Tuesday, July 31, 2012


The Diocesan questionnaire (2012) surveyed areas that contributed or detracted from adaptive family life patterns. A few significant trends emerged indicating areas in Fellowship, Formation and Service that need Preventive, Educative and Therapeutic intervention (P.E.T.)

1.   Conflicts within the family: Conflicts in relationships occur in different degrees and ways. 68%responded “often” to 4.2 %as “always”, similar to the online responses.
        Among the lower middle class 25.7% said “always”.
        Lower housing groups are more prone than other types (those living in chawls 7% v/s those in 1BHK-2.8% and 2BHK-1.6%)
        Constant conflict seems to drop with increased educational levels-7.9% among non-SSC “always” had conflicts in the family compared to post / graduates1.9% / 3%.
        Reversal of trend in postgraduates14.7%   who claim “never” to SSC 22.9%
        Increase in percentage of those who say “sometimes” goes up with higher education! 6%within each educational
category replied “often”. The profession influences the
conflict too, with the unemployed being the least in conflicts 2.45 % while those in business had a higher 5.7% incidence of conflicts.
        The fellowship dimension of families seems to have been compromised by certain circumstances…those admitting to conflicts reported problems like ‘alcohol’(37.1%), ‘poverty’(22.9%), ‘single persons dominance’(20%), ‘spousal violence’(17.1%), ‘elder and child abuse’(8.6% each). The violation of the rights of the other Family members is crucial as it is amongst the frequent reason for conflicts.
        The current state of decline in society can be largely traced to the loss of importance attached to the foundation institutions of marriage and family. Both these institutions are vital to the well-being of humanity. The family will aim at a greater equality between the spouses so that women get their rightful place within it. It will have to foster a greater openness to life. Greater attention to pre-marriage and post-marriage care is needed than is given at present in a parish.

        Measures to enhance the Fellowship dimension of the family.
        A child, who sees, hears, and experiences conflicts being resolved positively, from the early age of his/her life tends to show greater competency later in life. Each member of the family needs to learn to resolve conflicts as they arise.  Successful resolution of the conflicts increases intimacy, joy, connectedness, mutual trust, self-confidence, self-esteem and self-efficacy.
        Preventive measures include: strengthening the economic status of these families through capacity building, income generation, asset creation, savings and credit; and accessing their rights through government schemes (Don Bosco R & D Centre, Matunga offers consultation and training in these programs
        Primary focus of the Church in Mumbai should be geared towards preventing school dropouts and gain not only
primary education but higher/vocational education with a view to gainful employment.
        Interpersonal work and better communication skills would help people live more harmoniously, adjusting   even in cramped quarters with respect for each other. . An effort can be, to try to bring together architects and builders to work at projects for providing a decent housing for those living in chawls.
        Networking with neighborhood schools and supplementing these efforts by providing career guidance, life-coping skills and facilitating job placements especially for the youth.
        SCC’s in collaboration with other parish cells and associations would need to screen out the vulnerable families, and coordinate efforts towards empowering them, locating lacunae and networking strategies for positive change. 
        Housing, Employment, Health (body, mind and spirit) and Education (Academic, Psychological, Spiritual) – H.E.H.E ,   contribute to the foundation of happy families, both directly and indirectly.

2.  Resolving conflicts: Across groups, among 3484 respondents, ways of responding to conflicts included: ‘dialogue and communication’ (62.2%), ‘quiet toleration’ (40.4%), ‘seeking outside help’ (8.2%), and ‘resorting to violence’ (1.9%). Percentages of economic groups approaching priests and counselors  to assist in conflict-resolution were: upper class (8.5%, 3%), upper-middle (11.4%, 5.6%), lower middle (18.5%, 6%), and upper lower (13.1%, 5.1%). Respondents “always” and “often”  having conflicts approached priests (42.5%, 21.6%), sisters (9%, 6.7%), counselors (12.7%, 14.9%), and SCC animator visits (14.4%, 4.1%). A significantly higher number approaching priests for assistance during conflict were from those living in traditional cottages (32%), compared to those living in chawls (15.1%), SRA buildings (14.8%), and 1 BHK (8.9%) and 2 BHK (8.3%).

