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Ambassador for Jesus is all for church

Lay leader and author wants church to be less flexible to keep the traditions

Melvyn Brown Melvyn Brown
  • Julian Das, Kolkata
  • India
  • June 14, 2011
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All my life I have been like this, wiry, Melvyn Brown describes himself with a smile.

He has several hats to wear - lay leader in the Church and in the Anglo-Indian community, author, founder-director of lay movement Ambassadors for Jesus, editor-publisher of All-Parish Paper and Anglo-Indian Newsletter, and film enthusiast.

Brown’s ‘Home of the Divine Mercy’ is a cool place to walk down the memory lane of the man who has contributed much for the Church during the past three decades in Kolkata.

All his writings related to the Church and Christian faith have the approval of the Church. “I never write and publish anything without first getting it approved by the Church,” he says with great satisfaction.

Born in Pune in Maharastra, Brown moved to Kolkata when he was one year old, and had his schooling under the Christian Brothers.

“From a very young age, I had a spiritual force within, which was unexplainable. My friends would always keep me away, because I was too spiritual.”

He had a desire to become a Jesuit priest. His mentor at the Jesuit St Xavier’s College had told him to make up his mind, but Brown decided to marry to experience family life. “The Lord did not leave me,” he remembers.

When he was about 27, he woke up one night and felt that he had to work for the Lord. His wife accompanied him to the Cloistered Carmelite convent to pray on the new vocation. Another night he felt that he had to defend the Church. “Even if it is a drop in the ocean, it would contribute to the growth of the Church,” he had then told his wife, who passed away three years ago.

When he was still contemplating how to do his part for the Church, it was the books which he read, that had guided him in the formative years. He used to purchase second-hand books on spirituality, history, geography and other subjects and enlarged his vision.

“I had a desire to begin a movement inside the Catholic community, and my wife had even dissuaded me from doing anything in that line.”

He wrote a 16-page letter to Pope John Paul II expressing his concerns : that the people of other denominations knew the Bible inside out; the nature of other denominations was far more sympathetic toward religious matters than that of Catholics.

The pope had replied that if God willed, it would take place.

With the objective of Roman Catholic unification, he began the lay movement called “Ambassadors for Jesus” (AFJ) in 1978 to inspire Catholics to pray and reflect about their faith.

He was also concerned about many Catholics getting married to people of other faiths, and thought if they were strong in their faith such a thing could be brought to an end.

In the beginning, the AFJ organized football and basketball tournaments, and then musical concerts, intended to attract people to the movement.

“Most participants were Catholics and when their friends and relatives came for the tournament, I would address them about the movement, thus drawing them to be part of Ambassadors for Jesus.”

Brown was deeply concerned about abortion and in 1980 began the AFJ ‘Pro-Life’ movement. Members were required to recite a prayer for nine months to take on the “spiritual guardianship of an unborn child, who would live and not be aborted”. Today the movement has 115 members.

He wanted All-Parish Paper to reach all denominations, and he used the Anglo-Indian Newsletter for this purpose.

Both the papers were distributed together. “It was distributed to parishioners and parish priests. It always received positive response from the Church leaders.”

Today there are 1,700 members of Ambassadors for Jesus plus 215 members outside the country in Canada, Australia, England and Holland.

As a lay leader, he organized prayer meets and night vigils.

“The Church leadership is not very clear about what it wants. There is a need for re-orientation in the Church as far as the laity’s involvement is concerned. Young men who are preparing to become priests should be properly oriented and formed with the collaboration of the laity.

Brown wants priests to visit homes and discuss the problems the family faces, and thus strengthen their faith.

What does he wish from the Church? “I feel that the Church in recent times has become too flexible. It needs to be a little more rigid, toward keeping the traditions. We need to translate the faith elements in simple words, so that people are able to understand them. The liturgy for instance had the awe inspiring sense of the past, which needs to be retained in the present.”
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