The Apostolate of FCC Sisters in Mananthavady Province
What follows is an account of the various services FCC sisters render in their Province in Mananthavady. They are sent to a place with many special features and hence, the services had to be tailored to suit the requirements of the environment. The Catholic and non-Catholic Community in Wayanad consists of families that migrated from places where Christianity was long established. Hence, the services were not of a missionary nature; though in Rajasthan and in parts of Karnataka they are so. In Wayanad, all of a sudden the migrated families found themselves in quite unfavourable surroundings such as deep forests, wild animals, virgin land, and biting cold and cut off from the main centers of civilization. There was a struggle for adaptation and survival. Hence, the sisters had to become like unto them in order to be able to assist them. Their services, therefore, had to be simple and placed at the grass roots of human needs. However, their relevance is recognized as great and they are in tune with the Franciscan Spirituality.
Foremost of the services the FCC earns render, is healing, a ministry very dear to Our Lord, Jesus Christ. It is also a fundamental need of the community they are thrown into. The farmers can produce food materials by their hard work. They can also put up shelters of various types and styles. Though scarce in the beginning, their income could buy clothing of some sorts. However, when they fell sick, everything get upset. Their expertise was inadequate to heal themselves. Here the sisters came to their succour as nightingales and brought to them trained basic medical assistance.
Though rooted and provincialized in Mananthavady, Wayanad, the Province has also taken up extended work in Karnataka, Rajasthan, Germany and Italy.
The sisters run primary dispensaries in almost all the places they are present in. They also serve as expert assistants in full-fledged hospitals as in Kalpetta, Germany and Italy. As of now, in Kalpetta alone, a fleet of 14 sisters works. In Germany, they staff a hospital and an Old Age Home (a great need in that country). Nine members are working there. Italy has the presence of four members and three of them are working in the healing ministry. One among them render free service in the field of re-evangelization and counselling. In Karnataka the sisters run five dispensaries and in Kerala two homeo dispensaries are staffed by them. The Province has tree Allopathic, one Homeopathic doctors, 28 staff nurses and 10 paramedical staffs. It maintained a leprosy home for some time; but this area of work though befitting for the daughters of St. Francis had to be abandoned. In many places recently, good hospitals came up and the sisters had to give up their dispensary works.
Healing is a mystery and often is nothing less than a miracle. Much of Our Lord's miracles related to healing the sick and raising the dead. Same is the experience of the sisters engaged in this ministry. Some of these are also seen and recognized as such by the local community as well. Needless to say, it is highly rewarding to the sisters, even at this end of the grave.
This ministry ramifies into many subsidiary services such as helping the poor dialysis patients. People may be reluctant to donate a kidney, but they do donate some money for the benefit of the unfortunate dialysis patients. The sisters stand in between the donors and the recipients as catalysts to keep the charity going.
Recapturing the addicts through Alcoholic Anonyms is another subsidiary service. The very last service in healing is to prepare the terminally ill for a peaceful death whereas the very first of such services is to grant a child the right to be born (pro-life). The sisters extent their work to cover these two ends.
Pain and palliative Care
This is an important area of service FCC sisters have taken up in co-operation with the Government and other interested agencies. Many incurable diseases take their tolls in some of the families in Malapuram District and their plight is worse than that of the hospitalized patients. Their spirits are low and the loneliness they suffer is beyond any description. The sisters reach to them, serve them, encourage them and give them company as often as possible. This boosts up the spirits of the other family members also. Occasionally they are taken to the Palliative clinics for a short period in order to give them a change and the family a short relief. The last days of these patients are made beautiful by prayers and loving care. As human beings, they deserve these and more. This service is dispensed at present from four centres. A qualified doctor heads the entire team. Likewise, the paraplegia patients are brought once a week to the centre at Chungathara, for physiotherapy and Rehabilitation.
Christmas Celebrations are arranged yearly with the active participation of the poor, marginalized and local community of Choottakadavu.
In collaboration with the Social Service Society of the diocese, FCC sisters do what they can for the welfare of the community. The scheme consists of many programs and the sisters make it a point to participate in most of them.
They also plan and organize schemes of their own. Sky-birds are the community of beggars in and around Mananthavady. once in a while they come together in the Provincial house and spend a day playing games, singing and praying. They are dressed well, they eat well, and they enjoy themselves and forget to be beggars at least for a day. The police and other agencies appreciate this service and help the sisters in whatever way they can. Similar groups of AIDs patients, Mental patients and other marginalized sections are also organized and run by the sisters. The homeless are particularly cared for and provided with. Marriage, treatment education, occupational training etc. are beyond the ken of many poor people and the sisters extend a helping hand. Of course, many people of good will replenish the other hand of theirs.
