World Day of the Poor in Karnataka
by Nirmala Carvalho

Heeding Pope Francis’s call, the mission of the Sisters of the Apostolic Carmel in Bidar marked the observance with widows, leprosy patients, and sweepers, who have been traditionally kept on the margins of society. For the Sisters’ superior, a helping hand is better than a handout.

New Delhi (AsiaNews) – Indian Catholics observed World Day of the Poor yesterday.

Established by Pope Francis, the day provided an opportunity for the mission of the Sisters of the Apostolic Carmel in Bidar (Karnataka) to focus on three groups – widows, rehabilitated leprosy patients, and sweepers.

“After a praying together, the Sisters listened to the hardships of these people and played a video highlighting how poverty can lead a poor person to be rich in the heart,” said Sister Christine Misquith, the superior of the Bidar mission. “Afterwards we entertained them with games, food and gave the women a sari. It was an expression of love for the poor.”

For Sister Christine, “One of the better ways to help the poor and the needy is to give a hand rather than a handout; giving them moral support and showing them respect makes them aware that someone really cares about them.”

Sister Nirmalini, superior general of the congregation of the Apostolic Carmel, also spoke to AsiaNews. “Our main mission is the education of girls, but through our institutions, the Sisters take care of the poor as a form of social inclusion.”

This includes “adopting slums and educating children, helping them complete their formal education. Women are included through self-help groups, trained to develop their skills to be self-employed and improve their family life.”

The Sisters also coach weaker students who have no one at home to teach them. In addition, "This year,” Sister Nirmalini explained, “following the constant call of Pope Francis to reach out to the lost and the least, the Congregation decided that no children would be left out of our schools due to the non-payment of fees.”

In fact, “Each of our communities in India and abroad adopted families, accompanying them, both spiritually and materially, in all aspects of their lives.”