11/30/2020, 13.46
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Archbishop Barwa among the Sisters of the Handmaids of Mary in Sarat

by Nirmala Carvalho

“The Sisters serve those who are on the edges of the most remote peripheries of Odisha, in remote rural areas. They are witnesses to God's love, and spread the Gospel through words and social work.”

Mumbai (AsiaNews) – Archbishop John Barwa blessed the renovated Convent of the Sisters of the Handmaids of Mary last Friday in Sarat, in the Diocese of Balasore, Odisha.

“In 1994, the nuns opened a house in Lavanyadeipur (Sarat), a village in Mayurbhanj district,” said the prelate. “This convent was renovated, and I was invited to bless it. My niece, Sr Meena Barwa, is the convent’s superior.”

“The Sisters of the Handmaids of Mary are very happy,” Archbishop Barwa explained. “They travel to interior villages. They have a dispensary and provide medical assistance to people; they also have a hostel for girls and boys”.

“I celebrated Mass in the parish, and about 55 people attended; the church is growing in Sarat.”

“The Sisters serve those who are on the edges of the most remote peripheries of Odisha, in remote rural areas. They are witnesses to God's love, and spread the Gospel through words and social work.”

“Before the lockdown they also taught catechism to children and selflessly served the less privileged, the poor, women and children through education, medicine and development works, without any discrimination of faith.

"We had planned a pilgrimage to the tomb of Father Arul Das, assassinated on 1st September 1999 in Mayurbhanj district, but due to the lockdown they were unable to travel."

“At the Sarat Mission, the Sisters of the Handmaids of Mary have made an enormous contribution to the growth of the Church in the tribal area, they serve the common people to develop their social conditions while safeguarding their identity.”

“Through their tireless missionary service, the faith is spreading further to remote rural villages. Every day, parish priests go to remote villages to celebrate the Eucharist. They do not wait for people to come to church; on the contrary, they go to the people.”

“The Sarat mission is a quiet and peaceful place, completely rural,” said convent superior Sister Meena Barwa. “Father Arul Das worked with our sisters. I did not know him personally, but I studied in the seminary where he studied. We wanted to go with Archbishop John on a pilgrimage, to pray at his tomb and be encouraged in our mission.

“This year, 2 September marked the 21st anniversary of Father Arul Doss’ martyrdom. He worked among the poor tribal people of Odisha. He sacrificed his life for the marginalised, the downtrodden, the poor and needy. Together with Archbishop John, we wanted to be strengthened in our mission.”

For Sister Meena, “It was a truly memorable and blessed day. My uncle, Archbishop John Barwa, travelled 750 km to be with me and my Sisters on Thursday and Friday. I asked him to bless our renovated convent. He celebrated Holy Mass and blessed our convent.

“The Archbishop's visit has become part of our history. He knows our four sisters by name even though he only met them after many years. The nuns were delighted with his presence. He appreciated, encouraged and blessed us for our mission. Here we provide healthcare, care for hostel children, tailoring and socio-pastoral work.

“The following day, at the request of the parish priest, the archbishop celebrated Holy Mass in the Holy Family parish church in Lavanyadeipur, Sarat. “Around 60 parishioners were overwhelmed by the Archbishop's homily and words of encouragement.

“His interaction was warm and friendly with everyone, women, men, young people and children. In the history of the Diocese of Balasore, Sarat is the first parish where the Archbishop came and celebrated the Eucharist.

“Together with him were Fr Isaac, administrator of the diocese, and Fr Josekutty, treasurer of the diocese. The Sisters know their fatherly care and keen interest in our well-being.”

"I was sitting in the church and reflecting,” Sister Meena Barwa said. “In this risky time of the pandemic, my uncle, Archbishop John Barwa SVD, put his life in danger (he has heart problems and is diabetic) and met my Sisters, our parishes, the diocese, the Fathers and myself.

“It is really inspiring and I feel more empowered. For the Diocese of Balasore, which is without a bishop, the visit of Archbishop John Barwa was a true show of support, care and encouragement. Praise be to God.”

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