09/01/2017, 14.29
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Mother Teresa's Sisters, 'front-line missionaries' in the Orissa pogroms

by Nirmala Carvalho

Sister Suma is the regional superior of the Missionaries of Charity in Akhola, Maharashtra. In 2008, she led the congregation in Orissa. They brought relief to the Christian victims and survivors and risked lynching. The memory of the Saint of Calcutta, a few days ahead of the first anniversary of her canonization. The example of Saint Francesca Saverio Cabrini, "a challenge for the life of the Mother".

Mumbai (AsiaNews) - Being on the side of the weak and helping those who need it in every situation, even at the cost of one’s own life. This is the teaching of Mother Theresa of Calcutta, the "mother of the poorest among the poor," which Sr. Suma of the Missionaries of Charity testifies with her commitment to the latter. In his case, the least were the Christians of Orissa, who in 2008 were the victims of the most fierce persecution by Hindu nationalists in Indian history. A few days ahead of the first anniversary of Mother Teresa's canonization, which took place in the Vatican on September 4, 2016, the missionary speaks to AsiaNews recalling those moments of violence and how she and the other sisters, in the face of danger, chose to follow the example of Mother's love despite everything.

In August 2008, when Hindu radicals sparked pogroms against Christians, Sister Suma was the regional superior of the Missionaries of Charity in Orissa. In those days of sectarian ferocity, the religious led a group of missionaries to a refugee camps to assist and comfort the victims. But the car in which they traveled was attacked by radicals. The sister tells that the criminals threw rocks at the vehicle and they would have been lynched if the village elders had not intervened to save them.

For their courage in those days, then Archbishop of Cuttack-Bhubaneswar, Msgr. Raphael Cheenath, called them "front line missionaries, who have challenged the danger and the assaults to give comfort to the victims and survivors."

Sister Suma, who directs the congregation today in Akhola, Maharashtra, reports that the Saint of Calcutta's commitment to the marginalized, the poor, those who were excluded from the society because ill or disabled, is joined by the example of another saint. This is Saint Francesca Saverio Cabrini, a US nationalized missionary, founder of the Congregation of the Missionaries of the Sacred Heart of Jesus, protector of immigrants. "Mother Theresa - the religious says - wondered how she could follow the footsteps of Saint Francis, who did not expect the souls to go to her. It was she herself who went out to seek souls with other zealous volunteers. The saint's life was a challenge for Mother Teresa that she wondered, 'Why can I not do in India what St. Francis did in America?' ".

Until "On September 19, 1946, there was what Mother called the 'call within the call' while traveling on a train to Darjeeling." The nun says that in the '40s in India, and especially in the West Bengal area bordering Bangladesh, there were so many suffering people. The famine of 1943-1944 had caused nearly 4 million deaths, three million of which t in the city of Calcutta alone. On that train trip, the nun of Albanian origin knew what her mission was: "Never remain indifferent in a state of sorrow, pray to give relief to the afflicted, to take care of those who suffer." In a nutshell: be at the service of the poorest among the poor in Calcutta. "And from that moment on, she said, the grace God has given her knew no end."

Sr. Suma reports, many years have passed since that day, and "Mother has always promised to give saints to Mother Church. She promised martyrs, and among us there are 11 sisters and a brother who have given their lives for the faith. "

In conclusion, the religious wants to remind all Catholics of Mother Teresa's words: "May you have the courage to answer God's call until you hurt; may your life disperse the darkness of the world; may you become a herald of God’s love and compassion and of His presence in the circumstances of the world; God bless you all. "

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