10/01/2019, 12.22
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Thousands of children in Mumbai school, following Gandhi's example

by Nirmala Carvalho

The Bandra Institute (Mumbai) is part of the Welfare Society for Destitute Children founded by Fr. Anthony Elenjimittam. The Dominican priest was one of the last disciples of the Mahatma, the 150th anniversary of whose birth is tomorrow.

Mumbai (AsiaNews) - Thousands of poor children, orphans and abandoned on the streets in Mumbai are celebrating the 150th anniversary of the birth of Mahatma Gandhi, inspirer of the school that has given them a new life of hope.

The Indian philosopher, born October 2, 1869, inspired the work of Fr. Anthony Elenjimittam, called by all Father Anthony, a Dominican priest who founded the school of Saint Catherine of Siena in Bandra West (district of Mumbai).

Fr. Anthony lived between 1915 and 2011. He was among the last disciples of the Mahatma, with whom he worked in the ashrams of Noakhali [Bangladesh], Shaodpur [Himachal Pradesh] and Wardha [Maharashtra]. He was ordained a priest on December 23, 1939 in Rome, on the tomb of Saint Catherine of Siena in the basilica of Santa Maria sopra Minerva. From that moment, he dedicated his entire life to creating harmony and mutual understanding between the religions of the peoples of every race and creed.

In 1957 he founded the Welfare Society for Destitute Children, which includes the St. Catherine of Siena School for Destitute Children in Mumbai, and the Aquinas Industrial School. The goal of the society is to gather marginalized children and educate them to create an ideal "Cosmopolis" based on their dream of fraternal humanity and unity. Later he founded the SatCitAnanda Mission in Assisi.

In 1962 Pope John XXIII recognized his mission in favor of Mumbai orphans and the missionary apostolate to achieve spiritual union between religions, races and nations in a single human family. The pontiff wanted to appoint him archbishop; however Fr. Anthony refused in order to continue his mission in favor of "the poor of Jesus" and "on the mandate I had received from Gandhi".

In his autobiography "Cosmic Ecumenism", he recalls the words spoken by the Mahatma on Christmas Eve 1946: "I want you to spend your life breaking barriers and building bridges between religions, teaching with your life to the words that religion essentially consists in the love of God and in humanity ".

17 November 1957 Fr. Anthony  gathered 16 poor and orphaned children and started teaching them under a tree in Bandra, on land donated by a Catholic woman. In less than a week the children became 78; at Christmas of the same year there were 132. Thus the school of Saint Catherine of Siena was born, which in over 60 years has offered thousands of children of all classes and religions high-level education, extra-curricular courses in the visual arts, notion on hygiene and health. The programs also include the parents, to whom meetings are dedicated to stimulate mutual knowledge and relationships with the children. The school works to realize the Dominican's vision: "To transform poor children into children of God and conscientious citizens of our country".

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