The secret life of the Cloistered nuns;

Not even death requires them to move out — the nuns who depart are buried in a cemetery within their compound.

Tucked away in Andheri is a 3-acre monastery that gets prayer requests from across the world; inside, eight Carmelite nuns who almost never step out go about their chores baking the Holy Bread for parishes across Mumbai and praying.

cloister nuns, caramelite nuns, cloister monastery mumbai, caramelite monastery mumbai, mumbai cloister nuns, mumbai caramelite nuns, mumbai news, india news, indian expressThe chapel at the monastery in Andheri East, Mumbai. (Express Photo by Anjali Lukose)

It’s 4 am when a cellphone pierces the silence of the bare room. Loiusa answers immediately. She knows the caller and takes off in Marathi, one sentence at a time. At the other end, 48 km away on Vasai’s Pachubandar beach, a fisherman repeats what she says, with his team of 10 then repeating the prayer in chorus.

This group of Koli fishermen in Pachubandar has followed the simple ritual for years — they never set out without this call. It’s their first call of the day, to Sr Louisa of the Cross, a Carmelite (Cloister) nun at a monastery in Andheri East, a western suburb of Mumbai.

The Carmelite nuns are believed to be ‘powerhouses of prayer’, receiving prayer requests from all over the world, through infrequent visitors, through frequent letters and phone calls and, for the past few years, via email. They belong to the Order of Carmel (Cloister), where nuns devote themselves to prayer and contemplation and spend their days in solitude and silence.

“We survive dangerous nights at sea because of these prayers. These sisters pray for us day and night. I believe God listens to them especially,” says Rocky Johnson Burkhao (34), a fisherman at Pachubandar. Burkhao’s boats, named ‘Trinity’ and ‘King of Kings’, have for 10 years now never been taken to sea without a call to the Andheri monastery.

Their perceived power may reach across the seas, but the eight Carmelite nuns living in a three-acre gated monastery in the bustling Andheri, its high walls enclosing an island of near-total silence, do not even step out of the priory. The last time they emerged outside was to cast their vote in the Maharashtra Assembly elections in October last year — a short walk to Canossa High School 200 metres away and back.

cloister nuns, caramelite nuns, cloister monastery mumbai, caramelite monastery mumbai, mumbai cloister nuns, mumbai caramelite nuns, mumbai news, india news, indian expressA metal-grilled window, sitting behind which the prioress speaks to visitors. (Express Photo by Anjali Lukose)

“The only time we step out is to fulfill our duty towards the country,” says Sr Marie Therese, the prioress or head of the monastery, one of 35 such Carmel Cloister institutions in the country. The eight nuns, aged between 47 and 79, otherwise come into contact with the world outside only during medical emergencies, when they visit Holy Spirit Hospital, also barely 200 metres away.

Not even death requires them to move out — the nuns who depart are buried in a cemetery within their compound.

Inside the high walls, the nuns have no domestic help, save the gardeners, the occasional electrician and the rare undertaker. Most windows stay shut always. The eight nuns maintain the two-storey building, going about their assigned chores “in silence”, according to Sr Therese.

She talks from behind a metal-grilled window, having accepted a business card from a two-way drawer below the grill. All interactions with occasional visitors happen through this window, with the exception of an ‘extern’ nun, the only one in the monastery who can step out to take care of the monastery’s needs.

Between breakfast and lunch, the nuns, including some with goiter and diabetes, sweep the floors, dust and do the laundry or cook while three nuns do the most important chore — baking the Holy Bread (hosts) for various parishes in the Bombay Archdiocese.

Besides donations, the only source of income for the cloistered Carmels is baking this bread. Three nuns work on five-decade-old equipment to bake and cut the bread into shape. Earning Rs 100 for 100 big hosts used by priests for mass, and Rs 100 for 1,000 small hosts consumed by the laity, the income is meagre.

Sr Therese turned 79 in June, and even in the humidity that follows Mumbai’s rains, is covered from head to toe in a dark brown habit, with only her face visible.

The cloistered Carmels have a frugal existence. Breakfast is a loaf of hard bread made by the nuns themselves. “We find it easier to make and digest,” reveals Sr Therese. While rice and vegetables are for lunch, the occasional egg or fish curry or “whatever people send” is “lavish”. Dinner is mostly porridge.

The tough lifestyle means the last to join the monastery was 23 years ago.

Radha Krishnan joined the monastery when she was just 24. An Iyer young woman from Colaba’s Navy Nagar, Krishnan was a teacher in a Catholic school and eventually converted to Christianity. In 1972, Radha Krishnan became Sr Mary Joseph when joined the Canossian order of nuns. Her convent in Andheri shared a compound wall with the Carmelite monastery and the cloistered life of silent contemplation appealed to her. “My family is still Hindu. I was attracted to the faith and when I became a nun, I wanted to spend a lot of time praying,” she says. Other nuns work as teachers or lawyers or nurses, but Sr Mary Joseph only wanted to pray. “So I joined the Cloister Carmels.”

