Making the SCC Structures Work
STORIES OF COURAGE AND COMPASSION
St Anthony of Padua Church, Kalwa is part of Thane district, and falls within the Thane deanery. Initially under St John the Baptist Church, it became an independent parish in 1992. The place of worship is situated on the ground floor of a residential housing society. We are around 400 Catholic families, mostly lower middle class, with a few slum pockets, where people live a hand to mouth existence.
When the news of the pandemic was announced, we were one of the first parishes in the diocese to close the church for worship, due to objections from people living in the building. The parishioners were not happy, but the subsequent announcement of lockdown brought an uneasy calm and acceptance of the situation. When the pandemic started, we did not know the extent of damage that would be inflicted, but as the lockdown kept getting extended, we realised that we had to do something. The greatest challenge was to keep in constant touch with families all over the parish, especially the poor and the needy. This was easy because of the SCC structure. We have eight SCCs, which are further divided into clusters. Each cluster has around 8-10 families with an animator. The animators were told to identify families who were in need, and to be in constant touch with them.
In our parish, we had started a project of adoption of families two years ago. At that time, we had asked the animators to identify poor and needy families in their communities. When we made a general appeal to people to adopt these families, many people came forward. We made groups of 6-8 families who adopted one of the needy families, preferably from their own SCC. The aim of this project was to ensure long-term assistance to these beneficiaries, who had to otherwise beg every now and then for help, which was at times uncertain and humiliating. Some of the families would need help for many years (5-10 years), but this does not deter us from reaching out to them, because they are our own brothers and sisters. We wanted to give them dignity by making them a part of our own family.
In this work, two other associations played a vital role—the SVP and the Community Welfare Fund Committee (CWFC). The SVP, which was working independently before, was now working in coordination with the SCC animators and the benefactors of the adopted families to provide help to the needy in the parish. The SVP, the CWFC, the adopting families and the SCC animators began working together in coordination towards a single goal—to put these families on their feet. There is no overlapping and no conflict; we work as a team, and we have regular meetings together.
Because of this structure in place, we never panicked during this pandemic. We are reaching out to around 40 families at present, providing ration, medical help, educational help (including providing some of the students with Wi-fi connections for online classes), monthly financial help to most of these families etc.; above all, assuring them that we are there, no matter what. Our resources are limited, but last week, we worked out a budget for a two-year PANDEMIC PLAN. Besides these 40 families, there are other families who ask for specific help, and we respond. We are also prepared to include more families, if the need arises. With God’s help, we hope to make it.
I want to end with the motto of our pre-pandemic reaching out programme applicable for all parishioners, even now: “I am willing to hold your hand, to walk with you. Together, we will face the storm. And with God on our side, we shall reach the shores of happiness.”
Fr Simon F. D’Souza
St Anthony of Padua Church, Kalwa