Lay organisations are an integral part of the church and are crucial to its sustenance. These organisations are the pathway to building a holistic community through the many activities they organise within the framework of their objectives.
The success of these small groups lies in the commitment and dedication of each and every member. These organisations lead to a personal discovery with open lines of communication and freedom to voice opinions. It creates strong bonds of friendship. Projects are planned and executed involving everybody in the group. This enriches their lives and one sees leaders emerge. Lay organisations are an absolute necessity in the Ministry of the church.
Parish Pastoral Council
“Commit your way to the Lord, trust in Him and He will do it” Psalm 37:5
In the formative years of our Parish a committee was formulated and named “Irla Church Committee” led by our founder Fr. Bruno Venturin. After the recommendation of the Second Vatican Council, Parish Pastoral Councils (PPC) were initiated in parishes in Mumbai, including our Parish.
The PPC functions as a consultative body in accordance with the provisions of Canon Law, representing all the Catholics in the Parish i.e. the clergy, the religious and the laity. It shares with the Parish Priest and his Assistants, responsibility for the growth of the Parish as a community of Faith, hope and love to ensure that the Mission of the Church is promoted through participation of all members of the Parish Community. PPC is governed by the constitutions and guidelines issued by the Archdiocese of Bombay, which have been reviewed and revised from time to time.
At present, the term of the PPC is three years and coincides with the term of the Archdiocesan Pastoral Council. The current PPC was elected in June 2016 for a period of three years. Every effort has been made to include and represent all the zones and lay organizations of the Parish in the PPC with a view to enhance the process of pastoral planning, developing and improving pastoral programmes and evaluating their effectiveness. Our Parish being considered a Shrine, every PPC member is also involved in the activities leading to the Novena. As the current term of the PPC coincided with the Golden Jubilee Celebrations, the PPC members were exhorted to renew their spiritual life and commitment to pastoral work through recollections and retreats. Through continuous training programmes, PPC members are encouraged to learn about essential elements of parish life, reflect on their own experience as a parishioner and through effective leadership, develop strategies and methods to engage the larger community in spiritual and socio-cultural activities so that we continue to grow as a vibrant parish community.
Ankur Vikas Kendra ( Community Welfare Fund)
“Seek ye the Kingdom of God and all other things will be given unto you” Mathew 6:33
Family contribution towards church support is a very old custom followed in the Parishes of the Archdiocese of Bombay. This was popularly known as ‘tithe’.
In earlier years a PPC member or a zonal representative was appointed to visit every family in the Parish on a monthly basis and collect the tithe and the Parish would maintain a record of the collection. Over the years this system was discontinued due to lack of adequate response from the families and reluctance on the part of those visiting the houses.
In 2004, Guidelines were issued by the Archdiocese of Bombay encouraging every parishioner to contribute 1% of his/her earnings, which would go to form Community Welfare Fund of the Parish. In Irla this fund was christened Ankur Vikas Kendra and a Committee was formed with sub-committees for Medical Aid, School Aid and Maintenance to assess the needs of the parishioners, with a Community Fund Co-ordinator (CFC) along with the Parish Priest as its head. The CFC would also find a place in the PPC.
Under the banner of Ankur Vikas Kendra many medical camps for blood donation, eye check-up, general health have been held in the Parish. Needy parishioners continue to be aided for school fees, medicine and sometimes for minor repair of their dwellings. To promote community bonding, the funds are also utilised to assist the SCCs to organise fellowship programmes at the community level. However, limited contribution from the parishioners makes it difficult to meet the needs of the elderly in our parish. The fund now continues as “Community Welfare Fund”
Community Welfare Fund”.
Extra-ordinary Ministers of the Holy Eucharist
“I am the bread of Life” John 6:35
The first batch of Eucharistic Ministers was commissioned in our Parish by Fr. Carlo Rimondi in the year 1996. Later on their title was formally changed to “Extra-ordinary Ministers of Holy Communion” (EMHC) by the Archdiocese of Bombay.
EMHCs are lay people appointed in Parishes in situations of genuine pastoral need where ordinary ministers are not available or are insufficient in number to distribute Holy Communion during Mass and to administer Holy Communion outside of Mass to the sick and homebound. To serve as an EMHC persons must be practicing Catholics with deep Faith and demonstrate a deep reverence for the Holy Eucharist and have the ability to carry out assigned duties.
