Mangaluru, July 11, 2020: Celebrating 99 years of the foundation of Bethany Sisters (BS) Congregation at Bendur in Mangalore, July 11, 2020 was a day to magnify and render thanks to God glorifying Him for blessings and recalling His accompaniment in the birth, growth and perilous journey of this indigenous Congregation of the Sisters of the Little Flower of Bethany, Mangalore. The BS inaugurated its 100 th year of its existence 1921-2021.
The Congregation of the Sisters of the Little Flower of Bethany was founded on July 16, 1921 by Msgr Raymond Francis Camillus (R F C) Mascarenhas (1875-1960), the first Parish Priest (1914-21) of St Sebastian Church, Bendur, Mangalore in response to the needs and call of the time. This Mangalore diocesan priest who founded the indigenous Congregation was a far-sighted visionary and missionary. The four pioneers namely Mother Martha, Sr Clare, Sr Lourdes and Sr Gertrude were a great support in materialising this great dream come true. The infant Congregation soon grew into a mighty tree and the membership for Bethany went up by leaps and bounds. Soon the Founder Rev Fr. R F C Mascarenhas and his band of nuns, accepted the challenge to serve the needy pople around the then Mangalore. Gradually the BS Sisters reached to all the regions of India and steadily moved to countries outside India to serve humanity across the globe as the LORD showed them the path. At present, the Congregation is blessed with 1388 members and 187 convents, in 9 countries. Bethany congregation has extended its branches in 61 dioceses serving the deserving people with love without disparity. The achievements in the past 99 years are phenomenal, made possible only by the providence of God, offering a cup of gratitude.
To mark the opening of the Centenary Year 2020-21 - Thanksgiving Inaugural Eucharist was offered in the Main Chapel of Bethany Mother House by Rev Dr Peter Paul Saldanha, Bishop of Mangalore Diocese concelebrated by Rev Fr Vincent Monteiro, the present Parish Priest, Bendur a successor of the founder and Rev Fr Dionysius Vaz SJ, Rector of St Aloysius Institutions, Jesuits were largely responsible for educating the Founder at the College and Seminary. The many who supported and contributed to Bethany efforts were remembered and thanked in a general manner.
Proceeding to the service, Rev Sr Rose Celine BS, the Superior General led the procession carrying lighted candles symbolizing 100 years of life and mission of Bethany and was followed with a hundred lamps borne by five Sisters with the celebrants to the Altar of God. Sr Lillis, the Asst Superior General gave a meaningful introduction to the occasion, with the often said words of the Founder as the theme " Let Bethany grow, flower and bear fruit" and looking on it on the threshold of the centenary it has produced "abundant fruit" as the Bishop said.
The Bishop in his homily highlighted the holy life led by Msgr RFC Mascarenhas, the Founder of Bethany Congregation and the Bethany Educational Society ® who as a diocesan priest, founded the Congregation to respond to the needs of the times to educate the rural poor and empower women. Fr. R F C Mascarenhas, the founder who was a slave of Jesus Christ (JC) at all times of his life, often called his band of sisters ’CJ’ ’crown and joy’ of Christ. His love to spread the word of God was so very paramount to him, that he translated the scriptures and prayers which were in Latin in those days to the native tongue Konkani. In the early 1060s Rome adopted local languages in churches as if it was a prophecy fulfilled.
After the Holy Eucharist, Sr Rose Celine BS the Superior General declared the Centenary year open and launched the Centenary Logo in the presence of Rev Dr Peter Paul Saldanha, the Bishop of Mangalore Diocese, Fr Vincent Monteiro, Fr Dionysius Vaz SJ, Sr Lillis BS, Sr Shanthi Priya BS, Sr Mariette BS and Sr Lillita BS the General Councillors, Sr Jyoti the former Superior General, Sr Cecilia BS, the Provincial of Mangalore Province, Sr Cleopha BS, the Administrator and a few selected representatives representing all the provinces of Bethany Congregation.
The very meaningful centenary logo was well explained by Sr Philomene Saldanha BS and Sr Reena Juliet. After the unveiling of the Logo. It mainly was represented by a significant oil lamp aflame, three smaller flames representing the three vows compulsory for the BS congregation - Obedience, Chastity and Poverty. The figure 100 was represented by human forms denoting values. It also included the theme saying and the backdrop of a world map indicated the BS congregation was world wide, the grape wine and ring of red indicated it’s fruitfulness through 100 years 1921-2021.
The choir, multinational and multilingual, presented a melodious centenary symphony. In memory of this great year 2020-2021 of Centenary, Bethany has launched housing project to provide 100 deserving families housing asistance, 100 young women professional/industrial education, Youth Champions for leadership, and to prevent human trafficking of women in particular. Sr.Christine BS, the Procurator General handed over the key to one of the families to mark the special project of the Centenary, which will proceed further. The year past, the run up to this occasion has seen a lot of preparation and prayer and it is sure to continue with the aims being a great success.
On this great occasion, on the inaugural of the Centenary year, Bishop Rev Dr Peter Paul Saldanha hailed the Bethany sisters, wished and recognized the contribution of Bethany to the society and the Church as its effective apostolic arm. He stressed the good works, that from Mangalore have spread to all corners India and now the world over. Sr Mariette BS, General Councillor proposed the vote of thanks with great elan and fitting words, keeping the focus on the articulation of the great founder Rev. Fr. R F C Mascarenhas, whose memory is sacred here - May the "Servant of God’s" cause towards the first Konkani Mangalorean to be raised to the altar as a saint, be realised soon; after completing the local stage, it is now progressing in Rome. Sr Lourdes conducted the post-eucharist proceedings of the programme.
The fervent prayer and wish as always is continuing that God bless the world and reverse the Covid 19 effects soon. The refrain in Bethany, "Thank God, Praise God, Hail LORD" will never end and will be the real crown and joy for eternity.