Sister Lizzy Chakkalakal heads Our Lady's Convent Girls Higher Secondary School in Kochi. In 2012 she provided the first house to a needy family. For her, “the birth of a culture of sharing and mutual care among local people" is more important than just providing housing.
Kochi (AsiaNews) – "The Passion of Jesus drove me to open homes for the poor,” said Sister Lizzy Chakkalakal, a member the Franciscan Missionaries of Mary (FMM), an order present India since the early 1900s.
The nun, 47, heads Our Lady's Convent Girls Higher Secondary School in Kochi, Kerala. In 2012, she provided the first ‘House Challenge’, a house for the city’s poor. Since then, she has provided a total of 54.
"My source of life and work is Jesus, who loved the poor,” she told AsiaNews. “This is my way of showing love, concern and solidarity to the poor. The Church is here to give hope and a better life to those in need. We are doing all we can for the poor out of love."
In Kochi, a city on the southwestern coast of India, the nun has become a point of reference. Thanks to the co-operation of students, teachers, lay Catholics, as well as also ordinary people "of good will", she offers a roof to those in need. Her houses are available to everyone, regardless of faith or cultural tradition.
Sister Lizzy noted that the cornerstones of the Franciscan Order are social justice, human rights, and the nourishment of the spirit. For this reason, her congregation has made the promotion of justice, human dignity, harmony and communion between people and communities the basic principles of its socio-pastoral ministry.
For her, "The values of the Gospel and Jesus' actions are not abstract things. They are living and life-giving expressions They are to be lived and expressed in concrete actions.”
In actual terms, “Our work of building houses for the poor and other missionary activities are meant to communicate love, justice, peace, care, concern and compassion for others, human rights, and dignity," she noted.
The "House Challenge" is one way in which she can achieve something concrete for the families of students who live in miserable conditions.
"I was assigned to be a teacher even though I wished to be a full-time social worker.” So, one of her habits, after school hours, has been to visit the families of her students.
During such meetings she realised that many of them were living in unsafe and undignified housing, and most of the parents suffered from some form of addiction like alcoholism. Children and women were the most vulnerable.
This led her to the idea of the first house. At first it was just about people sharing materials and tools, following by the actual construction of a house.
Donations from private individuals, public bodies and churches provide the funding for the construction of housing for the poor with the authorities choosing the needy family who can benefit.
However, the most important thing for the nun "is the birth of a culture of sharing and mutual care among local people”.