Plans were uncertain for Sushma Bodra, SCN when the pandemic closed all travel to India. Sushma had come to Chicago to study for her Master’s in Pastoral Studies at the Catholic Theological Union in August 2018, and she also registered for a certificate course in Spirituality. Her studies were almost complete this spring except for one online units. But she couldn’t make plans to go home because of restrictions on international flights to India.
Sushma grew up in Jamshedpur, India, a city of more than a million in the state of Jharkhand. After completing high school, she wanted to join a Catholic congregation of religious women and be able to help the people of her country. She could choose from more than two dozen religious congregations near her home.
Her uncle recommended the Sisters of Charity of Nazareth, Kentucky. In 1947, six SCNs had answered a call to India and gone to Mokama, an underserved area in eastern India. They had opened a hospital and nursing school, and when some of the nursing students wanted to join the congregation, they established a convent. SCNs now have schools, hospitals, and missions in many parts of India, including where Sushma lived.
After one of the Sisters visited her and her brother also encouraged her, she joined the order in 1997, and she has been very happy. “In the first stage of my formation period, I learned spoken English and learned prayers in English,” Sushma says. “I continued to learn English all four years of my formation. We also learned about the history of SCN congregation. I made my first vows in 2001.”
In preparation for her final vows in 2007, Sushma came with a group to Nazareth, and was able to see where six young women in 1812 began what is now an international ministry in India, the United States, Belize, Nepal, and Botswana.
“Being at Nazareth with the Sisters at the Mother House was a wonderful experience for me. I feel closer to them and the ministry,” Sushma says. After taking vows, Sushma taught in schools in several of the missions in India, and then became involved in teaching the young women who had an interest in joining the order.
When she first considered advance schooling, she wanted to study in India, but again was led by God to come to the United States.
While in Chicago, Sushma lived in a dormitory with other sisters who enjoyed studying and praying together. She spent Christmas holidays and other special times at Nazareth. “It is a beautiful place, and I liked each week going to Nazareth Home, a nursing home for older Sisters,” Sushma says.
“When I couldn’t return to India, Sr. Sangeeta SCN, who is President of the Congregation, asked me if I could do Clinical Pastoral Education. I willingly accepted the offer to do CPE at CHI Memorial, and I think it will be helpful for my future ministry.”
She is in the Resident CPE Program, working 40 hours a week, but as a volunteer. “I am learning so much. I had never worked in a hospital before, and I have met many wonderful people.”
Sister Judy Raley had met Sushma in India and was happy to have her stay with her and Sister Alice O’Connell. “We have been enjoying some good cooking with lots of new seasonings, and have had fun visiting places in Chattanooga,” Sister Judy says.
Sister Sushma plans to return to India in October, but if that is not possible because of the high risk of COVID-19, she will stay in Chattanooga or Kentucky longer.