To avoid being “fossilised”, the Carmel Cloister congregation now has a general assembly of the prioresses from the 35 Carmel Cloister monasteries in India. The assembly meets encourage roping in experts who can give lectures to the sisters, and for interactions with nuns from different monasteries. They talk about the ability to focus on prayers amid the hardship. “When we close our eyes, the whole world will come crowding. Memories and imagination. We just try to refocus on God when we realise our thoughts are straying,” she says, adding that she doesn’t know much about yoga and meditation, but it does sound “a lot like that — to become one with ourselves.”

Source Indian Express.

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Catholic nun receives award for excellence;


Tejaswini Sanstha selected  her for the commendable work done in empowering the girl children in the field of education.

Sister Marisa was presented with a citation, memento, bouquet and a book on the life of Phule.

Pune:The prestigious Kranti Jyoti, Savitribai Phule Award was presented to Apostolic Carmel Sister Marisa, considering her outstanding contribution for education and welfare of students, especially of girl children in Maharashtra.

Sister Marisa, principal of Mount Carmel convent school Lullanagar in was awarded at a function in Aannabhau Sathe, Sanskritik Bhavan in Pune on August 19.

Tejaswini Sanstha selected for her the commendable work done in empowering the girl children in the field of education.

The award perpetuates the name of great social reformer of Maharashtra Savitibai Phule, who worked tirelessly to make every girl child stand on her own with dignity in the male dominated Indian society.

The award committee commented the nun has always walked in the footsteps of Venerable Mother Veronica, foundress of the Apostolic Carmel Congregation, but achieved the social goals of Phule.

Sister Marisa was presented with a citation, memento, bouquet and a book in Marathi on the life of Phule by chief guest Sulabha Ternekar.

The catholic nun attributed her achievements God and thanked those who chose her for the award.

Source: UCANews


Christians support divorce law change; churches undecided

“If couples seek a divorce, then it is not fair that Christian couples have to wait for two years while those from other religions only have a one-year separation period,” said Dayal, who is also a member of’s board of directors.

Shorter mandatory separation period would bring ‘parity’ with other religions.

New Delhi: Many Indian Christians have welcomed a government offer to change the divorce law, saying it would help reduce the agony of couples suffering in a failing relationship. But various church organizations seem reluctant to take a stand on the issue.

The government last week filed an affidavit in the Supreme Court expressing its willingness to change the Christian Divorce Act.

In the affidavit, it offered to do away with a clause stipulating a two-year separation period before Christian couples can file for divorce.

The government offer came in response to a recent petition filed by a Christian man seeking to reduce the separation period to one year.

The petitioner, Albert Anthony, said the two-year separation period was discriminatory since the separation periods for other religions such as Hindus and Parsis were only one year.

However, the government told that court it would only make the change if a sizeable majority of Christians wanted it.

Laila Pasha, a women’s activist based in Bangalore, told such a change would bring relief to many couples.

“There are many cases where women are subjected to domestic violence, physical and sexual abuse, denial of property … in a relationship and the two-year separation period is only an extension of the violence she is already suffering,” said Pasha, who is Christian.

The government has thrown the ball in “our court and the Christian community along with Church leaders should respond to this in a positive way,” she said.

Virginia Saldanha, another women’s rights activist in Mumbai, said women in India do not go for divorce easily; they take the step only when they have exhausted all other means of reconciliation with their partners.

“So, why prolong the agony. If a person does not want to be in a marriage, a two-year separation period is not going to bring any changes in his or her relationship,” she added.

John Dayal, a lay Christian leader, told that the discriminatory nature of the existing law needed to be addressed.

“If couples seek a divorce, then it is not fair that Christian couples have to wait for two years while those from other religions only have a one-year separation period,” said Dayal, who is also a member of’s board of directors.

Christian women have demanded this for quite some time and “it should be granted to them.”

A cautious approach

However, both Catholic and Protestant church leaders were non-committal when asked about a possible change to the law.

Jose Abraham, a member of the Committee for Law and Public Interest Litigation of the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of India, said the conference does not have any official stand on the issue.

“If the government asks us about it, we would reply but as of now we have no stance on this issue,” Abraham told

The National Council of Churches in India, an umbrella group representing 30 churches including the Jacobites and the Orthodox, said its members were split on the issue.

“We might take up this issue during our meeting next month and would try to reach a consensus,” said Samuel Jayakumar of the council.

A senior Catholic churchman who did not want to be named said the Church is deliberately not taking a stand because Church leaders see the government “playing games” by raising the possibility of the amendment.

