The center of the Sisters of Charity of Nazareth – Patna in India is situated in the Gangetic plain. The river Ganges with its mini tributaries and numberless streams makes the soil very fertile, and there is no scarcity of water in these areas. This soil is very good for agriculture. Due to the steady growth in the agricultural sector, there is a marked decrease in the poverty of Bihar. The Patna province, spread throughout North India and Nepal, has taken the initiative to care for our common home -earth as one of our major priorities. Most of our communities and ministry places are in remote areas yet we are in the heart of mother earth. Each SCN in this province is involved in the ministry of caring for the earth. Some are involved directly and some others indirectly. It is a great place to be in! All of us live together- humans, animals, and plants.
‘Laudato Si Week’ May17-24 was celebrated by most of our communities. Everyone is making an effort to avoid the use of plastics.
The lockdown in the country due to Covid-19 was a blessing in disguise for the environment. The scenario of nature has totally changed during these days. The air is clean. All the factories, markets, shops are closed, most of the public transport is suspended and construction works halted. So, the rate of pollution has decreased a lot. The river water looks very clean and clear; water quality has improved a lot. It is said that this lockdown period has proved as a golden period for the environment!
Our Provincial house in Patna has very little land around the house, but the surrounding compound is filled with vegetables, varieties of fruit trees and flowering plants. In the midst of all these lovely plants there is even a pond with lively fish!
Nazareth Convent, Mokama houses people of varied age groups- the Retired Sisters to the youngest members (candidates). I often wonder about this combination; it is great to see the older sisters holding the hands of the younger members and moving around in the campus enjoying the beauty of the place. It is a great joy to see the youngsters caring for the earth under the able guidance of the older sisters. Though some of them are on wheel chairs, they love to do their part! Mother earth is fertile and fruitful. We are lucky to have plenty of fruit trees laden with fruits. During this season we are enjoying mangoes, jackfruits, bananas and black berries. Nazareth campus in Mokama has a lot of agricultural land. It is made use of well by cultivating paddy, wheat and other seasonal grains. At the time of plantation and harvesting the young members also are happy to get into the field and contribute their share of work. Most of the time the whole area looks green. The trees are laden with fruits in season! Everyone enjoys the campus acknowledging that peace and serenity are found in the nature.
The water harvesting system is functioning well in our campus. There are two big ponds, so much of rain water is directed to these ponds. The water is used for irrigation purpose and also for growing fish. This year we have plenty of rain and the ponds are already full.
Solar energy is made good use of in most of our centers. When there is electricity shut down, solar energy is a great help and it saves us from remaining in the darkness. Solar water heating system, also, is working very well. It is a great help especially during the winter.
There is a terrace garden at Nazareth Hospital, Mokama. It is above the OPD and ward. It has multiple benefits. It keeps the rooms cool. The patients in the ward and OPD get maximum benefits out of it during the summer. It also provides fresh vegetables in all seasons. Even in the terrible heat of summer when everything is dry outside, the hospital terrace looks green and cool! The sisters and the staff experience fulfillment in caring for the earth.
World Environment Day was celebrated at most of our centers with thanksgiving prayer and by enjoying the fruits of the earth.
All over India the roads were widened over the past ten years and in the process of this widening, lakhs of huge trees were cut off and displaced many people. We have two communities in Sale and Kutuderi. It is known as Chechadi valley surrounded by hills and used to have plenty of trees. The weather used to be cool and pleasant in all seasons. The people of the area have cut off trees for firewood and for other purposes like making houses. Now, there is lot of soil erosion and drastic change in the weather.
The SCNs, in collaboration with other NGOs, are making a difference in saving the earth for the future. We are part of the People’s Movement for Forest Rights. We help the people to realize that Forests are the Lungs of our land, purifying the air and giving fresh strength to our people. We make the people aware of the problems they will have to face when they give their land on lease to others and how the other people destroy their land by using chemical and artificial manure. Training classes are conducted for the farmers, for the youth, and for students. They are taught how to make organic manure and insecticides and to preserve the earth. People are motivated to plant varieties of trees and to make trenches to avoid soil erosion. They use the collected water for irrigation purposes. We assist the people to get saplings from forest departments. People are helped to get subsidies from the government for good seeds and manure. People are encouraged to make ponds in their own villages for growing fish and also for irrigation purposes.
Making Compost for home garden is part of caring for the earth. By using all the food waste, other waste materials, and fallen leaves we make compost. It helps to keep the place clean and enrich the garden. (Mokama, Patna, Jamshedpur, Gumla, Tanderbong, Sale, Kutuderi, Gaya, Chatra, Dharan.) Tanderbong community planted pine tree saplings around the property this year to protect the land from soil erosion. Pine tree saplings were distributed to the villagers also. Motivational classes were conducted for the people on the need to plant trees and to care for them. The one who plants trees loves others besides herself/ himself!
Most of our communities spent at least an hour in the garden. We do the planting, weeding, pruning, etc. and wait for the fruits of our hard work. Wherever there is water scarcity water harvesting is done. It helps to bring up the water level of the soil.
I hope that all of us realize: Nature is painting for us, day after day, pictures of infinite beauty, the earth is what we have in common, it is our responsibility to nurture it, care for it and save it for the future generations.
Gracy Mlakuzhyil, SCN