        Training Church Leaders: Priests, Religious, counselors and lay leaders seem to play a key role in handling some of the conflicts.  Female ratio in seeking help seems to be larger than males.
        This indicates the need for psychospiritual training of priests, nuns, and community leaders. Financial sponsorship from the church can contribute to the success of such ventures.
        The services at the Diocesan family center ‘Snehalaya’ needs to be made known and vitalized. Deanery counseling centers could be set up to even offer crisis intervention to conflict-ridden couples and families. Awareness, recognition and de-stigmatization of mental health issues need be prime concern in the church.
        Family conflict is resolved with better skills in communication and interpersonal relationship and trying to live the Gospel values with sacramental grace and strength.

3.  Women remaining single: Largely graduate, postgraduate or professionally educated respondents strongly agreed (4.1%) and agreed (11.1%) that women should remain single. They thought they did so for reasons of independence (27.1%), career (19%), avoiding male dominion (17.8 %,) and inability to find a suitable match (17.5%). The single woman status is achieved by choice or by chance- an attempt to understand their problems and find workable solutions for the same, is a step in the right direction. Today’s women are more educated, confident and career oriented, having a mind of their own. The Church in Mumbai has a rich resource in them.The widows of the parish also need to be involved in constructive programmes. Awareness and adherence to associations like ‘singles for christ’,  ‘hope and life movement’ and others needs more propagation.

4.    Family coping with Crisis: Means of coping with family crisis were family prayer (81.2%), prayer groups (22.6%), retreats (21.8%), family enrichment programs (4.6%), Couples for Christ CFC(2.5%) and Marriage Encounter ME (2%).
        Coping mechanisms in the times of crisis are prayer, dialogue, communication and sharing. However,care should be taken about those individuals who are at a risk of a psychological breakdown due to their vulnerability and poor ego strength, at the time of attending spiritual retreats etc. Heightened spirituality can be both a cause or consequence of mental illness. Some appreciated the support of elders in family. Their valuable life and life experiences emphasizes their role and our responsibility and duty to them. Visits by priests were significant in life crisis. Our priests are true shepherds in this pastoral role. We are called to be in Communion with god, within our families and in our parishes.
        81.1% always found their families as a strong support base in time of crisis. The family is the primary cell of society; “it is in the family that children learn the human and Christian values which enable them to have a constructive and peaceful coexistence. It is in the family that they learn solidarity between the generations, respect for rules, forgiveness and how to welcome others.” Parents are the “original and primary” educators of their children.”
        Marriage is the rock on which family is built and is a reflection of the trinity- co creators, co redeemers and co sanctifiers. To strengthen this foundation Marriage Enrichment Programmes (MEPs) ‘Snehalaya’ provides ongoing support and growth. Other interventions that might serve to prevent fragmentation as well as enhance the fellowship dimension of the family include: parenting skills especially at the pre-nuptial and pre-baptismal stage, besides the post marriage phases; enhancing knowledge of parents regarding youth issues, generation gap, addictions etc; 
        Promoting effective life-coping, conflict-resolution, and relationship skills amongst the youth.

5.   Situation in the Family: “It is in the family that we discover our God-given vocation to love, to enter into relationship with others and to live together in harmony” Pope Benedict. The church needs to make the family aware of its role and mission.
        Respondents came together for meals (77.6%), prayer (76.5%) and watching TV (49%); many came together to take decisions, holidays and visiting relatives. Some shared that crisis brought the family together. Stability in family life is associated with ability to bond/ relate through eating, praying, playing, working, and sleeping/resting at home. “Family, Work n celebration”- the theme of world family day-3june 2012.
        91.3% respondents believed in the relevance of the Eucharistic celebration; thus, the Eucharist provides a large-scale platform for guidance through well-prepared family-related liturgies. There is the need to make mass more connective, participative, in-sync-with-the-times, and family focused.
        Those who strongly agree that youth spend more time out of home were from chawls (9.5%), SRA buildings (8%), 1 and 2 BHK (5.9, 5.3%) houses. Youth from lower housing types were seen to spend more time out of home than others, thus reducing moments of family cohesion.
        92.4% shared a very friendly relationship with their children and 70.3% revealed that their parents played the most important role in career and vocation choice. Thus parents need to enlighten, educate and empower the youth, helping them to make right career choices and take more responsibility for their own lives.

