10/09/2018, 14.50
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Handmaids of the Sacred Heart of Jesus mark 50 years in India serving young disabled people

In 1968 the first four nuns arrived in Mumbai where they set up a school in a bungalow. Later the institute opened homes for the disabled, taught nursing courses, and provided aid to the poor. For the current superior, the congregation is “experiencing a new missionary era, which pushes us out towards the peripheries".

Mumbai (AsiaNews) – The Handmaids of the Sacred Heart of Jesus, a female congregation created in Spain in 1877, arrived in India in 1968. For the past 50 years, they have educated young people, served the sick and disabled and trained nurses.

A ceremony with songs and dances was held in the nuns’ honour in Mumbai last Saturday in the presence of about 700 people and 17 concelebrants. Mgr John Rodrigues, auxiliary bishop of the archdiocese, led the Eucharistic service.

"We are grateful for the work done by the sisters who have been witnesses to God, the Church and society for 50 years,” the prelate said.

Archbishop Rodrigues mentioned the Congregation’s foundress, Saint Rafaela Porras y Ayllón, and her sister, Mother Pilar, who "wanted to create a family with universality of spirit and a specific charism for the Church in order to repair the heart of Jesus".

With this aim in mind, Mother Luisa Landecho, the superior general, decided to send the first four sisters to India in 1968 with a specific goal: to serve the special children of God, those with mental disabilities.

On 6 October of that year, aSisters Celia, Maria Dolores Tena, Josephine and Catherine arrived in India. "They had fulfilled their dream", Mgr Rodrigues explained.

"At the beginning they worked as assistants at the Jai Vakeel Foundation*, then the Lord responded to their prayers through the intercession of Saint Joseph and in 1971 they offered a course for children with disability in the Dilkhush (happy heart) bungalow in the parish of St Joseph the Worker in Juhu."

Out of that first classroom came a full-fledged school – the Dilkhush Special School – which now has 11 classes and 100 students and is next to the Dilkhush Teacher Training Center.

The nuns later set up a workshop for adults with intellectual disabilities, the Premadhar Creche for housewives and the St Raphaela Mary Nursery School. The sisters also continue to help the parish.

"We pray to God that he may continue to guide them and carry forward the mission of Jesus with the power of his Spirit,” said the bishop.

Sr Rosario Fernandez Villaran, the current superior general, stressed the motto of the foundress, Saint Rafaela, who said that “Seeing the world enkindles our zeal”.

"This celebration,” she noted, “marks the first 50 years of our presence in India, but also a new beginning. Together with the Church, we are experiencing a new missionary era, which pushes us out towards the peripheries and puts mercy at the centre of our words and deeds."

"Our institute’s mission in India is about living and working with those on the margins, those deprived of their rights, where Christ still meets poverty, exploitation, and rejection." (NC)

* Jai Vakeel Foundation is an institute working to empower disabled children since the 1940s.

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