Sisters honour foundress with new mission on the peripheries
By Sr Christine Misquith A.C. with Sr Bernadette Reis, fsp
Mother Veronica was the daughter of an Anglican Minister, who entered the Sisters of St Joseph of the Apparition after converting to Catholicism. While on mission to India in 1861, she began to feel drawn toward the Carmelite way of life.
Her calling coincided with the desire of a group of Carmelite bishops in India to provide faith formation through education and other works of mercy through an Order of Carmelite Sisters. Sister Mary Veronica of the Passion founded the Apostolic Carmel Congregation in Bayonne, France, in 1868. It was established in Mangalore, India two years later.
To celebrate the 150th anniversary of the Congregation’s foundation, Superior General Sr. Susheela motivated us Sisters to undertake at least one project in the villages for the poor and needy. Simultaneously, Pope Francis was inviting religious to go to the peripheries and live among the people.
As we Sisters, working in the Congregation’s Mission Station at Bidar, were pondering over this invitation, we felt the need to found a house at Jamgi Colony, to keep the faith alive of 43 Catholic families who originally belonged to the Evangelical Church of India. These families had earlier approached me because they were not finding adequate spiritual support. They knew me through Self-Help Groups we had established in the area, and some of the educational programmes we operated that their children were attending through sponsorships. Since they had experienced our love and care, they felt confident to come to us and express their desire to become Catholics in order to get spiritual help and care for their children. I in turn directed them to the local Parish Priest who began the catechumenal process with them. In 2013, the local Bishop received them into the Church.
We then decided to open a Convent and Social Work Centre close enough to Jamgi Colony. In this way, we could live near the neophyte Catholic families, continue to catechize and support them in their newly adopted Faith, and see to their Socio-Pastoral needs.
Obtaining land to build a convent proved difficult since records regarding property ownership were lacking. Once that obstacle was removed, the land purchased and all necessary permissions obtained, Carmel Niketan was constructed and ‘born’ on 24 June 2017. The inaugural ceremony and blessing of the house was attended not only by the local Bishop, the General and Provincial Superiors, but also by many priests and members of the 43 families we had come to serve. It was very touching to witness the joy of the people of the Jamgi Colony expressed by how they felicitated us sisters.
Our primary mission is to provide catechesis to these Catholic families. In addition, we conduct outreach programmes in 10 villages through Carmel Seva Trust (CST), originally established in 2016. CST’s goal is to help people become self-sufficient, reaching out to those in need, and to empower those who are marginalized in obtaining their rights.
Development of women
We sisters contribute to the empowerment of women and their economic progress through Self-Help Groups. To date, 43 such groups have been initiated. No empowerment is possible without employment, so self-employment is encouraged. These groups provide leadership training, micro-credit loans, and job training.
Integrated development of children
Another objective of the CST is the integral development of children and the universalization of primary education, focusing on the mental, physical and social development of both boys and girls in the villages. To this end, we have instituted children’s clubs, self-help groups, summer camps, scholarships, tuition centre and child-care.
Development of youth and adults
Many youth have no opportunity for further education after having completed twelve years of schooling. Poverty and lack of employment opportunities are very alarming.CST partly responds to this situation by sponsoring students to pursue higher studies, teaching them to live a dignified life, and creating safe and healthy enviornments for them to grow. CST also conducts personality development and Life Coping Skill Programmes, vocational training, computer literacy, scholarships, leadership training, and training in legal matters.
CST also envisages community mobilization to strengthen efforts to ensure adequate and nutritious food, and accessible health care for the rural poor, especially for women and children. Villagers are encouraged to grow vegetable gardens through the distribution of fruit-bearing and income-generating plants. Since it is difficult for the rural poor to sustain the expenses of health care, CST organizes free general medical camps, eye checkup camps, and blood donation camps with hospital personnel.
Through these and other activities, CST is attuned to the situation of the vulnerable and tries its best to answer the needs of the poor and marginalized. All this reflects one thing: the selfless dedication of our Sisters, our team and support of the management.
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