All EMHCs are commissioned during the Mass on the Feast of Corpus Christi. The commitment is for one year and can be renewed further. In order to refresh their commitment, these ministers have a recollection once a year at the Parish level and also attend Rally and training programmes organized at the Deanery level.
The Parish Liturgy Committee
“Your word is a lamp for my feet, a light on my path” Psalm 119:105
As per the Constitution on the Sacred Liturgy from the Second Vatican Council “The liturgy is the source for achieving in the most effective way possible human sanctification and God’s glorification, towards which all the Church’s other activities are directed. The Church earnestly desires that all the faithful be led to that full, conscious, and active participation in liturgical celebrations called for by the very nature of the liturgy.”
Primary Role of the Parish Liturgy Committee (PLC) is to identify all the various cultural and age groups in the Parish, and work towards full and active participation by all these members; to monitor the organizational details of the parish liturgies; to offer on-going liturgical formation for all age-groups and cultural groups in the Parish; to manage the seasonal decorating of the worship environment and plan and monitor the liturgical activities.
The term of the Liturgy Committee (LC) in our Parish coincides with the term of the PPC. The LC is headed by the Parish Priest and includes the Assistant Parish Priest, Sisters of St. Anne, heads of choirs, Altar Servers, Lectors, RCIA/Pre-Baptism, Extra-Ordinary Ministers of Holy Communion, Lay Organisations and Sacristan. The Parish Priest can appoint other persons who have appropriate skills / experience to represent on the LC.
The LC meets on third Tuesday of every month and the liturgy and activities based on Church calendar falling in the following months are discussed and planned. Activities that have already taken place are reviewed.
The liturgies are based on the directive from the Archdiocese of Bombay for all Eucharistic celebrations. Training programmes are regularly held for proclaimers and Readings are allotted for daily, Sunday and Solemn Eucharistic celebrations.
Rite of Christian Initiation of Adults & Pre-baptism Catechism
“You were called to be God’s Holy people” Deuteronomy 7:6
Rite of Christian Initiation of Adults (RCIA) is a process developed by the Catholic Church for prospective converts to Catholicism who are above the age of infant Baptism. Candidates are gradually introduced to aspects of Catholic beliefs and practices. The basic process applies to adults and older children. The RCIA course is so designed that one understands the teachings of the Church and believes in it to become a Baptised Catholic.
The Pre-baptism programme i.e. before the celebration of the Sacrament, the Catholic Church expects parents and godparents to be fully informed of the meaning of the
Sacrament as well as its responsibilities.
This program was initiated in our Parish by late Fr. Grugni in 1997 and we had just a couple of Catechists handling both the programmes. In February 2014, eight parishioners were trained to conduct the Pre-Baptism course in our parish. This elaborate programme covers four sessions. Team of two catechists conduct each session to promote better interaction and sharing.
The certified programme is held at regular intervals for first time Parents and Godparents as well as those who would like to attend a refresher course. The entire programme was revised in 2015 by the Diocesan Catechetical Centre. Our parish was one of the very few in the Archdiocese of Bombay to introduce the new course with immediate effect. Regular programmes are held for these catechists to upgrade their knowledge and training skills.
“Let the little children come to me” Mathew 19:14
Sunday schools are the foundation of the future Church, planting spiritual seeds and forming a small community that worships, learns, and discovers God together with the catechists. Together they have an encounter with God’s word that leads to spiritual growth and in turn leads to life changes.
Initiated in 1986, the children of the Parish attend Sunday school which is scheduled before the children’s mass. Trained catechists teach Catechism following the guidelines set by Diocesan Catechetical Centre.
Some of the salient features of their activities include explaining the meaning of prayers, celebrating feast days of the saints, commemorating important days of the Church, conducting special classes to prepare children for the Sacraments of Reconciliation, Holy Eucharist and Confirmation, conducting various programmes on occasions like Mission Sunday, Parents’ Day, organising a Christmas Tree celebration for the children, training children to join the Altar Servers and the choir.
Catechism students also participate in Annual Faith Formation activities and Choir Festivals at the Deanery level.
