8 March 2012
Sister Bincy Joseph assists girls with their homework at Mother Mary Home for Girls in Kerala. (photo: Sean Sprague)
Today through 31 March, CNEWA celebrates women. Throughout the month we will share stories about the women who are vital to the work of CNEWA. You can find items here on the blog, through our Facebook page, Twitter, and our newly-minted Causes page. On the Causes page, you can stop by to give toward our $20K matching campaign, share a story, or just show your support and spread the word.
Today’s story comes from the March 2008 edition of ONE. In A Place to Call Home, Sean Sprague reported on the work of a group of sisters at an orphanage for girls in Kerala:
Sister Jean Mary emphasized that Kerala, while largely rural, is densely populated, as much as three times the rest of India. And up to a third of the state’s population live below the poverty level.
Most of the parents of the girls at Mother Mary Home work as day laborers at local quarries, brick factories or large rubber estates. Wages are abysmally low, the work, seasonal and hunger, common. Parents often find it necessary, Sister Jean Mary said, to send their children out to work to supplement their meager incomes. The parents of these girls are so socially and economically marginalized that they never bothered to obtain birth certificates for their children.
As its stated mission, the orphanage offers the children the chance to lead a “fulfilling and self-reliant life in close relation with other people.” To this end, the sisters do their best to create a homey atmosphere, prepare healthy meals, nurture the girls’ spiritual growth and faith in God and encourage them in their academic work so they may find gainful employment as adults.
The girls attend local Catholic elementary schools, which are within walking distance from the orphanage. Classes for kindergartners and students through fourth grade are held at a school half a mile away. Junior high school classes are conducted at a Catholic school two miles away.
For more, read A Place to Call Home. Don't forget to join us on Causes and follow along with our updates throughout the month!
23 February 2012
Tags: India Sisters Orphans/Orphanages
Father Francis Eluvathingal performs a wedding ceremony at the Jyotis Care Center in Navi Mumbai. (photo: Peter Lemieux)
For the January 2012 edition of ONE, Peter Lemieux reported on how migrants from Kerala, India have built a church community in Mumbai. Father Francis Eluvathingal, a principal leader in this community, spoke with us about his vocation via Skype. Check it out below.
10 February 2012
Tags: India Kerala Syro-Malabar Catholic Church Priests
The Eparchy of Kalyan’s dance troupe rehearses a traditional Keralite routine during an annual celebration for mothers’ groups in Mumbai. (photo: Peter Lemieux)
In the January 2012 issue of ONE, Peter Lemieux tells the story of Keralite migrants in Mumbai and the strong community they’ve created with their common faith and traditions:
Many of the migrants were Christian. Known collectively as “Thomas Christians” after St. Thomas the Apostle — who, according to tradition, evangelized among Kerala’s coastal communities in the mid-first century — most Christian Keralites belong to one of several Eastern churches. By far the largest is the Syro-Malabar Catholic Church, with some 3.6 million faithful worldwide.
“Keralites who migrated to Mumbai had very deep faith,” says Father Eluvathingal. “Once they came here and found jobs — on the railways, in government or in banking — and were happy in terms of their stomach, with bread on the table, they immediately began searching to satisfy their spiritual needs.”
Without a church of their own, the first Thomas Christian migrants joined one of the many local Latin Catholic parishes. Since the 16th century, when Portuguese missionaries settled in Mumbai and the neighboring state of Goa, the Latin Catholic Church has been the predominant church in the region.
To learn more about this group of Keralite migrants, read A Church of Their Own. Check out the rest of the articles and multimedia features from the January 2012 issue online.
31 January 2012
Tags: India Cultural Identity Kerala Syro-Malabar Catholic Church Emigration
In this image from 2005, a recovering alcoholic attends a meeting of Alcoholics Anonymous in Kerala with his daughter. (photo: Cody Christopulos)
From India today comes word that Catholic leaders are considering taking a hard line against drinking, to battle a worsening problem:
Church leaders in Kerala today declared war on liquor consumption, maintaining that alcohol abuse is the root-cause behind many broken families in the southern Indian state.
