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Pastoral letter for the Year of the Family


Pastoral Year: Oct 2015 – Sept 2016
To the priests, Religious (men and women) and the laity of the Diocese of Sindhudurg,

Dear sisters and brothers,

The grace and the peace of our Lord Jesus Christ be always with you!

  1. We are in the midst of the decennial celebrations. Our diocese is completing 10 years of its establishment. The Universal Church recognized our presence and gave us a juridical identity as a diocese. We have made steady but considerable progress in the past 10 years. We have set up institutions to help poor and needy people. Old and dilapidated churches have been renovated to provide a prayerful atmosphere for worship. We also organised many activities and programmes to witness our unity. We are a tiny community in the southern districts of Maharashtra yet our charitable works have been recognized by the entire society. These past 10 years have been a great source of inspiration to all of us but there still remains a lot to be achieved. We look towards our Holy Father Pope Francis for guidance in the planning and implementation of the various activities we will undertake. He has appealed in the recent past to get revitalized and seek new areas of evangelization. The task of evangelization is the very nature of the Church. The diocese of Sindhudurg has an uphill task in the context of evangelization wherein we do not even make up one percent of the entire population of this geographical area.
  2. The Church fills us with positive energy and directs us onto the right path of evangelization which begins with the very basic element of the society and the Church viz. the family. The evangelization of a family means evangelization of the society. For this very reason, Pope Francis convoked two General Assemblies of the synod of Bishops in quick succession. During this interim period, he invited every member of the church to reflect and help the mother church to understand the problems and anxieties faced by families. The Church wants to walk with those who are experiencing conflicts in their families. The Church knows that the family is the basic and indispensable fragment of the society in which the Church exists. The family cannot be replaced by any other institution. One must know that the Man is initiated into society through his family.
  3. The Holy Scriptures also attest to the fact that families were designed in the plan of God. God chose man to live in family. God first created Adam but then realized that man needed a companion; so he created woman that they may live happily here on earth (Gen. 2:27-28). It was the first marriage. It became the foundation of family but they failed in their family life when they committed sin. They blamed each other. Further, man went against his own family ties and shed his own blood for his selfishness. Man also failed to live in harmony which was God’s original plan (Gen. 3).  Yet God in his mercy planned to save man in and through the design of family. Jesus, His only begotten Son and our Saviour was born and brought up in a family (Mt.1-2; Lk.1-2). He recognized the importance of family in his ministry (Mt. 19:3-12; Jn. 19:25-27); in fact, He began His ministry with His first sign at the wedding in Cana (Jn. 2). Jesus announced the meaning of marriage as the fullness of revelation that restores the original plan of God (Mt. 19:3). Jesus reconciled entire fallen world (in which families are the basic unit) through his Paschal ministry (Mk. 10:1-12). Therefore, St. Paul tells us in his letter to Ephesians that Christ has redeemed the family (Eph. 5:21-32). Later the writers of the New Testament saw the family as the basis of the church (Acts 2:44-45; 4:32; 18:8; Rom. 16:5; 1Cor. 16:19; Phile. 1:2). Thus, the family became the basis of the Church. 
  4. The Church, through the teachings of the Roman Pontiffs has well articulated the emphasis on the family. Pope Pius XI said that the family is the first school of education. God directly communicates with the family in the natural order. The family therefore holds the principal place and primary responsibility of educating man (On Christian Education, 1926). Pope Pius XII said that our lives are deeply rooted in our families (Speech on Rural life, 1946). St. Pope John XIII said that we must solemnly affirm that human life is transmitted by the family. Marriage is the foundation of family. He invited us to strengthen married life (Mater et magistra, no. 193). He again emphasized the same theme and recalled that the family is and must be considered the first and essential cell of human society (Pacem in terries, no. 16). These pontiffs gave direction to family apostolate.
  5. The real push was given to the renewal of family by the Second Vatican Council. Gaudium et spes, the pastoral constitution on the church in the modern world devoted an entire chapter on the dignity of marriage and the family (nos 47-57). It says that marriage means a community of life and love (no. 48) and that love is the centre of marriage. The document further says that Christ comes into the lives of the married couple and He consecrates them. Thus, the Christian couple consecrated by Christ, constitutes the body of Christ. It should be called the Domestic Church (LG 11, FC 21).
