Matters India reporter
Sonada – In a rare show of appreciation, hills people of Sonada town showered their appreciation to a group of nuns who provide health care and education to under privileged girls belonging to some 25 tea gardens of neighbouring villages around Sonada town.
The Holy Cross Sisters who came to Kurseong in the Darjeeling Hills in 1890 and started a residential school for well-to-do girls, opened a convent to serve the less privileged women of the tea gardens in 1968 by opening a dispensary and primary school.
Presiding over the golden jubilee Eucharistic celebration along with nine priests, 8th July 2018, Bishop Stephen Lepcha of Darjeeling complimented the Sisters for their “selfless service for the education of girls and health care of women.”
Bishop Lepcha reminded some 40 Holy Cross Sisters who worked in Sonada and present at the celebrations “to claim and re-claim God’s gifts while pin pointing their success and failures during past 50 years.”
Salesian Fr. Sunil Lakra, the parish priest of St. Theresa’s Parish Sonada where the celebrations were held thanked Sisters for making quality education affordable to girls from the tea gardens.
The Holy Cross High School Sonada Principal Sister Sherin says, “Like previous years, Holy Cross School, Sonada has excelled in both Madhyamik Pariksha and H.S examination with 100% pass result.”
Principal adds, “2016 GTA (Goorkhaland Territorial Administration) topper Miss Choden Sherpa is topper from Science stream this year as well with 82.2% and in Arts stream Miss Rinji Lamu Tamang has scored 86.4% and topped H.S examination.”
In her vote of thanks the Principal thanked all people of good will who stood by the Sisters in their decision to hold coaching classes during the 104-days shut down in the hills last year, for students due to appear for class 10 and 12 exams.
At a brief felicitation moment after the Eucharist, groups of women, teachers, and local dignitaries honoured the Sisters of the Soanda Community as well as those who worked in Sonada over the years with traditional shawls, scarfs and gifts.
Sonada is one of the small towns which most tourists zoom past on their way to Darjeeling through NH 55 (National Highway). The town located midway between Darjeeling (18 kms) and Kurseong (17 kms) has a rail station of Darjeeling Himalayan Railway established in 1891.
The arrival of Catholic missionaries to Darjeeling dates back to 1846, when the Irish Loreto Sisters first came to Darjeeling.
As per 2014 statistics, Darjeeling diocese serves 37,109 Catholics (2.6% of 1,433,000 total population) on 9,521 km² in two different nations (Bhutan and India). The diocese had 54 parishes and 3 missions with 132 priests (82 diocesan, 50 religious), 455 lay religious (121 brothers, 334 sisters) and 40 seminarians.
The diocese also has 4 colleges, 17 Higher secondary schools, 17 High Schools, 49 Primary Schools, 7 vocational training institutes and a string of Social Welfare Centres, Orphanages & Creches, Homes for the destitute, Hostels (men), Hostels (women), Health Ministry Centres and Houses of Formation.
Some of the Tea Estates located in Sonada Valley include Oaks, Rungmook, Ceder’s, Milling, Moondakotee, Ringtong, Balasun, Margaret’s Hope, Kalej Valley and Balasun.
Just two kilometers of Sonada town is Salesian College (1938) a residential college for Salesian scholastics till 2000, and Sonada Degree College (1985), which are affiliated to the University of North Bengal. END