The congregation was founded in 1951 by a bishop from the Pontifical Institute for Foreign Missions. As the number of elderly nuns increases, a facility that helps them in their daily life has become a must. The younger sisters take care of the older sisters.
Dinajpur (AsiaNews) – "We felt there was a need to open a home for elderly nuns and we did it inside the convent,” said Sister Gertrude Costa, 62.
Speaking to AsiaNews, the nun, who is a member of the Catechist Sisters of the Immaculate Heart of Mary, Queen of the Angels, known simply as the Shanti Rani (Queen of Peace) Sisters, explained why the congregation reserved a wing of the convent in Dinajpur to care for its older members.
The Shanti Rani Sisters are a local religious order founded in 1951 in Dinajpur by then Bishop Giuseppe Obert, a missionary with the Pontifical Institute for Foreign Missions (PIME).
The congregation is the second largest in Bangladesh in terms of membership with 178 members, 35 per cent are over the age of 60.
Sr Gertrude explains that the decline in vocations in the last few years, accompanied by the progressive aging of the religious, pushed the order to create a home for those who, because of their age, need more help in the daily life.
"We are like a family,” she says, “and the elderly sisters need more care and deserve respect. We are grateful because they made an enormous contribution to the congregation and the Church in Bangladesh. We have a duty to take care of them."
Sr Teresa Mardy (picture 3) is one of the elderly nuns. Now 84 years old, she was the fourth nun ordained by the congregation. "I spent my entire life working in remote areas as a catechist. I preached the message of God and transformed the lives of people [following the example of] Christ.”
At present, she can hardly walk and barely remembers the past, but the sisters say she is really "spry". "I have worked my whole life for the Lord and now I spend my old age praying," she said.
Sr. Assunta Rozario (picture 4), 80, remembers that when she was young, “I had never seen a nun. When I arrived at the hostel in Dinajpur, I saw foreign nuns for the first time and I had the inspiration to become like them. I served in schools for 43 years, working as a catechist in the remotest villages. I visited non-Christian families and taught them about Jesus Christ."
Sr Bernadetta Gomes (picture 1), 84, trained novices and taught in schools. Today, filled with emotions, "I spend my days in prayer and receive many visits from relatives, friends and former students who bring me gifts."
She remembers with joy the years of her youth. "I believe my religious life has served something. Now I wait for my end to rejoin God. I thank him every day for sending me to work in his Kingdom ".
Sr Jacinta Soren (picture 2), 80, says that following her example of life, "two other relatives of mine chose to become nuns. I have received so many blessings serving the Church and the Lord."