By Irudhaya Jothi
Nangathur, September 18, 2019: We have been hearing a lot of stories of social media doing harms to people specially the youth. We have here a positive impact WhatsApp has made for villagers.
A serious discussion on the village whatsApp about the future of the village lead to suggest planting of trees to make it a ‘green village’. A formation of a team to execute the plantation of saplings was initiated and volunteers poured in to donate funds fruits and timber trees.
Trees connect us from past, present and future. Lack of water and care of the green cover of the village ending up felling of trees leading to environmental crisis.
Laudato si (Praise be to you) is the second encyclical of Pope Francis, it has a subtitle “on Care for our common home”.
Laudato si, the encyclical captures the interconnectedness of social, economic and environmental justice in building and protecting our common home. It heighlights the intimate relationship between the poor and the fragility of the planet.
With the rise of the technological age, we have distanced ourselves from nature and proudly profess how we have become its “master.”
The Jesuit Pope recognized the dangers of this type of world-view and wrote “Laudato Si” to teach us a more human approach to our God-given task of earthly stewardship.
Practically speaking, he gave us at least four ways that we can live-out this ancient teaching of “responsible stewardship:”
Approach Nature with “Awe and Wonder”
Reuse Instead of Throw Away
Preserve Nature’s Diversity.
Have Physical Contact with Nature.
The Pope who took on the name of St. Francis of Assisi noted that “each year sees the disappearance of thousands of plant and animal species which we will never know, which our children will never see, because they have been lost for ever.”
He challenges us to rethink our modern view of creation and our place in it. Instead of putting ourselves over it as a “master” or “exploiter,” we need to accept our role as “steward” of God’s great gift to mankind.
A village whatsApp group was created by the son of the soil a Franciscan Capuchin Priest Nithiya Sagayam on September 24, 2015 to share the village news for the villagers who are working in many parts of the country and even outside the country. He called it Nangathur Global Network. There are some 136 active members in the group today!
News of village such as birth and death were reported and prayers were asked. Village feasts and school events were also posted and people were kept abreast with the news. Also there were news of success, promotions and activities were posted.
Nangathur is a tiny village, situated in Villupuram district of Tamil Nadu, some 160 km south from the capital city of Chennai. The village is surrounded by granite and rocky hill but well connected with buses and auto-rickshaws from Villupuram the district headquator.
A glance at the census 2011 reveal that there are 789 households with 3186 members with an average of four in a family. This village has 86 percent of literates and the sex ratio is heartening with 1003 females for every 1000 male.
The village has three hamlets North Nangathur with a tiny population consist of Hindus and Christians, central Nangathur with agricultural workers basically Hindus and a bigger South Nangathur with a traditional Catholics.
The Foreign Mission French fathers who replaced the Jesuits in 18th century planted the seed of Christianity in Nangathur as per the Archdiocesan data. They planned this village with straight roads and houses on both the sides of the roads and west side of the village Parish Church, Presbytery, Convent, school and cemetery.
The Catholic hamlet is 100 percent educated for the last four generations and are well settled. Most of the villagers used to serve in the Indian Army and teachers by profession.
The idea of giving back to the village emerged in one of the discussion in the whatsApp and many got involved in the discussion and thus born Nangai Nagar Green Project.
S K Irudaya swami, an advertisement professional working in Delhi along with Sagaya Nathan, a social worker, a musician and a liturgist Michael Preiya, from Secundrabad, an educationist John Peter along with a philanthropist Irudaya sami in Chennai, started the discussion and these were responded by many others.
Meanwhile a group was formed with the leadership of Heralds of Good News Priest Simon Benjamin, Urimai Nathan along with those who are present in the village Silva Peratto, Noyalin Pramila, Stanislause and John, an account was created and announced to the group and many villagers stared sending their contribution to the account.
People stared to donate in the name of family members on their death anniversary so that the departed soul remembered through the tree for the generations to come and some donated at their birth days and anniversaries.
Santhi Delerock Caspard from Italy celebrates her fiftieth birthday by donating 25,000 rupees for this green project, while Babu, a Hindu from a neighboring village working now in New Delhi, sent in 3,000 rupees in thankful remembrance of late Thomas Salathayan who took him to Delhi and helped him find a job. These are some examples of donation for this project.
The weeklong plantation drive started on September 15 after the Sunday Mass by Benjamin, while Rev. John Peter brought in his scout girls and boys from St. John’s school along with 300 saplings. The villagers along with the children planted the saplings near the grotto of St. Sebastian, the patron saint of the soldiers.
In the last four days around 1,000 saplings are planted and a three year plan of action is worked out to see that the plant stands grow into trees.
Hearing of the good news of ‘Green Nangathur Initiative’ the village Panchayat volunteered to sponsor the National Employment Guarantee Act (NREGA) scheme workers to help in the plantation.
This tiny village has given to the Church in India and aboard some 50 Priests and Religious.
Father Nithiya with satisfaction expressed, “I am really happy to see the finger of God. This project attempts to protect and promote the ‘care for the common home’, of Pope Francis call in and through ‘Laudato si’. So I name the group now as Nangai Nagar Green Project”.
Noyalin Pramila who has taken up the responsibility of the accounts is an energetic woman, she says, “I am happy to be part of this future oriented initiative and will be happy to see a forest in the years to come”.
Anitha Stanislaus one of the woman involved in the plantation of saplings said, “I wish to bring down the temperature of my village and to get sweet drinking water in the years to come by planting trees”.
Besides these saplings, the team has planted around 1000 palm seeds and spread hundreds of Neem seeds and tamarind seeds. Fr. Benjamin who leads the team is an happy man and says, “we hope to get back cool air, reduced temperature, water plate coming up besides getting back varieties of birds as there are many fruit trees which are meant for birds”.