Journey of a Missionary Priest //
Back to the Diocese //
Fr. George Pallivathukal.
|Fr. George Pallivathukal.|
Conscientising the laity in the diocese-
I was back in my diocese in May 1985. Bishop Theophane asked me to go around the diocese to address the laity to conscientise them about their role and place in the Church. He took Fr. V. T. Mathew the Vicar General to check the records and to do the other formalities connected with an official Episcopal visit to a Parish. Bishop sent a circular to all athe parishes asking the Priests in charge to collect the laity at the Parish centre as he wanted to address them and he also sent the dates of our Visit. We visited all the Parishes and Mission stations in our Diocese. Bishop after introducing the topic asked me to continue speaking to the people. We told the people that they were the parish and they had to take an active part in the running and the grouth of the parish.
Bishop Theophane was the first Bishop in India to start a Laity commision in the diocese which is active till today.
Bishop insisted that every parish and Mission station should have parish councils and finance committees. He insisted on transparancy on that part of church leaders and collaboration from the people. Bishop directed that the Parish council should meet at least once a month and a copy of the monthly report should be sent to the Bishop's house. Financial transactions should be discussed in the finance committee. This was a bold step taken by the Bishop. Bishop Theophane was the first Bishop in India to start a Laity commision in the diocese which is active till today. What I had learned about updating the Laity in the Church was being slowly introduced in my own diocese. Since the Bishop was serious about this revolutionary step it took root in the diocese and the laity's participation in the Church of Jabalpur is very visible.
The Lord comes to my rescue - Accused of Robberry.
After the animation programme for the clergy and the laity on their role in the diocese, Bishop appointed me as Priest-in- charge of the Diocesan Pastoral Centre (D P C) . Binjhia is the mother church of Mandla mission. BInjhia had enough of facilities to conduct renewal programmes. Fr. James D' Souza the Assistant Priest and Gerald Almeida, the present Bishop of Jabalpur, then the Director of social works, were with me. We lived together under the same roof for three years and worked as one team. People used to call us "Thrimurthis."
A few weeks after I came to Binjhia one morning I was praying the morning Prayer from the breviary before the Mass in the Church. While praying a bank reciept for Rs. 8500.00 which was kept in the breviary fell down in front of me. I picked it up and put it back in my prayer book.
A few hours later two Bishops, Bishop Theophane, my own Bishop and Bishop Philip Ekka of Raipur came to my room and said that the Madhya Pradesh Bishops had received a complaint from the Director of Regional Pastoral Centre, Tindini against me. The complaint was that I had robbed Rs. 8500.00 worth of audio visual aids from the Centre. Enquiry should be made about it and the stolen goods should be returned to the Regional Pastoral Centre, Tindini. The Bishops discussed this complaint in their meeting and authorized Bishop Theophane and Bishop Philip Ekka to enquire into the matter and do the needful. The items I was accused of stealing from the Centre were a slide projector, a Camera with zoom lense and flash, three sets of slides, a Badminton racket, an umbrella and a Flask. These total cost of these items was Rs. 8500.00.
Fr. Jose Palathinkal had a lot of audio visual materials which he had brought from Manila while returning after his studies there. Before going to Rome for his studies in Liturgy, he was selling his audio visual materials to defferent people. I told him that if he was interested in disposing of these things, he could give them to me so that I could use them in the Centre after his going. He handed over to me the materials costing about Rs.28000.00 along with a price list. Before I left the Centre I purchased from the list audio visual aids worth Rs. 19500.00 for the Regional Pastoral Centre and paid the cash book of the Centre. The rest of the things I took for the use in the Diocesan Pastoral Centre which I knew I could have to restart after leaving the Regional Pastoral Centre. I paid Rs. 8500.00 from my personal account into Fr. Palathinkal's account in the Union Bank of India. So he got his full money.
Fr. Palathinkal returned from Rome and joined the staff at Tindini. He saw that some of the audio visual materials which he had sold to me were not in the Centre. He along with the new Director, Fr. Paul Kochu made a list of missing items and sent the complaint to the Bishops. I told the story to the two Bishops who came to question me and I showed them the Bank receipt of Rs. 8500.00 which the Lord showed me that morning while I was praying. The Lord was my defender against this allegation.
I told the Bishops that for the hard and honest work I had had done at the Regional Pastoral Centre, the reward I got from them was the label of a thief. I stated that there was no joy in working for and with them. Finally I thanked them for this reward. Bishop Theophane said "I know you but since we have received a complaint of this nature we were bound to make enquires. It is in your favour in order to prove your honesty". However by that time the damage was already done. It was spread all over the diocese and in Madhya Pradesh Region that I robbed lakhs of Ruppes from the Regional Pastoral Centre before I left the place. Bishop Theophane went back to Tindini and gave the accusers a mouthful for spoiling the reputaton of this priest.
My father's Instruction about stealing.
I always remember a lesson which my father taught me about stealing. When I was in the nursery I had gone with my my mother to the Church on a first Friday. Kneeling by the side of her I saw a beutiful rose flower which someone had offered in front of the statue of St. Theresa of the Child jesus. All though the Mass my eyes were on the flower and i felt like robbing it. When we were returning home I told my mother about the flower and about my tempation to rob the flower. My mother gave me a long lecture about the evil of stealing until we reached home. Some time during the day my mother had shared with my father what I had told her while returning home from the Church. In the evening after the family prayers my father called me and made me sit on his lap. We had no electricity in those days.A Kerosene Lamp was giving us light. My father took my hand and brought my index finger to the burning flame. I started crying. My mother also did not understand what my daddy were trying to do. Then my father spoke to me about the flower which I was tempted to steal in the morning. He gave me a piece of moral teaching. He said never steal because Jesus sees everything, Stealing is sinful because they are offered to God, and they belong to God. If you steal anything from the church your finger will burn like you experienced just now. It was crude way of teaching me about the evil of stealing, but this little catechesis I learned from my father at a tender age remained in my mind always and guided my dealings with money.
Whenever I dealth with the money of the church which did not belong to me I remember the flame that burned my finger sitting in the lap of my father. The day the two Bishops came to question me about the robbery of Rs. 8500.00 from Tindini Centre, I thought of my father and thanked him for instructing me about stealing in an unforgetable way. //-
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