If Kerala is called “God’s own country”, Meghalaya is surely “the Abode of God”! It’s lush green hills and valleys, sparkling waterfalls, lakes and rivers, unpolluted air, warm, fun-loving and hospitable people make this truly an idyllic, perfect place. We are grateful to the CCWI members of Shillong, Jowai and Nongstoin Dioceses for hosting the National Conference in this Golden Jubilee Year. The arrangements and number of people working to make sure that everything went smoothly was stupendous. Husbands, children, the whole family was involved in receiving delegates, serving food, singing in the choir, performing in the cultural programmes, arranging transport, etc, etc.
Day 1 started with morning prayers conducted by Elizabeth Jyrwa, President of the Ri Bhoi Unit, followed by breakfast. The executive body members had the last meeting of their term. A documentary on the history of Shillong, Jowai and Nongstoin dioceses was shown.
After lunch, His Grace Most Rev. Dominic Jala, Archbishop of Shillong Archdiocese along with His Grace Most Rev. Dominic Lumon, Archbishop of Imphal, Rev. Fr. Leo Mary Lyndem, Spiritual Director of CCWI, Shillong Unit and other priests from different parts of India, celebrated Holy Mass. Archbishop Dominic Jala spoke on the theme: “Woman: Salt of the Earth”. He spoke about the family as evangelizers and the challenges faced by families today. More tolerance to one another is needed. The media does not project positive family values. Women’s organizations need to help families become more stable; help young men and women prepare for married life. We can be the ‘salt of the earth‘ by the work we do. The world needs change that starts from the family. Be dynamic apostles and protect families from the dangers facing it.
After tea, the Conference was inaugurated with the unfurling of the Conference Flag by Archbishop Dominic Jala. The delegates holding placards with the name of their diocese entered the conference venue in procession. The dignitaries lit the lamp and everyone sang the conference song. Dr. Ampareen Lyngdoh, Honourable Minister of Urban Affairs, Government of Meghalaya, gave the Inaugural Address. She said that families must be founded on love and tolerance. Our children get lost in the sea of humanity and lose their Christian identity. We women have to take control and go back to our homes with the messages learnt here. Renew ourselves with the flavour and properties of salt and become agents of change.
The Souvenir was released by Archbishop Dominic Jala after which His Grace gave the Keynote Address. He said that the earth in which we live is challenging us, we must open our hearts and eyes to understand the context of life, to give the right answers. Women should have the courage to speak out boldly but speak with gentleness and prudence if our society is to be preserved. There are many ideologies in the world today; we Catholics are not driven by ideologies but by God’s Word and the teachings of the Church. Women should not be aggressive but rather dialogue and be persuasive in attaining goals. Suffering men and women are plenty but we need to have the heart and eyes for the poor to see the misery they go through and find ways to help.
National President, Rosie John, addressed the gathering. She congratulated and complimented the host members who have contributed resources, time and health for the success of the conference. She said that the traditional values which are fast disappearing from many societies and families have to be re-discovered and cultivated once more so that it may mould the society at large and our children in particular. We need to design anti-patriarchy modules for high school students. Girls should be educated not only mentally but empowered physically, emotionally and spiritually too. She said, “A woman is like a tea bag, you never know how strong she is until you put her in hot water.”
Archbishop Dominic Lumon also spoke. He condemned the atrocities against girls and women that are happening in so many places and said that women have to commit themselves to educating the girl child and eliminating dehumanizing acts against women such as sex determination, abortion, human trafficking, discrimination and violence towards women in our society. CCWI General Secretary, Anita Lukose, gave a report of the CCWI activities all over the country. The inaugural function ended with the singing of the national anthem.
After dinner, there was a lively cultural programme by members of Shillong Archdiocese.
Day 2 started with morning prayers conducted by Icylda Nongrum, President of the Women’s Commission, Nongstoin Diocese. Holy Mass was said by Rt. Rev. Victor Lyngdoh, Bishop of Nongstoin Diocese. Th e entrance procession was colourful and lively with our members from Ranchi dressed in red and white saris dancing up the aisles.
After a hearty breakfast, everyone was ready for the first talk – “Woman: Preserver of Life” by Dr. M.P.R. Lyngdoh, former Principal, Shillong College. Sr. Consolata Minj gave the Hindi translation.
After tea, Rev. Sr. Judith Shadap spoke about “Woman: Transformer of Life”. Sr. Consolata Minj gave the Hindi translation.
After lunch, the Annual General Body Meeting was held, followed by the election of new office bearers for 2014-17.
After dinner, there was a colourful cultural programme by members of Nongstoin Diocese, with the audience also getting into the spirit and dancing in the aisles!
Morning prayers were conducted by Sr. Sara Nongkynrih and Jowai unit members.
