By I J Saldanha-Shet
Mangalore, March 15, 2012: Mangalore, has higher than average number of sick aged people for various reasons. Mainly ’job migration’ of the younger which compels very few able family members to be available for care of the aged, other real causes too exist. The middle class agricultural community on the widespread periphery of this growing city is seriously handicapped in this critical scenario. On the green slopes of Neermarga, ’AROGYA MATHA ASHRAM’ gives care and shelter to the poor aged and lonely, since 1987 - for 25 years. A make shift extension to an old house, with a little land donated by one Mr.Boniface.D’Souza of Kulshekar,to the Congregation of Sister’s of Our Lady of Fatima,(FS) has served as a very modest Home for the aged. This haven for the deprived is at Neermarga about 20 Km from Mangalore proper; a little more than a kilometer from Neermarga Bus terminus, to the right flank on a service road. The people of the area irrespective of caste or creed show much affection to this home and refer to it as ’Ashrama’. Indeed it has served as a place of peace for many old needy folks.
On Saturday, March 17, 2012 marking the Silver Jubilee (25 years) of this center for care and concern, a new modern wing is to be inaugurated (see the programme). The Bishop of Mangalore V Rev Aloysuis Paul D’Souza will lead the solemn Holy Mass and Rev. Sr Teresa Peter, Provincial Superior, Bangalore Province will grace the functions. The Sisters and well wishers have made gigantic efforts and sacrifices to extend the cramped building with a modern extension to house about 20 more middle class aged on nominal terms. The food provided is balanced and comparable to more sophisticated homes of Mangalore! Sadly many who need this care have to be turned away due to lack of space and paucity of funds for adding more rooms and/or buildings to accommodate the suffering aged.
The services they have been extending to the suffering without expecting returns are appreciable. "Unless the Lord blesses the house, man but builds in vain" is demonstrated in real terms. The management of this institution is under pressure and finding it difficult to meet the bills of the expansion. People of DK who are often willing to contribute and support good causes. But, they rarely check on such deserving causes where contribution is a priority. Sickness, age, misfortune, death and the like are not respecters of persons and all will have their turn at the set time sooner or later.
SISTER’S OF OUR LADY OF FATIMA (FS):
This institution at Neermarga is run by a congregation of nuns founded by Msgr. Francis Xavier Kroot of Holland (a member of the Mill Hill Missionaries); founded on 8.February 1893 at Bellary, Karnataka. His aim to form this band of dedicated nuns was primarily to serve the suffering for whom he had a deep compassion. The founder died early, aged 45.yrs in 1900. After facing trials from many quarters, the order of sisters shifted to Pune in 1951; today this congregation has spread to at least 12 states in India with more than 400 sisters with more than 80 institutions - it observes it’s "Foundation day" on 8.February every year. Presently it is headed by Sr.Santan Nago, Superior General, from 2007, based in Pune. Sr.Shiny.Mathew has been in charge of "ARAOGYA MATHA’ Mangalore for some years now. These Fatima Sisters are heroically serving the down trodden poor of Mangalore in a pioneering manner with poverty their companion for the good of the poor sick and aged, which deserves to be felicitated and recognized for its work and worth.
But, funds for development are lacking. The spot is a beautiful one with an excellent view of the sunset over hills and dales. The residents take special pleasure in sitting out and enjoying the glorious sunsets in the evenings; this is a pleasure that surpasses any TV programme which they also watch in the common community room! Regulations at this home- away- from- home are minimal and there are no overpowering rules. Payments are reasonable. This humane approach makes it difficult for nuns who run the place, and are often seriously hampered for funds; they pray for largehearted canarites to come forward so that they can have better security to serve the needy and not turn away the deserving.