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Rev. Fr. Benny Koottanal MSFS - Provincial Superior

My Dear Confreres, Fraternal greetings to each one of you. At this auspicious occasion as we are celebrating the feast of our heavenly patroness, the Mother of Compassion, may I take this opportunity to wish each one of you God’s abundant blessings through the intercession of our blessed mother. May the prayers of our Heavenly Mother support us in the fulfilment of her Son’s Mission entrusted to us through the ministry of our Congregation.

Note from Website content manager: Since the province does not send the news letter in Word Format, it is difficult for me to edit the content of the South West Province - Fr. John Peter msfs

Message to the Province on the Day of Installation as the Provincial

“Education of the Heart is the Heart of Education.” With this vision of the founding Father of the Congregation of the Missionaries of St. Francis de Sales, venerable, Fr. Peter Mermier, South West India Province of the Missionaries of St. Francis de Sales was erected on the 3rd July 1991 bifurcating it from the mother province of Visakhapatnam. Its birth, no doubt, was rather insignificant for the apparent eyes. Its near and dear ones perhaps were uncertain of its full development. But by God’s grace it grew up into one of exceptional traits. It has not been an easy job trying to encompass the changes the past years have wrought. And it is not an easy job to produce the gamut of experiences that have made impressions on the minds of numberless people throughout the world in all the continents. This year is the Jubilee year of South West India Province. I pay my honest respect to Rev. Dr. Thomas Cherukat MSFS, the first provincial of the South West India Province for three terms. Through his astute planning and leadership he laid the foundation for the growth of our province. I sincerely thank you Father for your inspiring presence today on the day of my installation. I appreciate the valuable presence of Rev. Fr. Jose Parappillil MSFS, the second Provincial of our province from the 10th to the 15th year of its life. I thank you Father for the dynamic leadership you rendered to the province. I thank you for your presence today. I place on record the multifarious contribution and generosity and the innovative direction given to the Province by Rev. Dr. Mathew Kozhuppakalam MSFS during the four and half years of his tenure as the provincial. I remember him especially today and pay my respect to him. With gratefulness I remember Rev. Dr. Abraham Vettuvelil MSFS, the fourth Provincial of our province for the brotherly guidance and leadership he gave to our province during the short term in office until he was elected as the Superior General of our congregation. With genuine expression of gratitude I place on record the sincere leadership of Rev. Dr. Jose Kumblolickal MSFS. The firm yet gentle guidance of the province through his versatile dynamism and correct vision for the province and the congregation at large had been tremendous. I bow my head before these great leaders who animated the province with focus and total commitment.

The story of the South West India Province is the history of the past 25 years. With the number f perpetually professed confreres, close to 250, the province has effected tremendous impact in the lives of people whom it serves. The confreres of our province have excelled themselves in the Spirit and Spirituality of St. Francis de Sales in and through the charism of our  ongregation. We have endeared ourselves to the heart of the people through the ministry of the renewal of Christian life; through parish missions and pioneering evangelisation and apostolate overseas we have extended our commitment to the people around us in and outside India. Apostolate of education and formation, especially of the youth has become the heart of our province. I express my gratitude to God for all my confreres in the province, young and old, for the veracity, vibrancy and commitment to the mission of God through the ministry of our province in the MSFS Congregation. Of course, my dear Confreres, the challenges set before us is far from over. There is a need to dream higher and to work out the possibilities of actualizing our set priorities. The General Chapter of our Congregation in the year 2013 has invited us to animate our religious life and community life. It insists that we give primacy for personal prayer and community prayers, to simplify our personal and community life, to enter into more spiritual leadership, to organise community life as per the constitutions and directory of our congregation. Our Superior General after his visitation to our province has given us a set of possibilities and vision plan that we need to implement in the context of our province. The mission thrust that we need to have in order to be effective in our ministry need to be emphasized in our lives. The specific mission of Chad and Cameroon must become a thrust point of our commitment to the humanity around us. Our Philippine delegation is on a strong footing with the perfect missionary commitment of our confreres working there. Our institutions should become the channel of hope for the humanity to hearken the possibilities of their lives. Our formation houses must become the haven of disciples becoming apostles.

In order to orient ourselves to understand properly the task at hand, as members of the South West India Province of the MSFS I would request us to ask ourselves the question: Why is it that I am here? This should give us an answer to understand the purpose of our life. A deeper understanding of my religious life should enlighten me to practically apply that which is doctrinally gulped down in theology. One of the questions in the Bible, which touched me deep is the question asked by the disciples of John to Jesus: Where are you staying? This is a question of pertinent importance. The desire of the disciples of John was to have a glimpse of that eternity which Jesus was promising, to understand the value system that was being proposed by Jesus. It means equally that I am not part of this world, I do not feel totally comfortable in this world, and the values of this world somehow do not fully fit into my life. I need to know well that the lamp may get put off but the light remains, the grape may decay but the wine remains, the clay may break but the treasure remains. All through these 25 years we had been working on this particular search to find the meaning of our lives as religious, as MSFS, as radical followers of Jesus. During this jubilee year we need to perhaps ask ourselves: Do I know clearly where he is staying? Have I taken him seriously? Have I taken the first step to go to him? It equally means that our vocation is to be a disciple first, to be at the feet of the master. Let our commitment in religious life come through the experience of Jesus that leads to enlightenment.

