Catholic Priest Who Counsels Children Also Works On Their Parents
By Bosco de Souza EremitaAugust 16, 2006
PANAJI, India (UCAN) -- In western India's Goa state, concerned parents who bring their children to a Catholic priest for treatment of abnormal behavior find themselves getting "treated" as well.
Chandu Fondekar, a Hindu, is one such parent. He brought his "depressed" daughter to Father Simon R. Diniz on the advice of a friend. Fondekar later told UCA News that his daughter experienced a "metamorphic change" after the priest asked Fondekar to stop comparing her with other children.
The father said he made the comparison hoping to help his daughter excel in examinations, "but I never dreamed it could have an opposite effect."
Father Diniz, 48, told UCA News many other children suffer from comparable psychological disorders because their parents fail to understand them.
Ever since he seriously took up counseling in 2004, he has met students in 53 Goa schools, and the number of depressed students keeps growing, he said. He maintains that eating disorders, constipation, thumb sucking, nail biting, insomnia and nightmares indicate children require psychological attention.
About 15 percent of those he sees suffer from Attention Deficit Disorder, which keeps them from sitting and concentrating for long periods and affects their studies. When parents and teachers bring children to him, Father Diniz also pointed out, he sends the parents away after the initial interview, and then talks to the child alone and treats them through various therapies.
"In most cases," he said, the root cause of the problem is "the house is without a home," and children grow up without emotional and spiritual support. Three students aged 14-16 killed themselves in Goa this year, and Father Diniz confirmed that "suicidal tendencies are rising even among school children."
Children develop problems if they see their parents quarreling or when they abuse the child, he said, yet the key problem is parental pressure to excel in exams. Teenagers want "to enjoy life" and often opt for humanities, "where the pressure of studies is less," but many become addicted to alcohol or drugs.
Father Diniz said most parents realize "their folly" after he warns them not to demand too much from their children lest the children suffer mental stress.
In the counseling sessions, he encourages Catholic children to recite the rosary, read the Bible and say other prayers to overcome their problems. He also urges them to seek the blessing of their parents in all their activities, and to watch and discuss television programs with their parents.
Father Diniz also tackles the problem while visiting archdiocesan parishes in his family mission program. His talks to parents and children in 73 parishes always focused on parent-child relationships and children's problems.
Willie Gonsalves, who heard one of those talks, said Father Diniz gave him "a new insight" about children's needs. "More than good marks, I want my daughter to be happy with all-around growth," Gonsalves told UCA News.
Maria Sapeco, a Catholic businesswoman, said the priest's talks prepared her to deal with her 4-year-old son when he began behaving strangely upon learning that the maid was leaving. "He kept asking who would bathe him, dress him and play with him," she told UCA News. She closed her business until her son was able to live without the maid.
According to Shreen Dabolkar, who has also attended the talks, Catholics are "lucky" to have these Church-organized programs. The Hindu woman told UCA News her religion and its leaders have yet to address such problems.
The priest has inspired others to work with children. In 2005, the Salesians opened Childline, a distress group for children, in Panaji, Goa's capital, 1,910 kilometers southwest of New Delhi. "Most help is sought before and during exams," Father Arvind Severes, the assistant director, told UCA News.
The archdiocese of Goa-Daman now coordinates the counseling through its Family Service Centre. Father Socorro Mendes, who heads the center, claims the counseling has helped families to realize their worth, parents to give their children time, and couples to stick together and strengthen family bonding.
"Families are being empowered to become what they should be and grow in the presence of God. This is happening, and I am happy for it," he told UCA News."
Reproduced by Konkani Catholics with permission from UCAN(www.ucanews.com)