The completion of the Language Course

PIC: The Brothers at the Living Root Bridge near Mawlynnong

The Brothers returned from their various places of language immersion on November 22.  The Community prayer included a sharing of their experiences.  A further sharing of how valuable the exercise was for each of them followed.  An evaluation Language learning was then carried out, since decisions ha be taken regarding the future of the remainder of the language program.  It was decided that we enhance some of the skills from our learnings of the immersion experience. The program had to be restructured and modified accordingly for the rest of the duration.

While Sr. Happyline did the prayers and the structure of the Lynti Bneng, Savio continued to teach us hymns in Khasi. Maryline and Sr. Nelia continued with small tutoring groups. David Ryan and Roshan were inducted to give some of the basic nuances of conversational Khasi.   The Brothers in general found the Khasi Primer and the Self Learning Khasi teaching books helpful.

We had also reached the final straight of our year long preparation of our Journeying Together.  In the ensuing days, the community prayers centered on themes such as snared, hope (entering the season of Advent), doing your best. All these were connected with our lives here and experiences here. The centering prayer continued in the evenings.

Preparations were set in motion re the opening of the Hub. Invitations were sent out and Ruvan kept updating us of the progress of the Hub building construction. Alongside, the Patharlynden and Umtyrkhang community houses were being followed up.

On 3rd and 4th of December, all of us embarked on a two day overnight outing to Shnongpdeng, on the Bangladesh border. That was followed by the Evaluation and the Farewell dinner. This bought us to the successful conclusion of the Language course in Shillong. 



The joy of living simply

PIC: The brothers preparing their dinner in their simple village house. 

On the 13th morning, 4 or us set out to Patharlyndan village – Edwin, Gambhir, Mahendra & myself. We were put up in an abandoned house that was used by teachers earlier. The house was just basic – with a tapped electric connection, no water supply, no furniture except for a couple of wooden frames as beds and a few stools to sit around the fireplace. The family that owned the house gave us utensils, cups, crockery and vessels to cook and store water.

Much of our day was spent in cooking and going down to a stream to collect water or to bathe or wash our clothes. Since most of the villagers, except for pregnant mothers or those who had to look after small children, were out in the fields from very early morning, cutting paddy grown in their fields or the fields of those who hired them, we could not really visit houses. With the setting sun, they would end their work and return home, only to be occupied with household chores, after which they would go to bed.

We did have a woman who would visit us pretty regularly with her children. She would come and sit and just talk. We witnessed a football match played between the Patharlyndan Village team and a team of another village, on a ground that was inaugurated by the MLA of Mairang. That was a wonderful experience as a good number of people from the village – men, women and children all gathered around the field cheering for their team, which eventually won. On another day, we took a walk to the neighbouring village (Donkingdeng), that had their market day. We bought supplies, had lunch, watched another match in a football field of that village and eventually headed home.  On Sunday we spent the whole day with the people in the village – first at the morning prayer service, followed by a meal at a house, and then at a prayer service in another house. It was nice at last, to meet families that came to church or to the house for the prayer services. They showed a lot of eagerness towards our coming next year. We also would regularly visit our house, and enjoy seeing it coming up. On one of the days, we took the car that belonged to the head of the village, and visited the Parish Priest, and a few other villages in which we had stayed during the course of this year.

As far as practicing Khasi is concerned, we did try to have our own little class in the evening. We did spend some time in tea shops, practicing the Khasi we knew, as well as tried to converse with those people we would meet during the day.

On the whole, the village experience was an eye opener. Living in a basic house (like those of the villagers) made us realize how much the people in the village go through each and every day of their lives.  Many of them would not even have electricity to add to their woes. We left the village on the 22nd and were back home in the evening.

My experience of immersion

PIC: Br. Willie D’souza with the students of Providence School

The mystery I call God accompanied me on my journey to transformation. The ten days of Language Learning Immersion Experience was a real transformation experience. The venue that I chose, namely, the Providence School, for my immersion was God sent; the best according to me.

Every morning, I left Lurshai centre at 8 o’clock. I boarded either a bus or a taxi to Polo market and from there I walked up to Providence School. On my way up to the school, I took the risk of talking/chatting with the people. Some were friendly and some were hostile! Nevertheless, it was an amazing experience, being present to the situation, people and to the universe. I was in Providence School by 8:45am and started my day there at 9 o’clock.

