GOLDEN JUBILEE CELEBRATIONS
Day & Date: Saturday 9th January 2016
Venue: Bishop Heber Chapel, Madras Christian College (MCC), Tambaram, Chennai
9th January 2016 turned out to be a red-letter day in the annals of AIACHE. A Thanksgiving Service was held at the same MCC sprawling campus wherein fifty years ago in 1967 a group of ecumenically driven stalwarts from the field of Indian higher education, after lengthy dialogues inaugurated/incepted on the 1st January, 1967 an ecumenical organization and christened it as ‘All India Association for Christian Higher Education’. The vision and the spirit of the founding fathers has been leading this organization in the last five decades, carrying out its ministry in empowering and equipping the Christian higher education in India.
A host of former Officers of AIACHE including the Presidents, alumni and beneficiaries of the programmes of AIACHE, Principals of many member institutions, staff and students of Christian Colleges in Chennai and outside were present at a gathering by 3.30 p.m. near the Bishop Heber Chapel, Madras Christian College, Tambaram, Chennai. The Campus known for its sylvan surroundings and green vegetation invited a host of well wishers which included former and serving bureaucrats, former Ministers and a lot of old students of Christian colleges. After a formal welcome by Dr. D. Daniel Ezhilarasu, the General Secretary, AIACHE, Dr. R.W. Alexander Jesudasan, Principal Madras Christian College and President, AIACHE recollected his own association with the Organization. Over a cup of high tea each one of the participants brought back from the memory their opportunity of interaction with the programmes hosted by AIACHE. Each one of them was thrilled and delighted to share their sentiments. It was a great time of home-coming through which we could celebrate God’s faithfulness in the life and witness of AIACHE.
After more than an hour of sharing and reminiscing, the participants adjoined to the Bishop Heber Chapel for the Thanksgiving Service at 5.30 p.m. on 9th January, 2016. It was a great ecumenical gathering as the Congregation was represented by all the denominations of the Indian Church. The opening hymn ‘O God, our help in ages Past’, sung by the gathering has rightly reflected the spirit of AIACHE. There had been periods of light and shadow through which the AIACHE has been led by the Almighty. The Order of Service prepared exclusively for this purpose included prayers of Thanksgiving, praise, confession and confirmation. Representatives from Mar Thoma Church, The Malankara Orthodox Syrian Church brought greetings. Mr. Robert Guruswamy, one of the founding fathers and former Bursar of MCC, presented the Genesis of AIACHE. Dr. Robert Williams, CEO brought greetings on behalf of the Pennsylvania Centre for International Exchange and Partnership, USA. The Most Rev. George Antonysamy, Archbishop of Madras-Mylapore delivered his exhortation
In his exhortation, based on St. Luke 1:46-55, and by drawing lessons from the life of Mary, the Divine Mother of Jesus Christ, the Archbishop exhorted every one of the congregation to understand His purpose which needs to be fulfilled as it is a part of the Grand Purpose of God for the Church and for the Church-run institutions. We may feel happy over fulfilling or accomplishing the human purpose but we need to collectively address the divine purpose mandated by God. He appreciated one of the flagship programmes of AIACHE, namely ‘Human Values Development’ for its timely intervention. Our institutions have successfully churned out pupils to get the job opportunity but are they really trained and equipped in values. The demand of the markets seem to be paramount in the mind of the stake-holders and it is time that institutions of higher education, apart from academic excellence fous on moral and spiritual values. Education coupled with spirituality is bound to be a blessing to the whole of humanity hence spirituality of education is an important avenue for consideration.
The AIACHE’s efforts in moulding and empowering teachers to be models in their own work places are laudable. Quoting St. Francis, ‘Preach the Gospel always, if possible use words’, the Bishop passionately pleaded the teaching community to realize their role as living and visible images/examples of Jesus Christ in their campuses. The special numbers rendered by the choirs of MCC and Women’s Christian College, Chennai enthralled the congregation. Everyone in the congregation experienced the solemnity and devotion and dispersed singing
Be Thou still my strength and shield……
………………………………… songs of praise
………………….… I will every give to thee.
Immediately after the Thanksgiving Service the participants trekked to the Botany Department Gallery for a Cultural Fest well coordinated by Stella Maris College, Chennai. Cultural teams from Madras Christian College; Women’s Christian College, Chennai; Meston Training College of Education; CSI Ewart Women’s Christian College, Melrosapuram; Stella Maris College performed their feats and the audience appreciated the God given talents of our students. Dr. Alexander Jesudasan, Principal, MCC and the Bursar Mr. Sundararaj hosted a dinner for the guests and for the cultural team.
The MCC team headed by Dr. Alexander Jesudasan and coordinated by Rev. Dr. Ross for their wonderful arrangement and hospitality deserve our gratitude and thanks. Rev. Dr. V.M. Spurgeon, Chaplain and Regional Programme Consultant, United Board led the Thanksgiving Service for which we record our thanks and appreciation. Meticulous care and plan helped the organizers, the MCC team to make the Thanksgiving Service a meaningful experience for all of us to rededicate to the call of God for His Ministry through AIACHE. The contributions and presence of Chennai colleges really encouraged us to move still further in our service to Indian higher education.
ALL INDIA ASSOCIATION FOR CHRISTIAN HIGHER EDUCATION (AIACHE)
Golden Jubilee Message – 09 01 2016, MCC, Tambaram
Dear Dignitaries on the dais………….
President of AIACHE Mr. Dr. R.W. Alexander Jesudasan,
Vice-Presidents Rev. Fr. Dr. Valan Arasu and Prof. K. Samuel,
General Secretary Dr. D. Daniel Ezhilarasu,
Other esteemed office bearers and Honourable Members of AIACHE and dear friends, Good Evening!
