Shimoga, January 03, 2020: The Shimoga Multipurpose Social Service Society® celebrated the Annual Day of the Society through a public programme on 03 January 2020 at Lagana Mandira, Gadikoppa, Shimoga. Most Rev. Dr Francis Serrao SJ, the Bishop of the diocese of Shimoga and the President of SMSSS presided over the programme. The esteemed presence of Poojya Sri Nijagunananda Mahaswamigalu, Nishkala Mantapa, Bailuru, Kitturu Taluk, Belagavi District and his speech kept the audience spellbound. Rev. Msgr Felix Joseph Noronha, the Vicar General of the diocese of Shimoga and the Vice-president of SMSSS, Rev. Fr Sebastian Fernandes, the Director of KROSS, Bangalore and Mrs Precilla Martis, the President of Streebandhu Multipurpose Souharda Co-operative Limited were the chief guests.

The guests were accorded a grand welcome through Dollu Kunitha and Purna-Kumbha. Students from Maria Nivas High School, Harihar invoked God's blessings on the programme and upon everyone present in the Auditorium through a devotional Prayer Dance. Rev. Msgr Felix Joseph Noronha welcomed the guests and the participants. Most Rev. Dr Francis Serrao SJ along with the dignitaries inaugurated the programme by lighting the lamp.      

Rev. Fr Clifford Roshan Pinto, the Director of Chaitanya and the Secretary of SMSSS delivered the key note address and quoting the words of Jesus Christ, "No one lights a lamp and puts it under a basket, but rather on a lampstand, and it gives light for all who are in the house" said that for the last 30 years SMSSS has been a light kept on a lamp stand giving light to the poor and marginalized in the society. Through various programmes SMSSS has dispelled the darkness from the lives of thousands of poor and marginalized women, poor children, small and marginal farmers, uneducated youth, etc. SMSSS has responded to natural calamities in its own way. In 2018 Chaitanya had collected Rs 6,25,000/- towards flood relief fund and in 2019 Chaitanya has collected more than Rs 5,00,000 towards the same. Since Shimoga was badly affected during 2019 floods, the Society has taken up the repair work of 50 damaged houses at a total cost of Rs 45 lakh and construct 10 new houses to those whose houses are completely collapsed at a total cost of Rs 40 lakh. The director also spoke about the launching of SPARSHA: Campaign Against Cancer, a programme intended to create awareness about cancer and to provide possible support to the victims.  

Rev. Fr Sebastian Fernandes, the Director of Karnataka Regional Organization for Social Service, Bangalore in his address congratulated SMSSS for its yeomen services to the society and noted that in spite of having limited projects SMSSS is doing marvelous work for the empowerment of poor and marginal women. He urged the participants to contest in more numbers in the upcoming Gram Panchayat elections so that more developmental works can be done in their respective Gram Panchayats.

The president of SMSSS along with the dignitaries launched the ambitious SPARSHA: Campaign Against Cancer programme. This programme is the brainchild of Caritas India. The main focus of the programme is to create an awareness among people about Cancer and to provide possible support to the victims. Under this programme various activities will be carried out. This programme is not for a specific period but a continual campaign against a deadly disease.      

Most Rev. Dr Francis Serrao SJ, the Bishop of the diocese of Shimoga and the President of SMSSS in his presidential address appreciated the services of SMSSS. Without any discrimination of caste or language SMSSS has tirelessly worked for the empowerment of women. He said that there are two kinds of people, one kind of people are those who are dead even though they are physically alive and the second are those who are alive or are remembered even though they are physically dead. All our efforts or works should lead us to become the second kind of people. He noted that the society needs people like Poojya Sri Nijagunananda Mahaswamigalu to create an awareness among people and to change their mindset. He also spoke about why Poojya Sri Nijagunananda Mahaswamigalu is chosen for the "Chaitanya Shri" award for the year 2019.   

After the presidential address, Most Rev. Dr Francis Serrao SJ conferred "Chaitanya Shri - 2019" on Poojya Sri Nijagunananda Mahaswamigalu. "Chaitanya Shri" is a national award instituted by SMSSS for extraordinary contribution to Social Justice, Communal Harmony and Promotion of Human Rights. Rev. Fr Francis Fernandes, member of the Governing Board and Principal of Sacred Heart P. U. College through words of felicitation highlighted the contribution of Poojya Sri Nijagunananda Mahaswamigalu to the Society. 

Poojya Sri Nijagunananda Mahaswamigalu began his talk noting that it is not a mistake to be born as poor but it is a sin to die as poor. God has blessed everyone with hands, legs, eyes, brain, etc and by making use of all these God given wealth we need to come out of poverty. Instead of fighting for caste and creed we need to establish social justice and communal harmony. I do not see a Muslim or a Christian or a Jain or a Lingayat here in the audience but a human being. Our efforts should be to uphold one religion and that is human religion or humanity. He urged the participants to come out of superstitious beliefs and said that belief is important but superstition will harm one's life. He praised the services of SMSSS and said that though the Catholics in the three districts of Shimoga, Chitradurga and Davanagere are only 18,000 their contribution to the society is immense. Without any discrimination of caste, creed, language these Catholics have committed themselves to the service of the poor and the needy. SMSSS has given a new lease of life to more than 30,000 women and their families over a period of 30 years.

Quoting the words of Jesus on the Cross, "Father, forgive them, for they do not know what they are doing" Poojya Sri Nijagunananda Mahaswamigalu urged the participants to forgive everyone and create a society where love abides. When women are suppressed in the society, they should stand up and fight for their own dignity. All should respect their mothers because they are responsible for one's existence. Mothers are the only persons who work day and night for no payment. Let your children become thinkers to emerge as agents of change.

Poojya Sri Nijagunananda Mahaswamigalu who spoke for about one hour kept people spellbound. The talk was very enlightening. With all humility he said that the "Chaitanya Shri" award which he has received should indeed belong to his Guru. It is he who inspired him to be strong and fight against injustice, superstitious beliefs, caste system, religious discrimination, etc. He profusely thanked Most Rev. Dr Francis Serrao SJ for conferring "Chaitanya Shri" on him and urged the participants to make the best use of the services SMSSS is rendering to the society and come out of poverty.          

After the talk of Poojya Sri Nijagunananda Mahaswamigalu all the guests on the dais were honoured with a memento. Children from St Antony's School, Hosadurga entertained the crowd with a beautiful folk dance. A Kolata dance from the staff of Chaitanya followed the folk dance. After these two dances the children of the members of Streebandhu Multipurpose Souharda Co-operative Ltd who had excelled by scoring 85% and above in SSLC and 80% and above in PUC in the 2019 March/April examinations were honoured. 31 children from SSLC and 24 students from PUC received the honours. Master Rathan N who excelled in Abacus at the National level was also honoured.

It is a practice to honour the best three federations for their performance. Abbalagere Streebandhu Federation, Honnali Streebandhu Federation and Kanle Streebandhu Federation received the awards as the best three Streebandhu Federation of the year 2019. The programme came to an end with the Vote of Thanks proposed by Mrs Precilla Martis, the president of Streebandhu Multipurpose Souharda Co-operative Ltd. Mrs Gloria Jyothi Furtado and Mrs Sylvia Maria Correa compered the programme. The entire staff under the able leadership of the director of Chaitanya, Rev. Fr Clifford Roshan Pinto worked hard for the success of the programme. Delicious lunch prepared by Mr Kalestha Noronha, the cook in Chaitanya, was served for all participants. More than 1,500 beneficiaries participated in the programme.    

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