In Providence School, from 8:00 am to 10:30 am the children are in various skill training classes, namely,  candle making, cooking, baking, bag making, gardening etc., etc. I went into three of these classes, candle making, cooking and gardening. Here, I interacted with the students and teachers. Both the students and the teachers were very co-operative; I put into practice the little Khasi that I had learned and began to converse with the students in their local language. So, it was situational learning and I learned a lot over here. Every day, I learned a new word, I wrote the word and its meaning in my book. As days went by, I became more confident and I began to converse with the children only in Khasi.

At 11 o’clock, I sat in the KG section of Providence School. Here, I listened to the teacher, teaching the little ones in Khasi and English. The teacher was very good because she believed in the dictum, ‘Festina Lente’, hasten slowly. Here, I learned to frame small sentences for conversation and I gave the teacher to correct them. Here, I was ready for the next day’s class with regard to situational learning. It was great! At twelve o’clock, I had my lunch and rested for a while.

At two o’clock in the afternoon, from St. Edmund’s School, I went walking towards Shanti Bhavan, near the Governor’s House. Here, I interacted with the men section of the inmates. We started our session with a prayer in Khasi and I read the day’s Gospel reading for them. One of the inmates then read the same reading and later we had a discussion on the reading in Khasi. The conversation lasted for an hour. This was the daily routine for the next ten days here in Shanti Bhavan. Here, I came in contact with many young and old people, listened to their stories and took the risk of getting to know them. I learned to become more patient with myself and the people here and treated the inmates as my brothers and friends. I left this place at four in the evening and walked to Ward’s lake, I took a taxi from Ward’s lake to Polo market. From Polo market, I walked to Lurshai centre in Lumshyiap. I reached the centre at five o’clock in the evening.

There were many learnings from this immersion. First of all, to have a complete trust in the providence and to believe in the everyday God of surprises! My trust and belief in this everyday God strengthened and I learned to rely on HIM. Taking risk was another learning and I took risks to talk to people in the local language while walking in the market place. I am challenged to meet Christ present in one and all. The God of surprises demands of me faith and compassion- faith in God and compassion for the poor. I have learned a deep sense of God’s abiding presence in all with whom I have come in contact with. I have been invited to live what I have learned. My life has become better and more enjoyable when I look beyond myself to others. I thank my God of surprises for this beautiful experience. 



Shillong diaries continued

PIC: The Brothers having their meal in their simple house during the Immersion. 


Mon 6th :  Willie’s prayer in the morning revolved around a reflection.

The Khasi classes were on prefixes and we ground our way thro’ the three hours taken.

In the evening we discussed the alternatives to the Immersion Classes.  Not much head way was made there.

Tue 7th: The Morning Prayer was initiated by Arvind, with the theme of The Gifts in Community Living.  More clarity came thro’ with regard to our choices for learning Khasi amongst the people.

Wed 8th: The Morning Prayer conducted by Gambhir, had the theme of “Just Being” … as plants are!
Self-study in Khasi followed, and the Bros took that session seriously.   Willie then took us for Situational Conversation in Khasi, where we repeated aloud sentences in Khasi.

Thur 9th: Bipin conducted a guided meditation for Morning Prayer and the rest of the day continued with our grappling with the Khasi language.

Fri 10th:

The first blossoms of the cherry tree bloom. Beautiful!

The Morning Prayer was the Divine Office but prayed in the Khasi language. So we are moving on in language-learning.

Sat 11th

A meeting to finalize the Khasi Immersion program was well-conducted by Willie. Some definite outcomes arose.


Reports of the immersion will be out soon. 

5th Day of the Jesus Seminar

The morning prayer took the theme of inclusion by way of introducing the same theme for the final day of the workshop on a Contemporary Understanding of Jesus.

The group began discussing the theme of meals in the New Testament. The various groups were invited to identify the various meals as narrated in the gospels and to discover the various aspects of these meals. The group examined who were present at the meals, leading to the insight that Jesus was very committed to include everyone, and especially those who were considered to be at the margins. The meal often is the place where there is established a new world order, where the people at the margins become part of the wider society. Meals were crucial moments of conversion especially for those who had been marginalised.

The session then went on to examine the elements of the Last Supper as outlined in the Synoptics. Three aspects of this meal were highlighted:
• New beginnings
• Sustenance on the journey
• Solidarity together

Then the group studied the account of the last supper in John’s gospel where the meal was omitted and instead there was the washing of the feet to stress the idea of service on one another.

The group was then invited to share on their experience of Eucharist both within their families and in their parish community.

The morning concluded with groups preparing a simple liturgy of the Eucharist and celebrating the Eucharist in a creative way.

