“Sweetest Lord, make me appreciative of the dignity of my high vocation, and its many responsibilities. Never permit me to disgrace it by giving way to coldness, unkindness, or impatience. Not all of us can do great things. But we can do small things with great love. I can do things you cannot, you can do things I cannot; together we can do great things. We are each part of the body of Christ and gifted in different areas. Act on the gifts that God has given you and start today “–Mother Theresa.
Mangaluru: Inspired by the life and example of Mother Veronica, the Carmelite sisters reach out to the people, particularly the youth through education and faith formation in schools, colleges, welfare centres, etc. by employing formal and non-formal techniques. Mother Veronica, nee Sophie Leeves, an English woman was chosen and called by God to found a “Carmel for the Missions” in India towards the faith formation of the Catholics and the education of the young girls along the west coast. The dream of education that Mother Veronica harboured in her heart when she was serving in Calicut as a sister of St. Joseph of the Apparition, “…all along the coast the young girls are entirely without any means of instruction…”, was realized when she started the Apostolic Carmel in France in 1868 and the three sisters trained by her arrived in Mangalore on 19th November 1870.
Knowing the nuns is truly a blessing because they have a special touch and a healing tactic that makes you feel closer to God. This article written with love and sentiments from the bottom of my heart is about acknowledgments and tributes to the nuns who have given me and many of us their will to make us “know and love God,” and to, “make us good.” Many former Catholic school boys and girls who grew up with the nuns still tell stories of the nuns — the days of the Latin Mass, strict school manners, meatless Fridays and the ruler across the knuckles. Some of those stories may be funny, sadistic or clueless — but no matter what nun stories we may come up with, a nun can change a child’s life in an instant.
I come from a Catholic family comprising of many nuns and priests who chose to serve the Lord. My aunt, Sister Florence AC, (served many years at St Agnes Convent, Mangalore ) was my greatest mentor, adviser and preacher. She also taught English, History and Math at various schools across India. My cousin, Sister Teresa of Avila AC, who had taken various posts helping the less fortunate is now residing at St Agnes Convent. Sister Carmel, belonging to the Good Shepherd Sisters at St. Michael’s Convent/home in Bangalore, is at the helm of taking care of unwed mothers, a children’s home and a vocational school for women- she also is my cousin.
My cousin Sister Matilda, belonging to the Ursuline Sisters of Franciscan Order, is the Headmistress of St. Angela’s School,Bejai, Mangalore- her congregation goal is to give education to the kids and also visit their homes to help their families in their physical and mental needs. Also serving as a missionary and as a Regional Superior of AC community-Kenya, Africa, is my cousin Sister Winifreda AC, (sister of my sister-in-law, Alice )-she too has served at St Agnes Convent. I also have distant family relatives namely Sr Marie, a Bethany nun serving at a orphanage in Mumbai; and Sr Carmelita AC, rendering service as a English professor in Sri Lanka. Few days ago, my cousin Sr Winifreda AC had come down to Mangaluru from Kenya, along with her colleague, Sr Maria Sheila AC- Convent Superior-Kenya (she is the sister of Sr Maria Jyothi, who had served as superior at Yesu Prema Nikethan-Bendore, and now teaching at Vijayamarie Technical Institute-Mary Hill). I was so overwhelmed and happy to see my cousin Sr Winifreda after three decades, and on this joyous occasion I planned a get-together with some of my family members, and also joined by Fr Onil D’souza-director of St Anthony’s Charitable Institutions.
Sr Winifreda AC gave me a elaborate history of their missionary work in Kenya- The year 1991 was eventful for the congregation of the Apostolic Carmel, as it launched its mission in Kenya-East Africa. Sister Mariella, the then Superior General accepted the pressing invitation of His Grace, Nicodemus Kirima , the Archbishop of Nyeri Archidiocese to run a residential Secondary School for the Natives. This was materialised when the Sisters took charge of the Sacred Heart Girls’ Secondary School in Kiganjo.
The seed-foundation of the Apostolic Carmel in Kiganjo, in Nyeri District, took root and gave birth to the establishment of a similar school named Mt. Carmel Girls’ Secondary School in Gathugu in Karatina District, in the year 1993. After a couple of years, the mission expanded to Nairobi, the capital city of Kenya. In the year 1995 a Secondary School was opened at Buru-Buru through the generosity of Cardinal Otunga of Kenya. This in turn gave rise to other institutions. By the grace of God, the AC nuns manage three Secondary Schools, seven Primary Schools and one Day care centre
Besides the Apostolate of Education, the AC sisters are engaged in parish work and social work. It was a long awaited dream of the Superiors General, past and present, to raise the East African Mission to the status of Region in order to facilitate its growth and effective functioning. This became a reality on the 4th December 2010. Sr.Aloyscious, the Pioneering leader of Apostolic Carmel Congregation-East Africa Region, served as a Superior for nearly two decades, and later passed on the Candle to Sr.Susheela,the 1st Regional Superior. Sr Aloyscious AC is now serving at St Ann’s Convent-Mangaluru.
OCD Fathers brought St. Teresa’s Walking stick to Kenya
The Superior General and Council, at their meeting held on 24th November 2010,appointed Sr. Susheela as Regional Superior and Srs. Winifreda, Veronica and Fabiola as Regional Councillors for a period of three years.Sr.Veronica would function as Regional Secretary and Sr.Maria Deepthi as the regional Bursar. It was God’s will that Sr.Susheela was elected as the Superior General in the General Chapter held on the 1st of February 2014. She took over the office on the 18th of May 2014. In her place Superior General in council appointed Sr. Winifreda as the Regional Superior and she took charge of the Region on the 27th of April 2014 and Srs.Deepthi, Fabiola and Olinda as Regional Councillors for a period of three years. Sr. Olinda functions as Regional Secretary and Sr. Swetha as Regional Bursar. We pray that the East Africa Region grow from strength to strength to further the Kingdom of God.
We all should know nuns are called to help the community and to spread the word of God. Most of them spend their time in silent prayer and reflection. They head out into the community to do whatever they can, education, being spiritual directors, doing youth guidance and counseling or offering up any other talents they have in the name of God. Some are teachers while others work in charitable causes. Nuns serve a very important life in the church and normally are dedicated to the Church and Christ more than most others. And no doubt that the local AC nuns have served the community in Kenya in the field of education and also in many other ways for the betterment of the AC congregation in that region.
Therefore, all those who have been touched, inspired and cared by the Apostolic Carmel nuns should express our thanks and gratitude to them for helping shape our ideals and beliefs. They taught us to respect our elders, practice self-control, diagram sentences, memorize poems, genuflect in Church, say our prayers, pray the rosary, send money to missions and support pagan babies, collect holy cards of all the many saints, reflect about our lives, “what we did, what we should have done and what we failed to do” and how to clap erasers and carry our books and bags to the convent.
I end this tribute with a thought-provoking message to all the local AC nuns namely, Sr Winifreda, Sr Maria Sheila, Sr Madonna, Sr Deepa, Sr Shanthi, Sr Prem D’souza, Sr Mary Pereira, and Sr Maria Villa for their dedicated service, love and caring to the Kenyan Community:
“As you serve the Lord with all your heart and his life shines through you to light the way for others, may you rejoice in knowing what a difference you are making in His kingdom. For the work, love and goodwill that you spread throughout the Apostolic Carmel Congregation and community, may God bless you all “.