The following is reprinted with permission from The Pontifical Mission Societies.
It first appeared on their website.
This year for World Mission Sunday, we focus on the work of Sister Clara and the Salesian Sisters at Marialay Children’s Home in Chennai, India. These sisters help to rescue young girls from the sad reality of child trafficking and child labor that plagues so many mission countries. Every single day, all over India, hundreds of young girls are taken from their homes and families, forced into child labor or to be beggars on the street, or sold to be domestic help.
Meet Sister Clara
Growing up in India, missionary Sister Clara always felt the strong presence of Jesus in her life. Gaining her strength through prayer and her deep relationship with Jesus, she is committed to follow her calling: to reach out in the name of Christ to those most vulnerable in our society, sharing his love by offering practical, emotional and spiritual care.
Every day, Sister Clara works tirelessly throughout Chennai, India, to rescue young girls from being stolen and sold into child labor and prostitution. For her, faith and action go together. Not only do the sisters provide a loving home for these frightened girls at their Marialaya Children’s Home, they also offer education, medical care, vocational and leadership training, counseling and spiritual formation.
Since Marialaya was started in 1990, the sisters have rescued more than 2,000 girls from child labor, prostitution and begging. Today Marialaya cares for more than 100 girls between the ages of 4 and 14. The sisters also operate a “help line” in collaboration with the local police.
The local community, especially the taxi drivers, help to promote this service. Children throughout India know that if they are in danger, they can call that help line, and the sisters will come to them and rescue them.
Sister Clara is extremely passionate about the spiritual formation of the girls. Every day she teaches them about our Catholic faith, telling them that they are all precious children of God and deeply loved by him.
“Very often I pray, very often I speak to Jesus, like a friend,” Sister Clara says. “So I said I must do like Jesus, healing, helping, to be with the children, to help the children and to educate them. And very happily I am doing this.”
Ten-year-old Vandoosha is one of the girls rescued by Sister Clara and the Sisters at Marialaya. Vandoosha was sold to a neighbor to work in the family’s home; that neighbor sold Vandoosha again “I had to work from 5 a.m. to midnight every day,” Vandoosha says. “I was doing all the washing, cooking and cleaning for the whole family, and looking after their two-year-old child.” Vandoosha was also beaten by the mother in the home and abused by another of the children.
Today, five years after Vandoosha was rescued, th memories of her time as a domestic worker are still fresh in her mind. However, thanks to Marialaya, Vandoosha is happy and healthy and doing exceptionally well at school.
Having experienced severe heartbreak and numerous challenges in her short life already, Vandoosha does not take anything for granted, including her education. She is determined to study hard and one day become a police officer, so that she can give protection to street children and bring them to Marialaya.
Shorti is Vandoosha’s best friend. She is another of the fortunate children rescued by Sister Clara and living at Marialaya. She was stolen from her parents and forced to beg at a train station.
That’s when Sister Clara found her, recalling that she didn’t know how to speak, couldn’t say who her mother or father was. When Shorti was rescued, she was also extremely malnourished and had to go to the hospital to receive medications and treatment before starting her new life at Marialaya.
Shorti is now in the fourth grade. Despite the effects of malaria she contracted as a young girl, her immune system is strong and she is set to have a bright future. Her dream is to become a doctor, so that she can help other sick children like she had been.
Sister Clara admits that her work can be extremely challenging and difficult. However, seeing young girls like Vandoosha and Shorti, once so frightened and vulnerable, gain confidence through the care, love and support they receive at Marialaya is incredibly rewarding and fulfilling for her.
It is through Jesus that Sister Clara gains her strength and conviction, as she says: “I will ask Jesus’ help. And in the evening I go and thank the Lord, asking him to give me courage to face the difficulties which come on my way.”
Category: World Mission Sunday