BRINGING HIS ‘SANTVANA’ TO YOUR HEARTS
It’s never too late for mission. That’s what Alexy and Shiny proved when they packed their normal life and set on a journey with three kids. Sharrol Jose talks with them about their life as fulltime missionaries
Certain conversions are so remarkable, they can make a mark in the history. The life of Alexy Pallan and Shiney Alexy is an example. From a regular life of supporting youth and their activities, they have come a long way. Today, they are in the forefront of proclaiming the Gospel in India. Joining the Santvana Community, they are now fulltime missionaries.
Meet them along with their children Savio (20), Veronica (19), Rosa (17), Daniel (14), and Ruth (12).
Can you share with us your encounter with Christ and your involvement in the movement?
ALEXY: I was in a phase of life where I was a rebel to the Catholic Church and criticising its teachings and practice. My parents were insisting me to attend a retreat. I went for it unwillingly. During the retreat, I had a great conversion experience and it became a turning point in my life. I took a decision to stop criticizing the Church and started obeying the Church teachings. Most of my doubts on Catholic teachings were cleared slowly over a period of time. After the retreat, E.X.James, a JY leader invited me to prayer meetings and JY programs. I started becoming involved in the parish ministry and attended various training programs. I became the zonal coordinator for Ernakulum and was also part of the Kerala Youth Central Team (KYCT).
SHINEY: I was a law student when I attended a Jesus Youth campus meet at Palakkad. My brother Wilson, who had attended a campus meet earlier, was actively involved in the music ministry and was an inspiration for me. After the campus meet, along with a few other friends, we started a prayer meeting in our college. Later on, I attended another JY retreat and this was a huge turning point for me. Prof CC Alicekutty, one resources at the retreat became a big influence in my life. Mentoring with Alice chechi is the backbone of my spiritual growth. Moving on, I became actively involved in Jesus Youth and also became part of the KYCT.
How did you get married and how was the initial few years.
Both of us were already active in Jesus Youth when a few senior Animators and elders brought the proposal for our marriage and discussed with our parents. The proposal was considered by our parents and we got married in June 1996. After marriage, I continued my business and Shiney shifted her practice to the High Court of Kerala. We continued our journey in Jesus Youth and were actively involved in all activities.
What inspired you to join Santvana Community?
In 1999, there was a JY Kerala Conference, and the theme was Mission. We were inspired by a few testimonies of those who went for mission. We got a deep desire to go out as a family for mission and started enquiring about possibilities. It was then we met Fr Dheeraj Sabu IMS, who introduced us to Santvana. He invited us to stay with them for a month and that changed us. The community living inspired us to live a life of holiness and the reach outs were a tremendous influence. We decided to become fulltime missionaries. We went back to Kerala, made necessary arrangements to close our business and practice, and was ready for our new life.
WE HAVE A TIME OF FAMILY MEETINGS WHERE
WE GET A QUALITY TIME AS FAMILY. DURING THIS
TIME, ALL ARE ENCOURAGED TO SHARE THE HAPPENINGS
Could you tell us more about the Community and its activities?
Santvana is a Community of Christian faithful consisting of Missionary families, Missionary Sisters and Brothers including clerics. It is canonically recognized as a ‘Pious Association of the Faithful’ in the Archdiocese of Delhi in 2003. Fr Dheeraj Sabu IMS is the founder of Santvana Community. Our Apostolate is Prayer and Proclamation – evangelisation of India through intercession, reaching out to the unreached – mission to the remote villages in India, organising and conducting trainings and mission exposure trips to equip the faithful for the Evangelisation.
VALUES ARE NOT TAUGHT
BUT CAUGHT. IT IS A LIFESTYLE
THAT WE HAVE IN OUR FAMILY
What is the relevance of the Santvana community in your family?
Santvana is a home away from home. The community made us a missionary family. This is like a large joint family with a common vision of evangelisation and the spirituality of ‘Prem – Marg’ – Path of Love. Living as a community compels and helps us to walk the talk. Frequent coming together and sharings encourage and support one another to learn from others. The best thing is that the community had played a very relevant role in the formation and outlook of our children.
