Mangaluru: Turning 90 is a major milestone birthday. Tomorrow, 15 August is indeed a great Day, sind it is celebration a triple feast: Catholics celebrate the feast of the Assumption of our Mother, the Blessed Virgin Mary into Heaven; the 69th anniversary of the independence of our Country; and the 90th Birthday of Dr Olinda Pereira. On this, the Feast of the Assumption of Our Lady, we truly have to celebrate as the First Reading from the book of Revelation tells us “the woman clothed with the sun, with the moon under her feet and a crown of twelve stars on her head”. On 69th independence day, we truly have to celebrate the beauty and diversity of our country and above all on this Golden day, we truly have to sing the ‘Magnificat’ with Olinda as she completes 90 years of her arrival on earth, and steps into her 91th year. But Dr Olinda’s birthday was celebrated a day earlier toady, 14 August by her family members, colleagues, well-wishers and friends, with a Mass at Valencia Church, followed by a birthday bash at the Church Hall.
On the outset before I go further into drafting this article I would like to extend my heartfelt birthday wishes to my dear friend Dr Olinda Pereira by saying, “Throughout your life, you’ve made it your mission to be loving, kind, gentle and true. Mission accomplished! Now, our mission is to shower you with our love and gratitude. At 90, you’re not old or young. You defy description. You’re a time-tested classic! You seem to be more carefree in spirit and younger at heart with every passing year. To us, you sparkle like a brilliant gem. And the years have not diminished your special glow — they’ve only made you more luminous. This is the perfect occasion to celebrate you and your life. You are more than our role model-you are our heroine!”
“May you have a 90th birthday that gives you even more reason to sip from the elixir of life.Hoping your 90th birthday, like your lifetime, is full of love from family and friends, unbridled joy, unforgettable moments and, ultimately, happy memories. May you only know the joy, peace and health that comes with a life well lived. Happy birthday wishes to the most incredible, most inspirational, most captivating 90 year old I have ever known. May your 90th birthday be the first of many days that bring you invigorating dawns, long afternoons, exquisite sunsets and brilliant full moons! You feel and act decades younger than you actually are. You must have been blessed with the spirit of someone half your age. I know the road has been long, with many unexpected twists and turns, but I hope that the rest of your journey is a walk in the park on a beautiful, sunny day. Congratulations on reaching this amazing milestone! Happy 90th birthday!”
Nearly 200 people came to celebrate Dr Olinda’s 90th birthday today! Everyone had a wonderful time. The food, company and speeches were all terrific. The crowd was predominately of mixed ages, from Seniors in their 70s/80s to youth in their twenties. One damsel at the party said “Wow Miss Pereira, that’s close to 100”, another said “I’m far from 100 (she’s only 20)”. They made me laugh. I told them “yes it’s close to 100, but I’m not sure that people who are 90 want to hear that. Then I thought about it. Why not? You should be proud. As they say you’ve come a long way baby! Wow 90! Ya, you’re amazing Dr Olinda! Enough of that… I want to talk from my heart, and extend my thoughts on you on your prestigious 90 B-day.
Dr Olinda-You are a very special woman. Your qualities, capabilities and your infectious laugh have shown many to be strong persons with a warm, kind and loving heart. Olinda as a Daughter of the Heart of Mary, has in more ways than one, tried to imitate Mary, her model in O-wnership, L-eadership, I-nteriority, N- urturing, D-edication and A-vailability. Through her exemplary life, we all know, she has meant so much to so many people all these years from the time she made her first profession in the wake of Vatican II exactly fifty four years ago. As we celebrate the beauty and significance of 15 August, let us thank the Lord in a very special way for giving us three Golden GIRLS in our life: Mother Mary, Bharat Mata and Olinda Pereira
Prior to the birthday bash, a solemn mass was held at St Vincent Ferrer Church-Valencia con-celebrated by Fr James D’souz-Parish priest of Valencia Church, along with Fr Cedric Prakash (nephew of Dr Olinda)-Director of Prashant,A Centre for Human Rights, Justice and Peace, Ahmedabad; and Fr Barrocas- Retd. priest from the Ajmer Diocese. In his homily, Fr Cedric Prakash focussing his thoughts on the Magnificat of Our Lady (the Gospel from St Luke chosen for the occasion) he dwelt on the three inter-related dimensions of TRUSTING, THANKING and TOUCHING- the 3Ts for him-which were at the heart of the Magnificat Mary places all her TRUST in Yahweh God-fully believing that he is always there guiding and protecting her and leading her on. Olinda’s trust in Jesus is somewhat similar these past ninety years, he said.
