Capuchins’ Holistic Initiative During COVID-19 Gains Momentum

Due to lockdown, while many have lost jobs and stayed indoors, the Capuchins of Tamil Nadu in India have launched an online global reach out programme aimed at religious formators and formees.

In the recently concluded three-day online programme for religious formators and formees, altogether 4354 participants from 23 countries participated. Ever since September 2020, the Capuchin Centre has reached out to around 10,000 participants through its Thalir centre.

Thalir – which means Bud, is a holistic welfare centre catering for individuals and groups through VISIT (Virtual Institute for Spirituality, Integrity, and Transformation). It is situated in a rural area with fields around, very conducive for personal silence and search.

The centre is named after Blessed Solanus Casey, an American Capuchin who is known for his compassion and charity for those in periphery. The centre is meant for socio-economic as well as spiritual welfare of the society at large. This centre, which is also meant for seminars and social awareness programs, is still not completed. But due to COVID-19, the Director of the center Fr. Nithiya began to organize online training to various sectors like the major superiors, formators, formees, social work directors, teachers and secretaries.

Relevant themes: Thalir online programs cover a variety of themes like leadership, fundamentals of religious life, ideal teachers and parents, financial management and administration, pocket filming and media expertise, project management, women to women, midlife concerns, aptitude guidance to students, job search guidance for nurses and other professionals.

The Director of the Centre Fr. Nithiya who holds a doctorate in Interreligious Relations has brought in a variety of groups like Jesuits, Salesians, Franciscans, Society of Divine Words missionaries, Redemptorists and several women congregations. There are also Protestants, Hindus, and Muslims as resource persons in this network.

Rural mission: Besides the online ministries, Thalir has reached out to the marginalized groups like gypsies, cobblers, transgenders, primitive tribes, persons with disabilities.

The center also began tuition centres in the villages. Besides giving food provisions, clothes and medicines, the Capuchins give them motivational sessions on self-esteem and confidence building.

Video messages: Thalir gives special messages every Sunday through YouTube through its channel “Thalir YouTube”. The video messages are broadcasted in English, French, Tamil, Hindi, and Sinhala and occasionally in Filipino (Tagalog), Bahasa. The Capuchins also give online monthly recollections participated by several religious congregations. During this Corona period, many religious congregations have made their annual retreats through the online retreats of Thalir.

Franciscan and Jesuit dialogue: In collaboration with the Jesuits of Chennai Province, Thalir has launched a series of sessions on the life, mission and contributions of Franciscans and Jesuits on the last Saturdays of every month. The first one was on January 30, on the life of St. Francis and St. Ignatius of Loyola. The next one will be on Feb. 27 on the writings of St. Francis and St. Ignatius.

Aptitude test and motivation for students: In view of discerning the future and specialization as per their capacity, Thalir has launched out a programme for school students to select their elective subjects through the aptitude tests along with motivational sessions. This is done through the schools with the help of the principals and school administration. This is an excellent support to students to make the right choice.

Global novena to St. Joseph: In view of a meaningful celebration of the year of St Joseph, the Centre will begin the global novena in the English language, March 10-19 with special messages by the generals of various congregations that have the patronage of St Joseph. This will be held online and is open to all.

Sessions for jubilarians, junior religious: Thalir also offers special sessions for those who celebrate their jubilees of Religious Profession. The jubilarians are guided with physical, emotional and spiritual guidance along with a team of medical and psychological experts. There will be special sessions on fundamentals of religious life and mission meant for the junior religious in April. Interested persons may write to mailtothalir@gmail.com to get full details of Thalir Programmes.