An Experimental Parish IRD CELL
Sanmarg is only about a year old, but it is making
a difference to the pastoral life of the Parish of Our Lady of Salvation, Dadar. The Parishioners are happy it is providing
a platform for interacting with people of other faiths; our neighbours belong to different religious backgrounds are getting
a chance to interact with the priests and parishioners. And so it is one success story we would like to share in the pages
of this magazine.
has had very humble beginnings. It all began with Fr. Mario Mendes preaching about the need for Christians to interact with
people of other faiths at a Sunday morning mass, and Mr. Terence Lopez giving God’s word a fitting reply by approaching
Fr. Mario immediately after mass and asking the simple question: “Father, why don’t we do something concrete about
inter-religious dialogue? The rest, as they say, is history.
Sanmarg is special because it has a core team
made up of people from different faiths. The meetings therefore have a hue of their own. Things that we would take for granted
in a team of catholics only have to be recast in order to accommodate a broader spectrum of ideologies. Core Team meetings
therefore begin with a prayer, but a prayer that people of other faiths can participate in. initially it posed a problem,
but the regularity of meetings has helped iron out these hurdles. The Core Team itself being multi-religious has helped a
great deal in the functioning of Sanmarg. There is no question of designing programmes “for people of other faiths”,
but the core discussions and planning take place in an atmosphere in which the sensibilities of different faith groups are
already fed in, in order that the board comes up with decisions that are mutually acceptable.
Sanmarg is special because it has organized a
regular set of activities to which people of all faiths are invited. From national feasts to celebrations festivals in different
religious traditions, to even shows of solidarity in moments of crisis, Sanmarg has been able to take the lead in gathering
interested individuals and leaving a lasting impression on participants. An interesting point was the rangoli and diya
painting competition that was held last Diwali. The Church has a lovely courtyard that open on to broad pavement; the
rangolis were displayed for the public to watch, and they were surely very charmed – there were many people using
their mobile phones to capture the paintings and send them back to their friends!
Sanmarg is special because a lot of the networking
is done by lay parishioners. The parish is in area of Mumbai surrounded by shrines of various other religions. The parishioners
are interacting all the while with people of other faiths; these contacts are being used in order to invite people to participate
in joint activities. This dimension of “parish life” is obviously a new one, and so the steps being taken may
be small and faltering. But a beginning has been made, and it is sinking into everyone’s consciousness that we cannot
be living in a religious ghetto; only in dialoguing can we truly live out our mission a s faithful disciples of Christ. A
mosque or a temple within the boundaries of the parish is an invitation for the catholics staying in the vicinity to build
up relationships with lay people of other faiths who frequent these shrines perhaps as frequently as we go to church. The
priests here are also wondering whether they shouldn’t be inviting the priests attached to these temples and mosques
shouldn’t be invited “for tea” to our presbyteries. After all, as they say, to be religious is to be inter-religious.