The speaker for the talk “Woman: Enhancer of Life”, Agatha Sangma, former MP, was indisposed. So, Smt. S. Syiem, Assistant Teacher, St. Anthony’s Higher Secondary School, Shillong, conducted the session. She invited delegates to share their thoughts and experiences based on the talks of the previous day.
- Deputy Bank Manager from Jalpaiguri spoke about the problems due to unemployment: people leaving their homes, many taking to drugs and alcohol. She also suggested that a collection be made to help the fl ood victims of the state. An amount of Rs 22,510/- was collected.
- School teacher from Dumka narrated the activities in their unit, and emphasised the importance of prayer, for the sick, for broken families, for our husbands. Th ey tell their husbands –“If you don’t change your ways, our Lord will not recognise you when you die.”
- Homemaker from Shillong told a story with the moral: What doesn’t hurt us will hurt others. A drunken husband would beat his wife every night. One night aft er a wedding, the wife took her children home and returned to the bar where her husband was drinking. She kept having drink aft er drink, until her husband felt ashamed of her and ordered her to stop behaving like that. She told him – I’ve asked you so many times to stop, but you didn’t, and carried on. He finally begged her to stop and promised never to drink again, and kept his promise.
- Jamshedpur member spoke about the “Walk for India’s Missing Girl” which they have been doing for the last 5 years to create awareness about violence against women, female infanticide, etc.
The Conference Resolutions and Action Plan were formulated. The Concluding Holy Mass was said by Most Rev. Thomas Manamparimpil, Archbishop of Jowai.
After lunch, the Valedictory Function was held. The Chief Guest, Mrs. Roshan Warjri, Honourable Home Minister and Police, Government of Meghalaya spoke about the many challenges facing women, especially Catholic women, including some personal insights.
Being the Golden Jubilee of CCWI, former Presidents, Treasurers and General Secretaries were honoured. Mementoes were handed over to be given to Dr. Olinda Pereira, Fr. Claude D’Souza, Sylvia Saldanha, Philo Pereira, Lorna Fernandes, Rosalind Farias, Averil Stone and Phyllis Ignatius who were not able to travel to Shillong. Mementoes were presented to Chinnamma Jacob, Philo Rodrigues, Rosie John, Jane Ancil Francis, Nikunj Bala Francis, Anita Lukose.
The conference flag was taken down and the conference song and the national anthem were sung. The 23rd National Conference was officially over. After tea, the delegates were taken for sightseeing and shopping. Later, the new executive body had their first meeting. Jowai Diocese entertained the audience with their exuberant cultural programme.
After breakfast, the delegates were transported in 20 buses to the Cathedral in Shillong. Delegates went in procession holding their placards. It was raining, but 20,000 – 25,000 people with their umbrellas assembled for Holy Mass. Most of us have not seen such a magnificent sight of so many people gathered at one place for Mass standing on staircases, parapet walls, tree covered hillside and nearby buildings. (Note: The Cathedral of Mary Help of Christians is a beautiful Church perched on a hill. It is located in Laitumkhrah in Shillong. The Cathedral has high arches and stained glass windows which add to its grandeur. Directly below, carved out of the hill is the Grotto Church. And directly opposite is ‘Calvary’, which can serve as an altar for Mass/Adoration, or stage for public programmes.)
The conference flag was unfurled and the Chief Guest, Sri Vincent Pala, MP, Shillong spoke. Archbishop Dominic Jala and Archbishop Menamparambil said the Mass in Kasi and English with 38 priests concelebrating. After lunch, Rev. Fr. Leo Mary Lyndem led the Adoration. Juliet Ramamurthy, the new CCWI President, thanked the delegates for reposing their faith in her and electing her President. She congratulated the Shillong, Jowai and Nongstoin members for organising a memorable conference.
This was followed by an enjoyable cultural programme by the three dioceses.
The conference flag was lowered and the conference song sung in English and Kasi. The pouring rain did nothing to dampen the high spirits of everyone present! (The text of the Talks will be published in future issues)
The following Resolutions were taken at the CCWi national Conference in Shillong on 11th october 2014
- Be women of the ‘word’ not the ‘world’ by retaining the taste of salt, developing ourselves, our habits, using our spiritual and intellectual power.
- Catholic women as crusaders of change of the country.
- Nurture our children from the womb, grassroots level in our families, parishes, schools and neighbourhood to grow as responsible human beings.
- Send Resolution to State and Central Governments about prompt and effective implementation of existing laws against juvenile sex offenders.
- Reaching out with our minds and hearts with commitment to the needy.
- Strengthening our existing projects keeping in mind the four Resolutions.
- Get involved in preparing boys and girls for married life.
- Half yearly reports to be sent to the CCWI Secretariat by the Units.