By Ankita Thomas, SCN
Nazareth Convent, Nongdiwah — Sisters of Charity of Nazareth began ministry initiatives among the people of North East India in 2018 by responding to an invitation from the Nongstoin Diocese, Meghalaya, to collaborate with them through the Diocesan Social Service Society. On March 18, 2018, Lilly Luka, SCN, the pioneer to North East India, Meghalaya, accompanied by SCNs Philo Kottoor and Reena Theruvankunnel, reached Nongstoin. They were welcomed and accommodated at the Bishop’s house. In Meghalaya, 90% of the people there are Christians, but the language and culture were entirely different from what the Sisters were familiar with. The next day, they participated in the liturgy, which was in the Khasi language. The active participation of people in the Mass and their welcoming attitude made the Sisters happy, and they felt at home among the people.
Father George Jarain, the Director of Nongstoin Social Service Society (NSSS), took the Sisters to the NSSS Office, where Sister Lilly was going to work. On the 20th, they met the Archbishop of Shillong, Dominic Jhala, the Apostolic Administrator of the Nongstoin Diocese. After the meeting, the contract for collaborative ministry was signed with the diocese.
Sister Lilly worked as the Program Coordinator for NSSS and rendered her services for three years. She was given accommodation in the office building. In the beginning, she faced many challenges, but her missionary spirit and trust in the Providence of God sustained her through all the hardships. Sister Lilly Luka is known for her pioneering work. During this time, Sister Lilly got many opportunities to visit nearby parishes and convents as well as villages. She learned the Khasi language within no time, which helped her to make conversation with people around her and to understand them in a better way.
By the end of the year, the parish priest of Nongstoin requested the Province Leadership to extend the collaboration in the education ministry, too. Thus, on March 18, 2019, Grace Binita Tuti, SCN, was appointed to teach at St. Dominic School, Nongdiwah Village, an upper primary school under the Nonbah Parish Society. This school was quite far from the NSSS center. So one of the parishioners, John Syiem, offered accommodation, and Sister Binita stayed with the family.
On May 30, of that year, Selma Lepcha, SCN, also joined St. Dominic as a staff. The accommodation in Jhon’s house was not sufficient for two additional persons. So, the SCNs decided to rent a house. Mr. Alexander, one of the teachers from St. Dominic, offered his old house, which was vacant, to the Sisters. On Aug. 10, 2019, the parish priest celebrated Holy Mass at Nongdiwah Church and blessed the house of the Sisters in the presence of a few neighbors and religious Sisters who came from nearby places.
In the meantime, Bishop Dominic Jala, the Apostolic Administrator of Nongstoin Diocese, directed Father George Jarain and Father Wilbert Marawein, parish priest, to look for a suitable land for the Sisters to build a convent. The people of Nongdiwah were extremely happy to have the Sisters, and one of the parishioners and staff member of St. Dominic, Lucy Nogseij, a generous person, gifted a small plot of land which is adjacent to the school to the Sisters to build a convent. The SCNs are ever grateful to her and her family. The Diocese also offered a small plot of land that was next to Lucy’s land for the Sisters to use. Immediately, the construction work for the convent began.
Finally, the long-awaited day came. April 28, 2022, was an auspicious day for our mission in Nongdiwah, Meghalaya, as the new convent was blessed with a beautiful, well-organized function on this day. The Eucharistic celebration was presided over by Father Anselm Nonglang, the Administrator of the Nongstoin Diocese and concelebrated by Father Wilbert Marwein, the parish priest, Father Eugene Thyrniang, the procurator and Father George Jarain, the director of Family Commission of Diocese. Jackulin Jesu, SCN, the Vice President of the Congregation at the time, cut the ribbon. Sister Philomena, the provincial at the time, in her address thanked everyone for their support and cooperation given to the Sisters. She expressed her deep gratitude to Sister Lilly, who took care of the construction work and to Father George for his constant support and guidance of the Sisters. The whole function was planned, organized and executed by the people. It was indeed a MISSION MOMENT that will be engraved in the history of SCN Patna Province.
At present, the community is blessed with four members — SCNs Lilly Luka, Dolsie D’Mello, Chandrakala Tigga and Arockia Prabha. Sister Lilly is the coordinator of the house. She is involved in socio-pastoral ministry and is well-known to the parishioners. Through her regular visits to the families and her knowledge of the local language, Khasi, the Sisters of Charity of Nazareth are well appreciated here.
Sisters Chandrakala and Dolsie are involved in the education ministry. Sister Chandrakala is the assistant principal of St. Dominic School, which is owned by the diocese, and Sister Dolsie is in charge of the primary section. When the Sisters came here, the enrolment was only 65, and classes were up to standard 8. Now, the strength of the school has increased to 354, and the school is upgraded to standard 10. They have 12 teaching staff. With the support of the parishioners, the diocese is renovating the infrastructure and other facilities in the school so that more students can be enrolled from the neighboring villages.
Sister Arockia is in charge of the socio-health program, and she visits the villages to give health awareness classes and conduct health camps. One of the main thrusts of the SCN community is family ministry, and they participate in family prayer and all the other functions in the families. All of them give importance to the faith formation of the people. The impact of the SCN presence is already bearing fruit. The people have owned the Sisters as their own family members. The seeds sown today will surely bear a rich harvest.