Greetings from the Oxford Mission Family, Behala!
The activities in the Mission compound are vibrant./ Our boys are doing excellently in all spheres - just name it - education, music, sports, art, spiritual knowledge, scouting, nature study, quiz, social awareness, etc. They are encouraged to participate in all these events held in different places in Kolkata, and each time they come out with immense success. We are proud!!
In our special weekly get-together in the Chapel, we discuss and contemplate God's Grace upon us, and the sacrifice, love, caring and sharing in the U.K. Committee, donors, subscribers, supporters of the Oxford Mission, and the hard work and vision of members of the Oxford Mission Trust Association, Kolkata. On behalf of the beneficiaries, the Committee, the staff and I thank you all abundantly for your support and concern for the Mission at Behala. I pray to God that the Oxford Mission Family grows in unity and profound spiritual strength to nourish and nurture this 'vestibule to the Kingdom of Heaven'; strong in it's mission for the emancipation of the poor.
Our 123 young boys from the ages of 6 to 18 are growing up into healthy, handsome men - full of zest and zeal. They enjoy their studies, sports, music and meals. We give them the diet of sufficient protein and carbohydrates. They look forward to the 'chicken curry day' which is on Sunday. Two days are vegetarian days, and on the rest of the days they have fish and eggs. Their breakfast and evening snacks are wholesome. On special days, they have a gala time with extra-special dishes, including Indian sweets like sandesh or rossogolla for dessert.
This year three of our boys appeared for final High School. Two succeeded and one could not make it. He is trying again. The boys from other schools from class VI onwards are doing well. Some of them are dull, and i try to push them into vocational training so that they may have a trade in hand and not lose out on age. The Mission admits the boys who [pass High School into college, and their educational expenses are borne by us. A few of these boys are allowed to stay at the Epiphany Hostel as they do not have a proper place to live in - most of them do their studies from their homes and the results are submitted to us, failing which we stop the educational grant. This has not happened so far.
We have 15 boys here at present. Some are trying to get jobs and get settled outside. Some are studying. This year Rana Gomes passed the B.Com (Hons.) Exam from St. Xavier's College. He is an Epiphany Hostel boy, very disciplined. He is now trying go get into a specialised course of Hotel Management. It will be impossible for him to afford it as the fees are quite steep. He is looking for a sponsor here or abroad to help him do this course. Not much that I can do!
This is growing each week. Every Tuesday there is a big crowd waiting to be treated. Our Panel of Doctors are doing a great job, and patients seem to be happy with them. Some benevolent people from medicine companies donate good medicines to us, which in turn the doctors give to poor patients free of cost. We take this opportunity to thank all those who donate these expensive medicines to help the poor.
With the active support of Bishop P.S.P. Raju, Chairman O.M.T.A., the work of the Industrial School is looking up. In recent times Bishop Raju advised the schools and institutions of of his diocese to utilise I.S.O.M. for their work, which they are adhering to. Recently, the I.S.O.M. boys made 30 steel beds for Bishop's College and 20 metal computer revolving stools for the Pratt Memorial School, and have thus gained experience in undertaking such work. Also quite a good amount of carpentry work is given to the Oxford Mission. Again the boys are having experience, and at the same time the Training Centre is generating some funds for the Mission. This has just started, and I forsee a good future in this for both the Oxford Mission and for the trainee boys. The Bishop is also trying to put up a computer training centre. Let's keep our fingers crossed and hope for the best.
As I said in my past letter, it is 'booming'! Ananta Makhal is taking good care of the beginners and the Junior band, and Sanjib Mondal is training the Senior boys. They participated in many events both within and outside the Mission. On 2 August they participated in the Monsoon Concert at eh Kolkata School of Music, and, mesmerised the audience with their talent. I was present and felt proud of them. The Bangali Chorus and Classical Dance is also doing fine, and we are entering competitions.
Seven of our boys have now been selected for the Indian Navy Band. They are from Classes IX and X. Now they are settled in life, with a fairly good starting salary, free food, lodging, uniform, leave benefits etc. They will be leaving for their Headquarters in Mumbai on the 18th of next month. We provide them with a set of shirt/trousers/undergarments/pair of shoes. Please pray for them that they may prosper in life.
Sister Florence, S.E. celebrated her 100th birthday with a solemn Thanksgiving Service led by the Rt. Revd. P.S.P. Raju, Bishop of Kolkata and Chairman, O.M.T.A. The Revd. Alwyn Jones, representing the Oxford Mission in the U.K., read the Gospel, and other priests of the Diocese of Kolkata said very touching prayers and litany. The Chaplain of the Oxford Mission Behala, the Rt. Revd. Samar Boiragi, said the opening prayer on this occasion.
