From being self-centered to becoming other-centered
Mr. Alfred and Mrs. Nathaline D'Souza
Along with being one of the successful businessmen from within the community, Alfred D'Souza has also recently been appointed as the 'Permanent Deacon' of the Archdiocese of Bombay. This prestigious honour along with his successful business brings out Alfred D'Souza's image as a 'self-made' man and a 'true man of service', as Petrina D'Souza interviews.
You are one of the successful businessmen from within our community; tell us a bit about your business and your life as a businessman so far?
I entered the business field with the transport business in 1981.But due to the workload and unorganized system, I did face some personal as well as work problems after which I switched to the Franchise business in 1992 and currently am the franchisee of Woodland showroom at Colaba and handle matters relating to its franchising. My current line of business is better than the previous one because of its time-boundness and an organized system. I believe that it's my destiny that has guided me into this business.
My life as businessman has witnessed all its ups and downs. It was challenging in the initial stages, but today I feel contented within myself. My main aim and aspiration is to be a truthful person, having a fine balance of all aspects of life. Just as Mother Teresa said, "I am called not to be successful but to be faithful." One thing I know for sure is that for any business to grow, it's one's own efforts and God's blessings that go hand in hand.
Along with business, you are also involved in a lot of religious and social work; tell us about some of the work you have done?
I have been involved with the Society of St Vincent De Paul since 1994. I joined as a member of the conference and then went on to become the President of Area Council and then finally the President of the Central Council of Bombay. I have also greatly been involved in the Small Christian Communities (SCC) as a Parish Co-ordinator, visiting parishioners, reaching out to others and understanding their difficulties. Doing something for others without expecting anything back gave me great joy and encouraged me to carry on with my good deed. Along with these major social involvements, I have also been the Secretary of the Housing Society at Sewri for three years which housed about 350 members.
With regards to religious work, I have always been involved in Church activities from being a lector to teaching Sunday School to now being ordained as the 'Permanent Deacon'.
You have recently been ordained as the 'Permanent Deacon' of the Archdiocese of Bombay, what inspired you to take up this vocation? What is your main mission towards the people as a Deacon?
During my Bible study classes in 1994, one verse in the Bible strongly touched my heart, "What profit is there for one to gain the whole world and forfeit his life?" MK 8:36.As I was pondering upon this verse for many days, I received the answer in MT 25:35-36, "For I was hungry and you gave me food, I was thirsty and you gave me drink, a stranger and you welcomed me, naked you clothed me, ill and you cared for me, in prison and you visited me." This verse helped me find my vocation of serving the poor and the needy irrespective of caste or religion and got me involved in the Parish activities to a great extent. In the year 2004, when the articles to Permanent Diaconate by Bishop Agnelo Gracias appeared in the Examiner, I felt that my vocation in life can further be strengthened and I felt a call to be a Permanent Deacon. After four long years of moulding me into various aspects: human, spiritual, doctrinal and pastoral by the Permanent Diaconate Team of the Archdiocese of Bombay, I was ordained 'Permanent Deacon' on April 4th, 2009 by His Eminence Ozwald Cardinal Gracias. I have been given the task of serving the people at Our Lady of Victories, Mahim during the weekend ministry and as and when required.
I am happy that my life took a 'U' turn. From being 'self-centered', it has become 'others centered'. I have crossed the boundary wall from a lay man to a cleric which has given me the opportunity to serve in an official capacity. As a Deacon, I am entitled to perform any priestly function except for confessions and celebrating mass. I believe that God is in control and there is no need to worry as he is the master who calms the storms of our lives. My vision is to go out in obedience and do my best in the service of God and my mission is to serve the people especially the poor and the marginalized at the grass root level through the SCC and also fulfill a fruitful ministry in Our Lady of Victories, Mahim.
You were the President of the Society of St Vincent De Paul from 2006 to 2009, can you tell us about this society and the work it does? How was your experience as the President and what works did you do during your tenure?
