Friday, September 16, 2016

Nun in Kandhamal: the faith of persecuted Christians has strengthened my vocation "the faith of the persecuted people in Odisha in 2008 confirmed the more my desire to serve Jesus as a nun,” Sister Santowna Singh, of the Servants of Mary (HM), told AsiaNews.
The nun took her final vows on 8 September during a ceremony at the Risen Christ Church in Kalunga, officiated by Mgr John Barwa, archbishop of Cuttack-Bhubaneshwar, and Mgr Kishor Kumar Kujur, bishop of Rourkela, in the presence with 40 priests, 55 nuns and more than 2,000 faithful.

Sister Singh comes from the district of Kandhamal, where in 2008 Hindu radicals carried out the most vicious slaughter of Christians to happen ever in India.

"I was impressed,” she said, “by the simple but strong faith of Christians. It strengthened my love for Jesus and spurred me to serve the poor in the Church. It gave me the strength to become a messenger of Christ."

Sister Singh has four brothers and one sister. She was born in the small village of Mardipanka and her vocation matured attending the St Sebastian Church in Saramuli, in the Archdiocese of Cuttack-Bhubaneshwar.

She jointed the Congregation of the Servants of Mary in 2008, and made her first profession of faith on 8 December, just as in the pogroms were raging District.

Last week the nun confirmed her vows along with other 18 sisters. Of these, 14 are from the Sundargargh district, in the diocese of Rourkela, three from the neighbouring state of Jharkhand, and one from the district of Kandhamal.

"The flame of the faith of persecuted Christians is in me and the others,” she said also speaking on behalf of the other nuns. “In all there is the power and grace of God. We are grateful to the Lord for giving us this wonderful life to serve in Odisha, which is one of the poorest states in all of India. "

After Odisha became the scene of persecution, there was an exponential rise in vocations. In 2009, nine Sisters confirmed their vows; in 2011 and 2012, four more did the same each year; in 2015, there were 14; in 2016, 19 in last week’s ceremony.

At present, the nun teaches at a high school of St. Mary's parish. "I love to teach and pass on the joy of the Gospel and God's mercy to my students,” she said. “I am proud of my land of persecution, where God continues to bless Christians."

During the confirmation ceremony, Mgr Kishor Kumar Kujur reminded the sisters that "It is your free choice and responsibility to serve Jesus in others. The religious vocation requires to serve with total dedication. To all of you is given the burden of the mission and this is to be accomplished with the help of prayers and the grace of God. Be steadfast in the love of God and surrender to his will in all you do."

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