develop approaches to integrate media into the daily activities of our mission

Contents of Media Formation

Among the contents theoretical and practical aspects shall be covered. Along with the theological and philosophical dimensions of media sociological and cultural aspects shall be covered. The course shall give sufficient emphasis to technological aspects and its training.

Strategy of Media Formation

im1Provide emphasis to practical experience along with theoretical foundations. Students shall be led through practical assignments of producing various media content for missionary and pastoral purpose. Media training shall not be isolated and compartmentalized. The information and skills received shall be applied in other disciplines. The media skills shall be employed in regular ministry.

Even if sufficient training is given each of the members shall take personal interest to creatively use media in their mission. To be an efficient media person one needs the habit of reading and writing. Fundamentally one needs to be a critical thinker too. Expressing ones genuine feelings, warm reactions and responses in a community of people with an intention of making the conversation more lively and meaningful is expected of each consecrated religious. Communication of mere words for the sake of handling the community makes a dry community.

Let’s don’t wait more to start our journey through media literacy and assist the society to choose the best. If creativity is where God reveals his presence let us get into that divine experience by being creative through media, an unavoidable tool of our daily life.

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Media for Social Transformation

mediaSocial art

Inspired by the love of our foundress towards the Crucified Lord and the suffering humanity, the UMI sisters engage in social apostolate intensely. Any work done to the needy in the society is done to Jesus as he identifies himself with the hungry, thirsty, naked, sick and so on (Mt. 25:40). The marginalized sections in the society are the true beneficiaries of our social apostolate as presented by the Gospel.

When we reach out to the needy as compassionate messengers who walk and feel with the people, we transform the society and become builders of the Kingdom of God. We are not simply the distributors but persons who help to rebuild their brokenness, channelize their human and social resources and make them collaborate in their progressing growth. We relentlessly strive to eliminate poverty, discrimination, injustice, oppression and human rights violations from the society. We promote resources and capacities of people who are voiceless and powerless. Thus we become activists who have the smell of the sheep.

Making networks of people is considered to be the most efficient empowerment tactic in the age of social media. Astonishingly, new media open a vast door in front of us to connect with people across the world.

Mobile phones and Internet has penetrative presence in urban as well as rural areas of our country. Almost everyone in India owns cell phones and handles them easily. A vast population of India is now connected through Internet. Internet giants such as Google and Facebook are trying to make a complete digitally connected world in a few years. Common people use these facilities not only for their personal communication but also for business, agriculture, shopping and for their various daily activities.

UMIs need to discern the priceless value and innumerable possibilities these media technologies offer for our apostolates. There are a couple of reasons for using media effectively in social apostolate.

1) It increases the number of people contacted and networked. Connecting through media we can help a larger number of people than what we serve today. Mediated communication transcends space and time. That means these media help us to serve more people and offer continuous help to them beyond time and space.

2) It can reduce the number of our sisters involving in social apostolate without reducing the quality and quantity of our ministry. We often find it difficult to reach as many people as we wish because we ourselves do not have sufficient members to work in social apostolate.

3) Media can be used for better coordination and information dissemination. As almost all are using mobile phones we can monitor and direct our animators for an effective work. Similarly we can reach out to our target audience directly through the short messages. Providing right information in right time can better many people’s lives.

4) It is relatively cheaper but effective. Social media is cheaper. Internet also is relatively cheap now and is going to be cheaper in future. If properly used social media is very effective in networking and coordinating the weaker sections of the art.minesociety.

5) Finally, media shall be used to shape the public opinion. Along with empowering the weak, we also need to purify the conscience of the mainstream public. Media as well as education are the only way for that.

However, without some basic training one would not be able to handle media for social causes. The animators and other staff also shall be trained in media. Animators also can be trained as good users and producers of various media in order to reach out to their own people. Those people who require our help in using media should be supplied the same.