The Society of St Vincent De Paul was started by Frederic Ozanam at around 1833 in France. It spread all over the world and has been in Mumbai for more than 150 years now. The main aim of the Society is to reach out to the poor irrespective of any caste and creed. It gives aid for food, education and medicals in both cash and kind. When a community or Parish leaders recommend persons/families that are in need, to the Society, a particular structure for the investigation is taken up after which the help is provided, if the investigation states that the person/family deserves it. The aid is got from donations received by donors, well wishers and also provided by the parish community funds. The Society also has a twining arrangement where the Society of St Vincent De Paul from rich nations send the grants. The Society also handles the Leprosy and HIV AIDS Hospice at Niramay Niketan home in Trombay and also the Shanti Bhavan Home for the Aged at Kalyan.
It was a great honour to be the President of the Central Council of Bombay. At present, about 115 Conferences are functioning under it which also includes the Conference from Ahmedabad which was recently bifurcated as its own Central Council of Ahmedabad on 21st June, 2009. During my tenure as President, the Niramay Niketan home in Trombay and the Shanti Bhavan Home for the Aged at Kalyan were renovated. Quarters for the Sisters of the Society of Vincent De Paul called Daughters of Charity of St Vincent De Paul were made available from 2007.A bust (sculpted head) of Blessed Frederic Oranam, founder of the Society of St Vincent De Paul and of Eduljee Framjee, donor of the Niramay Niketan land and the home was displayed at Niramay Niketan. Along with this, a mortuary was built, garden beautification was done and a pathology lab was set up at Niramay Niketan. The renovation of the Niramay Niketan building for HIV AIDS patients and the establishment of the Central Council of Ahmedabad are two of my most memorable and satisfying achievements as the President and as a part of the Society of St Vincent De Paul. This is mainly because the Society of St Vincent De Paul was the first one to set up a home for these people and we established the Central Council of Ahmedabad which gave them a status to have more conferences in them.
Tell us about the Niramay Niketan Leprosy and HIV AIDS Hospice situated in Trombay and about the Shanti Bhavan Home for the Aged at Kalyan?
The newly constructed Niramay Niketan building is 10 years old. Initially it was only a leprosy home started in 1855 which aimed at eradicating leprosy with a housing capacity of 20 patients. Then later on, in 1995-96, the HIV AIDS section was opened which dealt with terminally ill cases with a housing capacity of 80 patients. The Shanti Bhavan Home for the Aged is more than 30 years old with a bed capacity of 30 for aged people of 60 years and above. Both these homes are under the Central Council of Bombay and are taken care by the Society of St Vincent De Paul. The sisters of the Daughters of Charity of St Vincent De Paul look after these patients and the aged people and take care of the day to day workings of Niramay Niketan.
Tell us about your background and about your family life?
I was born and brought up in Mangalore and belong to the Church of St. Francis Xavier, KenhaMudarangady, Mangalore. I have been married to my wife Nathaline since the last 35years. Ours is a simple middle class family from Mangalore, settled in Mumbai since 1971 and we currently belong to Our Lady of Fatima Church, Sewri. My wife is a housewife and also a member of the Society of St Vincent De Paul and my sons Avinash and Naveen are married and settled. My family has been supportive and especially when I was undergoing 3 ½ years of formation and studies in the seminary during two weekends every month, my family took care of the house and the business. Inspite of the business and my role as a Deacon, I devote as much time as possible to my family.
What are your views on our community? Any hopes or suggestions for the development and growth of our community?
The Catholic Community is one the best learned communities because of its well-structured, God-fearing and peace loving nature. However, inspite of being such an educated and devoted community, we fail to come out and reach to those in need. Instead of keeping a track of what the Church does for you, we need to ask ourselves, 'What I can contribute towards the growth of the Church?' I think our community needs to develop the sharing attitude and contribute to the betterment of our community. Even the youngsters of our community should be educated about our community and should be encouraged to participate in church activities and thus contribute to the community's development.
What message would you give the youth of today in their attempts to succeed and contribute to our society?
In order to ensure their success in future, one main advice that I would give the youth is to get educated. Education is primary for any youth to grow and progress. As per my experiences, I believe that growth and progress is not possible if there's no long term goal in mind. One must have a goal in mind and work hard to achieve it. Instead of running after short term goals, the youth should have diversified interests and get into civil services or the medical or development field and contribute to our society. Their main focus should be, 'What I can give to our society?', only then can they grow as satisfied and successful individuals.
Hold onto your faith and have a disciplined life. And lastly, 'Trust God and Trust Oneself'.