Bethany Sisters celebrate their centennial, from Mangalore to the Sahara Desert
The Indian congregation founded in 1921 by Fr Raymond Mascarenhas together with four young teachers marks its first a century. Today it is present in nine countries on three continents. In India it remains an important point of reference for the empowerment of women, especially in slums and villages.
Mangalore (AsiaNews) – India recently celebrated the centenary of the Congregation of the Sisters of the Little Flower of Bethany, locally known as the Bethany Sisters.
Father Raymond Francis Camillus Mascarenhas founded the order in 1921 in Bendur, a district in Mangalore (Karnataka).
The clergyman gathered around him four young female teachers with the charism of responding to the most immediate needs of simple people. From this area of the city, the Sisters moved into many corners of the world.
“Ours is the story of a continuous transformation,” said Sister Jyoti Pinto, former superior general of the congregation, speaking to AsiaNews.
“Over the past 100 years, the congregation has grown like a sturdy tree, spreading its branches into nine countries on three continents, from the Sahara Desert to the peaks of the Himalayas.
“In addition to India and Nepal, Bethany Sisters are present in Europe (Vatican, Italy, Germany and France) and Africa (Mauritania, Senegal and Tanzania). The membership numbers 1,378 Sisters.
“In India their service is offered in 26 states and 63 dioceses, taking care of those on the margins, without any distinction.”
As per the mandate of their founder and first pioneers, the Bethany Sisters pay special attention to empowering girls, women and rural communities, through a ministry that is centred on providing pastoral, social, educational and health care, both in urban slums and villages.
The congregation’s social outreach involves 142 Sisters, 350 collaborators in 56 different centres, caring for the all-round development of 150,000 women, 113,000 children and 156,000 youth.
The Sisters stand with migrants and work for the prevention of human trafficking in collaboration with dioceses, other religious institutions, and government agencies.
“In educational matters,” Sister Jyoti explained, “the Bethany Educational Society is a beacon of light for millions of children and youth, especially girls.
“Thanks to a large network of 185 educational establishments, various programmes and informal activities are offered in urban and rural slums, providing hope for a dignified life.”
To mark the centenary, Bishop Peter Paul Saldanha of Mangalore led a thanksgiving Mass in the presence of the current superior general, Sister Rose Celine.
Archbishop Card Oscar Gracias of Mumbai sent a video message praising the Bethany Sisters because through their institutions “show the compassionate face of Jesus”.
Meanwhile, the Church in Mangalore is promoting the cause of beatification of the founder, Fr Mascarenhas. The diocesan phase ended in 2019 and the findings are now being examined by the Congregation for the Causes of Saints.