“The Magnificat is a song of THANKSGIVING as Mary thanks and praises God for all the wondrous deeds He has done in her life.Today Olinda ‘s heart is full of thanksgiving too -for the wonderful work the Lord has done through her all these years. Mary praises God for TOUCHING her life and we see how throughout her journey on earth Mary is ALWAYS touching the lives of others- her cousin Elizabeth and many, many more right till the time of her Assumption. Olinda too-has profoundly touched the lives of many many people- women, students,youth from all sections of society, the poor, the marginalised, the elderly- in many different yet profound ways Olinda Pereira epitomizes Mary our Mother in TRUSTING, THANKING, TOUCHING – even as she sings her MAGNIFICAT on this her 90 th birthday
concluded Fr Prakash in his soul-stirring homily.
The birthday bash began with a birthday prayer song by the Vishwas Trust colleagues, Trustees and friends, followed by Welcome/Introduction done by Audrey Pinto-Trustee of Vishwas Trust. Before the cake cutting ceremony, there were few songs in Konkani and also the “Shower of Blessings” song sung by Dr Olinda’s friends. The toast on this prestigious 90th birthday of Dr Olinda was raised by her friend and Director of Uxcel, Phyllis Maria D’Costa, where she said, ” Dr Olinda is a great lady, an ardent religious and follower of Jesus is true to her religious life-devoted to her calling as a Christian, dedicated to the cause of the poor, the needy Dr Olinda Pereira is well known educationist and a visionary – who with her foresight and determination has made a great contribution to the world of women.”
” Having been the former Principal of the very well known School for Social Work – Roshini Nilaya in Mangalore and associated with a number of women organizations all around India, Dr. Olinda Pereira is a indeed a name to reckon with. She has inspired me a lot, and she is my role model. She is a true embodiment of selfless sacrifice and commitment to her work and in spite her being 90 years old, she still gives of her time and efforts to women and the elderly in particular. My wish is that may her live for another 10 more years, once she reaches 100, I will extend my wishes that she may live another 10 more years. May God bless this young and strong lady” added D’Costa.
Dr Olinda was felicitated by the Trustees of Vishwas Trust namely Santhosh Kumar Kadri, Audrey Pinto, Celine Aranha, the staff of Vishwas Trust and MSW students with a shawl, a bouquet of 90 red roses and a mega birthday card signed by her colleagues/friends. The delicious rum/raisin cake served to the audience was meticulously prepared by Lidwin Lobo of Vishwas Trust. Fr Barrocas also spoke and expressed his thoughts on Dr Olinda and wished her many more happy returns of the day. As part of fun and cultural programme a solo dance performance was given by Bharath-MSW student at St Aloysius College, followed by spot games and American Housie. The revelry crowd got onto the floor to shake their hips to the dance numbers performed by renowned Konkani singer Claud D’souza, along with Jake D’souza on drums and Jill D’souza on guitar. It was one heckuva of a party, and with Ratna Pinto-trustee of Vishwas Trust as the professional compere the party simply got better and fun.
Now let me take give a background on the life and journey of Dr Olinda Pereira through these long ninety years- Dr. Olinda Pereira and one would picture her only as a pioneer in the field of education or women empowerment. Always engrossed in her work, she has the will and the way to serve Humanity. Her special interests are in the Women’s development and one can see that from the numerous associations she has associated herself with. She has been the School Assistant at St. Mary’s High School and was earlier the Principal of School of Social Work Roshni Nilaya, Mangalore. She is also the Director of the Institute of Social Service, Prabhat Tara, in New Delhi and her love for the Elderly has encouraged her to start and be the Director, Vishwas Trust (Home Based Care for the Elderly) which is rendering yeoman service to the elderly.
Talk about her contribution to women and it would definitely run into volumes. Being a silent worker, she believes in helping without acclaim. Even to do a interview and a profile of her mangalorean.com , I had to convince her a lot because she is a busy person and after much reluctance, she agreed to sit down and give her brief answers to my queries.One very notable feature of her contributions to the Catholic Women of India is that she was instrumental in organizing the Council of Catholic Women of India. This has been a great move and has helped the catholic women of India to come together under one forum to discuss the pressing issues that pertain to women development and also interacts with the world body of International Catholic Women (WUCWO).
