Pauline Book Store near Laitumkhrah junction was abuzz with readers, young and old, even on a weekend. They sifted through the rows of books on spirituality and Christianity, novels and children’s literature. Some of the readers fell back on Sister Helena Dkhar and Sister Marisa M. for the right choice of books. A bright heart-shaped dangler with a welcome sign near the door greeted all visitors.
The bookstore, which is part of the Pauline Publications and Communications in Mumbai, celebrated its golden jubilee on June 29 this year along with the congregation of the Daughters of St Paul that started its work in Meghalaya in 1973. The store, however, was set up as part of the mission in 1976.
The Daughters of St Paul is an international congregation of women to evangelise through the means of social communications. They are part of the Pauline family consisting of 10 institutes founded in Alba, Italy, by Catholic priest James Alberione on June 15, 1915.
To concretise his dream of the media apostolate in the Church, Alberione needed a band of dedicated men and women, who would imbibe his spirit of contemplation and action. This gave birth to the Pauline family, made up of five religious congregations, four secular institutes and an Association of Pauline Co-operators, a vital force in furthering the apostolic undertakings of the Pauline family.
Among the religious orders are the Society of St Paul (1914), Daughters of St Paul (1915), and Sister Disciples of the Divine Master (1924), which have established communities in different parts of India with their specific apostolic thrust.
The Daughters of St Paul community came to Shillong on December 8, 1973. Initially, they were welcomed by the Loreto Sisters as there was no permanent accommodation for the members. From a narration of Sister Thomasina, who was part of the delegation, we come to know about the initial days of the members of the Daughters of St Paul.
“After a day’s tedious journey, we reached Guwahati at 11 pm… That night we spent with the Salesian Sisters. When we reached, the Superior was waiting with hot coffee because the weather was pretty cold.
“It (Shillong) is a lovely place with a beautiful view of the hills. The same evening, Fr Rubio celebrated mass with us. It was special because it was to mark our arrival in this mission place. During the homily, he welcomed us in the name of Archbishop Hubert Rosario, the clergy, the religious and the people,” she wrote.
The Sisters shifted to a permanent building in Dhankheti on February 1, 1974. Sister Doris Rodrigues was appointed as the first Superior of the community. The St Paul Book Centre was inaugurated on June 29, 1976.
The congregation also took charge of an existing mission, a mobile unit, to spread the message of God. The films and the projector were carried in a jeep that travelled to villages to screen religious and catechetical films.
The mission of the Daughters of St Paul involves the media — writing, publication, marketing and distribution of books, CDs, videos, magazines and periodicals, posters and computer software. It also maintains bookshops and, where possible, produces radio and TV programmes. It also has multiple websites.
Pauline publishes over 2,000 books. “We would also release CDs, DVDs and MP3s. Though the store still has the stock, we stopped releasing them,” informed Sister Helena.
Talking about her experience, Sister Marisa, who is originally from Kerala and is associated with the congregation for the last 50 years, said she was impressed with the interest of Shillong readers in the books at the store. “I found more youngsters here who are still into books. In other cities, especially the metropolitans, the digital medium has taken over books and I would barely find readers coming to buy books at the store. Here, I see that parents encourage their children to read books.”
However, with the changing time, Pauline is also considering the idea of utilising the digital platform. “We have a channel and also ebooks on Amazon. Readers can purchase books from our website too. Though we are not going for digital content, we are planning to start a virtual book centre by the end of this year,” said Sister Joeyanna D’Souza of Pauline Publications in Mumbai.
The congregation is also engaged in other outreach projects bringing the Gospel message directly to the people. These include book fairs and book displays in parishes, schools, animations in schools for students and teachers, teaching media literacy to students and teachers and helping teenagers understand the many messages in the media. It also holds programmes on animation and formation initiatives aimed at promoting a culture of dialogue by utilising the media for greater human and cultural development.
According to the congregation, the Pauline media centres are not commercial shops but centres of service to the faithful. “They do not sell but carry out an apostolate for offerings. They are not places of business but centres of light and warmth in Jesus Christ. Their aim is not to make money but to serve the Church and people, not for profit but for spiritual benefit.”
~ Team Sunday Monitor