A Thirst for Social Justice

CMM Contact: Evelyn Fugazzi, SCN   

Woman for this Season

Sister Shalini D’Souza, the youngest of seven children, was born to an upper class family of means in Bombay (Mumbai), Maharashtra, India on June 21, 1938.  Her father, Francis S. D’Souza, was a businessman who owned lands and coffee estates.  Her mother, Winifred Agnes Vaz D’Souza, was the eldest daughter of wealthy parents who gave her a good education.  At the age of six, Shalini lost her beloved father.  This loss left a vacuum in the life of the entire family and necessitated that Shalini’s mother work outside the home for the first time in her life.  Although Shalini experienced a sense of loss in her mother’s long absences from home, she learned from her at an early age concern for the poor and marginalized.  Shalini recalls that many a night she was asked to sleep in her mother’s room because her mother had brought home from the street a woman who had no home and no food. 

Unconsciously, the spirit of St. Vincent de Paul and Catherine Spalding was ingrained in Shalini, to be for others, and especially for the marginalized.

Shalini, after overcoming her mother’s opposition to her entry into religious life, made her Novitiate as a Sister of Charity of Nazareth in the United States.  Her first profession of vows took place July 19, 1963 at Nazareth, Kentucky and her final profession at Mokama, Bihar on July 19, 1968.  Sister Shalini served in elementary and secondary education in both the United States and India before becoming Director of Novices and Provincial in India.

In 1989 Sister Shalini attended a Peace and Justice Program in Thailand. While in Thailand she interned with the Good Shepherd Sisters to learn to work with women in prostitution. On her return to India Shalini worked at the Jesuit-run Indian Social Institute in New Delhi with women in the Red Light Districts. This work was done in 85 brothels of Delhi where, with the help of Social Activists, Shalini organized the women to help them receive health benefits and basic human rights.  She counts this as her favorite ministry.

In 1998, Sister Shalini was elected Vice-President of the SCN Congregation and in 2003 as President.  Sister Shalini says, “My present ministry is exciting for the times are challenging. We are a global community and so my Indian roots, coupled with my US experiences, are very important aspects of my life as we try to bridge differences and move towards a ONENESS in mission and worldview across the globe.   My ministry as President puts me in contact with other leaders around the US and in other parts of the world where we minister. It empowers me to speak for our people, especially for women and the poor. I have had so many opportunities to grow in holiness and wisdom.   I know that God can and will ask a lot of me because much has been given to me.  My love for Catharine Spalding and our Congregation are other elements that sustain me and keep me involved in a mission that I deeply love and in which I believe.”