12/28/2007, 00.00
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A family with father, mother and 12 children as a community of peace

by Nirmala Carvalho
Here is a commentary on Benedict XVI’s message for World Day of Peace on the family from a couple of Indian parents, who went from having their first child born with disabilities to finding Christ and the path of mission, skirting the ways of hedonism.

New Delhi (AsiaNews) – Phillip and Joan Marcelline are Indian and have a family of 12 children that is a true community of  life and peace in accordance with the definition given by Pope Benedict XVI in his message for the upcoming World Day of Peace. In the latter the Holy Father spoke about the Human Family: A Community of Peace as a social value and a bulwark for social stability. In a hedonistic age when some would like to see the family relegated to a private and consumer-oriented role, AsiaNews presents the Marcellines as a counter-example. 

Their first child, Sarah, was born in 1986. Because she had a cord around her neck at the moment of birth she was without oxygen and was born with mental and physical disabilities.

“At the beginning we were devastated. We asked why God had allowed this to happen,” they said. But in the end Joan quit her job to take care of Sarah.

“It was not difficult,” she said though, “because I quickly realised that this child was the most important thing. Even the briefest of smiles was enough in a day that could last from dawn well into the night. I never complained; there was too much to do and at night I was too exhausted to grumble. Sleep came to me all too easily,” she explained. “Now Sarah has another 11 brothers and sisters fussing over her.”

A few months after Sarah’s birth, Phillip e Joan discovered the Word of God through a neo-catechumenal community.

"For us, the Eucharist concretely became a source of life and hope in our misery,” Phillip said. “Before the birth of our daughter, for the world, our marriage was a fairy tale. We had successful careers, and for the city of Calcutta where we lived, we had an affluent lifestyle; yet, within the confines of the four walls of our house, cracks began to appear in our marriage.”

But within a year of Sarah’s birth, just two days before Christmas in 1987, a healthy boy was born. And in “June 1988, we felt called by God to offer our lives to evangelisation through the Neo-Catechumenal Way, and have since been on mission in Pune, Maharashtra,” Phillip explained. “Now we have 12 children and in November 2007, our youngest Lydia, was baptised in the River Jordan (Israel) by Cardinal Telesphore Toppo. »

In addition to attend to the needs of their many children, both husband and wife teach catechesis in the parishes and Christian communities of the diocese of Pune. To all of them they bear witness about their experience of “poverty, rejection, solitude and even doubts,” yet also that God has always been close to them in time of need.

“Looking at our family I am filled with gratitude for God,” Phillip said. “As we all sit around our dinner table, blessing God and sharing our meals, it is indeed true that the family is a communion of love and peace. Our large Christian family is a school of the Gospel of Peace in which each member learns to care for and help the others with love and a spirit of service, learning to forgive and not bear any grudge, and be in the Pope’s words a true ‘community of peace’.”

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“L’Asia: ecco il nostro comune compito per il terzo millennio!” - Giovanni Paolo II, da “Alzatevi, andiamo”