Shillong: The All India Catholic Union, perhaps the oldest organization in Asia of Lay Catholics [women and men who are not priests or Nuns] celebrates 100 years of its founding in the then Madras city, with a series of grand jubilee functions in the national capital from 23rd August 2019 to the 25 August, 2019.
The Chief Minister of Delhi, Mr.Arvind Kejriwal, graced the main function which showcased the cultural heritage of the Catholic Community which traces its roots to St Thomas, the Apostle’s coming to India and his stay in Kerala and what is now Tamil Nadu. The Community marks its presence in every state and union territory of India, where the church runs some of the most illustrious education, medical and social work institutions in the country.
As the clergy and men and women in religious orders administer institutions, the lay Catholic community are the interface with the social, economic and political life of the country. Over the decades before and after Independence, Catholics have played an important part in the political life, defence, services, administration, and above all, as teachers, and activists.
Within the Church, the All India Catholic Union [AICU] is active in propagating the social teachings of the church which have evolved over the decades to equip the people to play a meaningful role in church, community and secular society.
The AICU is a federal body, recognised as a representative of the Laity by the Catholic Bishops Conference of India, the national umbrella organization of the three streams of the Catholic Church in India – the Latin church, the Syro-Malabar Catholic Church and the Syro-Malankara Catholic church. The two Oriental Rites have their origins in Kerala and are today also present all over India and in many other parts of the world.
The special highlight of the Centenary celebrations was the national seminar in which retired Supreme Court Judge, Justice Kurian Joseph, delivered the keynote address on ‘Constitution and Minority Rights in India: Problems, Experiences & Apprehensions’ on the inaugural day, 23rd August 2019. Eminent scholars and civil society leaders including Dr. John Dayal, Prof Achin Vanaik, senior Supreme Court Advocate MP Raju, and lawyers P I Jose, Sister Tresa Paul and Tehmina Arora also speak at the seminar.
AICU since Independence had made important interventions in the Supreme Court on Minority Rights, specially the rights of Dalit Christians. The AICU was committed to moving the courts as also the legislative apparatus to strengthen rights of freedom of faith, education, livelihood and social work.
The official Flag of the Catholic Union has travelled in almost all parts of the country in the past several months and was welcomed in Delhi on the eve of the Centenary Celebrations.
As part of centenary celebrations five Indian Catholics selected by a national jury were presented AICU Centenary Award for their outstanding contributions in the fields of media, environment, public affairs, sports and social activism in the development of the country.
Mr Ospison Linus Marbaniang from Meghalaya was presented with the National Award in the field of Media. He was the Editor of the Khasi weekly tabloid the “Dongmusa”, Editor of the khasi daily the “Mawphor” and currently Consultant Editor of English daily the “Highland Post”. Before joining the press fraternity he worked as Public Relation Officer in the North Eastern University. In between he joined as Field Publicity Officer in the Ministry of Information and Broadcasting, Government of India after competing through the Union Public Service Commission, where he was also awarded with a citation of appreciation from the Ministry for his contribution in Publicity work and creation of awareness in the Indo- Bangladesh villages of India.
The three day centenary celebration was attended by four hundred delegates coming from across the country. Meghalaya was represented by more than 50 delegates from the Garo Hills Catholic Union, Catholic Association of Shillong and the Catholic Association of Jowai Diocese. Mr Vincent H Pala, MP joined the delegation and was also one the Guest of honour at the Centenary Celebration. The delegation was led by Mr Challang Artius Ch. Marak from Tura, Mr Barnabas Nongbah from Shillong and Mr Gilbert Sten from Jowai.