India East: “a Young and Vibrant SSpS Province”
Let’s start our world tour by going to India, where we have 4 SSpS provinces and almost 380 sisters. It is really surprising for a Hindu and Muslim country where Christianity is the third major religion, but represents only 2.3% of the population.
The Divine Word Province or India East Province (INE) is the third SSpS Province in India. The Communities under INE Province are spread across three adjacent states- Odisha, Bihar and West Bengal (see map). Out of 15 communities, 10 are in Odisha, and 3 and 2 in Bihar and West Bengal respectively.
The Provincial House is situated in West Odisha, which has better connectivity to other States. Each State has its own official language, nevertheless Hindi, the National Language of the country is proficiently used by people. Although each culture is unique, yet an interconnectivity of cultures makes us adaptable to the society we are engaged with.
Responding to the Appeals of Mission
The GSDP* of Bihar and Odisha are lower than the National average. On an average literacy rate, health care systems and social development programs lack far behind. Hence, the major focus of our mission is quality education through schools and residential schools, affordable healthcare, rural outreach programs, alternative health care programs, social development projects for women, laborers in unorganized sectors and migrants, promoting organic farming, and assisting the faith formation of the Catholic population.
We have social service units, which function independently, promoting social conscientization and empowerment activities. Training in skills development for women helps curb migration and gives better employment scope. These activities are taken up on a par with the vison of government and Non-Government Organizations of the country. These services are benefitted by rural and economically poor folks.
Women at skill training. Women from Near by villages of Gomardih come to our center for learning sewing and embroidery.
Partnership in Mission
Collaboration in mission is our strength. Most of our mission stations are working in collaboration with dioceses or other Religious Congregations. Collaborative efforts are undertaken in health care and educational sectors. In this manner we manage the administration of one school and two boarding schools for tribal students. These institutions are owned by three different dioceses.
On the other hand, we have number of sisters working with other religious institutions as employees. Collaborative mission ushers in the feeling that we are working towards one common mission – the Mission of Christ.
The benefits of partnership in mission are innumerable, as they provide good opportunities for the sisters to learn and extend the services in larger circles. The more we are bifurcated, the higher the benefit of making known our congregation and the uniqueness as SSpS. And it’s a fact and privilege to say that we as SSpS find better acceptance and accolades in other institutions, as our identity as internationality and interculturality give it worth.
Demographic Division in the Province.
INE Province is a young and vibrant Province. We are a total of 78 members. The average age of the sisters is 49. Our membership is both veteran missionaries and fresh members. The official language of the Province is English, however the National Language of India – Hindi – and few other state and tribal dialects are mastered by our sisters as per the need. The communities consist of intercultural membership. We integrate and adapt to the culture of the place that we are in. That makes it easy for people in our neighborhood to accept our presence.
Most of the sisters in the Province hold higher degrees of education in the apostolates in which they are involved. The Province also makes facilities for the aspiring sisters to undertake studies, either private or short-term courses, which help them to excel in their ministries.
Pitching ourselves among the poor, less privileged, exploited and helpless population is our blessing. We are able to make our presence vibrant – whether it’s a collaborative mission or an independent one. We are able to move according to the needs of the time – like engaging with migrants, eco-balancing programs, world standard quality education, women empowerment, family apostolate, youth animation and alternative health care systems. The simplicity and commitment of the sisters make it possible to be flexible and creative in the mission. We are blessed to have more and more young women opting to join the SSpS family, who become an asset for the entire congregation.
Financial constraint is a huge dilemma, as local economic sources are not viable. The selfless hard labor that sisters engage in, takes a toll on their health critically. Every community is engaged in activities which are far more than their actual capacity. Mission suffers due to lack of personnel. Although we have lay employees, we still need to build up a capable and committed lay leadership.
Compiled by Sr. Tessy Jacob SSpS, Communication Coordinator INE
*GSDP is the sum of all value added by industries within each state or union territory and serves as a counterpart to the national gross domestic product (GDP).