By Bishop Fritz Lobinger
From 19 to 21 November, 2013 the First National Convention of Small Christian Communities (SCCs) was held in Goa, India. It was the culmination of 40 years of systematic efforts to build up SCCs. The bishops of India could proudly state at the Opening Mass that there are now 68,000 SCCs in the 120 dioceses in India that now has 14 million Catholics. The Bishops Conference of India supports SCCs and over 70 bishops were present at the convention. The cardinal and the bishops did not come alone but came with delegates of their SCCs and with some of their priests. Seven thousand leaders of SCCs were present.
The SCCs have the power to transform the Church from an inward looking community to an outreaching church through a life of love," Cardinal Oswald Gracias said while delivering the homily during the Eucharistic celebration on 21 November outside the Basilica of Bom Jesus.
Cardinal Gracias has said that living a life of love is an authentic living of Christian faith and Small Christian Communities leading a genuine life can bring about society’s transformation. The cardinal, who is also president of the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of India (CBCI), said SCCs are the primary locus and means of national integration, ushering in truth, honesty, justice, human rights and dignity, good governance, eco-care and eco-justice in society.
On the second day of the convention the bishops, priests and delegates split up and visited SCCs in 26 places of Goa Archdiocese. They took part in gospel sharing and visited the sick or other parish projects.
The many presentations of the convention showed that the SCCs are firmly established. There is a National Service Team for the whole of India and it is this team which planned and organised the convention. While acknowledging the Church’s contribution in the fields of education, healthcare and social service, Bishop Thomas Dabre, president of the National Service Team for SCCs, challenged the faithful and the leadership to offer resources to the Church for the service of society.
Besides this national team there are similar SCC animation teams on the level of the dioceses and of the regions. These efforts have led to the fact that more than two thirds of all parishes of India today consist of a network of SCCs. The closure of the convention was at the same time the conclusion of the Year of Faith in India, and indeed, a most meaningful way of concluding it.
Bishop Fritz Lobinger
P.O. Box 11053
3624 Mariannhill, South Africa