Christa Sharan Christa Sharan Christa Sharan

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A Hindu Christian Priest, A Christian Ashram?

-By: Claude Fernandes, Team Mangalorean UAE

Abu Dhabi - July 14, 2007: Rev. Fr. Joe Mary Lobo, popularly known as Guruji (Guruji means Teacher/Priest) has served as a  priest for 49 years, with various portfolios as a Pastor, Chaplain, Teacher, Diocesan Director in various parishes, schools,  and other institutions  in the diocese of  Chickmagalur in Karnataka India.   He is the founder director of Sri Christa Sharan Social Development Society (SCS) Regd. (SCS) and Sri Guru Sharan Charitable Trust (SGSCT) Regd.

Christa Sharan
Child Fending for Itself!

Both these voluntary organizations work for the holistic development and the growth of rural villages surrounding Birur - Chickmaglur District. Their main goal is to work with the economic and social, political resource poor and be a guide in the process of their entire being i. e. enhance their Self-Thinking, Self-Deciding, Self-Reliance, and Self-Governing levels through:
Integrated, holistic rural development; Development of rural women and children, specially the Scheduled Caste, Scheduled Tribe, gypsy types Lmbanis and the Dalits (the marginalized and exploited); Education and organization of people;  Watershed development – Agriculture, Horticulture, Silviculture and Animal Husbandry development; Biodiversity and environment; Joint Forestry Planning and Management; and Fostering good Health, with greater thrust on prevention of ill health, through hygiene, nutrition, balanced diet, herbal medicine & other native systems like Yoga, Naturopathy etc.
Rev. Fr. Joe Mary Lobo is a   post graduate in Social Development Work from the Coady International Institute of St. Francis Xavier University in Canada, and a PG Diploma in alternative Economics from Washington D. C. and has Post Graduate Diplomas in various Social Sciences and Development fields both from India and abroad.  He is the first to publish Catholic Kannada hymnals and audio cassettes with music. He has more than thirty years of experience in rural development.  He is a simple and down to earth personality who believes in simple living and high thinking. We had an opportunity of meeting him in Abu Dhabi, UAE and having a tete-a-tete on his social service activities.

Claude Fernandes with Guruji

What motivated you to start Christa Sharan?
During my tenure as a priest, something always disturbed me deep within. In all the above mentioned roles and capacities, I served mostly Catholics. The words of Christ "I have OTHER SHEEP too, to whom I must go." disturbed me. What about those that did not know of Christ's love for them? What about the thousands and thousands of illiterate, ignorant, the so called low caste, untouchable, unhealthy, oppressed people, especially exploited Women and Children? Are not these the poor, Christ speaks of Evangelising?  "The gospel should be preached to the poor by setting an example of Christ's love for his entire flock," says Fr. Joe Mary with a radiant smile on his face.
So I dived into the deep ocean of poverty of every kind, physical, moral, social, financial and spiritual, to help the unfortunate and helpless people to help themselves and started this institution in the year 1978, with the kind approval of my bishop to help the poor, oppressed and the helpless people and called it Sri Christa Sharan (It means, 'In the service of Christ' and 'Christ at your service.' Both these meanings are relevant).

Christa Sharan
Sri Christa Sharan Ashram

What are the main objectives of Sri Christa Sharan? Could you please highlight some of them to our readers?
The Sri Christa Sharan Society has been rendering selfless service to the most marginalized people, especially oppressed women and children from the past 29 years. It has been helping people with education, health, child care, maternal care, herbal and native medicine, yoga, literacy, savings, agriculture, horticulture, forestry, watershed development and management, animal husbandry, poultry farming, vermiculture, organic farming and boosting self esteem and self image especially in women. With assistance and support  from some people of good will, it has helped some of the poor with potable water facility, housing, a goat, a sheep, a cow or bull, a few rabbits, etc., as their meager means allowed.

Christa Sharan
Self Help Groups

How do you envisage the goal of educating and uplifting the rural villages?
Msgr. Coady of Canada had said: 'Give a man a fish; he would live for a day. But teach him to fish; he will live all his life.' We do just that. We believe in developing the skills and capacities of every individual and empowering them to be Self thinking, Self reliant, Self deciding and Self governing, with Self respect and Self confidence.

What is it that enhances the effectiveness of your social work and the development of rural villages? Do you think women play an important role in Christa Sharan?
When I initially visited the villages in Birur, I realized that a community, especially the rural community can be educated only through women. "Educate a woman, and an entire family is educated," goes an English saying.
We have learnt by experience that when women are involved, development is quicker and more effective.  It is easier for a woman to understand another woman, interact and educate her. If this strategy is implemented, then it will enhance the speed of educating and developing the rural areas faster.
Around 50% of the Nation's population consists of women.  Hence, despite the unwillingness of the politicians to give our women even 30% reservation in the Government, I feel that they should be given at least 50% role and responsibility in all the spheres of the development of the Nation. This is one of our aims and effort. SCS lay women missionaries prepare women to achieve this goal.

Christa Sharan
Our Lay Women Missionaries - The Most Powerful Force!