Day 4 of the ‘Jesus Workshop’

The morning prayer was a good introduction to the workshop for today.  The group continued to discuss the various titles that we traditionally use for Jesus.  Brigit explained that while it is difficult to do away with the titles, and maybe we should not dismiss them, we can have a new understanding of the titles.  Hence, the challenge facing us is to come to a new understanding of the person of Jesus.

Then the group examined the Scriptures, the Church doctrines and the Creed and saw how many aspects of each of these religious dimensions need to be viewed critically and understood in a new way.  The discussion led to the debate on the historical religious colonization of traditional African practices.  Brothers explained that while Christianity was introduced to Africa, even today the traditional African practices continue to be honoured.

The challenge facing the Brothers when they enter into the new communities is how to engage with the people even when the Brothers have a different theological view.  As religious we will be expected to lead by example and attend the more traditional liturgies and participate in the various religious practices.

A Contemporary Understanding of Jesus – Day Two

Today we celebrated Francis’ birthday, wishing him every blessing for his life ahead.

Day two of the workshop on a Contemporary Understanding of Jesus began with a prayer celebrating the birthday of Francis Hall.

The morning was devoted to exploring the origin of the gospels, and how they were written.  Brigit and Francis invited the Brothers to explore some key passages from the gospels.  Some significant events of the life of Jesus were examined:  the infancy narratives, the Birth of Jesus and the account of Jesus walking on the water. The group explored the types of narratives in the gospels:  the historical facts and the more-than-factual meanings.  The question was about what significance these passages had.  Each of the groups reported on the result of their discussions on each of the above passages.

The discussion continued where the Brothers asked key questions on the factual or metaphorical nature of the Birth and Resurrection narratives.

Then the group were invited to study a variety of articles that describe some aspects of the historical Jesus.  As each group went to research these articles, they came to a deeper appreciation of the humanity of Jesus.

Shillong diaries

PIC: During a prayer service in Umtyrkhrang, one of the new locations where the Brothers will be moving to in January.

      Ruvan, Roshan, Romeo, Jockey and Bipin went to Umtyrkhrang on 29th Oct. We attended the prayer service and to meet the community. It was very warm welcome by the local community. We were happy visit and meet them. Bipin gave the homily, which was down to earth. Brothers visited the new constructions mission house and the new Church in the village.We had our breakfast and lunch Fr. Sngi’s cousin house. Then we came to see the hub site in Jyntru.

      David and Mahendra conducted Lectio Divina on 30th Oct in the morning . On 31st Oct Second and Gambhir conducted morning prayer on theme the kingdom of God. On 1st Nov Jockey and Romeo conducted morning prayer on theme All Saint’s day. On 2nd Nov Roshan conducted morning prayer on theme All Soul’s Day. Brothers went to Laitumkhrah cemetery for Khasi mass at 1:00pm and some stayed back for evening Rosary. On 3rd Willie and Con conducted the morning prayer. On 4th of Nov we had check in, in the morning.

Workshop on Edmund Rice Part II

The morning prayer introduced a video where Philip Pinto talked about the changes in the Congregation and the call to solidarity with the people made poor.  Such an inspiring message!

Then Chris presented the video of The Story of a People Led by the Spirit, which had been commissioned by way of preparation to present Journeying Together to all the Brothers in the Congregation.

Following the video, some Brothers shared their experience of life in the Congregation prior to Vatican II, and how the Council had changed the culture of Religious Life.

There followed a lively conversation on the video where Brothers began to see the message of Journeying Together as a challenge to change.

The second session of the morning was directed by Francis Hall where he situated the life of Edmund Rice within the Universe Story, identifying some of the key elements of evolution as they applied to the life of Edmund Rice.

The afternoon session was concerned with bringing the learnings of the previous days to a unified whole and giving space for the Brothers to share the impact that the life of Edmund Rice has on their individual lives.

Tamale Institute for Cross-cultural Studies

Today Fr. Joshua, SVD, from TICCS returned to further his input on enculturation in Ghana.  He brought with him two members of NORAAC – Awal and Kawusada.  Their presentation focused on poverty in Northern Ghana and the impact it is having on development.  Services, schools and roads have been developed in the South but the North is still far behind.  He highlighted that the major reasons come from colonial policies.  Collusion by police, government officials and corrupt businesses keep people in the North from benefiting from local wealth. High birth rate and low literacy are two other factors that play a part especially on the girl child.  Other cultural practices also work to keep people poor.

Awal and Kawusada highlighted the need to define poverty and the ways to reduce it.  Even though Awal is fairly well off, he is considered poor in the community because he has only one wife.  Their outreach is to women and youth and focus on four areas:  sexual and reproductive health; gender issues; livelihood and education.