Mangaluru: They are three of them, namely Fr Stervin Selvadass Fernando scj hailing from Tamilnadu, Fr Subesh Sebastian scj from Kerala, and Fr George Anthony scj from Karnataka- three Roman Catholic priests belonging to The Society of Priests of the Sacred Heart of Betharram, who are are active in forming the future priests, preparing them with some parish ministries. These three priests along with 19 other Seminarians live at the newly built Formation House of the Betharram Congregation “Maria Kripa” located at MaryHill, Bondel-Mangaluru, which was inaugurated on 10 September 2014.
During an exclusive interview with Fr Stervin-Superior at the “Maria Kripa” said, “Our Superior General Fr Gaspar Fernandez always reminds us that Betharram is small, Betharram is poor, and Betharram is Beautiful. Yes it is true; the Betharram Congregation has always been small in numbers, poor in heart but never failed to be beautiful. One such beautiful branch is our Formation house “Maria Kripa’. Fr Gasper Fernandez SCJ inaugurated the “Betharram Formation House” here in the august presence of Fr Enrico SCJ- our Vicar General, Fr Austin Hughes SCJ- the Regional Superior, Fr Biju Alappat SCJ- the Regional Vicar and many other priests and nuns, friends and companions of Betharram amidst the hospitality of Maria Kripa community. Most Rev. Dr Aloysius Paul D’Souza, the Bishop of Mangaluru had blessed the new house and presided over the Eucharistic Celebration”.
Fr Stervin further said, ” Despite our witness to evangelical poverty expressed in our way of life, the signs of time necessitated the construction of a new Betharram Formation House. We had to build this new house not because we desired it but because the demand of formation of brothers for the priesthood needed it. Nevertheless, the task wasn’t a cake walk considering the construction costs and the resources at our disposal were very meagre. But our God works even when we all sleep. The land for the Formation House and also ‘Michael Care Home” which was inaugurated on 11 September 2014 was donated by the local Apostolic Carmel Sisters”.
“We presently have 19 Seminarians here, of which four learn Theology at St Joseph’s Seminary-Jeppu, two attend PUC at Mahatma Gandhi College in city, and one attends degree class at St Aloysius College. Remaining 12 of them for one year get trained at the Formation House in English, Prayers, Spiritual lessons, spoken English, good mannerism lessons, communication skills etc -undertaken by a team of teachers, well wishers and volunteers who donate their time in training these Seminarians. Once they get trained for a year and found qualified they will be sent for theology classes at Jeppu Seminary. The theology students go to different parishes for their pastoral ministries at the weekends whereas the postulants and scholastics are involved in social ministries. The postulants too go to a nearby ‘Home for Aged’ run by the Little Sisters of the Poor Congregation and also ‘White Doves’ a NGO, and help them out in all possible ways” added Fr Stervin.
Maria Kripa- the name of the Formation House where the City Betharram Fathers have been living since 1999, was a beautiful cottage which was later converted to be a prayer house for the Apostolic Carmel Sisters in 1977. From then on, it was at the service of the Sisters and in 1980 it turned out to be centre for the study of ‘Asian Spirituality’. It became the House of Postulants of Apostolic Carmel from 1980 to 1994. But in 1999, this Maria Kripa house was placed at the disposal of Betharram Fathers as their Formation House. It all started with two fathers namely Fr Jose Mirande SCJ and Fr Britto Rajan SCJ and a handful of brothers in the year 1999 at Maria Kripa under the guidance of the Apostolic Carmel Sisters and with the magnanimous approval of the Bishop of Mangalore. From then till today, it has been the mother who has given birth to 14 priests and 2 deacons.
