The Kentucky Standard, the local newpaper of Nelson County, Ky., recently published the story of Richard Sweazy, Nazareth director of maintenance, who visited India ministries with his wife in December 2007. Below is the article that appeared in the Jan. 20, 2008, issue of the paper:
By LYDELLE ABBOTT
THE KENTUCKY STANDARD
Sixty years ago, six Sisters of Charity of Nazareth set out on the adventure of a lifetime, the sisters left the United States in two groups of three on seperate ships. Their goal was to build a hospital in Mokama, India.
Eight moths after their arrival, the hospital was complete. The next year, a nursing school and pharmacy school was built.
Since that time the sisters have initiated more than 40 missions throughout the country including health clinics, schools, hospitals and empowerment programs.
The sisters went to India and although they were American, they embraced the culture, making the missions for the people and encouraged Indian women to take leadership roles in the organization. The sisters’ work “took off, people saw them doing good things and wanted to be apart of it,” Diane Curtis, director of communications for SCN said. Now there’s more than 200 SCNs in the country. This has led SCNs from India to extend their work to Nepal, Belize, Botswana and the United States.
For years a Lunch and Learn program has been in place at the Nazareth campus. The program allows employees with SCN to learn about its overseas ministries, Curtis, said. The employees touched by what they saw wanted to play a more vital role in what the sisters were doing, Curtis said. Many of the employees responded by sponsoring a child, many of whom are children of prostitutes or children with polio, that are cared for by sisters abroad.
The SCN worldwide ministries, the congregation’s leadership team then set up a scholarship for employees who have served at least five years with the SCNs. The scholarship would allow employees to “fully experience the lives of people they’re working with,” Curtis said. A lottery was made of employee’s names, which were then be chosen to visit India or Belize.
Richard Sweazy, the maintenance director and 17-year employee with the sisters was chosen for both lotteries and was then given the unique opportunity of choosing which country he would like to go to. Sweazy, a Bloomfield resident, chose India, and on Dec. 10, 2007 he and his wife Rita left on an adventure of a lifetime. The three-week trip included visiting SCN ministries in various areas and immersion experiences into the Indian culture.
While in India the couple was accompanied by Shalini D’Souza, the first Indian SCN president. They traveled to several cities and were present for the 60th anniversary of the sister’s arrival in India.
Sweazy said he was amazed to see the number of missions that had been created and were operating. In a slide show, Sweazy presented at a Lunch and Learn at the Nazareth campus Jan. 8, he showed photographs of buildings being built by hand, pictures of people they met and differences they found.
The most startling thing Sweazy came to realize was the “difference between the wealthy and poverty, with virtually no middle class.”
“I’d go again, it’s a different world,” Rita Sweazy said.
“It’s a great experience … don’t be afraid to go if you get the opportunity,” Richard Sweazy said.
The connection between the sisters in India and the U.S. is a fluid one.
This year for the first time ever the SCN election for president and vice president will be in Bangalore, India, in June.