The Church is planning to list drinking as a cardinal sin that should be confessed, said Father T. James Antony, secretary of the Kerala Catholic Bishops’ Council’s (K.C.B.C.) Temperance Commission.
The commission is drafting a proposal in this regard for the council which should be finalized by June, he said.
People in Kerala are said to be the biggest drinkers in India, drinking three times the national average.
A recent study by the Alcohol and Drug Information Centre revealed that alcohol dependency is even spreading among children aged 10-15.
“Alcoholism is a social menace which is destabilizing families and claiming thousands of lives every year,” Father Antony said.
We reported on Kerala's problem of addiction and the people struggling to recover in 2005:
Each year, the state consumes 2.2 gallons of liquor per capita, about three times the national rate, according to India’s Outlook magazine.
“In Kerala, people tend to start drinking once they are 18 years old, which is the legal age for being able to purchase liquor,” said Father Titus Kattuparambil, a Syro-Malabar priest of the Eparchy of Irinjalakuda and assistant director of Navachaithanya.
“Among the bad cases, you’ll see people who earn about three dollars a day, and they’ll blow two dollars of that on alcohol.”
Both national and local governments have acknowledged the problem of alcoholism, and alcohol advertising is illegal. Kerala’s state government also funds several detoxification centers at public hospitals. But at the same time, Father Titus pointed out, the government in Kerala – as in other Indian states – draws revenue from liquor taxes and therefore has a fiscal disincentive to curb alcohol consumption.
For more, continue reading One Day At a Time in Kerala. For further information on the K.C.B.C. Temperance Council, click here.
23 January 2012
Tags: India Kerala Indian Bishops Alcoholism Substance Abuse
Sister Leema Rose makes her evening home visits to the sick and those struggling to make ends meet in Dharavi, a slum in the center of Mumbai. (photo: Peter Lemieux)
Yesterday, Al Jazeera reported that the Indian government is pushing forward with a plan to re-develop Mumbai’s largest slum, Dharavi. The plan could compromise the livelihoods of millions. In the July 2011 issue of ONE, Slumdog Sisters profiled the work of the Nirmala Dasi Sisters in Dharavi.
Already, local authorities, under pressure from powerful developers, are planning a large–scale development project for the area. Ironically, Dharavi’s now international notoriety as India’s worst slum has only intensified efforts to reclaim and gentrify the squatted government land.
In response, Father Pinto and other leaders have begun mobilizing the community, informing its members of their rights and advocating on their behalf. Though Father Pinto senses he faces an uphill battle, he refuses to stand by quietly and watch his parishioners, friends and neighbors forcibly displaced from or priced out of their homes.
“In 25 years,” the priest sighs despondently, “you’ll find a different face on Dharavi.”
Whatever the future holds for Dharavi and its residents, one thing remains certain: the Nirmala Dasi Sisters will continue to serve Mumbai’s destitute, abandoned and marginalized.
For more from the Al Jazeera story, check out the clip below.
9 January 2012
Tags: India Sisters Poor/Poverty
Mr. and Mrs. Mathew prepare dinner while Jiya plays with her grandmother.
(photo: Peter Lemieux)
Emigration occurs in many of the countries CNEWA serves. Families generally choose to migrate from their country of origin in order to make a better life for themselves. In Kerala, it is common for a family member to migrate to another country and send home money or ”remittances.“ But those not benefitting from emigration face the harsh realities of poverty and lack of opportunity in Kerala:
About a mile or so from the Peters family’s new home — in a neighborhood where residents claim ”Gulf money“ has built 90 percent of all the houses — huddles the rundown shack that Jeji and Priya Mathew and their 1-year-old daughter, Jiya, call home. A ratty, blue plastic tarp tacked crudely over the entrance collects leaves. Water stains splotch the interior walls of this cramped, makeshift dwelling. Toothbrushes and other toiletries fill the shallow crevices of an exterior brick wall around back. With no running water, the dirt landing adjoining the shack’s rear is where Mr. Mathew shaves, his wife brushes her hair and Jiya plays — mud puddles at their feet.
Unlike the Peters family, the Mathews do not receive any remittances from overseas. The family struggles just to secure the basics.
For more, read Kerala’s Bittersweet Phenomenon from the September 2008 issue. Also, take a look at the accompanying multimedia feature, Meaning and Measure of Kerala Emigration.