Dr. Olinda Pereira has been responsible for developing a syllabus in Women’s Studies in the M.S.W. Course and for attempting to set up a Women’s Studies Centre. True to her commitment, she wishes every women march forward to progress. Says Dr. Olinda Pereira “Work towards education and self-empowerment and become self reliant and equal partners with men. Dr Pereira as a person congenitally disposed to be a pioneer in building human development institutions, like the Roshini Nilaya of Social Work; developed agencies like Janatha Kendra, Family service Agency, Child Guidance Clinic, and Navajeevan Marg.
Sent to Nairobi by her Superiors, Dr Olinda developed a centre which serves as a meeting point for the members of her congregation working in the countries of East Africa. Dr Pereira has functioned as a trustee of NGOs like the Butterflies in Delhi who work with the street children making a living on the streets, Link De Addiction Centre, Shubhadha Society for Women in Distress, promoted the Federation of Welfare Agencies in Mangalore and has been an associate and advisor to many who value her experience and expertise as evident when she was appointed to the prestigious membership of the National Women’s Commission. Dr Olinda Pereira in her capacity as Director of the Services to the Elderly offered by Vishwas, she has promoted not only the Trust but also the Consortium of organizations in Mangalore, that render service to the Elderly and linked it with organizations associated with Helpage in Bangalore.
Olinda Pereira was born on 15 August 1925 in Mangalore- she had her Ph.D. Mysore University, Mysore; M.A.., Banaras Hindu University, Varanasi.; B.T., St. Ann’s College of Education, Mangalore; and B.A., St. Agnes College, Mangalore, (Madras University). She was later a Internee, Institute of Women’s Studies, Manila, Philippines- 1996; Administrative Assistant, Provincial House, Nairobi, Kenya: 1991-1994; Director, Institute of Social Service, Prabhatara, New Delhi: 1985-1990, 1997-1998; Exchange Professor- School of Social Work, McMaster University, Hamilton Canada. 1978, 1979, 1984; Principal, College of Social Work, Roshni Nilaya 1961- 1984; Member of National Committee on Women in 1979
Her publications include: Understanding Children – 1,2,3, Sallak Publications – 1974; Adjustment and its Correlates among Pre-adolescents – Preeti Publications – 1977; Domestic Workers Struggle For Life-A.T.C Publications – 1985. Dr Olinda Pereira is presently involved in the Care for the Elderly.Visits to the Direction Day Care Centres for Senior Citizens Helpline for Senior Citizens, and Establishing a Golden Age Eco Village for Senior Citizens.
Dr Olinda Pereira is a recipient of various awards namely : Mahatma Gandhi Peace Award, McMaster University, Hamilton 1979; Women Achiever Award – St Agnes College 1997; Sandesha Award for Social Service: 2002; Rachana, Woman of the Year: Mangalore Catholic Chamber of Commerce 2008; Woman of the Year Award – Mangalore University 2009; Veera Rani Abbakka Award for work in the field of Social Service -and Outstanding Manager Award 2011-Mangalore Management association.
Dr Olinda Pereira who is a person of courage, strong faith, values, ideals, love, and years of wisdom makes her who she is. She always stands up for what is true and what is right and knows what is truly important in life. I feel she is indeed a blessing from God, and I respect her with love and gratitude. She has helped shape up many families, their ideals and beliefs, and through her example of steadfast, fervent and humble and friendly touch, Dr Olinda has been an inspirational role model for her family/other families, relatives and friends. Her spiritual life bears witness to the joy of loving, the dignity of every human person, the value of little things done faithfully and the surpassing worth of faith in God. We all should simply adore her qualities and ideals, thereby accepting her as a role model in our lives.
In conclusion let me end this column with the words of Fr Cedric Prakash on his Aunt- ” She is a woman of deep faith and ever since I was a little boy, I realised that she possessed this sterling quality in great abundance. The faith she is imbued with is a triple one – faith in God, faith in others & faith in herself. When one goes through what she has achieved in these 89 years, one will easily realise that all this would not have been possible if she was not a woman of faith. The second quality which strikes me is her fortitude. In spite of the many challenges she has had to face, she has persevered and come out from every situation even stronger. Being born on the day we celebrate the feast of the Assumption of Our Lady, I cannot but help feel that the faith and fortitude which Mary possessed has rubbed off in good measure on my Aunt “.
“Happy birthday to someone who can teach a 20 year old how to be young. Wishing you all the joy and peace you want out of life as you celebrate your 90th birthday, Dr Olinda” -from Team Mangalorean.