Do you have any definite plan for these lay women missionaries?
Some of the women in SCS have served for more than 23 years. It's a long period and needs a lot of sacrifice and dedication. Some of them have joined other organizations, or become nuns, or got married and are rendering great service in their respective parishes or wherever God has placed them.  There is still a band of these Lay Women Apostles, who neither want to get married, nor become nuns, but find joy in serving the poor all their life, and remaining single for the love of Christ. This band of women missionaries should be supported and encouraged because, in my opinion when day by day the number of priests and religious is decreasing, it is such lay missionaries that will take up the role of leadership in the church. I further think that there can be a true and long lasting development only when women are involved at every stage of development from planning to implementation and evaluation, in the world and in the Church.

What have you done for the development of children in the villages adjoining Birur?
In these villages, where hardly any child, especially a girl child, went to school, we motivated them to go to school. From 5 -10% that were attending school, now the number has gone up to 80%, and we are proud to say that even the percentage of girls going to school has risen from 2 - 5% to 70%. Praise the Lord! Yet, there was the need and popular demand for a really good school, especially for the village children.
With great difficulty, we have started one, under the Sri Guru Christa Sharan Trust (Regd), a branch of Christa Sharan. God be praised! The name of the school is SRI GURU CHRISTA SHARAN VIDYALAY.

Christa Sharan
May the great, Blessed Mother Theresa bless my work and bless you! I was fortunate to have a holy chat with Mother and her blessings. I pray to her for my mission of working for the poor. God Love you and your dear ones!

Fr. Lobo, If you have to name just one personality that has made a real mark in the field of social work who would it be and why?
Of course, it would be Blessed Mother Theresa. Someone once asked her whether she would eradicate poverty completely. Her answer was “If each one of us tried to help those who's suffering that our eyes could see, then that would be the biggest contribution each one of us could make.   If this happens we need not worry any more about poverty.” It is better to light a candle than curse the darkness around us. If each of us lighted one candle how many billions of candle power this would give and what brightness there would be in this dark world. ASATHOMA SADGAMAYA!  THAMASOMA JYOTHIRGAMAYA!! MRITHYORMA AMRITHAMGAMAYA!!! Lord, lead us from darkness to light.

Guruji, you demeanor and dress resembles of a Sanyasi. Why is that?
I am a Hindu Christian Priest or a Hindu Christian Sanyasi. I am Hindu because of my birth in Hindustan (India). I am a Hindu because of our Indian culture but I am a Christian by my faith and belief in Jesus Christ. When Christ God became man, he was born as a Jew and donned the dress of a Jew to be culturally one with them. In Rome be a Roman this is the only way to identify yourself with the people that you work with and for.

Christa Sharan
Students joining in the village work

Guruji, I have one last personal question to you. You, as a Catholic Priest, are expected to be in a Church, School or Institution. But you are working in more than 60 villages where there is not a single Christian in any of them. Why are you spending yourself for these Hindus? Do you intend CONVERTING THEM?
Yes, I very much want to convert these people. But, CONVERSION, not in the common, popular sense of the word, changing from one religion to another. This is left to God and any individual. For me, conversion means a CHANGE. I tried to change the life of these people, which, due to ignorance, poverty, exploitation and superstition, is worse than that of animals, into HUMAN LIFE, a life worthy of human beings. Conversion here means a change from sub-human life to human life. When Christ asked me to love my neighbor and wash his feet, as He had done, He did not ask  me to love and wash the feet of only Christians, but of all those who needed me.
Who is my neighbor? The one who needs me is my neighbor, and therefore, these poor people are my neighbors. CHRISTA SHARAN means, not only we at the service of Christ. It also means Christ at our service. Therefore, I, as His disciple must serve these people. The Christa Sharan Ashram stands for service of the downtrodden, irrespective of caste and creed, for service especially of the Dalits. 'I have come to serve the sick not the healthy, the sinners not the holy' (Jesus Christ).
Christ's love and compassion are to be shared with all.

Christa Sharan
More Bethlehem Mangers!

Christa Sharan
"The Son of Man had nowhere to lay His head"

Christa Sharan
Such Poverty!

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Training Camp

Christa Sharan
Income Generation - High Yielding Poultry to Women

Christa Sharan
Sheep for Higher Breeding

Christa Sharan
Gradually Men too Joined...

Christa Sharan
Forestation for Rain and Environment

Christa Sharan
Housing The Houseless

Christa Sharan
Foreign Students too.. for a Village Experience

Christa Sharan
Barren Land For Watershed Development

Christa Sharan
Rubble Bund to save Water

Christa Sharan
Vermi Compost

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Earth Worms for Vermi Compost

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Alternative Energy – Solar Cooker

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Guests Visit School

For more details on Christa Sharan Please contact:
Poojya Guru (Fr.) Joe Mary M. Lobo
Director, Sri Christa Sharan Ashram
Sri Christa Sharan Road
Birur, Chikmagalur
Karnataka, India 577 116
Ph: Off: 08267/ 255714 
Telefax/ Ashram 08267-255623

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