Adapted by Robert Lalonde, ACN Canada
The Carmelite Sisters in the diocese of Jalpaiguri in West Bengal are overjoyed – for thanks to the kindness of our benefactors we have been able to give them 37 700$ towards the cost of renovating their convent in Jordhigi.
The convent has been in existence since 1977. The bishop at the time had hoped that the contemplative sisters would support the life of the diocese through their prayers. The territory of the diocese is home to almost 5.4 million people, of whom just 131,000 are Catholics, or about 2.4% of the population.
Today there are 14 Carmelite nuns living in the convent who have already made their permanent vows, one sister with temporary vows and one postulant. They spend seven hours a day praying and strive to support themselves by making candles and altar breads and by making and decorating liturgical vestments. The convent also has some areas of land that are used for agriculture.
The Carmelite convent plays an important role in the life of the diocese. Among other things it serves as a place of spiritual recollection and retreat for priests, religious and lay people, including those seeking counsel and spiritual advice. Many people have found their vocation to the priesthood or the religious life in this place.
But the convent was very much in need of renovation – work that has now been undertaken. For one thing, the asbestos roof was a potential danger to the sisters’ health; for another the heavy monsoon rains had taken their toll and caused serious damage to the building. In places the electrical wiring had been damaged or rendered unsafe by the penetration of the rainfall, while on the inside of the chapel wall the damp was causing the plaster to crumble.
Similarly, the sisters’ cells and the guestrooms were in a very poor condition. On top of this, the outside enclosure wall around the convent was slowly but steadily collapsing, so that outsiders were able to get into the convent grounds and steal the food that had been stored after the harvest. This was a bitter blow to the Carmelite sisters, who are only just able to support themselves from the crops they grow. Besides, these intruders were also a real danger to the sisters themselves. That is why they turned to us for help – and why they are now so grateful to the kindness of our benefactors.
This now completed project is an example of our work.