29 December 2011
Tags: India Kerala Poor/Poverty Emigration Employment
Sister Leema Rose and volunteer Jancy Kuthoor visit the homes of needy residents in Dharavi, Mumbai’s most infamous slum. (photo:Peter Lemieux)
In the July issue of ONE, Peter Lemieux reported on the work of the Nirmala Dasi Sisters with Mumbai’s poor. Many of the people the sisters serve live in Dharavi, Mumbai’s most infamous slum. Today’s front page of The New York Times featured an article on Dharavi and it’s residents’ unwavering hope in spite of the many odds they face.
The computer sits on a small table beside the bed, protected, purchased for $354 from savings, even though the family has no Internet connection. The oldest son stores his work on a pen drive and prints it somewhere else. Ms. Baskar, a seamstress, spends five months’ worth of her income, almost $400, to send three of her children to private schools. Her daughter wants to be a flight attendant. Her youngest son, a mechanical engineer.
“My daughter is getting a better education, and she will get a better job,” Ms. Baskar said. “The children’s lives should be better. Whatever hardships we face are fine.”
Education is hope in Dharavi. On a recent afternoon outside St. Anthony’s, a parochial school in the slum, Hindu mothers in saris waited for their children beside Muslim mothers in burqas. The parents were not concerned about the crucifix on the wall; they wanted their children to learn English, the language considered to be a ticket out of the slums in India.
For more, read In One Slum, Misery, Work, Politics and Hope.
15 December 2011
Tags: India Sisters Poor/Poverty
St. Joseph’s girls perform a traditional Keralite dance. (photo: Cody Christopulos)
In the September 2005 issue of ONE we featured a story on St. Joseph’s Orphanage in Pulincunnoo, Kerala:
But for all its classes and study periods, St. Joseph’s Orphanage is hardly a brain-stuffing sweatshop. The girls have plenty occasions for fun, and even the classes are likely to be interrupted by a fit of giggles. On feast days, the girls choreograph elaborate dances, which they perform in their school uniforms and bare feet in the orphanage’s common room. There is also occasion to sing, play sports and gossip. The girls also tend to their pets — tiny turtles that have made their home in the orphanage’s garden.
“Nearly all the girls are scared when they first get here, which is only natural,” said Sister Flower Mary. “But they soon make friends. We try to make this transition period as easy as possible for them by making sure the new girls are well-attended to.
“In many cases, the friends they make here will be with them for the rest of their lives,” Sister Flower Mary continued. “And they will always be a part of my life. Just because they move away and get a job or get married doesn’t mean I don’t stay in touch with them. We are all one big family.”
For more from this story see, St. Joseph’s ‘Orphans’.
5 December 2011
Tags: India Kerala Orphans/Orphanages
Boys at Bhorathannoor Ambeaker Harigen Colony show off hats the village sells in larger towns. (photo: Cody Christopulos)
The work of priests in CNEWA’s world is often crucial to the communities they serve. In the November 2005 issue of ONE, writer Paul Wachter explored the sometimes challenging ministry of priests in rural India, work which can even include helping people learn new skills — such as how to weave hats like those pictured above:
Bhorathannoor Ambeaker Harigen Colony is home to 700 families, 100 of whom are Catholic and the remainder Hindu. Most of the Catholics entered the church about 10 years ago, the priests said.
The villagers live in small brick homes — they have one or two rooms each and the roofs are made of coconut leaves. There is a lone, tiny convenience store in the village, which sells a few staple goods and packets of candy that are popular with the children.
“There is a general lack of education in the area,” Father John said back at St. Mary’s. “There is a lot of unemployment and most people are small farmers who work only here and there throughout the year. That is why we try to introduce programs such as basket weaving or making other handicrafts.”
For more from this story see, Village Priests.
30 November 2011
Tags: India Kerala Village life
Boys watch at the shore as a boat of fishermen heads out to sea in Kerala, India.
(photo: Luke Golobitsch)
Today is the feast day of St. Andrew, the patron of fishermen. In this image from our archive, taken in 1990, fishermen in India head out to sea at sunset.
Tags: India Kerala