Bethany Heritage Park Adorn Sisters of the Little Flower of Bethany Convent-Bendore
Mangaluru : Before going further into the report of the inauguration of Bethany Heritage Park on the Feast Day of the Sacred Heart of Jesus at Bethany complex, Bendore, Mangaluru, and the enthronement of the statue of the Sacred Heart of Jesus there, let me give a brief introduction of the The Congregation of the Sisters of the Little Flower of Bethany, which was founded in the year 1921 on 16th July by Rev. Mgr R.F.C Mascarenhas, the then parish priest of Bendur, Mangaluru. This indigenous Congregation founded by an Indian priest began to spread its branches to the remotest village parishes of the Diocese of Mangaluru. The Founder ventured to carry the branches of the Congregation outside Mangaluru and thus to Meppadi in the Diocese of Cailcut in 1937 and West Hill in 1938. Later the house at Meppadi was closed. The apostolate at West Hill flourished in course of time and eventually other houses too were opened in the Diocese.
In the year 1939, two houses were opened in the Diocese of Pune (present Belgaum Diocese) at Dharwad and Guledgudd. In the 1940’s more foundations were made in the villages of Belgaum district, North Kanara and Shimoga district. There was an expansion also in the village of Mysore State. By the year, 1958 there were 22 communities in the Congregation serving the people through different apostolates. Until then the Congregation was governed by elected Superiors General who functioned under the guidance of the Founder. The Founder was no longer able to direct them from that year and the Superiors General who came to be elected later had to carry on the administration without his help.
A house was opened in Rome in 1970 making the Congregation International. By 1970 the number of houses rose to 53 with a great scope for future expansion. So far the Congregation was one unit governed directly by the Superior General with the help of her General Council. But as the number of houses multiplied, functioning as one unit became impossible and Mother Macrina with her council divided it into Regions in the year 1970. Thus, the Mangalore Region came into existence in February 1970 with Sr Agnella as the first Regional Superior who was to carry on her responsibility until the General Chapter that would take place in 1971.
After the General Chapter, Sr Honoratha was appointed the Regional Superior for a term of three years. The Mangalore Region comprising of 19 houses in the Diocese of Mangalore except the Mother House and Rosa Mystica, were entrusted to her care, which she administered from the Mother House. Sr Noreen, the next Regional Superior, took over from Sr Honoratha in 1974 and governed the Region for a period of six years. During her second term the Regional House was fixed at Santa Cruz Convent, Kulshekar. Sr Christella succeeded Sr Virginia as the second Provincial Superior and took charge on 1 June 1993, where St Raymond’s P U College saw the light of day because of her untiring efforts. Her most remarkable service was to the school drop-outs by bringing a ray of hope into their hearts by establishing an Open School at Vamanjoor, in the year in 1996 to enable them to complete their matriculation.
Sr Inviolata succeeded Sr Christella and took charge of the Province as its third Provincial Superior on 31 May 2001. The Mangalore Province found new avenues of service in the states of Kerala and Gujarath. During her two terms, a Pre University College and a Degree College were opened. The Province and society have benefited much from her contribution. The reigns of Province were later in the hands of Sr Mariette, the fourth Provincial Superior. Presently Sr M Cicilia Mendonca is the Provincial Superior here, who took charge in 2016. With the co-operation of her Team, she is leading the province to higher degrees in spiritual growth and all-round development. She’s keeping alive the charism of their Founder, taking sisters to the roots of Bethany, upgrading sisters through higher studies, training the young sisters in diverse fields, tapping resources and preparing future leaders, providing infrastructure for effective mission, launching into Bethany Champions Project. That’s a little history of the Sisters of Little Flower of Bethany.
The inauguration of Bethany Heritage Park on 28th June on the Feast Day of the Sacred Heart of Jesus at Bethany complex, Bendur commenced with the enthronement of the statue of the Sacred Heart of Jesus by Mgr Maxim Noronha, the Vicar General of the Diocese of Mangaluru. Sr Rose Celine, the Superior General inaugurated the Heritage Park consisting of numerous items of spiritual and cultural values. She also unveiled the statue of Jesus in the Garden of Gethsemane and Rev Fr Vincent Monteiro, the Parish Priest of St Sebastian Church, Bendur presented the scene of Jesus crucified on Calvary. Sr Wilberta, the former Superior General paid homage to the portrait of St. Joseph centrally placed in the garden. Mrs Sabitha Misquith, the Ex-MCC Corporator unveiled the image of the Servant of God RFC Mascarenhas and paid her respect.
Mgr Maxim Noronha who conducted the blessing ritual appreciated Bethany Sisters for their unique contribution to the society by setting up this park. He encouraged the audience to be the bearers of love, peace and harmony which comes from a pure heart. Sr Lillis, the Assistant Superior General and mastermind behind the park in her introductory speech said that the heritage park highlighted the vision, ideals and spirituality of the Servant of God RFC Mascarenhas, the Founder of Bethany Congregation and the Former Vicar General of the Diocese of Mangaluru. She called upon the audience to recapture these values especially compassionate love that Mgr Raymond translated in his life.
A lovely terracotta art piece on Jesus and the disciples made by Shivanada from Kerala was inaugurated by Sr Shanti Priya the General Councilor. Sr Mariette, the General Councillor unveiled the memorial to the deceased members of Bethany whereas Sr Cicilia Mendonca, the Provincial of Mangalore Province exposed the sculpture of the Guardian Angel. The herbalgarden section was inaugurated by Sr Maria Roopa AC, the Superior of St Agnes Convent. Mr Stephen Pinto, the Vice President of Bendur Parish and Mrs Mavis Rodrigues, the Secretary and Sr Virginia inaugurated the park, the fountain and the fishpond.
Children took delight in unveiling the portrait of Jesus with children and posed for a photograph. Mr Simon, the ward leader exposed the portrait of the Holy Family at work conveying the redemptive value of work. Sr Lillita, the General Councillor, Sr Christine BS, the Procurator General performed the inauguration of the new gates.The architect, the engineer, and the artist namely Sr Lillis BS, Mr Noel Pinto and Ashwith Rasquinha, the proprietor of Simon and Co were honoured by the dignitaries. Sr Anitha Shanthi, the Superior of Bethany Mother House and Sr Cleopha, the Administrator offered saplings to the notables.
The other attractions to the Heritage Park are: Mgr Raymond Museum, Spiritual-Cultural Centre containing the First house of Bethany Congregation, the Grotto of Our Lady of Lourdes, the renovated Chapel built by Mgr Raymond with religious painting, and an underground tunnel. Sr Hilarita compered the programme.
In conclusion, The Congregation of the Sisters of the Little Flower of Bethany, Mangaluru celebrates its centenary in the year 2021. In view of this, the Congregation has taken up a project of 1000 youth ,training for a period of three years as “Bethany Champions”. The Mangaluru Province is assigned to train 250 youth of the Province. With a Vision: Forming Young Christian leaders of the society, and Mission: Empower Christian Youth towards Fullness of Life, their Aims and Objective-To lead the young to God experience; To foster Gospel values; To build self- confidence and self esteem; To enhance respect for life, nature, cultures, religions and love for the nation; To promote excellence by tapping the dormant potentialities; and To form competent leaders for the transformation of the society. Long Live the Sisters of the Little Flower of Bethany!
With inputs from Sr M Theresine, Sr Sadhana, Sr Lourdes, & Sr Severine-the Bethany Sisters