THE CATHOLIC HERALD AUGUST 5 2011
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British Sister given last-minute reprieve
Indian government allows Sister to stay in country where she has worked with lepers for 29 years
BY ANTO AKKARA IN BANGALORE, INDIA
THE RESIDENTS of Chickanayakanahalli village in suburban Bangalore were ecstatic when the ambulance from the Sumanahalli Society arrived.
Their beloved Sister Jean, a British sister who grew up in Newcastle and has worked with lepers in India for 29 years, was back.
Montfort Sister Jacqueline Jean McEwan stepped out and a beaming Karilingappa Sekharappa rushed forward on his crutches outmaneuvering two dozen other people with Hansen's disease, also known as leprosy, and their family members who were eagerly waiting the sister’s arrival last week.
Mr Sekharappa, 72, embraced Sister Jean with the stumps of his hands, his palms lost to the disease, decades ago.
Then a group of women, several without fingers, started embracing the sister one after the other with tearfilled eyes.
Healthier younger women clapped and smiled.
“This is l ike my dead mother coming back alive. These are tears of joy,” Mr Sekharappa told Catholic News Service (CNS), an American press agency based in Washington DC, wiping his eyes with a towel. When Montfort Sister Jean last saw the residents, none of them knew if she would see them again. She had been ordered by the government on July 8 to abandon her ministry and leave the country within a week because her residency permit was not being renewed. No reason was given for her deportation home to her native Britain and she was ready to fly to London.
But a desperate appeal by Claretian Fr George Kannanthanam, director of the Sumanahalli leprosy home, the deadline for Sister Jean’s departure was extended to July 25.
Sister Jean and others began to lose hope, however, as the days passed without a response from the government.
More than 100 Sisters, coworkers and priests came together to bid Sister Jean goodbye with a Mass the day she was scheduled to depart.
But an hour before Sister Jean was to leave for the airport, the sister received word that the government had extended her permit for 30 days, allowing her to apply for the normal oneyear extension.
An official said the original order was a mistake and assured her she would be allowed to stay in India “without limit of time”.
As others in the village greeted Sister Jean, Mr Sekharappa recalled how he arrived in Bangalore in 1968, banished from his village near Dharwad in Karnataka state, when he was found to have contracted the dreaded disease. “I was an orphan and beggar in Bangalore streets
Montfort Sister Jacqueline Jean McEwan visits B Shanti, left, and her mother, Venkatalakshmi, at their house near Bangalore Photo: CNS
until I met Sister Jean in 1983,” said Mr Sekharappa, who lives in an independent house in the village, one of five such centres across greater Bangalore.
Mr Sekharappa’s home is one of 44 in the village that
Sister Jean and her colleagues managed to secure in 2006 for people with Hansen’s disease through the Indian government.
“Sister Jean has been looking after us like her children.
We felt orphaned and motherless when we were told that she had to leave the country,” he said.
Sister Jean told CNS as she travelled to the village that she was eager to be back so she could continue the work she began in 1982 when her order ran the leprosy centre in Sumanahalli.
“I just could not think of leaving my people,” she said.
It is not just people with Hansen’s disease that Sister Jean has inspired.
She was credited by family members of people with the disease for assuring that they receive an education and build a solid foundation for a career.
“Whatever I am today is all due to this Mother,” B
Shanti, a social worker of St John’s Medical College Hospital, told CNS. Next to Miss Shanti was her mother, 70-year-old Venkatalakshmi, who had lost her legs, hands and eyes to leprosy and was seated on the steps to their house in the village.
“I still remember how Sister [Jean] took me away from the leper colony and sent me to St Teresa’s school,” Miss Shanti said.
Miss Shanti was born in a dingy leper colony in Sheshadripuram in the heart of Bangalore. But she was educated at an elite English school with the help of Sister Jean and a Catholic charity.
She is one of hundreds of young people whose parents have Hansen’s disease who have benefited from Sister Jean’s efforts.
“Look at all of us. Do we look like children of lepers?” asked M Govindaswamy, 38, another school graduate.
“If Sister Jean had not been there, we would have been drunkards, drug peddlers and rowdies,” the graduate said.
Although some of the elders with the disease still venture into downtown Bangalore to beg for money, their children and grandchildren lead normal lives attending even elite schools along with other children with the support of the network Sister Jean has built.
Even so, Sister Jean finds that children and grandchildren of people with Hansen's disease continue to be marginalised in Indian society.
“The educated people are the biggest disappointment in my work as they still stigmatise the people with leprosy,” she said. “They are still scared about it.”
