The Life of SMRA Community Today (Activities)
Mission Apostolate of SMRA
The sense of mission is at the very heart of every form of consecrated life. Following the example of their Patron Saint, Mary Queen of the Apostles, they cooperate effectively in the mission of Jesus Christ of the local Church of Bangladesh and contribute in a particularly profound way for the renewal of the world. In the apostolate of the SMRA congregation the brothers and sisters of other faiths and cultures as ‘mission ad gentes’ (GS 2), and the ‘poor of God’ (Lk 4:18-19, Mt 11:5) are privileged. The children, youth and women are recipient of their services.
Evangelization as Explicit Proclamation
The tribal population composed of those who are newly converted Christians and are not yet baptized but willing to embrace Christianity, belong to traditional religion or non-religion groups. Sisters work among them. They live in the north and southern border areas, and in the mountains usually in impoverished condition. New Christians are exposed to catechesis, liturgy, proclamation and teaching Word of God and sacraments, and formal education. The image of the Sisters as evangelizer is that of witness to evangelical discipleship, compassion and deep experience of God. Sisters follow the teaching of their ‘Guru’ (Lord) Jesus (Lk 10:1-16) go and live with, teach the Good News, pray, and experience their life conditions entering into the dialogue of life with those poor people of different cultures and religions.
Health Care Apostolate
Proclaiming the Gospel of love and mercy of Jesus in serving the sick, to spread, explain and defend Church teachings on health issues, and to assist the policies for Health Care Ministry of local Church in Bangladesh are the main objectives of SMRA Health Care apostolate. It also provides the sick and midwife nursing care to the pregnant mother during childbirth, distributes medicines, and counsels the patients. Sisters communicate the compassionate Christ without distinction of race, social condition, or religion. Christ went about to all the towns and villages healing every sickness and infirmity as a sign that the kingdom of God had come (Mt. 9: 35ff; Acts 10: 38) and so the Church through its children joins itself with men of every condition specially with the poor and afflicted. It shares their joys and sorrows; it is familiar with their hopes and problems of life and it suffers with them in the anguish of death.
The Beginning, Growth and Development
As it is mentioned in the brief history of the congregation that people in the rural area of that time were very poor, illiterate, and victims of discrimination were especially children and women. Children and pregnant mothers suffered from malnutrition, carelessness, and as a result children and maternal death rate were very high. This situation motivated the founder and co-foundress to serve and protect those people from suffering and death. Bishop Crowley materialized his plan in a simple way. He did not dream to start a hospital similar to those in America. He wanted that the Sisters identify themselves with the poor, the marginalized and the exploited, personally showing Christ-like witness of poverty in their own life-style and so he thought the hospital to be built as: He did not build the hospital and maternity similar to American buildings with beautiful furniture, sophisticated equipment and other facilities but with sufficient open space; with roofs made of corrugated zinc; posts and the walls made of bamboo. The floor cemented that it will be easy to clean. The patients are simple villagers who sleep on the floor on mates. The patients were happy with the kind of car giving they get, because it was much better than the airless and sunless tiny hut in an unhygienic environment, where pregnant mothers give birth to their child.
The changing situation has shown various stages of development in terms of types of patients, their needs and the quality of healthcare the apostolate has to provide. The Charism and spirit of the founder and co-foundress were that- Sisters’ works be “prolife” and concerned with the dignity of motherhood. New life in an infant is seen with great respect and inner joy. They are not only concerned with physical cure but holistic healing: mental, spiritual, ethical healing of a person. The Sisters think of the image of suffering Christ when they attend to a sick person and are inspired to serve with great care. Mary, who accompanied her suffering Son on the way to Calvary, is a model for the Sisters who take part in the suffering of the patients and communicate them though the means of service, care and prayer. The founder of the congregation was convinced that evangelization must go hand in hand with medical treatment, because it was a means to approach those who are inclined to the to missionaries teaching when it was expressed in act of mercy.
Dispensaries, Maternities, Hospitals, Nursing Schools
At present the congregation has three doctors and 48 nurse Sisters trained in higher nursing education. In the five dioceses of Bangladesh, the SMRA Sisters serve the poor, sick and suffering people. At present the Congregation has 6 dispensaries, including 5 maternities. Sisters serve in a private hospital including nursing school and in four other hospitals.
Natural Family Planning (NFP)
In 1986 after the Second Vatican Council Pope Paul XI in his apostolic Exhortation Humane Vitae (HV 1986), had forbidden contraception, a modern means of birth control. Natural Family Planning (NFP) methods were approved by the Catholic Church. In response to this encyclical, the Catholic Church in Bangladesh started the NFP program in 1976. Sister Mary Imelda, SMRA (the pioneer of NFP) was appointed by Archbishop T. A. Ganguly, CSC as the directress of this organization. Since then Sisters have been rendering this service under the direction and financial support of ‘Caritas Bangladesh’. The purpose is to build happy families among the people of Bangladesh, irrespective of caste or creed by motivating them to practice family planning using the Natural Way (Ovulation Method); to play a vital role cooperating with the Government efforts to limit the population growth in Bangladesh and to provide education to promote responsible parenthood to those who are planning to get married and married couples through sharing and seminars in various levels of human society.
