They want to inspire you

Ever wondered who thinks about the words put up on boards outside churches in and around the city? Meet a few of the people who make it part of their life's work to put a smile on your face

Casually dressed in jeans and a shirt, Father Clifton Lobo scrolls through a word document of inspirational sayings on his computer. He is looking for a recent quotation that found special resonance with his audience. He smiles. "'Google doesn't have all the answers.' A lot of people liked that one."

Father Clifton Lobo, parish priest of St Michael's Church, Mahim looks
for inspiration from various media. Pics/Pradeep Dhivar

Father Lobo is referring to the Thought for the Week put up on the board outside Mahim Church. The sayings, which are changed every Friday night, are eagerly looked forward to by passersby and commuters on their way to and from work. "Mahim junction is such a stressful junction anyway. I look at this as being able to put a smile on someone's face," he says, reflecting on his responsibility to choose the words that people will read each time they go past the church.

Anoop Korketta changing the Thought for the Day board outside St
Andrew's Church in Bandra

Inspiration comes in several forms, including smses from friends, a popular dialogue from a film, books, even a newspaper clipping. "I try to avoid using quotations by famous leaders or individuals, as people are already likely to have read those. The idea is to do a play on words," says Father Lobo, who has done his doctorate in Stress and Creativity.

For times when a saying doesn't require additional work, it's timing that plays a key role. "The one that we have up right now -- 'When you pray, your feet must move' -- is actually an African proverb. I thought it would be relevant since the Ganesh festival just ended and the Mount Mary Feast is ongoing," he says, adding, "It basically means that faith requires action."

Feedback is instant. "If there is a spelling mistake, I get calls even from Borivali," he says, recalling the time when they made a deliberate spelling error. "The saying was, 'God is perfect. Man makes misteaks.' But people called, telling us that we had made an error and asked for us to have it changed."

Ongoing mission
While Father Lobo has been working on the sayings outside Mahim Church for the past year and a half, the practice is popular in several churches. "I don't know which church started it, but it has been around for at least 15 to 20 years," says Father Michael Goveas of St Andrew's Church in Bandra, who started the practice at Rosary Church in Dockyard.

"The idea is to give people, irrespective of caste, creed and religion, something to reflect on; to provide hope to those feeling lost," he adds. Father Frank Fernandes of Rosary Church in Dockyard Road says that the practice started out simultaneously in a few churches, possibly in the '90s or late '80s. "Sacred Heart in Santacruz, St Andrew's in Bandra and St Joseph's in Vikhroli were possibly among the first to adopt it," he says.

Final message
Orlando Fernandes, who is part of Mulund's St Pius X's Bible Cell, the team that decides on the sayings for the week, says that he looks upon their contributions as a form of social 'enlightenment' and not 'service'. "Our messages have a biblical touch," shares Fernandes.

If there's one message that Father Lobo believes we would all do well to remember it is, "Be true to yourself, because God has made you in his likeness. Too many people are putting on an act."

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