Shalini D’Souza, SCN, 76, a former Provincial and President of the Sisters of Charity of Nazareth (SCN), died November 6, 2014, at Kurji Holy Family Hospital, in Patna, India. A Memorial Service will take place at St. Vincent Church, Nazareth, Kentucky, Friday, November 7, at 6:30pm. All are invited to attend. The service will also be webcast live for anyone wishing to view it. Visit https://scnfamily.org/live to access the webcast. The Funeral Mass will take place in Mokama, India at 10:30 am, November 9.
A native of Bombay, India, Sister Shalini was a pioneer as the first Indian to be elected President of the international SCN Congregation founded in Kentucky in 1812.
She entered the Sisters of Charity of Nazareth Congregation at Nazareth in 1961. A Sister for 52 years, her prayerfulness, creativity and determination knew no bounds, and she was credited with leading the Congregation to embrace many innovative ministries to those living on the margins.
Sister Shalini earned a Bachelor of Arts in Elementary Education and Social Sciences from Nazareth College, Nazareth, in 1966, and a Masters in Elementary Education and Guidance from Spalding College (now Spalding University) in Louisville, Ky., in 1967. She attended the Institute of Religious Formation in St. Louis, Mo., for one year and then spent another year at the Spirituality Center – Sadhana-with the late Anthony D’Mello, SJ, in Pune, India.
Sister Shalini taught at St. Matthias School in Columbus, Ohio, and served as Vice-Principal of Nazareth Academy in Gaya, India. In 1974, she became a Formation Director. She would go on to serve as a Provincial in India from 1983-89.
In 1990, Sister Shalini attended a Peace and Justice Program in Thailand and then worked six months with the Good Shepherd Sisters in the ministry of caring for children sold into prostitution. During the years of 1991-96, she served as Director of Women’s Programs for the Indian Social Institute in New Delhi, India – an institute administered by the Jesuits – and worked with women in the margins especially those in the Red Light Districts of Delhi, as well as displaced women forced into domestic work and urban slums. Sister Shalini rescued many women and young girls from human trafficking. She often told stories of finding women in deplorable conditions, like being kept in a cage.
Sister Shalini’s passion for rescuing trafficked women led her to collaborate with an Italian based lay organization in the founding of the HOUSE of HOPE – which offers children of women in prostitution an education and consequently other choices in life. This endeavor, supported by the Italian and American embassies in India, has received several awards.
While spearheading the creation of the House of Hope, Sister Shalini also served as Director of Temporary Professed for SCNs in India. In 1998, she was elected as Vice President of the SCN Congregation. Five years later, she was elected President of the SCN Congregation in 2003.
With her energy, zest for life, and ability to challenge the “norms,” Sister Shalini was interviewed by many reporters over the decades. In a 2008 article by Arthur Jones, NCR editor at large, entitled, “The fire in her belly isn’t curry, it’s Christ,” Mr. Jones shared insights about Sister Shalini’s ability to bring about change. He had travelled to India to witness Sister Shalini’s ministries in person:
“Two decades ago, Sister of Charity of Nazareth Shalini D’Souza was a guiding star and mentor to the Indian SCN novices and young sisters in Mokama, India. The 1812-Kentucky-founded SCNs had begun work in India in 1947 at the invitation of U.S. Jesuits on mission there. Today she is the SCN president; her five-year term begins Sept. 1.
She is also an intriguing and refreshing sign of the times for an out-of-Kentucky-soil American order, almost two centuries old. An Indian-born president. Surely a first…
The fire in her belly isn’t curry, it’s Christ. And she’s taking the helm of an order that’s totally cross-cultural. One of her vice presidents is Sr. Barbara Flores. The SCNs are very active in her native Belize. There are Indian and American sisters in Botswana. There are SCNs working with street children in Nepal. And at home here, the determined sisters maintain a dazzling range of activities with fewer numbers.
“I believe we are, too, a challenge to the church,”D’Souza told me five years ago, from a convent that was just as full of spirit as it was 22 years ago, when I stepped out of the pedicab at the Mokama convent and met her for the first time. “And a challenge to ourselves,” she added this week. Her election, she said, “is recognition of the fact that a mission that was begun by the United States has come to some maturity. It is probably a conscious effort on all the sisters’ part to become more global, to look on the world as a whole. I imagine the impact is that we are called beyond ourselves.
But there’s more to it, a personal testing for all SCNs. The SCN general assembly five-year plan is focused on ‘deepening our SCN spirituality and studying theological perspectives across cultures.’ They want not only to address ‘unjust systems, but to try and look at racism, classicism, within ourselves and across cultures…’ Most of all she said, the focus is “to speak with one corporative voice for the poor.”"
In 2007, Shalini was awarded an honorary doctorate from Spalding University. She was a sought after speaker both nationally and internationally and her vision of mission is said to have made an impact on Church leadership.
Sister Shalini served as President until 2008 and oversaw the first General Assembly to take place outside of Kentucky in nearly two centuries. The historic General Assembly was held in Bangalore, India. Once her term ended, she decided to return to India in order to lead retreats and to found yet another innovative program. She initiated a ministry for female domestic workers and trafficked women at Catherine Spalding Centre in Ranchi.
Sister Shalini served on numerous Boards including Catholic Charities USA Board of Trustees, Catholic Charities USA Executive Board, USCMA (United States Catholic Mission Association), USCCB (US Catholic Conference of Bishops) National Advisory Council – Executive Board, and Charity Federation – Board of Trustees.