We are living in Hinduism-dominated country, where the Christian population is almost irrelevant even though we have a number of Catholic schools, colleges, hospitals, and medical specialty centres dotting the country. However, there are Indians curious about Catholicism. They want to know who we are, our traditions, how we are different from other religions, and most importantly, what makes us Catholics—our faith. That’s where the Catholic Enquiry Centre (CEC) comes in and has a close history with St. Andrew church, Bandra.
The Catholic Church in India has congregations and orders actively participating in missionary works in rural India, but the CEC works as a place where individuals’ questions on Catholicism are answered. It helps them decide and confirm if this is the religion, they have been searching.
What is the association of the CEC to the Parish?
In the year 1958, Mr. Dick Pereira and fellow sodalists of St. Andrew’s parish felt the urgent need to start an organisation to spread God’s message: “Go into the world and proclaim the good news to the whole creation” – Mk.16:15, to people of other faiths. Even after the Men’s Sodality ceased to exist a few senior members continued to do the good work and formed a Working Committee, thus the Catholic Enquiry Centre in Bandra was established.
The hurdles of CEC
Initially, advertisements were placed in newspapers of North, East and Central India and the response was good—we received approximately 1200 enquirers a year.
With the change in the political climate of our country, advertisements with any religious symbols were not permitted. To overcome this hurdle in 2008 two desks were started, one at the Basilica of Our Lady of the Mount and the other at Fr. Agnel’s Ashram.
What are the efforts of CEC?
The response to the interaction at the desks on a one-to-one basis was very encouraging and the number of enquirers rose to approximately 600 annually. Each enquirer is given a new testament in the language of his or her choice after he or she fills in personal details and endorses the enquiry card, willingly.
The centre posts literature in English and Gujarati course (Meet Jesus and What it means to be a Christian), whereas Hindi and Marathi enquirers are sent to Shubh Sandesh Kendra, Dahisar, for further processing. Other language requests are forwarded to Regional Centres all over India.
In addition, holy pictures of Jesus and Our Lady, and daily prayers, medals, rosaries and information on how to pray the rosary are offered freely, on request.
How this centre affiliated with the Church?
The Centre is the only one in India run by lay people, but it has the encouragement and blessings of the Archbishop of Bombay, its auxiliary Bishops and parish priests of the Bandra Deanery. Financially it has the support of the parishioners of Bandra, well-wishers and beneficiaries.
The future of CEC
Presently, 60 members are the pillars and the bricks of the CEC. Mr. Royce D’Souza, is the Director, who has served the association for the past 30 years and Mrs. Brenda Pereira, the Secretary, for 26 years. The 60 members, post literature at their own cost, are instrumental in reaching our goal and milestone – our Diamond Jubilee.
The Catholic Enquiry Centre (Bandra) reaches out to people of other faiths. The future of their efforts rests in your hands. They welcome new volunteers (urgently) to give just two hours of their time, once a month, on any Sunday evening, between 3.30 to 5.30 pm at the Basilica of Our Lady of the Mount.
Contact persons: Geraldine Gonsalves – Mob: 9967450595
Brenda Pereira – Mob: 9664143747
Mervyn Noronha – Mob: 9820383054