As the largest on the Maharashtra coast and one of the oldest in India, the parish is home to people who “live the Gospel values in every walk of life”. Vocations to the priestly and consecrated life are up. Catechumens share the Bible with zeal and devotion. Fishermen also pray at sea.
Mumbai (AsiaNews) – The Church of Our Lady of the Sea in Uttan, Bhayandar, is the local fulcrum of integral human development, this according to Godfrey Malu, a deacon involved with the parish in the Archdiocese of Mumbai.
Speaking to AsiaNews, he says that “Pilgrims from all over, and of different faiths, come to this shrine to pray for their needs and offer thanksgiving as well.”
“Uttan is known for its devotion to Our Lady of Velankanni at the Bhate Bunder Shrine,” he explains. “The people of Uttan strive to live the Gospel values in every walk of life. In the true sense of evangelisation, the people have not only come to Christ themselves, but have also brought Christ to others.”
The town, on the Maharashtra coast, is the largest parish of the deanery with 15,000 members, mostly fisherfolk. It is among the oldest in the archdiocese, erected between 1634 and 1642 with the arrival of Portuguese sailors.
According to the deacon, “Uttan has not only seen a rise in the number of people who have embraced the faith, but has also been blessed with a steady flow of vocations to the priesthood and religious life.”
Here, “evangelisation begins in the womb,” he notes. “Spirituality and devotion permeate every aspect of people’s lives. Even while out in the deep seas, they [fishermen] do regular Bible reading, pray the Rosary or glorify their Creator”.
Evangelisation takes place “through the mission of dialogue, reconciliation and inculturation.” And “People strive to live in a spirit of openness and neighbourliness, sharing their joys and sorrows, their problems and preoccupations. Christians collaborate with others for integral development and liberation of all people.”
Locals face many challenges and dangers, such as pollution, loss of green spaces, protests by fishermen. However, “the values of religious tolerance, hard work, discipline and care for Creation are evident in the way protests are conducted.”
Locals and the Church live “up to the Gospel value of peace in seeking the right to their land and getting problems solved.” And “people have been able to move beyond small Christian communities to form small human communities, and address the needs of the wider society.”
For deacon Godfrey Malu, “Every coin has two sides. Along with urbanisation, migration of workers from other states and tourism, there has been a rise in crime and prostitution. This has led to degradation of moral values. It is here that the pastoral care of migrants needs special attention, which is now being attended to.”
“Although some issues have not yet been sorted out, efforts are being made. Youth are made aware of the need to safeguard their land, their rights and their dignity. They are encouraged to take an active and responsible part in social and political issues.”
The Church has realised the importance of social media, and organises “seminars, organisations and community efforts” in order to get “youth to participate in her activities and channelling their energies is a priority, so that they do not fall prey to different vices.”
“Parishioners are also encouraged to share their views and suggestions on social media on how to make their parishes more vibrant.”
With respect to the Christian proclamation, the deacon goes on to say that “Evangelisation is not a single event, but a journey. We need to evangelise in a way that we are able to instil in all Catholics an enthusiasm for their faith, so that they are not only able to live it, but also share it with others.
In this regard, “It is noteworthy that RCIA[*] candidates who have recently professed their faith in Jesus Christ have, in turn, become evangelists. Their zeal and sincerity need a special mention.”
Likewise, “It is a pleasure to see how dedicated and devoted they are in spreading the Word of God to those around them. They play an active part in their own communities in Bible-sharing.”
Lastly, “The misinterpretation of evangelisation as reduced to conversion needs to be done away with. Each of us, through our words and actions, can be a role model for evangelisation. Conversion is the work of God. We are baptised and sent. It is our duty is to share Jesus with everyone.”
[*] Rite of Christian Initiation of Adults.