The Indian American Catholic Association (IACA) was founded in 1993 by members of the Indian Catholic community in the metropolitan Washington, DC area in order to fulfill its mission. To foster this spirit of community, IACA organizes several activities, including:
- Monthly first Saturday novenas at the National Shrine
- Annual Mother’s Day pilgrimages to the Grotto of Our Lady in Emmitsburg, MD
- Annual Pilgrimage to Our Lady of Good Health, Vailankanni
- Annual Christmas celebration
- Youth and young adult activities
Past, Present and Future Activities of IACA –an Historical Perspective
Justification for the Organization
Once upon a time, some visionaries from the immigrant communities of the Indian subcontinent felt the need to create an umbrella organization to address common issues and retain and sustain the cultural and religious identities of their shared heritage. While there were several ethnic and linguistic organizations in existence, there was none to speak with a unified voice for all of them. For this reason, in 1991 , the Indian American Catholic Association (IACA) was established with a help of a $2,000.00 donation from Reverend Peter Zendzian, Director of the Office for the Pastoral Care of Migrants and Refugees of the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops. I would like to mention a few prominent people who laboured hard to bringt his organization in to being. They are: Joyce D’Souza, Giovanni Mascarenhas, John Whittle, Susai Anthony, Robert Nathan, fred Semendy, Joseph Vettickal. Gabreil Francis, and Ludy Joseph. If any names are missing, they are not omitted intentionally.
The IACA, comprising associations of Anglo-lndians, Goans, Mangaloreanss, Sri Lankans, Tamils, Keralites, East-lndians, Bangalis, and Pakistanis, was registered in the District of Columbia as a not-for-profit organization on July 14, 1993, There were three persons lsaac Arokiasamy, Joyce D’Souza, and Susai Anthony considered the founders of IACA who signed the Articles of Incorporation submitted to the DC Government. Prior to this date, a constitution and bylaws of the organization were drafted and ratified on December 6, 1992. This charter was amended on December 4, 1995. The IACA received a tax exempt status from the Internal Revenue Service on February 26, 1996.
Accomplishments : Religious Services Rendered
- Vailakanni Oratory: The Oratory project was a singular achievement of the IACA. A special article appears elsewhere in this souvenir.This project consumed the time and energy of the organization for about four years untif August 16, 1997. lt proved that IACA can act as a national organization for all immigrant Catholics in the U.S.A. This is both a victory and a burden to the organization. lt Partially fulfilled the religious needs of the community,but failed in the cultural (social service) mission enunciatedin the bylaws.
- The IACA sent a youth delegation to Denver, Colorado to Participate in the Eighth World Youth Day (August 11th through 15th, 1993) where the young people had the opportunity to meet Pope John Paul II.
- Two separate committees: Monthly Devotion Committee and Annual Pilgrimage Committee were establishe to look after the spiritual needs of the community. A Novena and Mass are conducted on the first Saturday of every month, an event that is sponsored by different communities on a rotating basis.
- On a yearly basis, the IACA has arranged for retreats and healing services by the Vincentian Fathers (Potta Ministries) from Kerala.
- For the tenth anniversary of the “World Day of the Sick’ on February 10, 2002, Pope John Paul ll chose Our Lady of Good Health, Vailankanni as the patroness. The IACA was asked by the Shrine to organize a special healing service and Mass for the public. Bishop Leonard Olivier ably assisted by 12 priests celebrated the Mass and helped bless and anoint the sick in the congregation. The large crowd of over 800 participants was appreciative of this unique service and the local media covered the event.
Social Services Rendered
- Every winter, the IACA has Provided blankets or donated cash to the shelters for the homeless in the Washington, D.C. area.
- To celebrate the inauguration with those less fortunate, IACA organized a dinner for about 204 homeless persons at the Shrine’s cafeteria.
- The Mother’s Day celebration has become a fixture of the IACA’s midyear activity. Each Year a pilgrimage to Mother Seton’s house in Emmitsburg, MD or the Grotto of Our Lady at Emmitsburg, or similar venues and an interim general body meeting of the Association are held. One year a ” very memorable pilgrimage was made to St.Clement’s lsland, in Southern Maryland (the birthplace of Roman Catholicism in U.S.A.)
- IACA members have volunteered to do work in the soup kitchen and mow the lawn for the houses of the Sisters of Charity (Mother Teresa’s Order) in the Washington,D .C. area.
- In August 2002, IACA organized a “Planning for Retirement’ seminar, including medical advice from prominent physicians for those over 50 years of age.
- IACA has promoted communication with Indian religious hierarchieas and has also held receptions for them during their visits to the city: Verapoly Archbishop Daniel Acharaparambil (2002), Cochin Bishop John Thattumka(2002), and Pondicherry Archbishop Augustine Michael (2001), and Madras- Mylapore Archbishop Arul Das James( 2003).
- IACA has promoted fund raising cultural events such as a Bharatanatyam dance performance (based on Christian scripture) by Rev. Barboza and the Kalai Natya Saalai, and a performance by the Rex Band – Youth for Jesus (June 2002).
- IACA established a Memorial Fund (seed money) for Francis D’Souza ($250) and Shaji Palliaparambil ($1,000).
