Sister Tudu: 'My mission from Dinajpur to Florence'
by Sumon Corraya

The Santal nun carries out her ministry in a house where six very elderly nuns from another congregation live. "Today we have many local vocations, so we can serve the world as missionaries".

Dinajpur (AsiaNews) - From Bangladesh to Italy to carry out their mission at the service of elderly religious of another order. This is the story of Sister Tarshila Tudu, 37, of the catechist Sisters of the Immaculate Heart of Mary Queen of the Angels. The religious congregation was founded in 1951 in the diocese of Dinajpur by the then bishop Joseph Obert, a PIME missionary, recounts her experience.

Sister Tudu is one of the 50 missionaries who left the small Church of Bangladesh to carry out their ministry abroad. Of Santal ethnicity, originally from the parish of Lohanipara (Rangpur district), Sister Tudu has carried out her ministry in Florence in the convent of the Sisters of Saint Francis de Sales for the last three years.

In Bangladesh for a period of leave Sr. Tudu tells AsiaNews: “I work in a convent in Florence where six elderly nuns live. I take care of them. I take care of their needs, I keep them company, we pray together”. Of the six elderly nuns, two are bed ridden, but the other four also struggle to walk: without the help of someone they would not be able to leave the house.

Sr. Tudu explains that the Sisters of Saint Francis de Sales have carried out a valuable service for many years. They had a renowned school in Florence, but now they are all very advanced in age: the youngest is 87, the oldest 99.

The Bangladeshi nun says she is happy with this service: “Once they served the people as missionaries, and now I am serving them as a missionary. This gives me joy. I was surprised to see the loyalty, commitment and regularity in their community life despite their age. They love me very much”.

Her congregation has been caring for these elderly nuns since 1988. Before her, another sister, Sr. Shila, worked in Florence for 11 years as a nurse. Three other catechist Sisters of the Immaculate Heart of Mary Queen of the Angels, who came from Bangladesh, are living their mission in Italy in another home for the elderly in Lecco, Lombardy.

“Our greatest challenge - says s. Tudu - is the language. Then the food, which is very different from ours. But with the collaboration of the elderly nuns I have overcome them both.”

On her vocation she recalls: “Having failed the secondary school exams, my parents sent me to the convent of the Sisters of Charity in Dinajpur to learn how to sew. But staying with them, I decided that I wanted to be a nun too. I went back to school and after passing the exams I entered for formation among the Catechist Sisters of the Immaculate Heart of the Queen of Angels, also in Dinajpur. As a nun I really like community life and prayer.”

If in the sixties and seventies there were many foreign missionaries who came to carry out their ministry in Bangladesh, now their number is declining and it is the Church of this country that sends its missionaries into the world.

“At the moment - comments the nun - we have a sufficient number of vocations among the local clergy and nuns. Thus we can serve the world as missionaries”.

The same congregation of the Catechist Sisters of the Immaculate Heart of the Queen of Angels today has 164 religious women, most of whom are young. And the four novices in formation have already said they are ready to leave for another country if asked.

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