The pro-Hindu Bharatiya Janata Party, which heads the federal government, has been clamoring for a common civil code for all Indians, regardless of religions. Courts have also been issuing judgments moving toward ending religion-based laws.

“If the Church supports doing away with this clause making it equal for all regardless of religions, that can be easily interpreted as the Church supporting a common civil code and scrapping religion-based personal laws,” the churchman said.

“The Church has to be cautious.”

Source: UCAN

Is It part of Goa BJP’s Communal Agenda?


How the police watched helplessly as Parulekar backed Nerul mob trespassed on Don Bosco land, abused priests

Map of Goa....

Nerul mob forcibly started “ reconstruction” of temple which Don Bosco claims was nonexistent; police watched helplessly as mob started illegal construction on Don Bosco land with the blessings of the Tourism Minister; Priests who rushed to the spot repeatedly abused by crowd

Team Herald NERUL: Incidents of violence, lawlessness laced with a fair dose of communalism have marked the ugly incidents in Nerul in the past week. Without an iota of doubt, the local MLA and Tourism Minister Dilip Parulekar and his bother have fronted the so- called “ people’s agitation” against Don Bosco, in a manner in which the Salesians never expected.

The situation in Nerul flared up , just as the revered Don Bosco institution, had got all decks cleared for the construction of an educational campus at the Nerul plateau on land leased to them by the Comunidade with all necessary permissions in place.

Even the construction license which was inordinately delayed by the panchayat, was later cleared by the Deputy Director of Panchayats who directed the panchayat to clear it within ten days. This was the precise time when troubles began and, according to the Don Bosco institution, all of a sudden it was made out that a non- existent temple was demolished, allegedly by the Salesians.

While there are two sides to a story and Herald has heard both the sides, there are certain facts that are not debatable and if we analyse how these were played out, a clear pattern of intimidation and misuse of power emerges. Herald’s conversations with several players from both sides, over the past five days reveals the Nerul Panchayat played the blocking game since Jan 2015 a) January 6, 2015: The land was given on lease to Don Bosco by the comunidade. The TCP cleared plans b) Feb 2015: Nerul panchayat asked Don Bosco for a health & construction NOC. It did not raise any questions on the legality of Don Bosco’s possession of the land for the institute c) March 2015: Panchayat asked for a possession certificate from the comunidade, though these documents were submitted d) April 2015: Panchayat sent a letter to the TCP asking it to “ confirm” that Don Bosco were in possession of the said land. A mischievous move to delay construction license since TCP does not confirm possession or ownership


following: 1) While the Salesians emphatically state there is no evidence of any temple or religious structure that was used regularly, there was a massive show of stage- managed protest at a “ ghumti” being demolished.

However, even if the charge of stage managing protests is not acceptable to the villagers of Nerul who agitated, the following should have been done. The place should have been cordoned off and an inquiry ordered by the mamlatdar with the support of the police.

What happened was different: On Aug 19, people from the village along with the acting sarpanch Shashikala Govekar trespassed on the property ( survey number 91/ 1) and shouted and agitated saying a temple was destroyed. The alarming communal statements made will not be reproduced here to avoid a further flare up. This was done in the presence of hundreds of villagers including the brother of Dilip Parulekar.

2) According to eyewitnesses, who spoke in confidence, corroborated by the Salesians of Don Bosco, many people gathered on the land and shouted slogans saying they would take over the property forcefully.

According to a senior member of Don Bosco, “ They threatened that they would assault our people if we went ahead with our educational institution project.” 3) The acting sarpanch along with the mob forcefully conducted some rituals on the property and said they were building a temple with some masonary stones, cement and sand with the mamlatdar and the police watching as mute spectators.

4) On August 20, Don Bosco hired security personnel as a security measure after this incident. The crowd returned again and assaulted the security personnel with one of them badly injured and his clothes torn.

5) Meanwhile the Deputy Collector had passed a status quo order that no construction could take place on the property. Defying this the villagers continued with the illegal construction on the property leased to Don Bosco.

6) On the same day the crowd thronged the Porvorim police station along with the MLA and tourism minister who demanded that one Savio be arrested.

There was no one called Savio either from Don Bosco or from the locals who were present on the spot, a clear indication that even the minister has not stepped back and taken a dispassionate view on this but acted as stakeholder for the locals who want to prevent the land going to Don Bosco at any cost.

The uprising and the incidents of violence has forced the administration to maintain a status quo till August 31, when it was earlier expected that the appeal against the Deputy Director Panchayat’s order directing the Nerul panchayat to issue a construction license would be heard on Aug 24.

This blatant misuse of force and power against an institution of learning and adding a communal colour will go down as yet another excess of this BJP government.

 Source: Deccan Herald, GOA

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