Missionary Life

Missionary Life

    "The Spirit of the Lord is upon me, because he has anointed me to preach Good News to the poor. He has sent me to proclaim release to the captives and recovering of sight to the blind, to set at liberty those who are oppressed, to proclaim the acceptable year of the Lord" (Lk.4/18). These verses were written in the personal diary of Sr. Rani Maria. She was attracted by these words and grew up in the desire to become a missionary. Her zeal increased as she at times listened to the experiences of the nuns who were working in the mission areas of North India. She was inspired by the letters send by some of them. "The harvest is plentiful, but the labourers are few; pray therefore the Lord of the harvest to send out labourers into his harvest". (Mt.9/37-38). This call of the Lord echoed in her ears again and again. It touched her deep within.

    Bishop Gracian Mundadan, Bishop of Bijnor in North India, asked Sr. Sophia, the superior of the Ernakulam province of the Fransciscan Clarist Congregation, to send two nuns in order to serve in the Department of Social Services in his diocese. Sr. Rani Maria and Sr. Ann John were chosen to take up this mission. Sr. Rani Maria was very happy that finally what she was longing for came in search of her. Her parents, brothers and sisters were very sad on her decision to go to North India, since it was very far away from her home. She did not succumb to the opposition and tears of her dear ones. With a thirst to proclaim the Good News to the poor she started off for Patna on 9 July 1975.

At Bijnor in the Cradle of Missionary Life (1975-83)

    Sr. Rani Maria began her works giving attention to the education of children in the remote villages of Bijnor. She gathered together the children who used to play with the grazing cows. She made them sit under trees and taught them reading and writing. Gradually, through her hard work, she was able to provide necessary conveniences in order to give basic education to the children of the villages. Moreover, she organized crèches and means of education for women and old people.

    She executed projects of houses, roads, water, electricity and so on. Her relentless zeal was gratefully acknowledged and she was recognized as an established social worker. "Do not be afraid for I am with you always" were the words that gave her strength of mind and generosity of heart to continue the work even in the midst of opposition and problems.

    Sr. Infant Mary, who was Sr. Rani Maria's Novice Mistress and who had direct experiences of her works in the Mission areas has the following to say about her activities in the diocese of Bijnor: "The biting cold, heavy rains, intense heat, irregular meals, lack of water, journey through dangerous forests, lonely moments of helplessness... nothing was a hindrance to Sr. Rani Maria. While travelling she used to pray the rosary. She had her pains behind the adventurous undertakings. She was a junior sister of twenty two years old. But she possessed the inner strength to face and overcome the difficult situations. She never made any complaints about her trials and problems nor did she show the slightest sign of discontentment. But I have seen her difficulties personally."

    Sr. Infant Mary continues: "Her service to the villagers in cooperation with 'The Save a Family Plan' is something very laudable.” With these projects many huts of the bygone days were turned into houses. The narrow pathways became roads. Marshy places were converted into cultivable fields. Wells were dug. Electricity was brought. Woolen clothes were distributed. The poor people were supplied with food articles and the unemployed were given job opportunities. Her works were publicly acknowledged when Fr. Kottoor, the director of Social Services, named a sewing mill of the village as "Rani Mills". This mill was the fruit of Sr. Rani Maria's hard work.

    Fr. Kottoor says, "Sr. Rani Maria was convinced of her call by Jesus. She was inspired by the life style of St. Francis of Assissi. She prayed intensely by which she gained the strength to march ahead even in the midst of various problems." Fr. Raimond, Provincial of the Mission Province of the Carmelites of the Mary Immaculate says, “Soon after the Holy Mass Sr. Rani Maria used to start off on her journey to be with the people of the village. Her passion in life was to share with the poor the love of God. Other nuns of the community were also attracted by her social works. She was a dedicated and zealous person."

    With her eight years of service in Bijnor she was able to bring about radical changes and substantial progress in the twenty villages ranging from Adampur, to Ravali or the city forest as it is called to day. The services done in villages like Adampur, Timarpur, Katchpura, Tikkanpur, Nayagava, Jalra, Ittawa, Chandpura, Manddaval, Lalvala. Bukkara, Khadi, Peda, Bhakkalpur, Salampur, Manddavali, Chottaittava, Ravali, the different parts of the colony of Bangla speak volumes of the hard work of Sr. Rani Maria.

At Odagady in the Diocese of Satna (1983-92)

    On 23 May 1983 Sr. Rani Maria reached the hilly areas of Odagady in the diocese of Satna. There too, she laboured to uplift the poor and the down trodden and to bring them back to the main stream of life. Sr. Rani Maria was firmly convinced that no sacrifice would be too much in order to preach the total liberation proclaimed by Christ. She was of the opinion that one should not be tired to work for the poor presenting them Christ. Sr. Infant Mary has the following words to say about Sr. Rani Maria's mission in Odagady: "The needs of the people were of multi-faced: house, road, water, food, light and electricity, hospital, employment facilities and so on. The people were to be saved from feelings of estrangement, abandonment, peacelessness, and anxiety. They had the desire for knowledge. They wanted to build up proper families. The litany of their needs became always longer. Sr. Rani Maria found out new ways and means to make these dreams materialized. She understood that even though the people looked ignorant and rustic, each individual was full of different capabilities. If opportunities were given they will surely develop. With this aim in mind she organized camps and seminars. Selected youth were grouped into different committees in order to achieve efficient participation from the people."

