Human Rights and Peace Activist Fr Cedric Prakash SJ from Gujarat Challenges Mangaluru to Emulate Dr Olinda Pereira during the book Release ‘Legacy of A Legend: Dr Olinda Pereira’ at School of Social Work Roshni Nilaya, Mangaluru
Mangaluru: The internationally renowned human rights and peace activist/ writer Fr. Cedric Prakash, Jesuit priest from Gujarat threw a challenge to citizens – particularly to emulate the noted social worker Dr. Olinda Pereira and the way she worked for social transformation through an inclusive society. Fr Prakash was the Chief Guest at a function held at Roshni Nilaya, the School of Social Work in Mangalore during which a book ‘Legacy of A Legend: Dr. Olinda Pereira- A Pioneer in Social Work Education & Practice’ was released. Dr Olinda Pereira, the founder-principal of ‘Roshni Nilaya’ died three years ago at the age of 95 on 31 May 2020. Fr Prakash is also her nephew.
Dr. Vijayakumar, Vice Chancellor of Yenepoya University inaugurated the symposium and Book Release “Legacy of The Legend – Dr Olinda Pereira at the School Of Social Work, Roshni Nilaya. “The idea of education is not just obtaining higher academic grades than others. When we are able to congratulate the winner after losing the game, we have gained the meaning of life. Total Education is the solution to all problems in the world. But education today is not able to do what it is supposed to do. Academic learning and self-learning together leads to development he opined. Employability is an issue with education in hand. We have to prepare ourselves beyond education to reach out to the industry requirements. Dr Olinda Pereira was not only an educationalist but also a woman of empowerment. She built a bridge between education and development,” added Dr Vijayakumar
Ms. Philomina D’Sa, Provincial, Daughters of the Heart of Mary in her Presidential Address stated that Education, Development, Transformation, and Inclusiveness were combined in the life of Dr. Olinda Pereira. She made time to spend her life with the less privileged through her unique ways. Her thoughts about the senior citizens were on the divine light that she had within her. Dr Olinda was not merely a teacher. She could touch, inspire and motivate her students and live for others. We should continue our work in our own unique ways following the footsteps of Dr. Olinda Pereira. She was always looking at everyone with equality and respect. Let us forget our individual differences and come out together to make a difference in the life of those who are finding to make a life for them. Let us work for the less privileged she added.
Prof. Vida Sequeira, President of the Institute of Social Service welcomed the gathering. Dr Sophia N Fernandes, Principal, School of Social Work, Mangalore; Mr S N Gopinath, Mr Bhima Rao, Mr Ravichandra Bekal Founder Trustees of Centre for Leadership and Social Development, Bengaluru; Dr Malini Hebbar, President Roshni Alumni Association Mangaluru were present during the occasion. Ms. Vinitha Maria Pereira compered the programs. The students of Roshni Nilaya performed a thematic dance depicting the life and mission of Dr Olinda Pereira after the formal Program.
Human Rights & Peace Activist Fr CEDRIC PRAKASH SJ
In his typical no-nonsense style, Fr. Cedric Prakash SJ held the huge gathering of dignitaries, well-wishes, staff and students spellbound during his keynote address. Here are some excerpts from his talk which were greatly appreciated by one and all:
“It is good to be here today to celebrate the memory of Dr. Olinda Pereira, who was called to her eternal abode, on this day exactly, three years ago on 31 May 2020! Dr. Olinda was the Founder-Principal of this great institution the School of Social Work (‘Roshni Nilaya’) and was the inspiration for a whole range of significant interventions here in Mangalore and elsewhere. The book which was just released ‘Legacy of a Legend’ highlights some dimensions of her life: a wide range of engagements and dedicated service, is a wonderful testimony of a great Indian woman – who walked the talk, so courageously and committedly for ninety-five long years!
Above all, I am proud to say that Dr Olinda was my maternal aunt and I was the youngest of only four immediate nephews/nieces she had! She was the world to us! On this auspicious day, I also stand here as one of her family members and on behalf of the family, to say a big THANKYOU – to the Provincial and all the DHM sisters, to every single person of this School of Social Work, to the Alumni Association, the Trustees of CLSD and her legion of well-wishers, admirers and friends – yes ‘thank you’ to all those who have journeyed with her and who continue to do so today, motivated by her undaunted spirit!
“I feel greatly honoured to be here as the Chief Guest of today’s function and to deliver the keynote address at this Symposium on ‘Social Transformation through Inclusive Society’; my sincere gratitude to all those who have accorded me this privilege. This topic actually epitomises the life and times of Olinda Pereira who believed that social transformation is a non-negotiable and in order to ensure that she worked all her life for a society which was more inclusive. I am sure that all of us in this audience, and in fact every thinking citizen of our beloved country who cherishes the secular and pluralistic fabric and the intrinsic values enshrined in our all-embracing Constitution.”
Fr Prakash situated his brilliant address in the lives and times of i) Fatima Sheikh and Savitribai Phule ii) Dr B. R. Ambedkar and iii) Mary the Mother of Jesus. He also said, “Olinda was called to her eternal abode on this day, the Feast of the Visitation, in 2020. It was also on this day in 1960, that the Daughters of the Heart of Mary began their third foundation in India here in Mangaluru. The significance of today should not be lost on anyone!”
This topic is open-ended for the simple reason that:
it is a CALL to look into ourselves: our behavioural patterns: of the way we conveniently ignore/exclude others because of their religion, their caste, their ethnicity, the language they speak, the class they belong to; the dress they wear or the food they eat… and much more;
it is a CHALLENGE to address the wrongs and evils which are systemic and endemic in our society – something which Ambedkar motivates us to do;
it is the COURAGE to speak truth to power; take on those who indulge in hate speech and violence, who denigrate and demonize ‘the other’;
it is the COMPASSION that each of us is called to radiate in society today, particularly to those who are lost, last, least, lonely…
Above all, like Fatima, Savitribai and Mary, to have that unflinching COMMITMENT to work for a society which believes in and encourages transformation for the better.
Olinda in her own ways epitomized these sterling qualities till the very end! In a world which was engulfed in darkness and exclusion, she was a light: radiating that light to others: of joy, hope, inclusion, peace and transformation! The book which was just released says it all. She walked the talk for a more inclusive society – can we dare follow in her footsteps?
Pope Francis exhorts us to shed the “globalization of indifference” and reach out to the poor, the marginalized, the vulnerable and underprivileged, and the excluded and exploited of our society. As a finale I cannot but help to pray those immortal words of our Nobel and poet laureate Rabindranath Tagore from his ‘Gitanjali’ – it is all about inclusion and social transformation:
“Where the mind is without fear and the head is held high,
Where knowledge is free,
Where the world has not been broken up into fragments by narrow domestic walls,
Where words come out from the depth of truth,
Where tireless striving stretches its arms towards perfection,
Where the clear stream of reason has not lost its way
Into the dreary desert sands of dead habit,
Where the mind is led forward by thee into ever-widening thought and action,
Into that heaven of freedom, my Father, let my country awake!”