I was born on the 2nd of June, 1947 to my parents K.P. George Kulangara and Mary George Kulangara. My father was a merchant and my mother a housewife. I lost my mother at a young age. To some extent, I played the role of a mother to my younger siblings, especially my youngest brother, Sunny. We are seven children and I am the fourth in line. I have four brothers and two sisters. All of my siblings are married and well settled in life.

Sister Jean with her two sisters

Both my father and mother were very religious minded people. They encouraged us to go for daily Mass and weekly confession. I was very regular in religious activities in the church and in the school. Every evening, the family gathered together to say evening prayer which lasted one hour. Unlike any other children from my childhood, I had a special liking for prayer. Both my parents had devotion to the Blessed Sacrament. My mother convinced me of Jesus’ presence in the Eucharist. From my childhood, I wanted to be a religious and cherished that desire.

In my childhood, I used to pray to Mother Mary to make me a Sister – a good Sister. Surprisingly, on the 1st of January 1962, a priest I did not know told me that God was calling me to be a religious, and I should say “Yes” to Him. I felt that this priest was God’s angel to me. I was so excited and happy about this message because it was what I had been asking God and Mother Mary.

June 1966, I left home for Mokama. Everything was totally new for me – the language, food, culture, weather, etc. None of these things mattered to me because my desire to be a missionary was great. I did miss home and my family members, but I was mostly concerned about learning English and Hindi. As I learned the language, I was happy because I could communicate with the people of Mokama. I made my first profession in 1970 and final vows in 1975. I was extremely happy on both occasions.

My first mission was in Mahuadanr. I felt happy that I could teach well in the school. I was very active and used my talents to teach, dance, and sing. In the evenings, after a day of teaching, we went out to the villages to visit the people. I liked the simple life style of the village and mission. In Mahuadanr, Sisters Marianne Puthoor, Rosemarie Lakra, and I were asked to help out in the retreat for the students. I counselled a few students and conducted prayer services with them. I felt it was a rare privilege to share an experience of God with the students. From my teaching job, I was appointed as the principal of the school. I have been both teacher and principal in different schools and I feel that I have been successful in my career as a teacher and principal.

Sister Jean in the kitchen of Nazarethalaya in Kathmandu in 1979

Although I did not volunteer to go to Nepal, I was happy that I was chosen to go. Initially, I spent a few months learning Nepali. I learned the language fast because I like to talk to people and spend time with them. I worked as a social worker and taught Nepali, sewing, knitting, etc. Thus, many girls were helped to earn their livelihood. I was a pioneer in Dharan and continued similar work helping the poor women and girls. Later, I was the vice principal of the school. I enjoyed working in the school, though we had to face a lot of problems with Maoists in that area. God helped us, and we experienced God’s protection every moment of our life. Here I would like to say that I am an easygoing person and God has gifted me with a gentle and pleasant approach to people. When anything happens, I take a “let it be” attitude. So much so that people say, “Jean is cool as cucumber”! I did not go through any big crisis in my life except my mother’s death when I was fourteen years old. I love my SCN community. I was and am happy in my mission wherever I was and am.

Sister Jean with a Nepali woman and child in 1986

I was happy to be chosen to serve in another foreign country when I was sent to Belize. There I did pastoral ministry in the parish in Belize City. I worked as a counsellor in the school and parish. I helped the women to read and write and do some art work like making baskets. I prepared a group of boys and girls to write class X exam. Later, one of the boys who got a job working in USA, told one of the Sisters “It is because of Sister Jean I have reached here”. I was delighted to hear this and thanked God for using me to help people.

For two years, I worked in Nazareth Hospital in Mokama as a counsellor and pastoral Sister. I consider these years especially blessed because I was able to give an experience of God to people by my gentle, loving listening. I hope and pray that God will use me to touch many more hearts and to be able to give and experience of God to more people by my gentle, loving presence and listening. I call myself a “Jack of all trades and master of none”.

 

Sister Jean in Dockyard, Mumbai (Bombay)

I have had a tangible experience of God, especially during my retreats. I felt Jesus was walking with me, or I was walking along with Him. I particularly like to recount one such experience in Ranchi. Toward the end of the retreat, some of us fasted for three days. The third day I spent a lot of time in prayer. It was midnight, and no one else was around. I was alone in the chapel. All of a sudden I began to pray in tongues, praising and thanking God without my being aware of it. I experienced God and was overjoyed and peaceful.

I am happy that we care for both physically and mentally challenged, and work for the welfare of children and women. We must continue these ministries and take up providing homes for the aged and care for the poor and marginalized, as well.

My wish for the SCNs would be that people see us as praying Sisters rather than professionals running good schools, hospitals, etc. People do not see us as simple, maybe because of our dress which is not simple in appearance. I wonder if people see us as religious.

As I look back, these are few of my reflections on life and the SCNs: When I was small and even in my high school days, I thought religious life was to pray because I used to see Sisters praying a lot. Later, I realized that Jesus said to us “Love God and love one another”. For this I need to pray and be united with God. Jesus also said “Give the good news to all”. This means give Jesus to all, through my life and ministry.

Sister Jean with Sisters Stella Kaiparampatt and Elsy Vettickal in Mokama on May 18, 1997

For me, religious life is a pleasant experience. I have enjoyed my life in the SCN community. It is where I have experienced a lot of joy and happiness, though I faced difficulties and problems in few places. Today, as I look back at my life, I can say I have forgiven all and feel assured of forgiveness from others. I worked in the capacity of coordinator, teacher, principal and administrator and I feel I have done my best. My motto in life was and is “To live and let others live”.

For me, prayer and community life are very important and are two pillars of my religious life. If my life is built on these two pillars, my mission will prosper and my life will automatically be a Good News to all.

My message to the young members is that we need to be a praying community to help us in community living – where love and care is experienced. This will automatically flow out to our mission, and our mission will flourish. Loved and strengthened in community, we move out to our mission to love and strengthen others.

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