Nuns Gone Lawyers? 3 Nuns not Only Serving Christ but also Defending People in Court.
Mangaluru: When is the last time that you had met a religious Sister either in a convent, Church or in the Public, who is also a lawyer? Probably not. But now you will, after reading this article, where three nuns from Mangaluru are not only leading a consecrated life but also defending people in the court in their legal matters. You may wonder how can one be a nun and a lawyer? It’s possible, and here are three examples to prove it. A layman can be a lawyer and a judge — that’s graspable. But can anyone picture a nun arguing in the Court room in front of a judge? A woman lawyer — that can be imagined, because women lawyers appear on TV in quite a few shows!.
Sister Asha Preethi D’souza, Sister Rekha D Lobo and Sister Kala Nicholas
There are lots of differences as a lawyer than as a theologian. Mental content and mental processing have to change in multiple ways to practice law. And practicing law is very different from teaching law. But one respect these nuns cum lawyers get in court is that they are referred/called as “Sisters” and not as “Madams”. But when they speak at a parish event or involve in a convent event, they are called as Sisters. If it’s an interfaith event or a public gathering and if they are present as nuns, they’re usually “Sisters”?
These nuns experience deviance from older ideals proposed to vowed women religious — that the ultimate goal of personal spiritual development was becoming ever more fully a woman who fulfilled the vows, a woman religious consecrated to God. However, the reality is that they have been living “out there” in the evolution of their lives through several distinct ministries. Apart from their religious activities at the convent/church, they are also fully engaged in the legal matters/arguments in the Court. And that has been the life of these three religious Sisters living in Mangaluru, who proudly say that they are happy with their lawyer profession and they like what they are doing in fighting for justice for those who really need it.
Narrating about Sister Kala Nicholas who for 10 years has been practicing law as a civil attorney in private practice, serving both paying and pro bono clients. She alternates her light brown coloured religious sari with her black lawyer coat, when she is at the court. And her daily prayer is followed by skillful oratory in the courtroom. Sister Kala is a nun from the Congregation of Ursuline Franciscan, and had worked as a social worker in Haveri and North Karnataka in her initial days, before she felt that she should take up the lawyer profession so that she could help people who needed legal help but could not afford it.
Speaking to Team Mangalorean, Sister Kala said, “I was working with tribal communities such as Lambanis, and other tribal. Since they were not aware of laws and legal formalities, and this inspired me to take up the legal profession, and I am happy that I took the right decision, where I have fought in the court for the legal rights of these less educated people. The young woman realized she needed to become a lawyer, and she did. I am happy about what I am doing and many a times I try to settle few of the cases out of court so that my clients don’t have to face all the hassles and court proceedings”.
Daughter of Late Nicholas who was a postman, and Ms Rosy Nicholas, a housewife, Kala hailing originally from Hunsur, is the second of three girls in the family, namely Pushparani, Cecelia and Shamala, were all three are married and well settled. Sister Kala did her schooling in Govt School-Ratnapuri Colony, College at St Aloysius College, Mangaluru and her Law at SDM Law College, Mangaluru. Before taking up full time job as a lawyer, she worked as a social worker for Roshini Social Action Centre, Hangal in Haveri Dist. Practicing as a civil lawyer under M/S Manu Advocates in City, where she handles cases related to Matrimonial, motor vehicle accidents, property issues, etc. Sister Kala is the only nun to become a government notary, and she has also been appointed as the Christian Marriage Registrar for Dakshina Kannada.
For ten years now, she has had the unique experience of following two vocations seemingly at odds with one another: consecrated life and defending people in court. But according to Sister Kala they are not at all at odds. She smiles and says, “I don’t see any conflict. I do not share the assumption according to which lawyers are liars. A lawyer is ultimately a human being with a human heart. The individual decides which side he/she will take up. And if you follow your conscience, you’ll always be on the right side”.
To illustrate how she balances profession and vocation, Sister Kala says: ‘We are all sinners. Criminals are sinners when caught, but many turn out to be good later. As a lawyer I try to stand by the truth. So I make a number of visits to the petitioner, his/her family, and understand the situation. Until I am convinced that the person is in the right and needs help, I won’t take it up”. Sister Kala offers free legal assistance and does not discriminate between religions and castes. She gives preference to those who cannot afford a lawyer. “The law of God is a rule of life”, she passionately says and according to this rule she has defended quite a number of cases in ten years. With her life and work she weaves the language of the Gospel – a language that comforts the marginalized – into her closing statements.
Yet another nun from Ursuline Franciscan congregation is Sister Asha Preethi D’souza, daughter of Bernard D’souza, an entrepreneur and Ms Leena D’souza, a homemaker, having two brothers, Dr Ajith D’souza and Er Avith D’souza. She did her schooling at Sacred Heart school, Surathkal; College at Govindadasa College, Surathkal, and Teachers Training at Capitanio Institution, Mangaluru, and later did her law from Kohima University, Nagaland. She has been practicing law in Mangaluru as independent lawyer from her convent office in Bolar, near Rosario Cathedral, since 2016.
