The mission to the Andaman Islands “is really difficult. We have taken it as a challenge to reach out to the people with God's grace,” said Sister Hilda Mary, of the Franciscan Missionaries of Mary, as she spoke to AsiaNews.
For 20 years, she has carried the Gospel message in a hostile
environment. Yet the nun is not discouraged and has already started a
series of activities for the Jubilee Year of mercy.
The Andaman and Nicobar Islands are a territory of the Indian Union,
located in the southern part of the Bay of Bengal. The archipelago
comprises 572 islands, islets and rocks.
The capital is Port Blair,
which takes its name from Captain Blair of the East India Company.
The islands are accessible by air and sea – 1,244 km from Kolkata
(West Bengal) and 1,190 km from Chennai (Tamil Nadu). The population
includes various tribal groups and ethnic minorities: Tamil, Bengali,
Negrioti, Adivasis, Punjabi, Malaysians and Telegu.
Port Blair is the archipelago’s only archdiocese, created in 1985,
with 14 parishes, four men religious and 10 sisters, including some of
Mother Teresa's Missionaries.
Sister Hilda belongs to the Franciscan Missionaries of Mary, one of
the congregations active in the area. Present since 1995, it is involved
in pastoral work among the natives and aboriginals.
The nun, who works at St Joseph church in Ferrargunj, said that the
missionaries "arrived in Ferrarange, 37 km from Port Blair, on 29
“St Joseph Parish is run by Salesian priests, and covers 15 locations
with 709 Catholic families. We collaborate with priests in all
activities and work together in the villages."
The missionary says that she and three other sisters live as a family in a community called Navadeep,
i.e. new light. They collaborate with the pastoral and educational
ministry, animate the liturgy and prepare what is needed for Mass.
"Here people are simple and comprise various cultures,” she
explained. “Tribal groups speak different languages. We carry out our
mission for them, living our religious and missionary life with a new
way of being and see God in each one of them, everywhere. "
Locals contribute to different activities as groups. Women are involved in the Mahila Sang
group, in charge of maintaining the church, helping the sisters and
keeping the faith alive in the family. It meets every month in the
parish church to lay out the work to be done.
Young people are in a second group, which is very active in the life
of the villages. They participate in the choir, medical camp, and
visiting villages. "Young people play a very important role in the local
church,” the nun says, “and we are very interested in the growth of
The male group, the third and last, is called Purush Sang, and is involved in parish decisions under the guidance of the parish priest.
As for the work of Franciscan nuns, Sister Hilda notes that they are
in charge of the catechism for communion, confirmation, premarital
courses and accompany parents until their child’s baptism. The nuns also
visit the sick and the elderly and bring them the Eucharist.