The Velanka Youth Group
“For you O Lord, are my hope, my trust, O Lord from my youth” Psalm 71:5
The youth ministry in every Parish is vital to helping teenagers integrate into the larger inter-generational community of the Church. In this Parish too, the Youth Group is dynamic. It started under the guidance of Fr. Rimondi and Brother Austin Norris. Both were instrumental in consolidating the group and giving it a formal structure. Initially the youth were involved in many pastoral activities such as choir, Lectors, ushers during the annual novena services, cleaning, and decorating the church.
Regular meetings are a cornerstone to organisation, and such meetings led to many activities like conducting “Youth Mass”, visits to social institutions, and organising social activities like the Christmas tree, sports events and also participating in the church fund raising activities.
As years went by, the youth group had many ups and downs but today this group has emerged strong and active. Their focus is on facilitating youth participation in the Parish and creating opportunities to showcase their talent. As they have become more structured as a group, they represent the parish at the Deanery and Diocesan levels. They are keen to learn more about their Faith and want to foster a feeling of community by organising many activities in the Parish.
Some of the salient features in their list of activities include, setting up the Christmas crib, conducting live Stations of the Cross during Lent, organise special days such as Parents’ Day, Cultural day and fund raising activities like running a stall on Mission Sunday, organising and conducting activities at the Summer Club in the parish.
The youth group would like to continue these activities in the Parish throughout the year and will be soon gearing up to be a part of the Neighbouring Youth Group (NYG) as recommended by the Archdiocese.
Senior Citizens Association
“Grey hair is like a crown of honour; it is earned by living a good life.” Proverbs 16:31
The Senior Citizens Association (SCA) was the brainchild of Fr. Carlo Rimondi. His involvement in the religious and cultural activities in the parish had prompted him to form an association for the older, yet productive people. In 1997, he arranged a get together for all the senior citizens and 34 seniors voluntarily participated. He put forth his concept of forming this association, and expressed that a strong membership and funds were the backbone of any organisation. He immediately set up a corpus by donating Rs.5000/- and made his first payment of Rs.100/- and signed up as its first member. Others joined with conviction and contributed towards the cause.
Thus SCA came into existence on 25th October 1997 and since then the membership has increased to 125 life members. The objective of SCA is to foster goodwill and friendship, promote social, cultural and spiritual welfare of members and parishioners. In addition, undertake humanitarian work and schemes within the group.
A 7-member Executive Committee looks after the working of SCA. Annual on-going activities include get-together on the Feast of Sts. Joachim & Anne, Patron Saint of SCs, organising Christmas Bazaar, pilgrimage to Infant Jesus Shrine, Nashik, and visit to the sick and home-bound SCs of the Parish. Mass is offered for the repose of the soul of SC members. As an additional activity for the Golden Jubilee Year a pilgrimage was organized to the Shrine of Our Lady of Fatima in Karjat on 13th April, 2018. The SCs play a major role during the Annual Novenas helping at the donation stall, as Extra-ordinary Ministers of the Eucharist, Religious Articles Stall and as volunteers in other departments.
Members of our SCA attend all the on-going events conducted by the BASCA (Bombay Archdiocese Senior Citizens Association) and the annual Holy Eucharist for Senior Citizens and Elders of the Archdiocese conducted at Mount Mary’s Basilica in September most of the Retired Bishops and clergy attend.
A unique factor about SCA is that they generate funds to take care of all their annual expenses without drawing on earlier corpus or from the Community Welfare Fund. Annual Thanksgiving Mass is held and at the Annual General Body Meeting, information on the accounts and activities of the SCA are disseminated to members of SCA.
Legion of Mary
“And Mary said, ‘I am the servant of the Lord’.” Luke 1:38
The Legion of Mary is an Association of Catholics who, with the sanction of the Church and under the powerful leadership of Immaculate Mary. Their objective is to spread the Glory of God through the holiness of its members. Their work is enhanced by prayer and active cooperation in the work of the Church.
The Legion of Mary at Irla has six active members and many auxiliary members. The Parish Priest or the Assistant Parish Priest is the Spiritual Director. The objectives of this group are met through home visits, hospital visits, and visits to many institutions set up for the marginalised sections of society.
Prayer is the forte of Legion of Mary. The active members meet every Monday evening in the Parish for prayer and report on their weekly activity. Members in pairs recite the Rosary and conduct the Way of the Cross in the homes that they visit and in different areas of the Parish.
Prayer has been instrumental in bringing back a family to the Catholic Church. This is something that they cherish. Their regular visits, prayerful intentions, have brought about miraculous results. Many children started attending Sunday School and the family members attending Holy Mass regularly.