Easing the Burden of Victims of Natural Disasters
- ln 1993, IACA collected $2,000 for the Maharashtra Earthquake victims and sent the funds through Caritas lndia.
- In 1999, IACA collected $30,000 for the victims of the Orissa Cyclone (happened on October 29, 1999)- and sent the funds through Catholic Charities.
- ln 2001, IACA collected about $25,000 for the Gujarat Earthquake victims and the money was remitted through World Vision for matching funds (for a total of $50,000). The proceeds were split between a Syro-Malabar diocese in Gujarat that was most affected by the earthquake and a social service unit of the Gujarat Province of the Jesuits that was working to rehabilitate the victims in the affected villages.
- In 2005, IACA collected $15,000 for the Tsunami (that occurred on December 24, 2004) victims and sent the money to Sri Lanka and Tamil Nadu. A service unit established specifically for this purpose by Jesuits in Tiruchirapalli received the proceeds for relief work.
Vision and Mission of the Organization
The IACA is meant to enrich the social and spiritual lives of its members through various activities, charitable work for people in India and the U.S.A., respond to natural calamities that occur in both countries’ provide opportunities to young people to develop leadership abilities, assist them with scholarships for continuing education, and maintain and provide a liaison between the Church hierarchies in both countries and the immigrant community. For a more detailed explanation,please see IACA’s website at www.iacausa.org.
What is the Future for IACA?
ln order to draw more members to the fold, bring in fresh blood to the organization, and not to become irrelevant to the people at large, in other words, to be a more attractive organization, it needs to divert its focus to the social service aspect of its original vision and mission. The IACA needs to develop responsible and caring youths from our communities.It must provide and nurture leadership qualities for the future. lt must institute some kind of award mechanism to reward outstanding contributions to the community. The Association should increase its involvement with other local and regional organizations and take up causes that are permissible by its charter. In the past, there were strategy sessions on improving IACA’s vision. The Association should strive to build a revolving fund for its activities.This cannot be put on the back burner anymore. This article is meant to be a summary of IACA’s achievements and aspirations.It is a history without the historian’s amplification on the events. This paragraph amplifies the author’s personal views on improving or refocusing the mission onto a forgotten path. In the beginning, there were some individuals with a lot of zeal who were interested in the work of the Association, but lost faith in it when they realized that the Association was ambivalent about social services, and as a result, they dropped out. For the last ten years, we are content with either conducting monthly novenas and annual pilgrimages or becoming nonchalant about our social consciousness. We do not have a long range plan to ensure the viability of the Association. We are good with reacting to the needs of victims, but how about becoming proactive with programs or plans to avert and meet with challenges that come our way? The Executive Committee, if it accepts this onerous responsibility, will have a praiseworthy endeavour and some hard work ahead. The IACA can and should do a lot more for the South Asian immigrant Catholic communities around the country!
Liaison with other Christian Groups to Prevent Christian Persecution in lndia
- On December 29, 1998, a delegation was sent to the Indian Embassy in Washington D.C. to present our concerns to the Government of India. A second meeting with the next Ambassador took place on March 25, 2000.
- On June 2, 1999, IACA members met with the Ambassador-at-large, Honorable Robert A.Seiple, of the Bureau of Democracy and Human Rights,U.S. Department of State and presented our Petition. Delegates from other Parts of the country joined in our efforts. This resulted in putting India on the watch list of the Annual Report the State Department sent to the U.S. Congress and released in October 2001.
- On September 14, 2000,the IACA conducted a protest Prayer rally near the U.S. Capitol in Washington,DC, while the Indian Prime Minister, Atal Bihari Vajpayee was addressing a joint session of the U.S. Congress.
- The Association arranged for an inter-faith prayer meeting with several religious leaders on the religious problems in India; one such meeting was held on October 27,2001.
- The IACA succeeded in organizing an over-arching organization of all Christians to educate, publicise, and fight for religious issues in India. The organization is called the Federation of Indian American Christian Organizations of North America (FIACONA).
- The IACA became an active member organization in the Office for the Pastoral Care of Migrants and Refugees of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops.
- The IACA played an active role in organizing the National Asian and Pacific Catholic Convocation June 30 to July 3, 2006. The contributions of the IACA members were credible and telling, but the attendance from the Indian communities was dismal.
Is IACA a Regional or National Organization?
By design, it is a regional organization operating in the Washington D.C. Metropolitan area.There obviously is no national entity for immigrant Indian Catholics. By implicit cooperation from organizations in other cities, and by virtue of their subsuming roles, IACA has acted as a leading organization. Those organizations seem to want IACA to take the lead! In all national issues such as opposing the Bharatiya Janata Party(BJP) government in the area of Christian persecution and anticonversion bills in several Indian states, IACA spearheaded the venture. Building the Vailankanni Oratory and donating it to the Shrine which is “the Church of America”, established IACA’s pre-eminence as a national organization.Also, the PCMR invited the IACA to represent the immigrant Catholics from the Indian subcontinent to the USCCB.The Association’s location and its accessibility to national institutions give IACA a visibility unmatched by other
IACA currently exists as a 501 (c)3 organization registered in the District of Columbia and located at:
913 Hamilton St NE
Washington, DC 20011
For more information on IACA, please email: firstname.lastname@example.org.