Sisters Out Of India

Today is the Feast of St. Francis Xavier, the great missionary to Asia. Together with St. Therese of Lisieux, he is co-patron of the missions. He devoted almost 3 years to preaching the Gospel to the people of southern India and Ceylon (today, Sri Lanka), converting and baptizing many. He built nearly 40 churches along the southwestern coast of India. While on his way to China, Francis Xavier died on an island on the southeastern coast of India.

We recently had some lovely and holy visitors from India, and the area St. Francis Xavier evangelized. The Sisters of the Destitute came to our Monastery to make their annual retreat.

The community was founded in 1927 by a young diocesan priest, Fr. Varghese Payapilly. \”There were few organized charitable services in Kerala to care for the poor and the destitute, aged and infirm, unwanted and downtrodden … abandoned in the streets or uncared for at home.\” Father Varghese, like Mother Teresa 20 years later, was deeply moved by Jesus\’ words, \”As you did it to one of the least of my brethren, you did it to me.\” (Mt 25:40). He believed God was calling him to found a religious community to care for all these people; providentially, the Archbishop introduced him to five young women who wanted to enter religious life to care for the poor. And so, the Congregation began in 1927. It was first called the \”Little Sisters of the Poor\”, but when they discovered there was already a group by that name, they changed theirs to the \”Sisters of the Destitute\”. He passed on to his spiritual daughters his mystical experience of contemplating the face of Jesus in the destitute and offering loving service to the poor. Unfortunately, while taking care of typhoid patients two years later, he contracted the disease and died on October 5, 1929. He left this world encouraging the young community to seek always God\’s will. The Congregation has spread throughout the world with more than 1,500 Sisters; and Father Varghese\’s cause for sanctity has been opened and he is officially a \”Servant of God\”. Most of their vocations have come from the state of Kerala which is very Christian, due perhaps to the presence of St. Francis Xavier and some say even, St. Thomas the Apostle.

The Sisters of the Destitute have two communities in the USA: Shreveport, LA (4 sisters) and Beaumont TX (3 sisters). So the two groups met half way in Lufkin TX! All the Sisters studying nursing, and currently help in Catholic Hospitals. Because there were 7 and we have only 1 small guest room, they spent the nights at the house of a friend; and the days and meals were here at the monastery. Our chaplain gave them a conference each day on the consecrated life. We were very impressed with their prayerfulness in chapel and walking up and down our main road.

Their last evening here was an opportunity for all of us to meet them and learn about their vocations and ministries. We all had a wonderful visit and will keep them in our prayers. Perhaps they\’ll be back for another retreat.

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