Holy Cross School, Kulaura, Bangladesh, was inaugurated as a sponsored ministry of the Sisters of the Holy Cross in January 2018. This month, Fruits of Holy Cross looks at how the seed planted in Kulaura is now blossoming into a vibrant educational ministry for the people of rural northeast Bangladesh.
The Sisters of the Holy Cross have been ministering in Kulaura since 1981. They provided pastoral care in the early years, and later began to teach villagers in the tea plantations and opened a boarding school for girls living in remote areas. Soon, villagers were asking the sisters for additional educational opportunities for more children. The sisters officially began Holy Cross School in the Lokhipur village on January 16, 2018, with nursery and kindergarten classes. First grade was added in 2019 and second grade is planned for 2020. The sisters anticipate adding a new grade each year, through grade five. Sister Shiuli Gomes, CSC, the school's headmistress, noted, “It was a great joy to see the parents’ interest to educate their children by the Sisters of the Holy Cross.”
The sisters also established the Holy Cross Health Education Center in 1989. The center serves the health care and health education needs of residents, most of whom suffer from malnutrition and lack of access to care.
On the same site is the sisters’ Prottasha Sewing Sheba Kunjo ministry, which provides vocational training to women in sewing and embroidery. This empowerment ministry offers women an economic opportunity so they are able to provide for themselves and their families. Many of the women are mothers of children attending Holy Cross School.
“The sisters are very grateful to the donors who are making a lot of sacrifices to contribute to Holy Cross School in Kulaura. Your sacrifices help the sisters and teachers to develop their skills in administration and teaching, with the students being the ultimate beneficiaries.”
—Sister Shiuli Gomes, CSC
The Light of a Holy Cross Education
School Headmistress Sister Shiuli is fond of saying “Go instead where there is no path” as a way to describe the journey of this young educational ministry. The school currently enrolls 50 students in nursery, kindergarten and first grade and employs four teachers. Thanks to the prayers and financial gifts of those who give to the Ministry With the Poor Fund, the school is growing and providing outstanding academics for its students. In addition to traditional educational activities, sisters, teachers and parents attend half-day awareness seminars on child protection. These seminars help parents understand nonviolent and compassionate discipline methods.
Every year, students, parents and teachers gather for a major celebration announcing the results of the annual examination required for each student. Before the results are shared, students and parents attend a cultural program to celebrate the year of learning and express thanksgiving for their accomplishments. At this year’s event, the parish priest of Lokhipur, Father Valentine Talang, OMI, spoke to parents about the gift of Holy Cross School for the community. Father Valentine noted, “This missionary institution has a good reputation all over the world. Through education, light is spread where there is darkness in society.”
The school and village are located between two large tea plantations. The production of tea is a major industry in northeast Bangladesh. Ninety-one of the country’s 150-plus tea plantations are in this geographic area. Wages for plantation workers average less than $2 per day. The economic pressures on families are severe and contribute to a very high rate of school drop-outs. According to the local Catholic diocese, only 41 percent of the residents can read, and the World Bank reports approximately half of children are moderately or severely underweight. The light of a Holy Cross education that Father Valentine describes is a very real presence to this remote area and a source of hope and pride to the people of Lokhipur, Kulaura.
This light is possible only through the generosity of many. The Ministry With the Poor Fund has equipped the school with desks, benches, books and other necessities as the sisters work to continue to grow the school. Sisters and staff have received training to help advance their skills in serving the students in this remote village. For example, with technology training, staff are incorporating computers into the curriculum to enhance the students’ education. In the coming year, donors will enable the school to purchase sports and musical equipment and a scanner/printer to produce handouts and class assignments. Thanks to a recent grant, solar panels will be installed at the school for clean and reliable energy, and a water filtration system will ensure clean water to support the health and safety of children and staff.
“The sisters are very grateful to the donors who are making a lot of sacrifices to contribute to Holy Cross School in Kulaura. Your sacrifices help the sisters and teachers to develop their skills in administration and teaching, with the students being the ultimate beneficiaries,” said Sister Shiuli.
Gifts to Ministry With the Poor Fund have enabled Holy Cross School to begin its work, and provide support to our other ministries around the world. We invite you to join in this success by donating to Ministry With the Poor. If you’d like to contribute directly to the needs of Holy Cross School in Kulaura, please select “Other” under “my gift is for” and type “Holy Cross School Kulaura” in the field below “Other.”