A Woman for All Seasons

I have loved you with an everlasting love. I have called you and you are mine.
Jr. 31.3 

Sister Shalini D’Souza, SCN (76), the former Provincial and President of the Sisters of Charity of Nazareth, Patna passed away at 4.35 pm, November 6, 2014 at Kurji Holy Family Hospital, Patna, India. The funeral is at 10.30 am, November 9, in Mokama.

Sister Shalini lived a life of prayer, contemplation and service as a religious Sister for 52 years in India and the U.S. Sister Shalini’s vision, deep commitment and the daring spirit of risk taking helped her Congregation to reorient their ministry to respond to the cry of the poor and the marginalized while looking at their resources realistically. She helped her Sisters to realize that in prayerful reflection they become effective instruments of God.

Sister Shalini made her Novitiate as a Sister of Charity of Nazareth in the United States. After her First Profession at Nazareth, Kentucky, and Final Commitment at Mokama, Bihar, Sister Shalini served in schools in both the United States and India before becoming the Director of Novices and Provincial of India Province in 1983. In 1998, Sister Shalini was elected Vice-President and in 2003 President of the SCN Congregation. During this time she resided at Nazareth, Kentucky. In this ministry, she moved towards oneness in mission and worldview across the globe.

As a leader, Shalini inspired the Sisters to understand that we are on the threshold of a new day and new moment in history. She invited them to experience powerlessness and to enjoy the challenges of what can be tomorrow even in the face of pain and conflict. Shalini was an extraordinary person who built on the strengths and directions set by her predecessors. Her vision of mission has made an impact on church leadership both nationally and internationally.

Through her creative and dynamic ways, Shalini helped her Sisters discover the treasures within. She called them to refection and growth in order to be women truly committed to the service of people and Church. 

Shalini responded to the needs of marginalized people especially, women and children. As a young girl, she learnt to care for the poor from her mother. Shalini said ‘YES’ like Mary, Mother of Jesus, to whatever was asked of her by the community.

As Novice Director, Shalini taught the young Novices to put community and mission first and to love one another. She accompanied the Novices in a firm and gentle manner to serve God and others as did Catherine Spalding, co-founder of the Sisters of Charity of Nazareth and in the tradition of Vincent de Paul, patron saint. She instilled in them the spirit of prayer and reflection to be compassionate and forgiving women.

Shalini’s largeness of heart embraced her whole community, the poor, especially those who needed the most care. From 1990-98, Shalini worked with the commercial sex workers in Delhi in collaboration with the Indian Social Institute, a Jesuit venture, when many jeered at those who cared for such persons. She pioneered in making a safe residential home for the girl children of these women in Gurgaon in partnership with ‘Movimento San Francesco Saverio’, Italy. She rescued many women and young girls from prostitution. Shalini was the hope for the hopeless in all situations.

After 10 years in Congregational leadership, Shalini desired to mentor young Sisters to be leaders, facilitators and spiritual directors in India. She also helped other Congregations in their General and Province Chapters, retreats and other formation programs. 

Residing at Nazareth Convent, Ranchi, Sister Shalini initiated a ministry to improve the condition of the domestic workers and also trafficked women at Catherine Spalding Centre. She was instrumental in collaborating with JAAN Foundation to begin ‘Premasharay’, at Nazareth Convent, a mid-way home for girls who are trafficked.

Sister Shalini was diagnosed with oral cancer in January 2014. She went through radiation and chemotherapy in Bangalore. In May, she returned to Ranchi. By August, the cancer had spread to other organs and she opted not to go for further treatment. As Shalini said, “I have had so many opportunities to grow in holiness and wisdom. I know that God can and will ask a lot from me because much has been given to me.” Shalini, how true was your intuition! You found profound meaning in your intense suffering. 

Born in 1938, Shalini Mary Pauline D’Souza was the youngest of seven children of Francis D’Souza and Winifred Agnes Vaz D’Souza. Survivors include two brothers, a sister, many nieces and nephews and her religious community.

As a daughter of Catherine Spalding, Shalini, you have been true to the SCN heritage. Without reserve you loved much, your community and the poor. Mother Catherine is proud of you, Shalini! As we bid goodbye to you, Shalini, the awesome words of Jesus: “Come, you that are blessed by my Father! Come and possess the kingdom which has been prepared for you ever since the creation of the world.” Mt. 25:34, echo in our hearts! Shalini, we will miss your physical presence amidst us yet we fondly let you rest in God!

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