Under the mantle protection of Mother Mary, they have been conducting a three-hour prayer service twice a month. Every effort is being made to enrol more parishioners as active members of the Legion of Mary.
Society of Saint Vincent de Paul
“You are not alone. I am here with you!!” Hebrews 13:5
Reaching out to the marginalised is the cornerstone principle of Society of Saint Vincent de Paul (SVP). This organisation helps the poor, needy, distressed and lonely in our Parish, irrespective of class, caste, creed or colour. Thirty-two families are the beneficiaries of the aid given.
Assistance is provided to these families in the form of monthly rations, financial and medical aid. For non-Catholic beneficiaries 50% of school and college fees are reimbursed. Monthly fees of the differently abled are also paid.
The SVP members regularly visit the homes of the aided families, spend time with them and with a spirit of empathy try to provide them with much needed comfort. At times, daily use commodities like soap and shampoo are distributed. They also distribute plastic sheets during the monsoon and handle funeral expenses. Once a month sponsored dinners are organised for the families.
The SVP’s prime focus is education. They conduct study classes from Std I to XII in English and Marathi. Celebrations for festivals like Christmas, Diwali, New Year, and Children’s Day are organised for the children. Sports day and an Annual Day are celebrated too. Meritorious students are awarded with scholarships.
Their work included visits to Nirmay Niketan AIDS centre, leprosy home (Trombay) and Shanti Bhavan home for the aged (Kalyan) where they distribute commodities like oil and soap to the inmates and sponsor a meal. SVP also made a donation of Rs.5000/- towards a Christmas party for farmers’ children at Bharuch.
Hope and Life Movement
Father of the fatherless and protector of widows is God in His holy habitation” Psalm 68:5
On November 2, 1999, the Hope and Life Movement was founded in the Archdiocese of Bombay for widows and widowers. Mrs. Lorna D’souza (FILMC) was instrumental in initiating this movement. The main objective of this group was to bring together those who had lost their beloved spouses, giving them a space to find comfort, support and solace and to encourage them to continue to live life to the fullest.
The main activities of this group are praying together for the deceased family members. They also organise social events like birthday celebrations and pound parties. They also extend their support to the church activities e.g. helping out during the novena services where they participate as ushers, and in the Religious Articles Stall. Some of their outreach activities include, visits to the Clergy Home and participating in annual day functions.
The members of the Hope and Life Movement meet regularly on the 2nd Thursday of each month.
“Your word is a lamp for my feet, a light to my path” Psalm 119:105
The Bible Cell was started on October 14, 2017 to bring the communities together and enable individuals to deepen their prayer life as they read, reflect and share in a group to experience God’s Word as an individual and in our communities.
The first session was conducted by our Parish Priest Fr. Ravi and subsequent sessions were conducted by Fr. Ed Carlos and Bro. Kanika Das.
Although diverse, the discussions help us understand the Word better. Although these sessions have taken a momentary break, we are committed to re-start with zeal and enthusiasm. For we truly believe that no one can give to us that peace that the Word of God can give.
This is a first of its kind initiative in our parish. It is a Forum where the experienced share their wisdom and the young their perspective. The Bible Cell meets every first Saturday of the month.
Bombay Catholic Sabha
“Whatever you do, work at it with all your heart, as working for the Lord, not for men”
The Bombay Catholic Sabha (BCS) was founded on January 20, 1989, as a non-political organisation registered as a public trust under the Bombay Public Trusts Act 1950. The BCS is a recognised lay association of the Archdiocese of Bombay and Catholic Bishop’s Conference of India.
The BCS in our Parish started on 11th October 1998 with 39 members with late Mr. J.P. Aranha, Lallubhai Park, elected as the Sabha’s first Chairman. Some of the work undertaken was an eye camp, Christmas bazaar, sale of Christmas cards.
In August 2018, it was revived due to the efforts of Fr. Ravi Marneni, our Parish Priest. The BCS recently organised a help desk and successfully assisted 23 parishioners apply for their election card. Thirty-nine new members were enrolled. The members also visited the Home for the Destitute at Santacruz.
