The Sisterhood of St. Mary at Haluaghat
In this issue we mourn the death of Sister Charu, one of the founding members of the Sisterhood of St. Mary which began at OM Barisal. A report from the OM Quarterly Paper of 1968 relates their early history.
The Sisterhood of St. Mary started in 1910 as a small community living with the Sisterhood of the Epiphany at Barisal and sharing its work, but living a life of its own. It all began with a poor, illiterate widow, Mukta. She was a hardworking person, learnt to read and had both the stability and the desire to persevere. She was clothed as a Novice in 1913 and was professed in 1918.
In 1929 they were called to Garoland, Bengal, to make their Mother House at Haluaghat and to help the Indian Brotherhood of St. Andrew, who were already established there. The two Communities, the Sisters under Sister Mukta, the Brothers under Father Chakravati, lived side by side and worked together independent of the English parent Communities and responsible only to the Bishop. The Sisters opened a school for boarders and day girls, visited in the neighbouring villages and worked in the dispensary and school sickroom. Besides Sister Mukta there were three Sisters: Sister Chella, a doctor, Sister Usha, Headmistress of the school, and Sister Charu, the first Garo Sister, and these with a succession of able helpers continued and developed the work.
There were many difficulties. Political conditions, since the partition of India and Pakistan in 1947, made Haluaghat more remote than it was before, even from Barisal. The Community was cut off, not only from its parent Community because of the difficulty and expense of travelling, but also from the financial support of the Church in Calcutta. India had become a foreign country and Government regulations limiting the transfer of money were very strict. The isolation and the lack of money were often severe during these years...
In 1960, large numbers of Garos and other hill tribes became restless and frightened, and migrated over the border into Assam. This left the village of Haluaghat almost devoid of Christian families. The Sisters were in great doubt as to whether to follow their flock into Assam. But the Bishop advised them to stay: and gradually the Garos began to drift back to their homes and reclaim their land, and the school flourished again.
We hope that now Father Martin is there to help them we may hear more about the work of this gallant little Community.