It is an immense joy this evening to be a part of the Golden Jubilee celebrations after the formation of AIACHE. I join you in thanking the Lord for His providential love in inspiring and guiding you through these 50 years of dedicated service.
AIACHE has come a long way since its establishment in 1967, as it has spread its wings over 24 states, with 314 member institutions including Universities, Engineering, Medical, Law, Nursing, Arts and Science colleges, etc., It would not have been possible but for the Will of God and His everlasting mercy.
Psalm 138 that we heard this evening, says, “The Lord will fulfill his purpose for me; thy steadfast love, O Lord, endures forever.” There are two truths to be deciphered drawn from this verse:
- It is the Lord’s Purpose that we pursue:
The purpose of our lives is not so much about what we want for ourselves but what the Lord wants of us, his servants. It is ultimately His purpose that should be fulfilled in and through us. This is what Mary accomplished in her life. As a young girl, betrothed to Joseph, she hears the Lord’s purpose for her spoken through Angel Gabriel. Her dreams and purposes that she should have cherished for her life and future with Joseph were at stake. She still decides to make that leap of faith. She chooses to let God have His way. Therefore she says, “Behold the handmaid of the Lord; let it be done to me according to thy word.” AIACHE would have been a merely human enterprise if its visions and goals were centered on human purposes and goals. The strength of any institution is its willingness to let God have His way in and through us.
- It is the Lord who accomplishes:
In the Gospel passage that we heard this evening, Mary enlists her reasons to praise and thank the Lord. Observe the content of her hymn. It is not a list of her accomplishments. It is a faithful rendering of what the Lord has done for her and for us. Her soul magnifies the Lord, for the Lord has looked on his humble servant. And all generations call her blessed, not for the great things that she had done but for the Lord who is mighty has done great things for her. The fact that AIACHE continues in the pursuit of its vision, should help us realize that it is not merely a human accomplishment, but Divine providence that has motivated its 50 golden years of service. We are gathered here to thank the Lord because we know it is he who accomplishes the humble contributions that we make.
I am pleased to note that AIACHE envisions promoting a value-based education system among its member institutions of higher education. In our emerging trends, the role of education has unfortunately been reduced to only creating job opportunities. It is unfortunate that our educational institutions, especially colleges and universities, are now increasingly looked at as job-creating machines. Yes, creating job opportunities is an important aspect of education but that is not all.
It is in this context, that I feel education, in our Christian Institutions, has to find its space in our integral commitment to evangelization. I am happy that AIACHE shares this vision, as it is evident from the HUMAN VALUES DEVELOPMENT PROGRAMMES (HVDP) that have been held across India in around 18 institutions in 2015 alone. I am convinced that the seeds that were sown in the hearts of the youngsters will bear their fruits in due time for the greater glory of God.
We should increasingly commit ourselves and our institutions to evolving a spirituality of education, where values of the Kingdom of God would be prioritized above making money or creating jobs with a bigger paycheck.
An effective way of achieving this end is to promote integration and personal approach in education. Two years before the founding of AIACHE, Pope Paul VI laid down the vision of Catholic Education in his Declaration on Christian Education, ‘Gravissimum Educationis’ on October 28, 1965. He said, “Intimately linked in charity to one another and to their students and endowed with an apostolic spirit, may teachers by their life as much as by their instruction bear witness to Christ, the unique Teacher.”
Recollect how our unique Teacher said, “Learn from me for I am gentle and humble in heart!” (Matthew 11:29). He provided himself as a model lesson of the values of humility and gentleness. St. Paul, a person whose life and mission reflected ‘the mind of Christ’ like no one else, had the courage to say, “Therefore I urge you to imitate me” (1 Corinthians 4:16) and again, “Follow my example, as I follow the example of Christ” (1 Corinthians 11:1). I think the challenge of an educationist is to be able to look at his/her students and be able to tell them, “IMITATE ME AS I IMITATE CHRIST!” Do we have what it takes to be able to say this with a clear conscience?
It is probably for this reason that St. James said, “Not many of you should become teachers” (James 3:1). A rather surprising statement, isn’t it? Wait, what follows is even more shocking! “Not many of you should become teachers, my brothers and sisters; because you know that we who teach will be judged more strictly.”
There we have it friends, St. James warns us all of a stricter judgment. What could be the reason behind such strictness with teachers? It is in a way, an affirmation of how important is the role of imitating the unique Divine teacher, Jesus and therefore how much one should be responsible in fulfilling such a role.
Philosopher, Physician and Nobel Peace Prize Winner Albert Schweitzer said, “Example is not the main thing in influencing others. It is the only thing.” A story is said about two boys who were arguing when the teacher entered their class room. The teacher asks, “Why are you arguing?” One boy answers, “We found a ten rupee note and decided to give it to whoever tells the biggest lie.” “You should be ashamed of yourselves,” said the teacher, “When I was your age I didn’t even know what a lie was.” The boys then unanimously decide to give those ten rupees to the teacher.
St Francis of Assisi says, “Preach the Gospel at all times and when necessary use words!” St. Peter has this valuable advice, “Live an exemplary life so that your actions will refute other’s prejudices. Then they’ll be won over to God’s side and be there to join in the celebration when he arrives.” (1 Peter 2:12)
I once again wish you all abundance of God’s blessings on the occasion of the Golden Jubilee. I pray for two intentions:
- That your purpose and vision as evangelizers of kingdom values be rooted in God’s purpose and vision for you.
- That the Lord accomplishes many more laurels through the members of AIACHE as exemplary educationists.
Thank you all for the opportunity. God bless you!
(The Most Rev. George Antonysamy, Archbishop of Madras-Mylapore)