Divine Mercy Ministry
“Look into my heart and see there the love and mercy which I have for humankind and especially for sinners. Look and enter into my passion.” St. Faustina’s Diary
The Divine Mercy devotion was started in our Parish in 2011 by two members of the Legion of Mary. The message of the Divine Mercy is simple – that God loves us all. He wants us to recognize that His Mercy is greater than our sins and when we call upon Him with trust we receive His Mercy and let it flow to others.
In our Parish, the Chaplet of the Divine Mercy is recited daily before the 7 p.m. Mass. A Novena dedicated to the Divine Mercy is conducted every year commencing on Good Friday concluding with the Feast celebrated on the Sunday after Easter.
The Holy Father Pope Francis declared 2015 as the Year of Mercy. To commemorate this event, our Parish hosted the Central Suburbs Deanery Divine Mercy Adoration on November 27, 2015. The Divine Mercy devotion is held in our Parish every first Friday of the month at 3.00 p.m.
Small Christian Communities
“How good and pleasant it is when God’s people live together in unity!” Psalm 33:1
Under the leadership of our then Parish Priest, Fr. Antonio Grugni the Small Christian Communities (SCC) movement reached the Parish in 1998. Fr. Grugni called for a meeting of few dedicated parishioners and expressed his desire to start the SCCs in Irla. Eight zones were identified and 2 FILMC members – Mrs. Lorna D’Souza and Mr. Ashley Nazareth volunteered to be our guides. Fr. Grugni went around celebrating the Eucharist at the various zones and personally invited the parishioners to take up the challenge of being animators and starting SCCs in their communities. Many enthusiastically volunteered and SCCs were born. FILMC representatives attended the meetings at the communities and trained the animators to be self-reliant. The Steering Committee meetings got the animators of the 8 communities together to share their success and challenges and a forum for training the new entrants. The animators took full advantage of the training programs organized by the FILMC to further enhance their skills in building better communities. The quarterly meetings of the coordinators at the Diocesan level broadened their perspective and the animators were introduced to the activities of the other parishes. The response letters received religiously from Bishop Penha to our quarterly reports were encouraging and guided the animators.
There have been ups and downs in terms of active animators but the movement has stood firm and tall through it all. Today our Parish consists of the below mentioned communities:
1 Our Lady of Fatima Community – Irla Village & Society Road
2 St. John Bosco Community – Up Pakhadi
3 St. Anthony’s community – Kripa Nagar, Yashodhan and Kadri Park
4 St. Jude’s Community – Irla Bridge
5 St. Joseph’s Community – Azad Lane, Vishnu Baug and S.V. Road
6 St. Paul’s Community – Lallubhai Park
7 Holy Family Community – Juhu Lane
Over the years the SCCs have become an integral part of our Parish. We have an average of 4-5 active animators per community. Monthly meetings are conducted in homes of animators; some communities conduct meetings in church. The Parish Priest and nuns including the visiting Seminarians attend the monthly meetings as per their availability.
SCCs have been conducting a whole host of activities that can be broadly classified as Spiritual, Reach-out and Social Activities.
Spiritual Activities: The annual Eucharistic celebrations, followed by a gathering of the community members on the occasion of the Feast of the community’s patron saint has kept the families of the community together. Half-hour adoration of the Blessed Sacrament every first Friday of the month, Stations of the Cross in Church and within the community during Lent, recitation of the Rosary at the community Cross / Statue of Our Lady and visitation with a statue of Our Lady to the homes during the months of May and October.
Reach-out Activities: Visits to the sick, home bound and those in hospitals, visits to families in the community and to bereaved families conducting a short prayer service. Visits to orphanages and other institutes. Accompanying sick to the hospital especially if they do not have anyone to be with them. Voluntary contributions both in cash and kind are made as and when required. We arrange for books and school fees and other help for the economically backward in the community.
Social Activities: Greeting of members in the community on their birthdays and anniversaries especially the senior citizens. Parents in the community are visited on the occasion of Parent’s day and a small gift is given to them. On Mission Sunday: community members put up stalls of food and games and the money collected handed over to the Parish. We also put up posters informing all about the activities of PIME Missions around the world in order to create Missionary awareness. Christmas celebrations include Carol singing in the community and before midnight Mass. Participation in the star competition at the Parish level.
The animators regularly attend training programs conducted at Central Suburbs Deanery and Parish level in order to upgrade their skills and better functioning of the SCCs. Various programs such as SCC Rally, Cultural Day and a Bible Quiz are organized to invite more parishioners to actively involve in the SCC movement.