Mangaluru: 16 July 2021 was a significant day for the Sisters of the Little Flower of Bethany. Bethany was founded on July 16, 1921, at Bendur Mangalore, by the Servant of God RFC Mascarenhas, the Founder Parish Priest, St Sebastian Church, Bendur, Mangalore with the four spirit-filled daring pioneers namely Mother Martha, Sr Clare, Sr Lourdes and Sr Gertrude from Mangalore. At present, the Congregation is blessed with 1,388 members in 190 communities has extended its branches to 63 dioceses in 9 countries and 26 states in India proclaiming God’s compassionate love.
The celebration commenced with a ‘Thanksgiving Eucharist’ at 9.30 am in the Bethany Mother House Chapel Bendur, Mangalore, Karnataka, India, officiated by Rev Dr Peter Paul Saldanha, the Bishop of the Diocese of Mangalore officiated the Eucharistic Celebration. Fr Paul Melwyn OFM Cap., Episcopal Vicar for Religious, Fr Vincent Monteiro, the Parish Priest, St Sebastian Church, Bendur, and Fr Praveen Martis SJ, Principal St Aloysius College concelebrated. Sr Shanti Priya, the General Councillor welcomed the gathering.
Sr Cleopha, the Administrator read out the Papal Blessing, and a Message from Pope Francis communicated through his representative from the Apostolic Nunciature in India, New Delhi.
The Bishop gave a stirring message that the Founder RFC Mascarenhas was drawn to the plan of God and Bethany had gems of sufferings. Thus he invited the sisters to re-dedicate their lives to the Lord as Bethany completes its 100 years.
Sr Lillis, Asst Superior General proposed the Vote of thanks. The Choir enhanced the devotion by their soul-lifting singing.
In the felicitation message to Sr Rose Celine, the Superior General, his Eminence Cardinal Oswald Gracias, Archbishop of Mumbai Archdiocese and the President of the Conference of the Bishops of India spoke highly about the contribution of the Founder and the Pioneers, who he said ‘got together catered to the needs of the Church, to the needs of the community and the needs of Society. The Spirit moved others to join the group. You have shown the compassionate face of Jesus to many through your Institutes.’ He also prayed that the sanctity of the Founder is recognised and God willing he soon be raised to the honours of the Altar.
Sr Mariette, the General Councillor welcomed the gathering warmly.
Delivering the Centenary Message Sr Rose Celine, the Superior General, reminiscing she gratefully recalled the wonders God has done in the life of the Founder, the Pioneers, the Members of the Congregation through the support of spiritual mentors, benefactors, collaborators and the civil society for a century.
Looking forward towards the second century she said, ‘The doors of our institutions, social and health centres are kept open for the homeless. The Spirit of God anointed us to move to the peripheries and stretch out our hands to the vulnerable sections of the society.... we will strive to grow, flower and perennially bear abundant fruit...We will build human communities in the spirit of ‘Fratelli Tutti’ of Pope Francis to build human fraternity. We will keep our vision clear; with a compassionate heart empower the poor by combating the oppressive systems in all our endeavours.’
Fr Paul Melwyn OFM Cap congratulated Bethany Sisters for their spiritual leadership of one hundred years.
‘And now we know... RFC and Bethany’ a book authored by James D’Souza, a close associate and the admirer of the Founder SD Raymond was released by Rev Fr Vincent Monteiro.
Sr Medela, the senior-most member and Sr Lillis, the postulator of the cause of the Founder who worked for 11 years were honoured. Honouring of the former Superiors General Sr Jyoti and Sr Wilberta was done by Sr Rose Celine, honouring Sr Rose Celine, the serving Superior General by the Bishop Peter Paul Saldanha. The Centenary Souvenir to keep the centenary memories alive was introduced by Sr Assumpta, the Chief Editor of the Centenary and was released by the Bishop.
In his presidential speech Bishop Peter Paul Saldanha congratulated Sr Rose Celine and the Sisters for the achievements of 100 years of Bethany.
Sr Rose Celine recognising the great support received by the Bishops of Mangalore, the Mother Diocese of Bethany, beginning with Bishop Paul Perini, SJ and various other Bishops.
Sr Cicilia Mendonca, the Provincial Superior of Mangalore Province voiced the gratitude of Bethany to the dignitaries and to all present.
The year 2021 is very significant to Bethany Sisters as it has completed the 100 remarkable years of empowering girl children, and women by providing value based, socially relevant and meaningful education, uplift of the poor and the marginalised and providing health care in rural areas to the disadvantaged people.
In the social sector, 142 Sisters with the help of 350 collaborators in the 56 centres serve with great commitment for the all-round development of 1,50,000 women, 1,13,000 children, 1,56,000 youth as well as the uplift of the rural communities irrespective of religion and caste. The pandemic of Covid 19 evoked a compassionate response from the Sisters helping thousands of migrants in their distress across India.
The Bethany Educational Society (R) (BES) was a dream project to organise the educational institutions of Bethany to be a beacon light to give fullness of life to the millions of young lives with a vast network of primary, and higher educational institutions. 185 Educational Institutions including two Degree Colleges, 35 junior colleges, 45 Children’s Homes for the poor, with 3500 staff members in the formal education and hundreds of non-formal education centres in the urban and village slums have given hope of a dignified life. In the health sector, trained in Allopathy, Homeopathy, Ayurveda, physiotherapy, to deal with the mentally and physically handicapped; Bethany Sisters render their service in 4 hospitals and 45 rural village health centres to the most deserving people to whom multi-special medical care is beyond reach. Their service in the Homes of the Senior Citizens brings solace to those whose loved ones are away and need a sensitive heart and a helping hand.
Bethany stepped into the second Centenary with a new hope to continue the vision and mission of the founder with greater vigour and zeal, empowering the girl children, women and rural poor and building harmonious healthy communities.
Sr Rose Celine BS, the Superior General praying for the honours of the Altar for the Founder Servant of God RFC Mascarenhas, declared the Centenary year of the Congregation of the Sisters of the Little Flower of Bethany be closed
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