Sisters of Charity leadership change reflects ministry’s international reach

By Kacie Goode | Kentucky Standard

Saturday, September 1, 2018 at 11:55 am

From humble beginnings at St. Thomas to an expansive outreach overseas, the Sisters of Charity of Nazareth have for years had a global impact. Now, that international connection is further reflected in the new Central Leadership Team, which, for the first time, includes two members from India.

President Sangeeta Ayithamattam, and Vice Presidents Jackulin Jesu and Adeline Fehribach, were installed Aug. 25 at a special ceremony and officially assumed their roles Saturday.

“The Sisters of Charity of Nazareth are an international congregation made up of many different cultures and the team should reflect that,” Fehribach said of the new leadership.

The Central Leadership Team leads the congregation, including its worldwide ministries ranging from hospitals to schools and homes for troubled youth.

Over the next five years — the term length for the officials — Ayithamattam, Jesu , nd Fehribach aim to expand awareness and understanding of women’s leadership roles in the church and the world, promote intercultural and international living and promote systemic change, especially when caring for the earth.

“It’s a joy to serve. Our community is such a supportive, caring community, so our sisters will be right there with us in all that we do,” Ayithamattam said. “There is so much good we can do in our responsibility as leaders.”

Roots in health care, education

All three sisters have leadership experience, with Ayithamattam and Jesu coming from health care backgrounds and Fehribach coming from a teaching background.

Ayithamattam, a native of Kannur, Kerala, India, most recently served as vice president of the congregation, but her experience also includes administrating three hospitals in her home country and serving as vice provincial and provincial for the Eastern Provinces.

Jesu comes from Ramnad, India, where she recently served as administrator of Holy Family Hospital in Patna. Her experience includes 17 years of hospital administration at three different facilities.

Like Ayithamattam, Fehribach, of Louisville, served as provincial for the Western Province from 2012 to 2017, and as vice provincial before that. Over the years, her focus has been on teaching, which included educating students at Bethlehem High School in the late 1970s. Fehribach has also served as an associate professor for religious studies at Spalding University, and served in pastoral ministry for four years in Belize.

From Kentucky to India

The Sisters of Charity have 121 ministries in five countries, including the United States, Belize, Nepal and Botswana, but India makes up the largest SCN presence to date.

It was in 1947 that the sisters expanded their mission outside of the U.S. when they were called to serve in Mokama to provide much-needed health care, including a leprosy clinic. SCNs are still addressing some of those needs.

“Even today, TB is a very big problem there,” Jesu said, having seen firsthand the struggles of affected areas. “Our population is high there and people live in crowded areas,” so communicable diseases remain a major public health concern. Jesu said the northern part of the country is particularly affected.

In addition to bringing basic health care and education to parts of the world in need, response to disaster has become a growing ministry for the Sisters of Charity as well.

“We try to respond wherever in the world in whatever way we can,” Jesu said, which has included response to Ayithamattam’s native home of Kerala in south India recently devastated by floodwaters.

When Ayithamattam spoke about the importance of the sisters’ global response and to “go where the needs are,” she referenced Mother Catherine Spalding, who led the SCNs at just 19 years old, and was part of the historic move to Nazareth.

“Pioneering has been in our DNA,” she said. “It’s really in all that we are.”

In their work as congregation leaders, the sisters will spend the next few years traveling to India and to different international ministry sites where they will support and learn from their fellow sisters and those whose lives they impact.

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