Sister Sibi Varghese hands out plates to the homeless at Mother Teresa Shelter
Mary Cottingham, South Texas Catholic
On Oct. 12, Bishop Michael Mulvey celebrated a Mass of Thanksgiving with the congregation and their Superior General, Mother Grace Perumpanany, and her Second Councilor Sister Anette Chalangady, who had come from the Cenacle Generalate in Kerala, India. Mother Grace visited with the sisters for two weeks at their four convents in Corpus Christi.
"As we celebrate the Eucharist, for us it's a time to renew our commitment to follow Jesus with his cross and the power of that is the Resurrection," Bishop Mulvey told the sisters in his homily. "As we celebrate tonight, I give thanks to your presence. We renew ourselves in that, 'yes' as Mary did at the foot of the cross."
Some of the sisters have been in the Diocese of Corpus Christi for 16 years. Sisters Rosalia Aricatt,Treasa Pannattuparamban and Elizabeth Pathiparambil were the first to arrive in October 2000. After spending their first year as spiritual care assistants at CHRISTUS Spohn Hospital Corpus Christi–Shoreline they served as registered nurses and have been working at the hospital ever since.
Sisters of the Adoration of the Blessed Sacrament standing in the back row with Bishop Michael Mulvey, from left, are Sister Merly Michael, Sister Rosalia Aricatt, Mother Grace Perumpanany, Sister Anette Chalangady, Sister Jessamma "Clerin" George, Sister Kochuthressia Moolan, Sister Elizabeth Pathiparambil, Sister Merlin Poothavelil, and Sister Rose Paul Madassery. The SABS sisters kneeling in the front, from left are Sister Ann Annjose, Sister Jassamol “Vimala” Joseph, Sister Treasa Pannattuparamban, Sister Sibi Varghese, Sister Rency Moonjely and Sister Jancy George. Not pictured are Sister Jisha James and Sister Joe Mary Kallarackal.
Mary Cottingham, South Texas Catholic
"The work is stressful, but you trust in God and go forward. We have Adoration and Mass everyday—you get strength from the Eucharist," Sister Rosalia said.
When Sister Rosalia arrived from India with Sister Treasa she said coming to Corpus Christi was "a little bit scary, because I didn't know anybody here and I was not aware that you could not work with your degree here without going through the board (Texas Board of Nursing). People helped us—friends helped us. The first month we stayed in a house owned by the hospital on Second Street. Then we moved to Cole Street. After a few months we got a (driver's) license and a car," Sister Rosalia said.
Bishop Emeritus Edmond Carmody remembers that it was June 2000 when Father Prince Kuruvila, now pastor at St. John of the Cross Parish in Orange Grove, told him of the sisters who were willing to come to Corpus Christi to do hospital work, social work and evangelize.
"We wrote to their provincial and they sent them," Bishop Carmody said.
"They give their whole life to do the work of the Lord and spend hours in prayer and once a month they devote a whole day to adoration. The diocese is blessed to have them," Bishop Carmody said.
Today there are 15 sisters serving in Corpus Christi who are from five different provinces in Kerala, India. Sisters Joe Mary Kallarackal, Rose Paul Madassery, Kochuthressia Moolan, Sibi Varghese, Rency Moonjely and Merlin Poothavelil are all from the Sacred Heart Province of Ernakulam and live in a convent on Ocean View. Most of the sisters work at CHRISTUS Spohn Shoreline, with the exception of Sisters Rose Paul, Rency and Sibi who work at the Mother Teresa Shelter.
Sisters Rosalia and Treasa, who are from the Vimal Rani Province in Palakad, and Sister Elizabeth who is from Nirmal Rani Province in Thrissur, all are registered nurses who work at CHRISTUS Spohn Shoreline. Their convent is on Belmeade Drive.
Sister Jancy George teaches Science at St. John Paul II High School. She has a Ph.D. in Science.
Sisters Ann Annjose, Jancy George and Merly Michael, whose convent is located Tarafaya Drive, are from St. Mary’s Province in Kothamangalam. All are registered nurses at CHRISTUS Spohn Shoreline with the exception of Sister Jancy, who teaches science at St. John Paul II.
Sisters Jassamol Joseph, Jisha James and Sister Jessamma George are from St. Thomas Province in Changanacherry and reside in a convent on Haroldson Drive. They also work as registered nurses at CHRISTUS Spohn Shoreline.
All sisters are under the Cenacle Generalate located at Karukunnu near the Pontifical Seminary at Aluva—called the "powerhouse of the congregation, the force that binds all the sisters together." The congregation has houses in almost all the states of India as well as in countries like Nepal, Italy, Switzerland, Germany, Kenya, Tanzania, Ukraine and the United States.
Like all congregations, the sisters are given a stipend for living expenses such as housing, car, food and necessities. Their salaries go to help their congregation's minister to the poor in India and the orphaned children with aids in Africa. They also give to the Bishop's Appeal and help out local families in need.
Sister Rose Paul is operations manager of the Mother Teresa Shelter and has a master's degree in social work. She sees no difference in serving the poor in India verses serving the poor in Corpus Christi. She said, "the poor are everywhere—they are the same."
"I get a lot of personal reward," she said, adding a lot of donors and volunteers in the shelter and friends and family are very encouraging to the sisters; they give them the motivation to keep going.
"Sometimes you want out or you are stressed out, but you have a big support behind you. I get a lot of people who say, 'you do wonderful work.' It's a great blessing to us when people appreciate what we do," Sister Rose Paul said.
Many people are surprised by their habits, Sister Rose Paul said. The young people do not understand but the older ones encourage them to continue to wear their habits. They wear gray at the Mother Teresa Shelter and white at CHRISTUS Spohn Shoreline.
"The Lord in the Eucharist is the center of their life. They love the Lord and they want to fulfill his mission—to feed the hungry, clothe the naked and bring dignity to their brother and sister," Bishop Carmody said.
In his address to the missionaries, Pope Francis said both the Church and the world today are experiencing "great change” and “it is necessary to seek appropriate, evangelical and courageous responses to the questions of the men and women of our time.”
“For this you need to look at the past with gratitude, live the present with enthusiasm and embrace the future with hope, not letting yourselves be discouraged by the difficulties you encounter in the mission, but with strong fidelity to your religious and missionary vocation," the Holy Father said.
To which the Sisters of the Adoration of the Blessed Sacrament say, "Amen."
To learn more about the Sisters of the Adoration of the Blessed Sacrament go to: www.sabscongregation.org.
(Catholic News Agency contributed to this article.)