6.     Support Structure of the family:
        a)   The Synod proposes that we help our youth to get inserted into the faith and sacramental life of the church; find God in secular environments; achieve a balance between faith and life; and search for meaning, solidarity and commitment. This can be achieved by enabling youth to participate meaningfully in associations.
                67.9% were satisfied with the role of the youth groups in development of youth in parish. Parish youth group would need to have appropriate ‘Formative, Fellowship and Service’ oriented programs. This will help channelize them towards healthy, Christian family life. Intra parish events  to bring together our youth in fellowship, from across parishes, in view of giving them opportunities for healthy Christian relationships, that may further translate into happy Christian marriages.  Broach the challenges of interfaith marriages and the church views. Ensure the scope for recent, remote and intermediate marriage preparation.
        b)   Parish Family Cells: Visible, Effective and Vibrant
                61.1% claimed Parish Family Cell-PFC meets every month 11.9% said never met and some were unaware of PFC existence.
                The Synod highlights the need to protect the sanctity of the family by projecting the sacredness of life, the dignity of persons and a pro-life orientation; and a proper understanding of love and family life. These values need to be passed on both by parents and families to their children; and propagated in schools and churches as well through instruction and education. The mid-synod envisages that these tasks may be carried out through a wholesome way of living family life; through appropriate instruction; and through the assistance of family cells.
                Parish Family Cells (PFCs) being perceived as key units to promote family life were mandated by the mid-tem synod, with a deadline of Dec 07 for the same. Nevertheless, an independent survey conducted by the present commission revealed that family cells did not exist in some parishes! Most others mainly celebrated family-related days and seminars. A handful of vibrant cells across the diocese had more diverse formation, enrichment and fellowship programs. A common hurdle was the lack of cooperation from/ with other parish groups. These data indicate that family cells need to be instituted or revitalized across the diocese. Moreover, they would need appropriate emphasis from the parish priest, including adequate training(TFE,TFA) and motivation for the tasks at hand. Deanery-level parish cell meets would facilitate passing on information, training, inter-cell support, and fostering of best practices. PFC is a coordinating body, with the right composition of members to represent and reach out to all the sections of the parish. (Children, youth, adults, senior citizens, singles, married couples, parents, widowed, single parents, interfaith marriages etc.)
                The family- the domestic church is the foundation of the parish. Sadly, today the moral fabric of the family is tearing apart, leading to increased levels of dysfunctionality. However, the family’s own resources and cohesive forces can come handy, if tapped well. At the parish level the family cell will need to network with the PPC/PCOA- Parish council of associations, all working harmoniously with a ‘Family perspective’

        c)  Disparity of Cult: ‘Inter faith marriages’ has shown an increasing trend in the Diocese from 11% in 2001 to 22% in 2009, (Chancery, Archdiocese of Bombay). Such couples and their families, especially the children, are faced with numerous challenges due to different religious and socio-cultural life styles.

        A research by Nandita Pereira, SRA (Challenges and balancing strategies of interfaith couples and children, and pastoral implications) reveals that couples that acknowledged and accepted their differences, and addressed these issues; especially regarding the faith of their children, prior to marriage; were better adjusted and happier than those that did not. Their children were better adapted too.

        Thus, the importance of Pre-marriage preparation and a Pastoral approach needs to be stressed at parishes. Adopting a pastoral approach and including such families into the Church mainstream, together with adequate preparation prior to marriage would help these couples. Programs to guide and integrate these couples and their children into the mainstream would need to be designed too.

        Hence, through a relevant and functional structure, the bishops, clergy, religious and laity must do all in their power to protect, promote and sustain this fundamental unit of society and the church. Our love and concern for families has to take shape in concrete action so that we can have stable happy, Christ-centered families. This then translates into a vibrant Church and a stable society.

Questions for Discussion:
1.   Mention at least 3 most important ideas in the paper you agree with, giving reasons for the same

2.   Any suggestions relating to the implementation and the way forward regarding the above?

3.   Please mention any ideas in the paper you disagree with, giving reasons for the same

4.              Please mention any important aspects that you think have not been covered in the paper.

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