For The Sake Of India
By Sr. Maria Ellazar fmm
India is a vast country with over 800 million people. When Sr. Maria Ellazar, fmm went there 30 years ago, she was overwhelmed by the different exotic cultures and the sense of uprooting which she experienced as she was assigned in new places. Her big fear was not being accepted. Now she looks back and sees all this as a gift from God.
My first assignment was in New Delhi, the capital of India where I spent 10 years in Mater Dei School run by our Congregation, the Franciscans. The school is open to all Christian, Hindus, Muslims, Parsees. Though it is a Catholic school, the majority of our students are Hindus.
Mission in Goa
The life of a missionary is not confined to a particular place, Jesus himself said so. The next two yeas I found myself in Goa, on the West Coast of India, which had been a colony of the Portuguese for many years. Goa resembles the Philippines in some aspect like the beaches, sea, coconut trees. A priest returning from his visit to the Philippines told his friends that life in the Philippines is like Goa, fiesta and siesta.
Uprooted and Replanted
My two years in Goa passed very fast, and then another uprooting took place and I found myself inBombay. So here I am from 1979 up to now. Bombay is a cosmopolitan city, over populated, highly populated, noisy and dirty as there are many slums all over the place. I was assigned in Villa Theresa High School, where I did administrative work besides teaching faith formation and values education, we have around 1, 300 students from kindergarten to high school and some 80 students are Catholic mostly from very poor families. Most of the other students are Hindus from wealthy families.
Break the Barrier
It is painful to see poor children being discriminated against. This barrier has to be broken. It is our goal to bring about mutual acceptance among our students regardless of castle and creed or social status. Surely the little seed sown in their hearts during their stay with us will bear fruit later in life. The rich are taught to appreciate what they have and share it with the poor and the needy.
Perhaps you may wonder what is our purpose in running a Catholic institution when the percentage of Catholics is not even 5%. Well, the Church in India considers education as its main ministry. For me as a religious I can communicate something of my experiences in Christ through my attitudes and values. What better way can I witness my Christian vocation to my non-Christian brothers and sisters except living out my faith, to be a sign of life, hope and joy since I cannot speak to the students directly about Christ?
Teaching to Sharing
One of the greatest challenges to our apostolate today is that of finding ways to serve the poor when we work among the comfortable and well to do. The challenge is to motivate the students to share, to broaden their thinking and to stimulate their good will. We are concerned with an education by which character is formed, strength of mind is developed, the intellect is expanded and one can stand on one’s own feet. An education which will help them to become responsible citizens of tomorrow. In spite of the tragic time we live in, it is our hope that our students will grow up to be caring and loving persons, ready to reach out to their sisters and brothers who live on the edge of life.
For the sake of India
I marvel at the innocence, laughter and creativity of the children as they grow from the tiny tots of the kindergarten into self-conscious teenagers. It is our prayer that the spirit they have developed towards others will overflow into the outside world that they step into and that God who guides the destiny of each one of us will guide them to make their unique contribution to India.