My Dear Confreres, on this our Feast day and on this auspicious day of my installation as the 6th provincial of our beloved province, I have a dream to share with you. You have elected me and the Superior General has appointed me as the provincial of our province. During these days I had been flooded with messages of good wishes, especially through Email. I was touched by the message written by one of the young Confreres. He wrote: “Father, we don’t want you to construct buildings, but do construct our lives.” Dear Confreres, I would like to serve you. I have no personal agenda, but only the vision and mission of our congregation in view. St Francis de Sales says, “hold firm to your convictions, remain human in your speech, let your actions tell your story and that would be history.” I would like to be a brother to you in my relationship, merciful in understanding, just in action, available in need. I envision for myself the necessity to integrate our communities as places of hospitality, sharing, brotherhood and a place of prayer. In this year of formation I envision that we give a special thrust to the formation of our younger brothers through constant accompaniment and direction. We need to encourage and put on a higher pedestal the Chad-Cameroon mission of our province and the Philippine delegation which are now on a strong footing and convincing commitment. I would like to go with you in communities and listen to you like a brother. For all these I need your hearts and hands. The answer of Jesus to the disciples of John was: Come and See. More than a husband, more than a wife, more than children and possessions, we need a Master, a Guru in our life. Only a master can give us orientation in our life, only a master can give us direction to our life, even when we are tossed up and down in the currents of life only a master can show us the meaning of our existence, the hitherto of our life. I need a master in my life.

Where do I find my master, Jesus? It is my primary responsibility to return there where I can find him: The gospels. The Gospels prove that every aspect of Jesus’ life was based on his relationship with his Father. In the same way, it is our relationship with Jesus and his Father, more concretely, our prayer life, which should be the pattern of our spirituality. A theologian or a teacher of religion, a religious who does not spend daily minimum half an hour in prayer in order to interiorize and to realize the purpose of all that he does and minimum half an hour in reading, in order to enlighten his mind and heart, can also prepare himself to contribute to the humanity the minimum possible. Should I be merely an ordinary person? Or do I want to raise something out of this ordinary sphere of my life? If so, we need to dare to think different. We need to understand what our priorities are and set them aright. We need to understand that fatigue is often a mental creation that stems from doing things we do not like to do. Am I doing what I do not like to do? Seneca observes: “It is not because things are difficult that we do not dare; it is because we do not dare that things are difficult.”

My dear Confreres, This is what we are all about. We plant the seeds hoping that one day they will grow. We water the seeds already planted knowing that they hold future promise. We lay foundations that will need further development. We provide yeast that produces effects far beyond our capabilities. We cannot do everything, and there is a sense of liberation in realizing this. This enables us to do something and to do it very well. It may be incomplete, but it is a beginning, a step along the way, an opportunity for the Lord's grace to enter and do the rest. We may never see the end results, but that is the difference between the master-builder and the worker. We are workers, not master-builders, ministers and not messiahs. We are prophets of a future that is not our own. May the Lord surprise us yet again in this jubilee year through our new beginning. Let us bloom where we are planted. Live Jesus.

Thank you, Dear Fr. Jose Kumblolickal

I would like to thank Rev. Fr. Jose Kumblolickal, the outgoing provincial, for the generosity of his commitment. Fr. Jose, with conviction I say, during your tenure as the provincial you have grounded certain valuable foundations for our province. Your insistence on spiritual life, community life, accountability and authenticity has given the province and the members a sense of hope. I know the tireless efforts you have put in to organise the confreres by visiting them constantly and responding to their needs with immediacy. You have given a new outlook to the foreign mission of the province by bringing in right spirit and order in the Chad-Cameroon mission and in the Philippine delegation. You held together the unity of the province by being just to all. I respect you and appreciate you for the manner and the order in which you handed over the office to me. God bless you dear Fr. Jose and we are indebted to you. Wish you all the best in all your endeavours.

Convocation of the Provincial Chapter

My dear Confreres, with the Consent of the Superior General and after having consulted the approval of the Provincial Administration and in the spirit of true Prayer and discernment and in accordance with the Constitutions and Directory of our Congregation I would like to convoke a Provincial Chapter. The dates of the Provincial Chapter shall be from the 11th of April 2016 to the 15th of April 2016. In the spirit of the General Chapter 2013 and the theme of the year 2016 in the Church and in the Congregation we have chosen the theme for the Chapter as: FORMING COMMITTED MSFS ROOTED IN COMMUNITY LIFE FOR PROPHETIC MINISTRIES TODAY. Our Superior General, in his letter of approval of the convocation of the Provincial Chapter, comments: “The theme reflects the spirit of General Chapter 2013 and the theme of the Year 2016 in the Church and in our Congregation, a Year dedicated to MSFS Formation for Mission of Mercy and Compassion, which is prophetic in purpose and content. This is a spiritual event in the Province. It calls for intense personal and community preparation as it is intended ‘to make the spiritual life and mission of the Province more vibrant and effective’ (Const. # 235).” I welcome each one of you, my dear Confreres to make our provincial chapter a spiritual event in the life of our province through your prayers and through creative and constructive participation.