Speaking to Team Mangalorean, Sister Asha said, ” When I was a law student, I worked extensively with prison inmates in the Northwestern states. This showed me how difficult it was for prisoners to get legal help. I felt a strong urge to commit to the well being and rehabilitation of prisoners. This is when I received what I refer to as a ‘special call’. I became more sensitive to the needs of the marginalized and of those who suffer behind bars. In them, the Gospel says, is the suffering Christ”.
The young woman realized she needed to become a lawyer. “I began visiting prisons more frequently, helping inmates with their material needs. But that wasn’t enough. All they want is to be able to look at the blue sky again. Today, I am very happy for the right decision that I took in becoming a lawyer, thereby fulfilling the mission given by Jesus, who was also a counselor and fought for justice, especially for the poor” said Sister Asha. Working as independent lawyer from her convent office, Sister Asha offers legal help in marriage, family-related issues and also cases related to domestic violence. I charge fee from only those who can afford to pay and for others who are not financially sound I offer them free service. Even though sometimes this job is quite hectic and stressful, but I am satisfied and want to continue my profession”.
To illustrate how she balances profession and vocation, Sister Asha says: ‘We are all sinners. Prisoners are sinners who are caught… there are those who make reparation and turn good in prison. We need to have mercy and give them a helping hand”. And she goes on to say: “Detainees, deprived of their freedom, are ‘last among the last’; helping them is not in conflict with the teachings of Christ, indeed it is their implementation”. As a lawyer”, she adds, “I try to stand by the truth. So I make a number of visits to the petitioner, his/her family, and understand the situation. Until I am convinced that the person is in the right and needs help, I won’t take it up”.
Sister Asha offers free legal assistance and does not discriminate between religions and castes. She gives preference to those who cannot afford a lawyer. “The law of God is a rule of life”, she passionately says and according to this rule she has defended quite a number of cases. With her life and work she weaves the language of the Gospel – a language that comforts the marginalized – into her closing statements.
Now meet one more nun from the Sisters of Little Flower of Bethany Congregation, Sister Rekha D Lobo, the daughter of Marcel, an agriculturist and Eliza Lobo, a home-maker, having three more sisters, Rita, Reena and Renita in her family, who are all married and settled well in life. Having done her schooling at Carmel Convent Girls High School in Modankap, Sister Rekha completed her college at St Agnes College, Mangaluru, and her law at SDM Law College, Mangaluru. She has been practicing her law since 2016.
But recently she was appointed as Superior at her convent, Sister Rekha had to temporarily stop practicing her law, since it was hard to handle the responsibilities at the convent and legal matters. Having specialized in civil suits, criminal law, procedural law and drafting, Sister Rekha said that she will continue her law profession once her term as Convent Superior ends. Sister Rekha asserted that religious nun lawyers, while practicing legal profession, share the mandate of Christ who assured justice for the poor and downtrodden in society. “Both the Old Testament prophets and the public ministry of Jesus witnessed this delivery of Justice. As religious lawyers we want to become catalysts in defending the cause of the poor and marginalized and to become a watchdog of the evolving legal system in the changing socio political scenario in the country” she added.
In conclusion, if you readers might be still wondering, how can one be a nun and a lawyer? But of course! Justice and Catholic nuns go hand-in-hand! All these nun lawyers see their roles as lawyers fighting for social justice meshing perfectly with becoming religious nuns. The three Sisters Kala, Asha and Rekha say “People have such a misconception of what nuns are, we’re supposed to run into the world, not out of it. Our eyes are wide open, and our sleeves are rolled up.. There are so many struggles of the poor and oppressed. If we’re not engaged in some kind of social change, then something is wrong. We had met and seen some impressive women doing the kind of work we wanted to do. We found out that these women were lawyers, and we were inspired by what they were doing, and that planted the seed for going to law school, and look now we are all lawyers fighting for justice for those who need us to help them in their legal matters….”
“We knew we had to find the beauty in the middle of all the struggle. Our decisions is something we feel at peace with. In a world that values, money, power and sex, We are ready to live the vows of poverty, chastity and obedience. We believe that our vows have a lot of meaning, and we feel like we are called to that commitment.” added the Nuns.
Apart from these three nuns practicing law in the City, there was yet another nun who was a practicing law in Mangaluru, has moved back to her hometown in Nagaland recently. No doubt that these nuns have been courageous, determined and committed to have stepped into uncharted water. As you read the unique life stories of these three nuns, what strikes you? What gives you something to think about in terms of your own life?