However, we should be cautious about two things when handling social media. 1) Physical gatherings and programs of our beneficiaries shall be given importance over mediated coordination. 2) We should be aware of the risks of using online media such as online fraudulence, cyber crime and so on and teach others to use it responsibly.

It is high time for us to revise our methods of social apostolate. The media can create networks of people. But the most transforming effect UMIs can create is that media can be used to create network of love and service of the people we serve in villages and cities.

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Media and Healthcare

doctor & mobileNursing care is undergoing dramatic shifts, as the culture around us is changing, as well as with the developments in healthcare practices. This issue of Cumin is covering topics in healthcare, a ministry in which UMIs are engaged.

Health care is no more approached as caring for the physical illness, but is seen as having concern with the whole person. The salvation provided by Jesus was integral and holistic, recognizing the total value of the human person. This was especially true when he healed the sick people. After the healing Jesus either reminded them not to sin, or highlighted the value of the person for the onlookers.

In this context the articles in this issue by our sisters Teresa Jose, Helen, and Jessy Thayil explores various aspects of nursing care in a changed cultural setting. I am thankful for their contributions to this issue of Cumin.

In a rapidly changing lifestyle of today, media can be a very powerful tool for providing enhanced healthcare, which addresses all aspects of well being including the spiritual. Let us rededicate ourselves to the nursing care so that people experience the healing that the Divine Master provides.

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Steth in One Hand, Tech in the Other

steth and pills

 

 

 

 

Media and communications is an important aspect to promote health education and to improve the services in healing ministry. In health communication we utilize the media technologies and communication techniques to enhance personal and public health.

Mediated communication not only enriches our thinking and perspectives about health ministry but also helps us to do things differently for creating a holistic health atmosphere for the patients, as well as the professionals who are working with us. There are various ways of using media and communications in this ministry for better reach out.

First of all media can be used to directly contact the patients or their families for better healthcare services. Health related information as well as updates about patient status could be disseminated through mobile messages. Today people seek quick and accurate information about their situations. Many young people especially in foreign countries depend on social media for information on medicine, diet, sickness and its treatments. It’s time to think mobile first, second and third for your healthcare facility.

Secondly, mediated communication can facilitate better co-ordination of the health care professionals of our hospitals. We as administrators of healthcare facilities, need to establish a positive communication with our own staff who include doctors, nurses, nursing aids, assistants, and other employees of our hospitals, clinics and health centres.

For this matter we also need to examine how clearly, helpfully and lovingly we communicate them. It is also our responsibility to check how effective our co-workers are communicating health related matters to the patients. If we want to serve better and make a difference we need to think about improving the communicative quality of our employees. Positive communication can facilitate effective service. Moreover, we also need to place our colleagues within the purview of evangelisation. They shall be enlightened by Jesus’s approach to sick and dying.

Third aspect goes beyond the hospital environment. Health care ministry shall take much attention to create awareness about health, hygiene and wellbeing. Creating awareness about diseases and wellbeing will effectively prevent ill health. Prevention is better than cure. Media is the best tool for educating people about various diseases and its prevention. All possible platforms, such as schools, parishes, public places and social gatherings shall be made use to disseminate health related information. This will lead to social health.

Traditional media such as printed materials, posters, brochures, street plays, audio messages as well as small videos, which we are very much used to, are best media platforms for this. However, these traditional types of media require more professional help and are more expensive.

This is where we should be sensitive to the signs of the times. Internet communication is relatively cheaper and has wider and faster reach out. Today almost everyone in India owns a mobile phone. Wireless subscriber base had grown to 904.15 million, as per latest data released by Telecom Regulatory Authority of India (Trai). A large chunk of them have smart phones and are connected through Internet. They are also faster than the traditional means. This is a very efficient platform for us to reach out with life-giving and inspiringh&mobile messages to those in trouble, sick and bereaved.

