The Congregation of the Sisters of Little Flower of Bethany, popularly known as Bethany Sisters is a Congregation of Indian Religious women, started in 1921 by Servant of God, Msgr R.F.C. Mascarenhas an Indian diocesan Priest belonging to the Mangalore Diocese. Mother Martha, Sr Clare, Sr Lourdes and Sr Gertrude, the teachers of St Sebastian Higher Primary School, Bendur who were seeking to commit themselves to God and his people, became the nucleus of the new indigenous Congregation

The Servant of God Raymond was fired with the zeal to bring God’s love to the poor. Faith formation of the Catholics, Education of the masses specially the rural poor and girls, elementary school in the remote villages in vernacular, grahini training centers, dispensaries, agriculture were the means he used to achieve his goal. He emphasized the dignity of labour and made it a part of the Institute’s life style. He longed for the empowerment and development of the rural poor, particularly of women and girl children who were deprived of the opportunities of growth.

A. JESUS, the Liberator – Motivating Force
Captivated by the Nazareth Manifesto of bringing the Good News to the poor, the Servant of God Raymond was moved with compassion at the plight of the people of his time. Guided by the Nazareth Manifesto, Luke 4:16-19 “The Spirit of God is upon me, because he has anointed me to preach the good news to the poor. He has sent me to proclaim release to the captives and give sight to the blind, to set at liberty those who are oppressed, to proclaim the acceptable year of the Lord.” He followed Jesus, His master to serve the last, least and lost till the end of his life. It is this inspiration of Jesus that becomes the guiding motivation for evangelization through our Social and Medical Apostolates.

B. The Holistic Vision of the Servant of God - Raymond

The very foundation of our Congregation is based on the call to serve the poor. “Motivated and almost obsessed with the evangelical urge ‘to have the Gospel preached to the Poor’ (Mt.20) the Founder, longed to help the poor and the neglected even in the future. Hence for us Bethany Sisters the service of the poor is not an option but a Mandate and a Call.

The dynamic and vibrant spirit of our Founder has propelled the members of the Congregation to march ahead in the service of God and his people - a service born out of the compassionate love in the spirit of Incarnation and Annunciation. These twin mysteries guided the destiny of Bethany for these 99 years.

Looking back one cannot but wonder at the holistic vision of the Servant of God Raymond. Right from day one the nascent Institution was involved in Pastoral, Educational, Social and Medical ministries both in the urban and rural areas of the people who were economically poor and socially marginalized. He recognized their innate potential to rise above the constraints if given adequate opportunities and all through his life labored creatively to venture new avenues for the poor to flower and bear fruit.

The rural areas, rural schools, social service centres, health centres in the villages of India, Europe and African countries bear witness to the vision and prophetic courage of the Servant of God who stood tall among his contemporaries and withstood all the challenges of his time to achieve what he thought to be right , good and just.

The era after the Servant of God left this earthly abode saw miracles taking place in the expansion of the Congregation with new members bringing in newness and dynamism to respond to the signs of the times. It is under the maternal guidance of Mother Macrina, three times Superior General (1959-1977), the Congregation flourished and reached North and North Eastern India.

C. General Chapters –Taking Forward the Integral Vision

When Pope Paul VI gave a new dimension to Evangelization through “Testificasio Evangelica’ Bethany opted to move to the peripheries and opened many communities in the poorer areas of Orissa and Jharkhand. Mother Gemma, Mother Sylvine, Sr Agnella, Sr Jyoti, Sr Wilberta and presently Sr Rose Celine guided by the General Chapters have given a continuity making the Social Action Ministry an indivisible part of the life of the Institution.

General Chapters XI to XVI have added new dimensions to the Social Apostolate giving concrete guidance through the Chapter Decrees. Our Founder, being the man of vision, read the signs of the times and worked for the cause of the poor by starting this Congregation to work on their behalf. As his faithful daughters, we carry on the Social Apostolate keeping in mind that we will:

  1. Read the Scripture from the point of view of the poor by immersing ourselves in the culture of the poor.
  2. Take up works that may be required according to the needs of a particular place such as crèche, rehabilitation of drug addicts and alcoholics. As fas as possible we will avoid institutionalization.
  3. Plan our programme for the emancipation of women, through Mahila Mandals, Literacy programme, women’s co-operatives and job-oriented training programmes.
  4. Organize the youth in the locality for social action, and train them for leadership.
  5. Give priority to action-oriented faith formation programmes steeped in social concern through Basic Christian Communities, Catechesis, Neo-Catechumenates; Christian Association and Family Apostolates.
  6. Set apart 10% of the net income of each community for social work and charity or other such projects for the welfare of the poor of the locality and we will indicate this in the budget. We will spell our specifics for such projects in the community and the community will evaluate its implementation.

“The joy and hope, the grief and anguish of the people of our time, specially of those who are poor or afflicted in any way, are the joy and hope, the grief and anguish of the followers of Christ as well”. (Gaudium et Spes). This is the call given by the church to each one of us today.

 

 

 

 

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Bethany Social  Service Trust ®
Sahodaya Bethany Seva Kendra
Bendur
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