People in Wayanad live a life very close to Nature. This Mother Nature is sometimes very harsh on them. Flood, landslide, drought and similar inclemency of weather deeply hurt them. Since most of them are farmers, they are often rendered helpless by the loss of livelihood consequent upon these calamities. The vacuum so created is soon filled in by the service of the sisters. They bring them relief from different corners. This of course is possible due to the charity of other men of good will.
Jail ministry and Harijan Welfare are also some of the areas to which the sisters give their substantial contribution.
Institutional care for the unfortunates
The sisters run the old age home at Sagar, owned by the diocese of Bhadravathi and a special school at Thonichal owned by the MMB brothers. At Anavatty the MCBS Fathers have an orphanage for girls and another for the Physically Challenged. FCC sisters assist both of them.
There are old age homes for women, orphanages for girls and homes for the physically challenged owned and run by the sisters in Kalpetta, Karackamala, and Dwaraka. There was a home for the physically challenged in Battery and it served very well for 15 years. But unfortunately this Mercy Home had to be discontinued from 2010. In Kalpetta alone 91 poor old women found shelter, support and treatment and 29 of them passed away peacefully. From Karakkamala, no less than 600 girls passed out and are leading fruitful lives. Presently 37 young girls are being educated and formed here. From Dwaraka about 60 young ladies passed out and 24 of them are growing in age and wisdom. To support these helpless ones, the sisters go around looking for patrons and certainly enough the latter are available or are made available by the Heavenly Father.
Addiction is a deep-rooted social evil, which requires the concentrated efforts of many powerful agencies. The sisters cooperate with the efforts of the KCBC wing and a sister of this Province did so well as to be selected as the best performer. They do whatever they can to enlighten the public that if this one evil is eradicated from their midst, the consequent progress they can achieve is beyond any reckoning.
Guidance and counselling
The present day human society is tense up to the brim of tolerance. It sometimes spills out into many varieties of mental sickness and borderline cases. Old good advice does not work. Hence the sisters give them professional Guidance and Counselling. One such center functions in Kalpetta adjacent to the old age home. Thousands benefit from this ministry. This center is really a recharging station for a cross section of population in and around the State.
Family is under great pressure these days. Unit families as opposed to joint families are very much exposed to many vicissitudes. Love and affection have given way to personal pride and individualism. Children no longer rotate around their parents and teachers. Family has turned out to be a small crowd. The sisters see a lot of room there in for genuine help and service. Frequent visits, hearty conversations, small acts of love and care, subtle advices..these are the ways they find to remedy the situation ever so slightly. Sometimes when heavy electrical engines stop working, cleaning up the terminals serves as a remedy. The sisters try to clean the terminals of the wires through which love is supposed to flow to the different units in the family and the results are often amazing.
This has always been a major concern of the church. Much of the resources of the congregation is being utilized in this apostolate. This province establishes and runs mainly nursery and primary classes. For the rest, they serve in the schools of the diocese or in those owned by other agencies. The province believes in classroom apostolate rather than in administrational service. The sisters are therefore able to impart effective influence without ever getting involved in peripheral messy things.
The diocese has an educational mission called EFFECT and the province really spearheads it. The members of the province work in the educational field outside the diocese also in accordance with the situations and policies prevalent there
The little lambs of a parish are almost fully entrusted to the sisters. They teach them catechism and prepare them for the first Holy Communion. There are those organizations for the little ones. The sisters direct the children to take part in whatever group is active in a given parish. They also give them publications such as Kinnari, Kunjumalakha, Gothambumani, Christeen, Snehasena etc and feed their minds with appropriate reading materials. The sisters work actively in the Catechism office at Dwaraka and in the diocesan catechism team. Most of the sisters of the Province have attended the HDC courses conducted within the diocese.
The sisters participate in this ministry in two ways. A more direct form of it is practiced outside Kerala whereas in Kerala a more indirect way is used. Religious dialogues and introductions to the Christian faith are in vain in Karnataka and Rajasthan. In and around Wayanad what may be called re-evangelization is the approach adopted. Accordingly, a deepening of Christian faith and practices is aimed at and worked for. In Zion, the retreat center of the diocese, and in the prayer groups, the sisters are a lively presence. They take courses such as Kerigma, and Didache; participate in ministries such as Christeen, Jesus Youth, lead choir and function as animators of umpteen groups such as KCYM, Mission League and Mothers' Forum. In short, they try to work as the leaven of the parish.
This is a Retreat team. They go from place to place giving meditational talks and spiritual exercises. Many children are thus addressed to, both at the school level and at the College level. Parish level retreats are also undertaken by the team. Many a new media is used for this purpose along with effective counseling.
This report of the various ministries the members of the FCC province engaged in, is verbose and grammatically oriented. It could not be otherwise. The main Apostolate of the sisters is to be present in the midst of the Christian and non-Christian community given as their social milieu. It is the quality of this presence that matters and not the heresy of the verbalized activities. This quality is perceived by the immediate social milieu and the way they evaluate it is all that matters. Nay, the Divine Lord sees all that and his judgment matters most and only that matters.