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Community a Thriving Partnership in Laitlawsnai, India

posted in: Asia, Ministry
St. John students perform during a cultural program, backed by Principal Sister Shibanlin Nongsiej, CSC, left, and school assistant Sister Shadkmenlang Kharsahnoh, CSC.

The community of Laitlawsnai, India, is thriving through partnership and mutual support. among sisters and villagers. Here, St. John students perform during a cultural program, backed by Principal Sister Shibanlin Nongsiej, CSC, left, and school assistant Sister Shadkmenlang Kharsahnoh, CSC.

Galatians 6:2 teaches us to, “Carry each other’s burdens, and in this way, you will fulfill the law of Christ.” In a rocky, hilly area of northeast India, a small group of Holy Cross sisters and their village neighbors are doing just that. Together the community is thriving through partnership and mutual support.

A remote village, Laitlawsnai is home to about 1,000 people. Mostly farmers, residents have enough to eat but no money to invest in their community. At one time, the Christian villagers had been yearning for a shepherd to guide them in their faith. Priests came at least four times per year to celebrate Mass, but the people desired a more frequent and deeper connection.

The local bishop, aware of the people’s needs, sought help from the Holy Cross sisters. Responding to this need, the Congregation sent three sisters in 2017 to begin a pastoral ministry in the village. They walked from house to house, visiting with the people, sharing their faith, and listening to their joys and concerns. From that attentiveness grew trust. And from there, the community became a thriving partnership.

Sister Shadkmenlang Kharsahnoh, CSC, in one of the school classrooms.

Sister Shadkmenlang Kharsahnoh, CSC, in one of the school classrooms.

Laitlawsnai residents built a convent for the sisters, enabing them to stay on at the local school.

Laitlawsnai residents built a convent for the sisters, enabing them to stay on at the local school.

Supporting education

A year into their ministry, the villagers asked the sisters to take over their small school, St. John’s. Only 43 students, spanning nursery through grade three, were enrolled. And attendance was sporadic for students as well as teachers.

With the Congregation’s rich history in education, the sisters knew they could transform the school. But it would require them to move to Laitlawsnai. A gracious offer came from a small group of single mothers who owned a vacant parcel of land for a homesite. So appreciative of the sisters, the women wanted to give them the land. But the sisters insisted on paying a fair price for it. Two burdens lifted.

The village came together to build the house. They also supplied a host of household items, such as furniture and kitchenware and food and staples for the sisters’ pantry. When the sisters took over the school in February 2018, they brought in many resources through the Ministry With the Poor Fund. They stocked the school with educational charts, computers, blackboards, furniture, water filters and more. They also paid for teacher workshops, raised salaries and helped cover student fees for families that needed assistance. 

Today, with classes four and five added, enrollment is over 150 students. And parents recognize all their children can gain through a good education. Looking around at the school, Principal Sister Shibanlin Nongsiej, CSC, says, “I have big hope.” And so do the villagers.

The village came together to build the house. They also supplied a host of household items, such as furniture and kitchenware and food and staples for the sisters’ pantry.

Health and wellness ministry

About a year ago, the sisters secured a grant from the Conrad N. Hilton Fund for Sisters to bring clean water to St. John School to reduce waterborne illness. The funding provided for a 120-meter well and four outdoor toilets with a septic system to reduce groundwater contamination and promote sanitation. 

And recently, the community accomplished another successful project, once again, by bearing one another’s burdens. When villagers expressed their desire for health services, the sisters affirmed they could deliver that if the people could build an addition to the sisters’ house for that purpose. Now, Sister Ribha Mynsong, CSC, a recent nursing school graduate, has a site where she can implement her skills. She treats minor injuries and illnesses, checks blood pressure readings and glucose levels, and offers health education. When a condition requires more extensive care, Sister Ribha accompanies the patient to Shillong for consultation or treatment.

Children in Laitlawsnai, northeast India, play together after St. John School lets out. Since the arrival of the Holy Cross sisters in 2017, student attendance has steadily increased.

Children in Laitlawsnai, northeast India, play together after St. John School lets out. Since the arrival of the Holy Cross sisters in 2017, student attendance has steadily increased.

Families of St. John School students attend a cultural program.

Families of St. John School students attend a cultural program.

God’s kingdom prevails

Since they arrived in 2017, the sisters’ pantry remains full due to the villagers’ deep appreciation. Their hearts are full too. A beautiful relationship based in love for one another and faith in God continues to bear fruit. Standing side by side, they will continue to carry each other’s burdens, lightening loads and praising the God who brought them together.

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This story also appears in the latest issue of inSpirit magazine. To receive the magazine or the Annual Giving Report, use the button below and fill out our online request form. You can also sign up to receive the online newsletter from the Development Office of the Sisters of the Holy Cross.