Sr Lidwin Fernandes is the executive secretary of the Women’s Commission of the Conference of Catholic Bishops of India. She has a long experience in youth outreach. Not worried about taking on great responsibilities, she is interested in making sure that everyone feels precious “in the eyes of God”.
Lucknow (AsiaNews) - Sr Lidwin Fernandes, a member of the Ursuline Franciscan Congregation, is the new the national executive secretary of the Women’s Commission of the Conference of Catholic Bishops of India (CCBI).
She has a long experience in youth outreach, as a leader of women's youth. For her, serving young people "is challenging, indeed a great gift from the Lord to see Him in his young people.”
Here she talks about her mission and vocation, but also her illness, which she describes as “a blessing in disguise” because it enabled her to understand that the Lord was calling her to serve others as a missionary and to work so that every young person can feel precious “in the eyes of God”. This is her story.
I hail from Arva parish (Mangalore Diocese) from South India, born to the late Thomas Fernandes and Mrs. Rosy Fernandes, as third child on 18 July 1977. I come from a small village situated at the foothills of Western Ghats. As a child and young girl, I had enough opportunities to be surrounded by the church activities, and attend summer camps every year conducted by the CRI (conference of Religious of India) of Mangalore diocese. All these opportunities led me to remain very close to the Church and choose to be a religious.
I belong to the Ursuline Franciscan Congregation; my first profession was on 4 April 1999 and now I joyfully completed 20 years of religious life. After my initial training in South India I was chosen to be a missionary and my first appointment was in Uttar Pradesh, North India. The extreme weather of North harmed my health little by little and I was called back to my homeland for treatment but the ill health was a blessing in disguise. In my ill health I built up close relationship with my Lord, spent time learning about computers and music and obtaining a diploma in youth ministry. Thereafter, a little stubbornness as well as longing to be a missionary did not keep me at home but recharged me so that I could return where I was chosen before.
On my perpetual profession on 5 April 2006, “Pro Amore Dei” (for the love of God) the motto of my Congregation became my personal Motto too. I had a deep desire to be with young minds, to know them, love them and live with them.
This great desire led me to Guma (a village in Kolkata). Three times a week the little children would gather in different houses and spend time in Bible studies. I had to learn Bengali, the local language, to be effective in my ministry.
My wonderful community and superior along with the parish clergy always encouraged me to go ahead in the ministry. Thus, for 5 years I organised programmes and Bible studies at the parish, zone and deanery levels. Soon after this I was transferred to the City of Joy, Kolkata, where I served at the St John Berchmans’ school as principal and at St Mary’s School as the sister-ii-charge. The love to the younger generation grew and that led me not to worry about my responsibilities but to serve the young generation. Thus, I was appointed in the Archdiocese of Kolkata as diocesan female youth leader for the next 5 years.
Youth ministry is challenging. It is indeed a great gift from the Lord to see Him in his young people. For the young, every moment, every step, every thought is new. Because of my ministry I faced the challenges of becoming a prey of the Anonymous letters, insults, gender discrimination etc.
However, the most important thing to me is that every young person should know that they are loved, they are precious and that they are a unique gift from the Lord. When I was appointed as national coordinator for YCS/YSM India (2018), I grabbed the opportunity and proclaimed to every young mind possible that ‘God loves you as you are, you are precious, loving, and unique child of God’. Today as executive secretary for the CCBI’s Women’s’ Commission I continue to proclaim the same and make everyone feel important in the eyes of God. Today let us ask “to be like the ‘kindly lights’ amid the encircling gloom”.
* National Executive Secretary of the Women’s Commission of the Conference of Catholic Bishops of India (CCBI)