The Disciples of the Divine Word (DDW) began in 1999 as a small group of lay volunteers, initiated by Fr. Gregory Pinto, SVD who is also our present Spiritual Director. In October 2014, DDW was officially recognized as a Lay Associate Group of the Society of the Divine Word, India Mumbai Province (INM). Currently, around 50 dedicated members coming from varied cultural and linguistic backgrounds are committed to continue the mission of Jesus and St. Arnold Janssen.
DDW identifies itself with the Trinitarian and Missionary spirituality of the SVD. This motivates us to be rooted in the communion of the Triune God and from there discover our call to carry forward the mission of God. In our interactions with SVD confreres in different provinces here in India, it is our joy to discover a common platform of our spiritual orientation, which makes collaboration and working together easy.
Our regular meetings, Bible and life sharing sessions, recollections, retreats and reach-out programs are geared to form us as a committed community and to be with the SVDs. We seek to emulate the ministry of Jesus through compassionate service and sharing the Word with others.
Through the years, members have learned to appreciate the wonderful ways God worked in the life of our founder St. Arnold Janssen, and in the SVD congregation. In this communion of mind and heart, members have discovered God’s gifts in their own lives and have generously shared them with others.
DDW members reach out not only to India Mumbai Province (INM) but to all four SVD Provinces and Region in India, addressing social, economic, educational and developmental issues, with a special focus on women and children.
Understanding the context of the poor in Mumbai and realizing their needs, DDW launched the “Feed the Hungry” project on September 8, 2019, the SVD Foundation Day. This project aims at not only providing food to the poor but also spending time with them. Our belief is simple: cook a little extra food in our homes and move in small groups to feed the hungry. A smile, a conversation, a simple hot meal is enough to make a difference in someone’s day. We find the poor around street corners, traffic signals, in the slums, and in our own neighbourhood. This gives us an opportunity to encounter God and to be faithful to the Gospel values. Even during the pandemic, we continued this project in the initial months. After a short break during the lockdown, the project is resumed now.
DDW has collaborated with the SSpS through their Community Health Centre, Holy Spirit Hospital, Mumbai. Through this office, food essential kits and hot lunch packets are distributed to the poor in the neighbouring slums and also to patients suffering from mal- nutrition, tuberculosis, HIV, and so forth.
In March 2020, the Government of India ordered a nationwide lockdown limiting movement of the 1.3 billion people of India, as a preventive measure against the coronavirus pandemic. The decision, though necessary, did not consider the plight of the daily wage labourers, the migrants, slum-dwellers, and many others. Unfortunately, the poor and the marginalized sections of the society are always an afterthought.
Around end of March, a few SVD confreres and SVD lay partners (DDW) initiated a plan to form a small volunteer group to ease the distress of helpless people during the lockdown by providing the families with essential food grains.
What began as a simple idea of helping the poor with food grains pressed us to take “transformative action”. Beginning in mid-April, we were able to reach out to around 8000 families with the family grocery package. The package had food essentials – 5 kgs rice, 5 kgs wheat flour, pulses, cooking oil, sugar, tea and some basic essential items enough for a family for about 15-20 days. This project is still ongoing.
The COVID-19 pandemic has been an opportunity. We are grateful to our benefactors –the people who came together in the most extraordinary ways to lend a helping hand. We are fortunate to have our beneficiaries – the people who gave us an opportunity to experience the hope of Christ in this crisis. Sincere gratitude to our volunteers, especially the self-help-group (SHG) leaders from the slums – humanity is alive!
A call to be a missionary is a call fr
om Christ to deepen our love relationship with Him as well as to deepen our own faith. Pope Francis in his encyclical ‘Fratelli Tutti’ emphasises that, we are all called – just like the Good Samaritan – to become neighbours to others (81). May this call energize us to share the love of Christ with the people around us.
Susan Noronha, SVD lay partner from INM (India Mumbai Province), president of the group. She is married to Leo Chettiar and a self-employed. Participated in the First International SVD Lay Partners Workshop in Nemi, Rome, 18th SVD General Chapter in 2018 (representing ASPAC), and the SVD-SSpS joint workshop on Spirituality and Interculturality in Steyl in 2020. She is the Editor-in-chief of the International SVD Lay Partners Newsletter, published in English and Spanish.
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