By Purushottam Nayak
Bhubaneswar: The first member of the Sisters of Destitute from Kandhamal district of Odisha credits elephants with her religious vocation.
“I decided to dedicate my life to God and serve him through the poor, needy, marginalized and sick in 2009 after I heard how a herd of elephants meted out justice to the victims of Kandhamal anti-Christian violence,” says Sister Alanza Nayak who became a member of the Kerala-based congregation four months ago.
On January 26, her village, Mandubadi, a substation under Daringbadi parish in Kandhamal district, honored her with a special Mass and festivities. More than 3,000 people attended the program.
Sister Nayak is among several youngsters from Kandhamal who have joined religious life after the district in 2008 witnessed the worst attacks on Christians in modern India. Around 100 people lost their lives and more than 56,000 their homes in the violence that began August 24 that year and lasted for a few months.
Kandhamal district with some 60,000 Catholics comes under the Archdiocese of Cuttack-Bhubaneswar.
The archdiocesan officials claim the district has seen unprecedented increase in priestly and religious vocations since 2008.
Sister Nayak, who was then in the tenth grade, and others in her village escaped death by taking shelter in nearby forests.
A year later, wild elephants came to their village destroyed the houses and farms of their persecutors.
“I was convinced it was the powerful hand of God toward helpless Christians,” Sister Nayak told Matters India. The pachyderms were later called Christian elephants, she added.
Sister Nayak has two brothers and two sisters. Her father Bachha Nayak died long ago. Her mother Janifula Nayak brought up the children in Catholic faith.
She joined the Sisters of Destitute in 2009 as a candidate in Faridabad of Haryana, a northern Indian state. After completing twelfth grade she did a nine-month course in theology. She did her postulancy during 2013-2014 in Wardha, Maharashtra and novitiate the following year in Bangalore.
She took her first profession on October 5, 2016, at Jagadhri, a village in Haryana. She is now a member in the Provincial House, Delhi.
“The years of formation in different houses definitely enriched me and I am extremely thankful to God, my parents, the congregation for encouraging me to serve God and his people,” she added.
Her mother told Matters India that she was “extremely fortunate” that God has called her daughter for “His purpose.”
Sister Janet, who accompanied Sister Alanza at the thanksgiving Mass, noted that although materially poor, the people of Kandhamal are “rich in faith, brotherhood and unity.”
Parish priest Father Angelo, who presided over the Mass, said his people have “great, respect for priests and nuns.”
The congregation of Sisters of Destitute was founded on March 19, 1927, by Fr. Varghese Payyapilly, a priest of Ernakulum archdiocese. Its charism is to take care of destitute. It has 1,700 members who live in 200 communities spread over six provinces. The Delhi province has 22 houses.
Kandhamal district situated at a height of 915 meters from sea level. Daringbadi is hill station, popularly called as the ‘Kashmir of Odisha.’ Its scenic beauty with waterfalls, valleys and mountains draw many tourists during January and February.