  6. The pontiffs, after the Council also emphasized on the importance of family life. Blessed Pope Paul VI asked the human sciences to help enhance the welfare of the family. He asked the human authorities to make every effort to restore family life (Humanae vitae, nos 23-24). He emphasized on the relationship between conjugal love and the generation of life. St. Pope John Paul II gave special attention to the families and called the families the way of the church (Lineamenta of Ordinary Synod, no. 17). He began the world family meetings and explained in length that the church depends very much on families. Pope Benedict XVI continued the same emphasis on the family. He gave importance to the love in a family (Caritas in vertate, no. 44). Now, Pope Francis, walking in the footsteps of his predecessors, has enlarged the focus of the church on families by inviting us to reflect and pray for the families every day.
  7. The church is meditating on the families in the light of new evangelization. Pope Francis has also made special appeal, through his catechesis, to reflect on the family life. It is appropriate for all of us in the diocese of Sindhudurg, which is celebrating 10 years of its establishment, to reflect on the basic reality of the church i.e. Our Christian Family. Therefore, I am inviting you all to participate this year in all the celebrations that will take place which will help us to understand the importance of family in our life and the Church. The theme chosen for the year is “LOVE IS OUR MISSION, THE FAMILY FULLY ALIVE”.
  8. The missionary call to love is situated in our present context. The Church is very well aware of the complex realities present in our families. There are lights and shadows found in our families (Lineamenta, no. 3). The picture of families in our diocese is not different from the rest of the world. I make these observations on the basis of reflections shared by our priests with me. The families in our diocese are generally simple, hardworking, traditional, loving and caring for children and the aged, sincere and hospitable. They are God fearing, priest and Church loving. They are prayerful and ardent devotees of Our Lady. They, especially our women folk, silently bear their pain and remain faithful to their spouses. These lights are found in our families.
  9. The dark side of our families is quite disturbing. Our families are under tremendous pressure. The biggest problem in our families is poverty. At the same time, our families are experiencing conflicts within themselves but their voices are subdued in our cultural settings. Some families are battling with misunderstanding between the spouses. Some families are forced to migrate to metropolitan cities for their livelihood, leaving behind their aged parents. There are many families with single parents. Often the women folk look after their children singled-handedly because their spouses are either working abroad or they have passed away. Our elders are illiterate; hence they are not able to guide our youth and children. The widows are left to fight their own battle. The youth are heading in the wrong direction and are often addicted to alcohol and other vices. They do not have motivation and a vision for the future. They are frustrated due to unemployment. They often do not select a proper partner. Inter-faith marriages are failing because challenges in these marriages were not seen earlier. Our children are exposed and addicted to modern means of communication but they have no motivation to excel in studies. They do not respect their parents and elders. There are a large number of families missing the church services and faith formation programmes. The elders in our families are going through a phase of loneliness. A good number of Christian families are living under the influence of superstition and surrounding cultures. Though, the Catholic Church is known for her morality, many couples do not follow Church’s teaching on the moral issues such as abortion, contraceptives, etc. The list is endless.    
  10. In the midst of these lights and shadows, we are called to give witness to Christ. We are called to make our families, the community of faith, hope and charity (CCC, no. 2204). We have a special missionary task of evangelization. Our families are called to become the sign and image of the communion of the Triune God (CCC, no. 2205). This missionary task is explained in the words of our theme “LOVE IS OUR MISSION, THE FAMILY FULLY ALIVE”. I would like to spell out this ‘mission of love’ in our families in the words of Pope Benedict XVI. He said that church’s deepest nature is expressed in her threefold responsibilities; Proclaiming the Word of God (Kerygma – martyria), Celebrating the sacraments (Leitourgia) and exercising the ministry of Charity (Diakonia) (Deus caritas est, no. 25). These responsibilities of the church are applicable to all the families which are known to be the domestic church. Therefore, the threefold responsibilities of the church are to be the responsibilities of each and every member of the family in our diocese. Let me briefly spell out these threefold responsibilities.  
