by: Sr. Emily Soliva, tc
The TC missionary presence in India has been challenging from the very beginning of its foundation. With over billion residents, India boasts of diversity in culture, lifestyle, languages and religion. As it is a Hindu dominated country, with almost 80% of its population practicing Hinduism and 2.3% Christianity while others are from different denominations, it was never easy for the missionaries to acquire Visa and enter Indian territories. The first TC sisters used to have Tourist Visa and upon its expiration have to leave which affects the stability of the community. Some sisters were blessed to obtain one to two years of stay through Student Visa which somehow sustained the newly established foundation.
Through the generosity of the Capuchin Fathers of Tamil Nadu, South India, the first community of sisters composed of Sr. Dora Maria Vargas (Colombian), Sr. Anselma Bawag (Filipina) and Sr. Lorena Sacal (Filipina) started implanting the charism in Indian soil on June 2008 in Rameswaram, Tamil Nadu.
LOOKING FOR GREENER PASTURE
After nine years of being in Rameswaram, the only TC community in India moved to Dindigul where ANUGRAHA, the counselling institute of the Capuchin Fathers, is located.
On December 5, 2017 Sr. Emma Bawag and Sr. Emily Soliva travelled to Dindigul along with Fr. Jegan the parish priest. Later that day, Sr. Roselle Niaga reached Anugraha accompanied by Sr. Virginia Pagulon from Tiruchirapalli.
The first weeks of stay in Dindigul were spent meeting the community of the Capuchin fathers in Anugraha which is of the South Province, Tamil Nadu, getting to know the different apostolates they cater, and making themselves attuned to the new reality that they were to embrace.
With the Capuchin Fathers, the sisters are collaborating in their education ministry in the Arts and Sciences Institute that they have in Nochiodaipatty, Dindigul, accompanying the young ladies who come to Anugraha for their studies and are staying in the hostel managed by them, overseeing the needs in the counselling institute and in the pastoral ministry of the parish such as family visitation, participating in the various festivities, etc.
Although the Student visa of the foreign sisters favoured their long stay in India, it is yet bringing another challenge as it calls for more creativity in balancing community life with studies, apostolate and the sisters’ personal process of growth as they continues to adjust to the unique culture and distinct reality of the mission.
Another challenge faced by the foreign sisters is the local language which is an important tool in establishing rapport with the natives eventually gaining their trust and confidence in the long run. Tamil is the official language of Tamil Nadu, the state in India where the mission started, but it got different slangs according to the districts which is bewildering at times. Due to the limited number of sisters in the community with various tasks to attend to, sometimes this aspect of learning the local language is getting compromise. Yet the sisters recognize the necessity and significance of advancing in the practice and use of local language.
In order for the mission to continue flourishing, the need for native vocations is a very important aspect to work on to. This is yet another challenge of Montiel Anugraha community. Most of the young ladies in Southern India especially in the villages are given into marriage almost immediately after completing their secondary studies. Nowadays, majority of the family in Tamil Nadu is having only either a daughter alone or a daughter and a son which is a difficult reality to get vocations to the religious life. Some other factors which affect the formation of the young people in the initial stage are the stability of the sisters, the language, the diverse cultures within India and some health and family issues of the vocation prospects.
A SELF-SUSTAINED COMMUNITY
With the desire to find a solution for the community’s auto sustainability, being in Anugraha is truly providential
Working in partnership with the Capuchin fathers helps the TC mission in India to be a self-sustained community.
At present, the three sisters are employed in the different ministries that the Capuchin fathers are offering in Anugraha. Sr. Princy is collaborating in the counselling and healing ministry alongside the accompaniment of the workers in the Animation Center of the Capuchin Fathers. Sr. Soseth is full time accompanying the young ladies who come to pursue their undergrad and post-grad degrees in the college owned by the fathers. This is as well a good avenue for the community to promote vocation awareness to the young people, to guide them in their spiritual journey in order to grow holistically. The family ambiance, close accompaniment with them and giving them a friendly and familiar approach make them feel that they are in a home away from home, too. Sr. Emily is assisting and collaborating in the education ministry of the fathers in the Arts & Sciences College that they have. Being of service to people with different backgrounds and religions is such a beautiful and fulfilling mission!
The missionary journey in India may be full of unending challenges yet the sisters never felt that they are alone and lack in anything. God’s providential care is always felt through the constant support of the sisters in all the communities of the Vice province, the unceasing accompaniment of the VP team, the untiring support and encouragement of the Capuchin Fathers, the numerous well-wishers around ever ready to extend their generous help at any circumstances, and the hospitality and joy shown by the people they serve and work with and the various faces of poverty which remind them of the mission for which they have been chosen and called to.
Being in the mission may not be that easy but the experiences here in India are truly a meaningful journey of God’s abiding presence and faithfulness. The sisters cannot but thank Him endlessly for sustaining and making the TC mission still alive in this land after facing so many difficulties within the 13 years of its existence. Special gratitude as well to the sisters who have been part of this beautiful history especially to Sr. Elena Echavarren whose love for the Indian mission is very evident from the beginning until now and for all those who have contributed and are still contributing to making our charism known not only in Tamil Nadu but in all parts of India. In God’s perfect time, we trust!