What prompted you to choose homeschooling? Is that a step for mission?
It was Fr Dheeraj, who introduced the community towards homeschooling as the best method for the formation of children and kept on encouraging us and motivating it. After much discussions and prayer discernment, we were convinced that this may be the best formation they may get for their integral development. Along with the academic studies, they get time to be spiritually equipped and formed to face the modern world. A time for personal prayer, bible study, family time, playing, household works, visiting new places and people etc. We also take part in National Secular homeschoolers meets and organize Catholic homeschoolers meet ups which gives them good exposure. These get-togethers brought similar children from different states and now, they have friends from all over India. The Community has the concept of LifeSchool – Santvana neighbourhood homeschools, i.e. two or more families come together regularly. Twice a year, all the Lifeschoolers come together for ‘Lifest’ where they have different activities like art, craft, music, sport, retreats etc . They get to travel, they get to learn firsthand, they study on their own and take up initiatives and do things. It gives them leadership and life skills. This helps them to grow in relationship with Jesus and His mission and leadership. They have taken up teaching the poor children who are part of Santvana Sahara mission which support and enable the underprivileged children in Delhi suburbs. They are growing as resources for children’s retreats and other programs.
Isn’t it difficult with so many kids? How do you manage everything?
So many kids? We have only 5 children. We just celebrate our family life. “Seek ye first the kingdom of God and he will provide.” The first part of this Word of God is important. When we do the Lord’s work, He takes care of us.
What are some of the things you do as a family to inculcate faith?
Values are not taught but caught. It is a lifestyle that we have in our family. When the children were smaller, the prayer times were filled with fun. e.g. we sit in a circle, pass the ball around and praise the Lord. We practice 1Thes 5:16-17 (Rejoice always, pray constantly, give thanks in all circumstances; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you) and encourage the children to thank the Lord in all things, happy and unhappy incidents, success and failures. They were thus encouraged to make prayer a joyful time. The children took up small initiatives for lent and were at times more steadfast to Lenten practices than elders. Once, we noticed that the elder children were very regular in weekly confession. This inspired us to do weekly confessions. We realised that when we took small steps for the Lord, He made much larger strides for us by inspiring the Children to grow deeper in faith and catholic values.
We have a time of family meetings where we get a quality time as family. During this time, all are encouraged to share the happenings. Share the joy, hurts, misunderstanding etc. This is helping us to improve our communication and to be open to share everything, and accept everyone. As parents this has helped us to improve ourselves too. We also have a weekly family adoration and a weekly bible study where we try to live the Word of God. Some time back we’ve had a retreat for our family. We have a consecration of our family to the Sacred Heart daily. As Pope Francis says in Amortis letitia, we have a saint for our family, St. Teresa of Lisuex.
What do you think are the dangers faced by today’s families?
Communication is the backbone of family life. Some time back, some kids who are part of the Santvana Sahara Mission, came to our house and had lunch with us. One little girl came to me and said, “thank you so much not only for the food but for allowing me to sit at your table and have food. In our family we do not sit together and eat. I found so much joy in sitting together.” This time that we spend together as a family and the communication we have, is very important for families to grow.
We have gadget free times (8-9 am, 1-2 pm, 8-9 pm) in our family where none of us use any gadget whatsoever. This time also coincides with our meal times so everyone gets to communicate with each other over the meal.
Savio, your eldest son has chosen priesthood as vocation.
How did he take this decision? From the time of their birth we have been praying for the vocation of our kids. God has something for each one of them, and we pray that they may choose what Lord wants them to be. From his childhood, Savio has seen Fr Dheeraj celebrating holy mass in our community house. He used to say that he wanted to be a priest who can celebrate mass at home.
Every year, we organise mission trips for teenagers, youth and others. One such mission trip was for a group of teenage boys who were inclined or had at least a tiny desire to take vocation as priests. Savio was there for this mission trip. During one of the visits in a remote village in North India, he saw sisters at the convent distributing the communion which was previously consecrated by the priest who visits there once or twice in a month. He realised then, that without priests, we would have no Eucharist. He was then convinced that his call was for priesthood.