    Sr. Infant Mary continues: "Big wells were dug and barren land and marshy places were converted into cultivable land. The problem of scarcity of water was solved by constructing small dams, which would conserve water. Fish tanks were built. Machines were erected for oil extraction. The savings of the people were deposited in the bank and were used for further development. Through women organizations she taught the village women to take proper care of the children and to have some sort of order in their own homes. She encouraged small-scale industries and centers of handicrafts. She organized educational programs in proportion to the grasping power of the children, young and aged. Thus, majority of the people of Odagady and the surroundings, who lived in utter poverty, were helped to attain self-sufficiency. She conscientized the poor people about the problem of exploitation by the rich. As a result, she also became the object of displeasure to the oppressors. Works for the upliftment of the poor was misinterpreted as attempts for conversion of Hindus to Christianity. Her life was at times under threat. But she was not discouraged, instead, these turned out to be opportunities for her to reinforce her sense of dedication".

    Often enough the government officials rejected her applications and requests in favour of the poor. They even advised her not to spend her life in vain for the sake of these people. On one occasion, holding on to the cross hanging around her neck, she told humbly to an officer: " Sir, we have accepted this way of life and come here not because we have no means of livelihood at home nor is it because our parents have pushed us out of our families. Look! We have accepted this wayof life, a life of sacrifice, in order to work for Christ in the poor." Gradually her gentle manners, sincere dealings, unselfish ways of action and above all her pleasant way of speaking won over admiration even of the officials.

    In Odgady about 25 villages were the recipients of her services. They are Osgadala, Ujjaini, Baghadi, Battahattad, Chawraghad, Amo, Silab, Bagwada, Lalgadad, Bawdi, Pulaya, Haracoli, Thebani, Jhadi, Sajahar, Jinknowa, Sarahad, Koluva, Kajadasala, Majoli, Mirchuwa, Miniyari, Khajarda, Jhadhi and Thabni.

At Udainagar in the Diocese of Indore (1992-95)

    After 9 years of dedicated and self-less service in Odagady Sr. Rani Maria reached Udainagar in the diocese of Indore on 16 May 1992. Again, Sr. Infant Mary testifies to her life of service here: "She tried to make the adivasis (the hill tribes) and the other ordinary people of the village self-reliant. She chose a few youngsters and gave them training to become animators. She taught them how to help the poor people and themselves by getting financial assistance from the government and private banks of Udainagar and Indore.

    Sr. Infant Mary writes again: "Organizations like Seva Samithi, and Mahilamandal started functioning very effectively. In this way she could help to eradicate the evil of poverty to a certain extent. Houses were built, roads were constructed, and electricity was supplied. The men folk were engaged in small-scale business such as rearing sheep, collecting honey and the women and children became experts at making sandal-wood sticks, preparing jute bags and so on. Again, the marshy places were converted in to agricultural land. Those capable of going for higher education were given the opportunities. Thus they developed a positive awareness about themselves and grew up in efficiency, culture and etiquette. There appeared a silver lining in the clouds of the village of Udainagar and its surroundings."

    The villages where she worked in Udainagar were Semily, Gadaghad, Magradeve, Dhad, Dhavadala, Devnaliya, Shyampura, Mayghavu, Pandhuthalab, Jamasingh, Sithapuri, Visali, Anandnagar, Mirjapur, Subhalghad, Harmodi, Hurapur, Iralipuram, Udayapuram, Sevenpani, Patpadi, Pattadipala, Dupghad, and Dhuladhad.

    Sr. Rani Maria was a mother to the poor in every sense of the word. Sr. Lisa Rose, the superior of the convent in which she lived in Udainagar, remarks: "Sr. Rani Maria mostly worked among the adivasis and among those who were marginalized by the society. They loved her as a mother because it was for the first time that they saw a person who shared their life, lived with them and acted in their favour. Her life was set apart for the poor. Her nature was not the one that would run away from difficulties and oppositions."

    In 1994 Sr. Rani Maria was elected as the Provincial Councilor of her Congregation having the charge of the Department of Social Services. She had to coordinate the social works of all the houses of the Province. On her election to the Provincial Council she said: "Power or position was not important in the field of service. Only the attitude towards selfless service would make one achieve something". Sr. Rani Maria had made deep impressions and left indelible marks wherever she worked. Today, she is known as 'Mother of the Poor', 'Heaven of the Needy', 'Zealous Missionary', 'Smiling Sister' and 'Queen of Indore' or 'Indore Rani'.