The Acting British Deputy High Commissioner, Mr. Paul Walsh, handed over greetings from H. M. Queen Elizabeth II to Sister Florence, and said a few words in appreciation of Sister Florence's work and mission. He was impressed with the service and the celebrations. It was joyful to have Mother Susila, Sister Jharna, Sister Sobha, Sister Sikha, Sister Sipra and Sister Maria on this happy occasion. Mother Susila spoke of her experience with Sister Florence since the time they had worked at the Leprosy Mission (with a touch of humour thrown in). It was a real pleasure to hear her! The Sisters sang a lovely hymn in Bengali. Bishop Raju's message was very touching. He read St. Paul, and said that Sister kept on running the race and did not look behind.
An eight-pound cake in the shape of a Bible and a bouquet of flowers were given to Sister Florence from the Oxford Mission. Sister received gifts and flowers from various schools, homes, and parishioners of St. Peter's Church. There were people from all walks of life who came to greet her. We had a trying time with T.V. and Press people but the coverage given was really good. The evening ended with a big surprise - the quiet entry of none other than the Indian Cricket Captain, Sourav Ganguly (which even I was unaware of). He brought with him a big cake and a plaque and flowers on behalf of the Barisha Sporting Club. He was most pleasantly surprised to learn from Sister Florence herself that she knew so much about him, his wife and his little daughter.
I must make special mention here that Sister Florence is really great...! She keeps herself well informed about what's happening all over the world as she is an avid reader of the daily newspapers! Sister is 'on top of the world'. To quote a very close friend of hers, Sister Tina, the Lady Principal of Loreto House, "Sister is really very happy!" She received very many birthday cards from overseas, Kolkata and other places in India. Surprisingly, she is still receiving cards and flowers. It is all well decorated on tables in her cottage. Sister Florence was of the opinion that the boys and staff of the Oxford Mission deserved a nice dinner on her birthday. So on the night of the 28'h a dinner consisting of very tasty fish and vegetables and followed by fruit was organised by her for all the boys and staff, Special guests were Mother Susila, the Sisters from Bangladesh and the Revd. Alwyn Jones. Everyone enjoyed the dinner and the boys of the Mission send a 'thank you' note to Sister Florence.
I went to the Airport to receive the Revd. Alwyn Jones on 9 June, and I recognised him at once as I had seen his picture in the October 2002 magazine. What a wonderful person he is - I enjoyed his company thoroughly. He visited Sister Florence on all the days that he was here in Behala. I admired what he wore at home..."a red lunghi and a red shirt"...! should say he looked really striking in this apparel! He left for the U.K. on 30 June.
On the evening of 26 June Mother Susila, accompanied by her brood of five delightful Sisters, arrived by road from Bangladesh. After the celebrations Mother Susila went with Sister Sobha to Chennai for her medical checkup, and left behind the other Sisters -I do hope I was able to make them comfortable enough - at least I tried my best! My wife Kanchan spent as much time with Mother and the Sisters as she could, in spite of her own long working hours. We were both very happy that Mother Susila and the Sisters could visit our home on their way back from Mother Teresa's house. In fact it was quite sad to see them off on 5 September when they left to go back to Bangladesh.
The Headmistress of St. Joseph's Primary School (Oxford Mission), Mrs. Aloka Biswas, retired after 27 years' service, on 31 July 2003. She was given a touching farewell by the children and teachers of the school. She had been associated with the Oxford Mission for many years, and her husband Subash Biswas was the Principal of the Finn School. We wish her a happy retired life. Our very old cook Sanat Singh retired on 30 June 2003. He had been in the Oxford Mission from the age of 6. We wish him a happy and comfortable future.
Special services were held in our Chapel for the departed souls of Sister Rosamund S.E., and Mr. Fred Pinn. May their souls rest in peace and rise in glory.
Before I conclude, I would like to take this opportunity to thank Bishop Bill Down, John Corrie Esq., Mrs. Mary Marsh, Mrs. Gill Wilson and all the U.K. Committee members, donors, subscribers and supporters of the Oxford Mission for their unstinted support for the poor and needy here in Kolkata, India.
I would like to thank our Chairman, the Rt. Revd. P.S.P. Raju, Bishop of Kolkata for his invaluable advice and guidance with regard to the betterment of the Oxford Mission, and members of the Board of Trustees and the Co-ordination Committee for their co-operation. I would specially like to thank Sister Florence S.E. for her love, support and guidance, who in spite of her 100 years is still committed to the cause of service to the poor. Also I would like to thank the staff members of the Oxford Mission, Shanti Nivash, Nazareth House, St. Joseph's Primary School, the O.M. English Kindergarten School, and our Doctors, without whom it would not be possible to run this institution. I thank the boys for being good and disciplined.
Please pray for us and for this beautiful Mission. May God grant us wisdom, understanding and knowledge.
With kind regards and good wishes to all,
ARIJEET ROY, Administrator