Under the guidance of the former Superior Fr Biju Antony Panthalookaran SCJ, a project committee was formed with six lay members namely Mrs Vilma Pais, Mrs Marriette Mascrenhas, Captain John Prasad Menezes, Mrs Joan Fernandes, Mrs Vimala Monteiro and Mr Stanley D’Silva. Fr Antony Chiramel, a Passionist Priest designed the house and every one of them worked wholeheartedly towards the building of this formation house as their own home building .“Betharram is not only poor but also with the poor”, are the words of Fr Biju Alappat SCJ and that echo the prophetic message of Pope Francis who called on the Church to be ‘Poor Church for the Poor’. To give tangible substance to this effect, Fr Enrico Frigerio SCJ , the Vicar General inaugurated and blessed the “St Michael Care Home”, which is adjacent to the Formation House’ on 11th September 2014. It accommodates nearly twenty children who are socially disadvantaged and whose needs are taken care of by the Betharram Fathers .
The Society of Priests of the Sacred Heart of Betharram is a Roman Catholic institute of consecrated life. Established in Bétharram in 1832 by St. Michael Garicoits as fulfilment of a dream, the task of this congregation, dedicated to the Sacred Heart, was to evangelize the people through missions and to teach the young. It received formal approval of the Pope after Garicoits’ death. They live in small communities of 3-4 people in Argentina, Brazil, Central African Republic, France, Great Britain, India, Israel, Italy, Ivory Coast, Jordan, Palestine, Paraguay, Spain, Thailand and Uruguay.
In the XIXth century, St Michael Garicoits ardently desired that Betharram would be a missionary congregation, ready to respond to the call of the Church and of the people of their time. Today four continents benefit from the missionary involvement of his disciples: In Europe, the pastoral activity of their communities has shifted from an almost exclusive engagement in education to a much more varied series of pastoral programmes: parishes, educational missions and chaplaincies, animation of specific groups and presence in the new poverty’s.
In Latin America their presence in education is still remarkable, including youth pastoral and family ministry. Also, the parish are very active everywhere, mainly in urban or marginalized districts; In Africa and Asia the presence of Betharram is relatively recent (since 1952 in Thailand, after a 30 years in China; since 1959 in the Ivory Coast; since 1986 in Central African ; since 1995 in India). Their presence in these countries was a response to the appeal of the Church for a first evangelization: the mission ad gentes. Their pastoral activity covers three main areas: aid to the local clergy; response to human needs (schools, dispensaries, prevention centres…); the welcome and formation of many young people applying for religious life.
On Tuesday, 25 August, the Betharram Fathers will be celebrating the Feast of Saint Mariam Baouardy- Co-Foundress of Betharram Congregation at Maria Kripa, with Bishop of Mangalore diocese Rev Dr Aloysius Paul D’Souza con-celebrating the festive mass along with other clergy. On the occasion of the feast, Fr Stervin has a message for all the readers of mangalorean.com: –
“Pope Francis has dedicated this year as a Year of the Consecrated and Families. Yes, ” where there is a consecrated person or a true family ; there will always be joy i.e. joy of the Lord “. I am glad to address you all on the eve of the Feast of Saint Mariam Baouardy , a Palestinian nun who attained her sanctity by her simplicity of life and for humility before God. Yes, we, in our seminary formation, insist on these two virtues in order to be effective, meaningful and successful in our lives. I implore God’s blessings upon you all who read this little article on our lives here at Maria Kripa, Mary Hill, Mangaluru”.
“We at ‘Maria Kripa’ remain grateful to the Superior General Fr Gaspar Fernandez Perez scj and his General Council who granted permission for the erection of this new house; Sr Agatha Mary- the former Superior General of the Apostolic Carmel and her councillors for their generous donation of this land in 2011, all our donors and benefactors whose contribution and hard work resulted in this new house. I ask God’s blessing on all the benevolent hearts whose goodwill gave birth to the Formation House- a manifestation of God’s love for Betharram and for the Church. And at the same time , I humbly request you all to offer your prayerful support. Thank You “.
For more information and if you want to support the Betharram Fathers in their mission, you can contact Fr Stervin Selvadass-Superior, Maria Kripa by calling : 9611346687 or Email : firstname.lastname@example.org. For more details on Betharram Congregation log on to : www.betharram.net