Hindu Christian Priest, A Christian Ashram?
-By: Claude Fernandes, Team Mangalorean
- 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)
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
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,
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
Claude Fernandes with
What motivated you to start Christa
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
Sri Christa Sharan
What are the main objectives of Sri Christa
Sharan? Could you please highlight some of them to our
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.
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
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
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
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.
Our Lay Women Missionaries -
The Most Powerful Force!
Do you have any definite plan for these lay
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.
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
Students joining in the village
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
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
"The Son of Man had nowhere to lay
Income Generation - High Yielding
Poultry to Women
Sheep for Higher
Gradually Men too
Forestation for Rain and
Housing The Houseless
too.. for a Village Experience
Barren Land For Watershed
Rubble Bund to save
Earth Worms for Vermi
Alternative Energy – Solar
Guests Visit School
For more details on Christa
Sharan Please contact:
Poojya Guru (Fr.) Joe Mary M. Lobo
Director, Sri Christa Sharan Ashram
Ph: Off: 08267/ 255714