It is true that we live in a busy world and the volume of ‘work’ to be done takes much of the essence from what we are supposed to do. We should be constantly introspecting about how we dedicate ourselves to our apostolates by being an inspiration to others and witness to Christ. Any act of communication such as a “kind word or a smile” can be a creative and powerful force in somebody’s life and can be a healing energy that mends the broken and wounded, physically as well as mentally. Jesus’ methodology of healing involved going near the sick, looking at their eyes with compassion, speaking gently to them, listening attentively and accepting their responses patiently and diligently. His first prescription for healing was prayer. We are called to impersonate him in our life and mission. Use of media in health ministry will only facilitate effective witness to the healing presence of Christ, the ultimate goal of religious life.

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Transformative Education

Hand_Writing-1024x675Kids! Who are they, the small body of vigour and vision?

Kids eagerly look at the elders to learn, imitate and to be empowered. However, one of the prominent spaces from where children learn is media. What comes out of our children is the fruit and fruition of their associates. They may bear positive or negative fruits, drawing lessons from family, friends, school or media.

The formation of students in a competitive culture is a key issue discussed by many scholars and presented in many conferences, talks and discussions. However, we witness everyday from newspapers and television that the rate of crime is increasing in our country. News about harassing women has become banal in our culture. Infant death ratio shows 6000 per day.

What are the real outcomes of the education we provide? Whom are we educating? Are we not pre-occupied with securing 100% success for our schools and shaping exclusively doctors and engineers? Yet, do we have a record of the number of students who passed out our schools and become doctors and engineers?

This is a time to reconsider the real objective of education. Does our education provide a pathway to truth of knowledge, wisdom, compassion, morality, dignity, equality and empowerment?

Education has the power to form the determined spirits with an unquenchable thirst for truth and justice. This would be the ultimate objective that we need to aim at through the holy act of education.

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Education: A Gandhian Perspective

Many of us actively engage in the holy activity of education. Gandhiji points out seven deadly sins of this world – wealth without work, pleasure without conscience, science without humanity, knowledge without character, politics without principles, commerce without morality and worship without sacrifice.

In spite of our serious commitment in the filed of education which ideally is aimed at helping the young people to constitute a better society these sins seem to surge in our society. Character building of a child along with vocational training was one of the prime concerns of Gandhian education, which would foster morality, equality and has the dignity of labour.

Gandhian socialism, namely Sarvodaya, envisions promotion of everyone in the society. It would provide dignified life to each individual and bring social order. To accomplish sarvodaya, in our education we must aim at multi-faceted development of individual, society and nation.

The father of our nation also reminded the teachers to be a student when she/he is with the pupil. There are so much to learn from them while teaching. If the teachers develop this attitude it would not only be beneficial for themselves but for the young generation and the society.

In the perspective of Gandhiji, education must be based on spending every minute of one’s life usefully for oneself as well as to others. If we see evils growing in our society damaging its own backbone it is high time for us to rethink our education system.

Imparting information, knowledge and facts alone would not help true democracy instead right education is the need of the time.

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Year of Faith

The Year of Faith reminded every Christian the content of Evangelisation. “Charity, the most powerful force, which must burn in the hearts of Christians. Faith, must become a flame of love within us, a flame which burns in our lives and is propagated to our neighbours. This is the essence of evangelisation. ” Evangelisation is the target of all  Christian communication and media and it remains as the platform for reaching out to the people.

Faith enkindles our communication with God and brings us closer to HIM. Communication takes us closer to our fellow beings. Means and modes of communication make us effective communicators and prosumers to enhance the wonder of communication in our daily lives.

The views, notes, references, explanations and links are meant to be a prevue for the beginners of Social Communication, especially to my students.  Effectiveness of our ministries depends a lot on our communication.  Provided infrastructure and inputs may encourage you to look for new horizons to widen our ministry according to the soul of time.

The Church is communication and you and me are called to communicate through our very life itself. The high tech world is only a means not the end in itself.

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