Darjeeling, Oct. 29, 2008 :
Loreto sisters of Darjeeling Region in West Bengal decided to take up "Rights based Approach in their community development" programme. All the sisters of the Institute of the Blessed Virgin Mary (IBVM) in the Region attended a workshop on "Redefining Development", Oct. 26-29, 2008 to review their social apostolates in Darjeeling.
Education has been our greatest strength. Now we would like to take up a pioneering role in developmental work in the villages where we are working, said Sr. Monica Alfonso, Regional Superior based in Siliguri about 550 kms north of Calcutta. Presently they have seven centres in Darjeeling district of West Bengal, Sikkim state and Nepal.
Frs. Puthumai Nazarene, Social works Director of Raiganj diocese and Ignatius Philo Sarto, Secretary of the Bengal Regional Forum facilitated the workshop. They elaborated the developmental concepts and various models of development adopted by various NGOs and in the Church. The facilitators extensively quoted the Bible to elaborate the prophetic role of Church in today's world. Fr. Puthumai elaborated the story of Moses, the prophet in present day context with social analysis.
A sister each will be posted in every community to look after the developmental and pastoral works in the area, said Sr. Alfonso at the end of the workshop. The sisters unanimously decided to train more sisters on development and to identify suitable lay people to train on social apostolate.
The sisters also accepted "to work towards building a more just world where the rights of every woman and child are protected and ensured" as their vision. Mary Ward Development Centre (MWDC), named after the founder of the Congregation, established in 2006 facilitates, supports and sustains the development and justice initiatives of the Loreto sisters working in the Himalayan Region.
The MWDC is involved in education, health, women's empowerment, anti trafficking and volunteers programme in the region during the last two years, said Sr. Sabrina Edwards, directress of the centre.
This workshop is an eye opener for me to understand development in the context of the Biblical perspective, said Sr. Teresa Mc Glinchey, Principal of Loreto school, Darjeeling. All the sisters shared their expectations and unanimously decided that the MWDC would coordinate the developmental works in the missions of the Loretos in the Himalayan region.
I am glad that the concepts of development and justice are clarified during this workshop and we are able to look at the future with a new thrust, said Sr. Carmella Coelho, former principal of Loreto College, Darjeeling.
We must work for local fund raising for our village out reach programmes, emphasised SR. Coelho who is presently in-charge of finances in the region. Mr. Roshan Rai, a development activist in Darjeeling elaborated the situation in the hills and made a social analysis inviting the religious to go out to the vulnerables who are still living in the forests far away from any development.
Besides the IBVM sisters, priests from the neighbouring diocese of Jalpaiguri and the staff of Darjeeling diocesan social service society attended the sessions on "Spirituality of Development". It is a great opportunity for us to sit along with the priests and senior religious to attend this workshop and benefit immensely, said Mr. Albert Lepcha, one of the staff of Darjeeling .
We need to do more serious analysis to understand the implications of poverty in our society, said Fr. Sushil Toppo of Jalpaiguri, one of the participants. Social analysis is the basis for every development work, said Sr. Christine Gurung who had done pioneering works in Nepal.
The sisters decided to hold quarterly review of their developmental programmes and to have a biannual orientation programme on development for those who are directly involved in social developmental works. They also unanimously decided to give legal identity to their MWDC by registering it as a social service society. MWDC staff Varsha, Priscilla and Rohini left no stone unturned to make the workshop a success and fruitful...
(As reported by I.P.Sarto, Oct. 29, Asansol)