Golden Bells Ring in Chatra

Nazareth Niketan, the fourth mission of the Sisters of Charity of Nazareth (SCN) in India celebrates its history of fifty golden years on July 13, 2019. Their untiring dedication and commitment to the people of Chatra in Jharkhand has borne fruits in abundance.

The big day began at 9.00 am with a Eucharistic celebration presided over by Most Reverend Anand Jojo, bishop of the diocese of Hazaribagh along with twelve priests. Many religious women and men, diocesan priests, former principals, teachers and students, present teaching and non-teaching staff and students were present with the SCNs to thank God during this great occasion. Truly it was a grace-filled time for all concerned. A year-long preparation focused on spiritual and all-round conscientization of the people on the importance of education, especially for girls. The staff and students worked hard to raise funds for the celebration.

After the Mass, a beautiful three-hour cultural program was presented by the Nazareth Vidya Niketan (NVN) (Hindi medium) and Nazareth School (English medium) students at 12.00 noon. The guests of honor were Most Rev. Bishop Jojo, Sister Philomena Kottoor, SCN, provincial of Patna province and Mr. Satyanand Bhogta, former Member of the Legislative Assembly of Jharkhand and other very important guests were also felicitated with shawls. Bishop Jojo released the jubilee souvenir, ‘Nazareth Deep Shikha’.

The former principals of NVN, especially the first, Sister Ann Roberta Powers and here contributions were fondly remembered and the succeeding principals were felicitated with shawls. The SCN teachers, first teachers, SCN Sisters of Chatra parish, NVN students who have become SCNs were also felicitated.

Around 400 people attended the Mass and over 6500 parents of the students, students, teachers, parishioners, government officials and invited guests were present for the cultural program. All were served with a packet of snacks prepared in the school. The invited guests, teachers and students who took part in the program had a festive lunch after the program.

Congratulations to the three courageous and hope-filled SCN pioneers, Sisters Ann Roberta Powers (deceased 2015), Anne Philip Gnavally and Rosemarie Lakra who began this mission on June 7, 1969 outside the town limits on the edge of a jungle, where many wild animals such as tigers, leopards, panthers, bears, deer and jackals roamed around. The surrounding areas of Nazareth Niketan had many ravines and hills strewn with boulders, thick with shrubs and undergrowth, naturally wild but scenically beautiful. On the first day of the school, July 8, thirty-six students in Kindergarten and Class I started their education in the under-construction one-room school, Nazareth Vidya Niketan. Though Sister Ann Roberta Powers, the first principal had started the admission process on July 1, it took several days for the arrival of the first pupil, Saroj Kumari Saha, daughter of a Forest Ranger.

Nazareth Niketan came into existence after SCNs had considered the opening of a school in the Khalari mission in Hazaribagh district. The Sisters lived in a three-room house, one a classroom and the others served as chapel, bedroom, dining room, etc. The Tabernacle adorned a corner of the bedroom, separated by a curtain. The regular church services began only after a resident priest was appointed in 1974.

The primary section of NVN was recognized by the government of Bihar in 1982 and a few of the teachers got the government salary. In January 1993, the school was upgraded to a High School. So far, 8,415 students have graduated from High School. The English Medium School was begun in April 2003. Over the past 50 years, seventy-eight SCNs along with 270 teachers and many non-teaching staff have educated and mentored 44,531 students.

With gratitude to God SCNs in Chatra along with thirty-two other SCNs remembered the late Reverend Father Louis Lachal, SJ of Hazaribagh Jesuit Province, who invited us to Chatra, the bishops, priests, religious, former SCN principals/teachers, teachers, staff and students and the government officials and the people (especially parents of students) of Chatra for their trust, generosity and timely help and guidance to make the SCN presence relevant through education, social and health out-reach programs and the pastoral care for our Catholics during the last fifty years. As we celebrate this auspicious occasion, we can humbly say that God has blessed us abundantly to make our fifty years of service, commitment, and faithfulness truly golden in the eyes of all!

Malini Manjoly, SCN

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