Catholic charities fear that cuts will hurt the needy
BY ED WEST
CATHOLIC charities fear that Government cuts will severely affect their ability to help the needy.
Research by False Economy, a campaigning group against cuts in public expenditure, found that more than 2,000 charities are closing services or reducing their staff because local authorities are withdrawing or reducing their funding to charities by £110 million.
The pressure group released the figure after making 250 Freedom of Information requests. It found that charities helping children and young people were more affected.
Commenting on the findings and the impact of cuts Dr Rosemary Keenan, chief executive of the Catholic Children’s Society (Westminster), said: “Children are among the most vulnerable within our society, it is particularly worrying that charities working to support them are facing cuts of more than £17.04 million with an average cut of 64 per cent to the charities affected.”
The Catholic Children’s Society provides professional counselling and therapy services to children, young people and their families. The Society received more than £125,000 from state bodies in 2009/10, although it receives almost £700,000 from private donors.
Dr Keenan said: “At a time when many people, who would usually donate to a charity, are cutting their own expenditure, the potential loss of income is considerable. It is also a concern that in many quarters there are those who are questioning the appropriateness of faith-based organisations, such as ours, receiving any public funding to deliver services or to be heard in the public sphere. It follows that we value the support of individual Catholics and the Catholic community, which share our beliefs and values.”
She added: “Now, more than ever, we need what our bishops in Choosing the Common Good described as ‘acts of willing generosity to help others’. Such generosity, whether in terms of financial donations or the gift of time and talents, is essential to the survival of our Catholic charities. Together with our supporters we serve the common Good and are an integral part of the ‘Big Society’.”
Although highly critical of the Labour Government in its last days the bishops have since become critical of David Cameron’s “Big Society” agenda, which some have accused of being a cover for cuts in public services. In April Archbishop Vincent Nichols of Westminster accused the government of “washing its hands” of its responsibilities to communties.
False Economy was set up after the Conservative-Liberal Democrat coalition came to power and is largely supported by trades unions such as Unison and the Fire Brigades Union.
Critics point out that the projected cuts represent just 0.2 per cent of all charitable income in Britain, and that the cuts are the responsibility of local authorities, not the Government.
And Catholic economist Philip
Booth, of the Institute of Economic Affairs, said: “Charity involves voluntary love, compassion and sacrifice to help others through giving money and time. The state currently spends over 50 pence in every pound we earn. The evidence suggests that such high spending actually crowds out genuinely charitable activity, which is so much more effective at meeting genuine need. Too many charities have got too close to the state and have had to compromise their principles as a result.”
Publishers race to print new missals in time for Advent
BY MARK GREAVES
THE BISHOPS’ conference of England and Wales has given the go-ahead for three publishers to produce Sunday missals in time for Advent, it emerged this week.
The missals, containing the new translation of the Mass, will be produced by HarperCollins, Redemptorist Publications and the Catholic Truth Society. They will cost between £16.99 and about £25.
St Paul’s Publishing will be producing its annual paperback missal for just £6. It will provide the readings from Advent this year until the end of 2012.
It is understood that Martin Foster, acting secretary of the Liturgy Office, rejected at least one other publisher who applied for the contract.
Mr Foster said submissions were judged according to the “quality of design and presentation, understanding of liturgical text and if they were offering anything unique”.
He said: “The publishers who were chosen fulfilled these criteria better than those who did not.”
Catholic Blind Services (CBS), meanwhile, has announced it is producing missals in large print formats and in Braille.
Seán O’Donnell, the CBS director, said volunteers were under “a great deal of pressure” to finish everything in time. He said: “There are no paid staff, so everything is done voluntarily and without any funding. If we had been given the texts earlier we would not be under so much pressure.”
HarperCollins, which is owned by Rupert Murdoch’s News Corporation, has built on its previous Sunday missal by adding prayers, readings and illustrations. Its low-cost edition will be £16.99.
Dr Robin Gibbons, the missal’s editor and a professor at Oxford, said extra content would be added, mainly from Church documents, to “help people understand what the Mass is about and how it fits into the vision of the Church’s year”. The illustrations, he said, would be in a Romanesque style – that is, from about 1000 to 1200 AD.
The Redemptorist Sunday missal, which costs £19.95, will contain prayers and an illustrated Stations of the Cross by Redemptorist founder St Alphonsus Liguori.
The CTS Sunday missal, meanwhile, will offer the Latin text of the Mass in a separate column alongside the new English translation.
It will include full-colour illustrations taken from a 12thcentury manuscript, the Ingeborg Psalter, which also feature in the altar missals.
CTS will also be publishing a daily missal, including both Sunday and weekday readings, for about £45.
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