Nursing School and Hostel
The hospital, nursing school and hostel service in non- Christian environments is a great opportunity for the SMRA Sisters to communicate Christian values among the doctors, nurses, patients and students. The Christian, Hindu, Muslim, Buddhist nurses study and work together. Sisters serve as the Principal and Matron and Supervisor. Nurses, irrespective of caste or creed live, study and practice respective religious faiths together in the hostel under the guidance of the Sisters. They celebrate all cultural and religious festivals together as a community.
Education and Formation Ministry
The Second Vatican Council Document Ad Gentes Divinus (AG, 1965) states that the Christians should apply themselves with special care to the education of children and young people through various types of schools, and these are not to be considered solely as an outstanding means of forming and developing Christian youth, but as a service of great value to men, especially in the developing countries, one that is ordered to raising human dignity and promoting more human conditions. The classroom is one of the best means for evangelizing communication. The weakest students are to be given priority in order to empower them to grow with human dignity and right. Outreach programs, study tours, vocational programs, children and youth movements and organizations are also related to academic activities. SMRA runs twenty one primary schools, five kindergarten schools, two Junior high schools, eleven high schools, one orphanage and five hostels for girls. Sisters participate in the task of the nation to educate the children and youth. As a Catholic educational institution, the SMRA organizes ‘School Managing Community’ which consists of the representative of CBCB (usually parish priest), headmistress, co-teachers, representative of guardians of the students and non-teaching personnel. Sisters promote inter-school communication, arrange extra curricula’s, foster youth groups and students’ or teachers’ organizations or movements like: ‘Holy Childhood’, ‘Puspa Sangha’ (Association of St Teresa, Little Flower of Jesus), ‘Young Christian Students Movement’ (YCS), ‘Girl’ Guide (for the students of all religions)’, ‘Teachers Team’, etc. It is important for SMRA not only to put up a school community but also to be a real community where all constituents work together to make the school an institution of integral formation. The SMRA is concerned with the academic preparation of students, the professional performance of teachers and non-teaching personnel, and the cooperation of parents. It further desires to go beyond the external measure of success. SMRA’s concern is to nourish the spiritual and moral life to be the members of Kingdom of God so that there will be real transformation. Catechesis, prayer services, sacraments are the means to communicate the spiritual and moral care. Each religious group has the opportunity to have religion classes in schools. Traditional and cultural values are nurtured in schools. The Christian, Muslim, Hindus and other students maintain shier cultural practices. The school is the best place to communicate to different levels of groups like students, parents, guardians, government officials. They create an umbrella under which people of different levels, religions and cultures make a community. The sincerity, sense of responsibility, Christian moral values of the Sisters are often appreciated and earn trust of the people and they are able to keep witness of Christian and Religious life. The SMRA Sisters must have special concern to improve mutual co-existence, respect, sharing, understanding through promoting dialogue among religions and cultures. It is required in order to build a peaceful community.
Catholic andnon-Catholicgirls who study in the schools run by the Sisters live in hostels under the spiritual, intellectual and moral guidance of the Sisters. This is an opportunity for them to deepen their faith life and hear God’s call for the religious life.
Orphanage In Bangladesh, a big number of children are orphans and live in miserable conditions. Bishop Cowley founded his Congregation to care for the poorest children. His primary concern was to provide them catechism and spiritual and moral care. The orphanage is to communicate God’s love to those abandoned and homeless children. They are deprived of care and education due to poverty. Sisters provide formal, religious and moral education and all possible means and try to empower their orphans with motherly care and human dignity.
Youth Ministry Sisters cooperate with the youth ministry with Catholic national and diocesanyouth commissions. Seminars, workshops, and prayer meeting are held for different kinds of groups. They organize such kind of faith formation programs. Youth movements and associations for different age levels are recognized and fostered by the Church. Sisters accompany them in their life journey like Jesus who accompanied the disciples at Emmaus (Lk 24: 13-35) animating them with new spirit and life.
Vita Consecrata 72: “By the action of the Holy Spirit who is at the origin of every vocation and charism, consecrated life itself is a mission, as was the whole of Jesus’ life…..It can be said that a sense of mission is essential to every Institute, not only those dedicated to the active apostolate life, but also those dedicated to the contemplative life.”
SMRA. Constitutions. No 18. Pro-life: The term describes the ethical view which maintains that fetuses and embryos are human beings, and therefore have a right to life. Pro-life individuals believe that human life should be valued either from fertilization or implantation until natural death. The contemporary pro-life movement is associated with Christian morality. Any deliberate destruction of human life is considered ethically or morally wrong. The Catholic Church teaches that "abortion is a grave sin against the natural law." It believes that human life is sacred, and begins at conception. Under this view, abortion is equivalent to murder, and there are no permissible exceptions.