  11. Kerygma: Christ came to be known for his teaching. He proclaimed the Kingdom of God. People called him by various names but Sir, Rabi, Prophet, etc were most common titles used in the scriptures. The account of his life and ministry is given in the four Gospels. Eventually, Jesus himself was called the Gospel. The Church gathers around Christ, the Word of God to listen to him. The church also makes the proclamation of the Word its primary function. This proclamation should take place in the family itself. We have been heavily dependent on the clergy and the religious in our diocese for it. It is time for all of us to recognize the role of family in the catechetics. Hence, the families should spend time in reading the scriptures, participating in the Gospel sharing in SCC meetings and helping our young ones to understand the catechism of the Catholic Church (CCC). 
  12. Leitourgia: Christ’s second image is seen as the priest. Letter to Hebrews portrays Jesus as the chief priest who offered his own sacrifice to sanctify the church (Heb. Chs 5-10). It is in Jesus’ death and resurrection, that saving grace is made available to us. The seven sacraments are fountains of the same grace of God. They are made available at important stages of our life. Let us draw spiritual riches from these sacraments to overcome our weaknesses in our daily life. I specially appeal to you to participate in the Eucharist every Sunday. It is the most enriching sacrament. The Eucharist is the source of life. There is a deep connection between the family and the Eucharist. Pope Francis states that the family always be recognized as a privileged place where the gifts that come from our celebrations are understood, guided and sustained, particularly through the Sunday mass. Let the words of Pope Francis echo in our hearts that Sundays are a gift from God.  Let our families be centered on the Eucharist. The second important sacrament in our daily life is the Penance. I exhort you to frequent this sacrament and receive God’s forgiveness in your life. These two sacraments will strengthen your family life.
  13. Diakonia: Christ’s third image is of a servant. Jesus said that He came to serve, not to be served (Mt. 20:28). Jesus went about doing good to all those who came to him. He cured the sick, the lame, the deaf, the blind, the crippled and the dead. He had no time even to eat (Mk. 6:31). Jesus selflessly served mankind. He did not keep anything with himself. He offered his life. He even offered his own mother to the Church. I urge everyone in our families to reach out to those who are in need. Let others notice that the Christian community is known for her charity. Remember the maxim that tells that “in giving, we receive”. When we give, God will bless us abundantly. I want families to not only give monetary help but also be charitable in sharing our energy, time, talents, gifts and expertise. I wish to encourage the laity to assist our priests in sharing their burden of administration so that they could have enough time to offer us the spiritual riches.
  14. I make a special appeal to my brother priests and the religious congregations. We are the principal witnesses to Christ in our diocese. Our Catholic families in the parishes and our Catholic institutions are live witnesses to Christ. I am aware of your good work in the diocese of Sindhudurg. I thank you for sharing my burden of Episcopal ministry. Let us stand up to the pastoral challenges that stand before us. Let us make our families in our diocese the principal agents of evangelization. Let our proclamation of the Word become effective and efficient. Let our liturgical celebrations become meaningful and channels of God’s grace. Let us be more charitable in reaching out to the poor and needy.     
  15. Let this “Year of the Family” be a time of prayer and reflection on the life of Jesus, Mary and Joseph, the Holy Family of Nazareth. Let us contemplate on their family life and draw inspiration from them. Mother Mary and St. Joseph could make a holy family only because their lives were centered on Christ. He filled them with God’s love. His mission was love. Therefore, he could make the Holy Family of Nazareth fully alive. Let us make Christ the centre of our families. Let His mission of love become the mission of every family. His love will make our families fully alive.
  16. I would like to conclude with the prayer of St. Francis of Assisi whose feast we celebrate today.

Lord, make me an instrument of your peace;
where there is hatred, let me sow love;
where there is injury, pardon;
where there is doubt, faith;
where there is despair, hope;
where there is darkness, light;
and where there is sadness, joy.

O Divine Master,
grant that I may not so much seek to be consoled as to console;
to be understood, as to understand;
to be loved, as to love;
for it is in giving that we receive,
it is in pardoning that we are pardoned,
and it is in dying that we are born to Eternal Life.

I impart my blessings on each and every family. I assure you of my prayers. May Our Lady of Miracles, the patroness of our diocese bless you and intercede for you.


October 4, 2015: On the Feast of St. Francis of Assisi
Given at:  Bishop’s House, Kankavli, Sindhudurg.                                                       

Yours in Christ,  
† Bp. Alwyn Barreto,


Contact Information

Bishop’s House
Kankavli 416602
Dist Sindhudurg, Maharashtra, India
Phone: +91 (02367) 233475/ 232061/ 232661
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