My name is Sr. Marie Manning. I’m a member of the international congregation of the Sisters of Notre Dame. We have 4 provinces in the USA, including one in Thousand Oaks, CA. I’m from the Chardon Province, near Cleveland, Ohio.
I am here at the invitation of the Oakland Diocesan Mission Office and your pastor, Fr. Joyce, to speak to you about Notre Dame Global Missions, staffed by our Religious Community of Women working in India, in Africa, and in Nicaragua, Central America.
What I have to tell you is GOOD NEWS, much like the good news in today’s Scriptures: “Taste and see the goodness of the Lord,” the psalm response encourages us. And Jesus reminds us, “The bread that I will give is my flesh for the life of the world.”
Those 2 passages resonate with me because:
The Mission of SNDs is to share God’s goodness and provident care.
Experience of Eucharist in various countries around the world…JP II’s description “Eucharist is celebrated on the table of the world”…We (and especially our missionaries ) are called to be the bread of life, the body of Christ , esp. for those who do not receive the Eucharist.
Here is the GOOD NEWS I’ve come to share with you:
In 1949, six Cleveland Sisters of Notre Dame sailed to India to begin a mission in the very poor state of Bihar, in a rural area close to Patna. In Jamalpur, a small railroad town, the Sisters began their mission in what was to become a pattern for future ND ministries: a school…and a clinic…. These six sisters’ lives were changed in Bihar, India, and –through them—so have been the lives of many thousands of Indian children, women, and men… as well as the lives of several thousand women who are members of the Sisters of Notre Dame.
As Coordinator of Notre Dame Global Missions, I am privileged to visit and support our sisters and the people they accompany in India, Africa, and Nicaragua.
Facing the challenges of illiteracy, poverty, disease—in the midst of religious and cultural differences—must surely seem impossible at times. But, following in the footsteps of Jesus, our missionaries walk with the people, discerning what will promote the fullness of life that Jesus came to bring.
In India, the Sisters of Notre Dame have been leaders in education since the first American missionaries set foot in Jamalpur in 1949. Currently, about 270 native Indian SNDs, who were educated by the American missionaries, minister in almost 50 schools, teaching about 30,000 children: 5,000 Christians; the rest: Hindus or those of other faith traditions. Young pioneers, like Sr Chetana, venture into remote areas and begin teaching children under a tree. Eventually, a school is built to educate hundreds of children who have come, eager to learn.
Our missionaries educate through all their ministries: in faith formation and spirituality, in formal and non-formal educational programs, in healthcare, and in social empowerment.
Sr Dr Prema collaborates with the Indian government to educate people about the prevention and treatment of TB, a disease that is often fatal in India. This year, Sr Dr Prema and other Sister-doctors and nurses are launching an educational campaign entitled, “Let the Girl Child Live” to raise awareness of the dire consequences of the decline in the number of Indian girls. When I visited India in February, Sr. Amrita, one of our social workers, told me the story of a woman who came to her women’s self-help group for support. She had just given birth to a girl child and her enraged husband became violent. He wanted a boy child, both because Hindu culture expects male children to care for aging parents and perform the ceremonial burial rites, and because girls are a financial burden due to the expected wedding dowry. Self-help groups not only support women emotionally, but also educate and empower women to become literate, to support their families through income-generation projects, and to stand against injustice. In a village I visited with Sr. Assunta, the women welcomed me with dancing and singing, “We will study, we will learn, we will uplift our people. “ In another village, Sr. Sudha, a lawyer who has lived for more than 20 years in a mud hut among the lowest caste people, helps women claim their rights.
In Tanzania and Kenya, Africa, where our native Indian Sisters began their own mission outreach in 1992, our missionaries have invited young African women to join them as SNDS. Now their ministries of education, social work, and healthcare are multiplying rapidly. As in India, our African missionaries will go out to very poor rural areas, gather children under a tree and begin to teach them. Before long, an elementary school is built, and then a secondary school. When tribal African women request pre-schools to better prepare their children for elementary school, Sr Rashmi empowers them to begin their own pre-schools. A special need discerned by Sr Mukti, an Indian nurse, is care for HIV/AIDS orphans and other children in difficult situations. This summer, construction is beginning on a children’s village, where these children will reside, in the loving care of a house parent.
Jinotega, Nicaragua, in Central America is the most recent of our Chardon Province’s global missions. Founded in 2008, in a poverty-stricken area ravaged by many years of civil war, the mission of three Chardon Province Sisters of Notre Dame began with faith formation and religious education in Sangre de Cristo Parish, which includes more than twenty missions in the mountains. As the Sisters live among, and walk with, the people to discern their needs, various other ministries are developing: Sr Dolores has begun youth ministry, Sr. Charlotte is teaching English classes, and Sr. Roseanna is working on a new project aimed at increasing literacy: the establishment of a mobile library, patterned after the “Biblioburro” bookmobile begun in Colombia by Luis Soriano, which utilizes a neighborhood animal to carry books to mountain regions inaccessible to motor vehicles. High school students from Chardon, OH, who have visited Jinotega, are enthusiastically raising funds to support this project.
So what does all of this have to do with you and me?
We may not all be called to work in the mission countries I’ve mentioned, but we are all called to mission through baptism. We are called to mission both locally, in our families and neighborhoods, and globally…as we support our missionaries and work for justice around the world.
This year marks 50 years since the initiation of the Second Vatican Council which emphasized our baptismal call to mission. Let’s renew our missionary spirit this year…perhaps, by re-reading Vatican II’s Decree on the Missionary Activity of the Church. You might also google Notre Dame Global Missions to find our website and Facebook page.
Secondly, Let’s “Have a heart as wide as the world,” as St. Julie Billiart used to encourage her Sisters. When we watch the news, when we read the newspapers, let’s lift up to God in prayer those suffering from war, terrorism, violence, poverty, oppression. Let’s pray also for our missionaries, who accompany those who suffer, and who witness to God’s presence in our messy world. We might even pray that God show us other ways that we might accompany the suffering.
Let’s also encourage our young people to be mission-minded, and to accept opportunities to visit developing nations, where they are likely to gain insight into their privileged American lifestyle, and to have their lives changed by contact with those who struggle for life everyday. I love the words of Dean Brackley, a Jesuit missionary to El Salvador, who encouraged college students: “Let the poor break your hearts”, so that solidarity may be born.
Finally, let’s share what we can. Even a small gift can make a difference:
In India: $1 can provide a week’s worth of rice for a family.
In Africa: $1 a day will provide for an orphan: school fees, uniform, shoes, books, lunch
In Nicaragua: $5 will buy a book, and $50 will buy a bookshelf to store books for the Biblioburro mobile library.
God will bless a hundredfold whatever gift you can give. If you don’t have your contribution with you today, bring it to church next weekend. Checks should be made payable to Christ the King Parish. Please write “Mission Collection” on the Memo line.
I thank you in the name of our missionary Sisters and the people with whom they walk. May God bless you and your loved ones and give you missionary hearts!