The Spirit blows where he wills

A young girl in Mumbai, splashed with colour

Hands holding a flower.

As you begin this day, can you offer it up to the lord?

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Interesting holidays with our Jesuit uncle

My mother had two brothers who were Jesuits. One was a lecturer in De Nobili College, the formation house for Jesuits in Pune, India, and the other worked with tribal people in Dahanu, a small village on the outskirts of Mumbai. My mother was very close to her brother who was a missionary, and so we spent quite a lot of our holidays with this uncle. They were very interesting holidays. We mixed with the Adivasi, tribal children and were always surprised by these people who lived with so little. Also we were in awe of our uncle who lived a very simple life, and was always available if his people needed him. He was priest, father, teacher, doctor, and also government officer seeing that they got their rights. And this meant that when the people needed to go to the hospital at night he was ready to help as he had a jeep.

Sharing joys and frustrations

My parish was not a Jesuit parish, but I went to school in one of these parishes, and because of the close ties with the Jesuits we often went for mass and belonged to groups set up by the Jesuits. I was an active member of the CLC and when I finished school I volunteered at Seva Niketan - the Jesuit house that was the centre of the CLC. I was one of those who prepared people who came to the city looking for jobs - people who did not speak English fluently enough to face a job interview - so I gave English classes, using the newspaper as our text. In this way the clients not only gained fluency in English but learnt to talk about current topics. This was a very important experience for me. I enjoyed hearing about how they managed to speak and impress the interviewers enough to get the job, and shared their joys and frustrations.

'Let the little children alone, and do not stop them coming to me; for it is to such as these that the kingdom of heaven belongs.' Image: two children sitting in a window at sunsetKindled by my love for my brother

My youngest brother had learning disabilities and so when I felt drawn to dedicate my life to the Lord I was attracted to the Handmaids of the Sacred Heart of Jesus, a Congregation that came to India at the invitation of the Jesuit Provincial in India to work with people with learning disabilities. One of the Jesuits at St Xaviers College, had pioneered a study on the education of people with learning disabilities. There was only one school in India, so he got our sisters to train in Dublin. Our sisters began at this school and later set up their own.

Until then I did not see any pattern in what was happening. But I feel that the Lord was leading me to a congregation with Ignatian Spirituality. With hindsight I realise how the Lord was leading me and that my love for those with special needs was kindled by my love for my brother - now widened to a special vocation.

A choice – to work with the poorest of the poor

Being with people who are disabled marked my whole life, it was a choice to work with the poorest of the poor, but it spread to those who in different ways needed a helping hand.  First it was with the families, and then with those who worked with us and also through the teacher training centre, which served people from all over the country, most of whom were not Christians.

Here Ignatian Spirituality helped a lot. One thing that we learn about prayer is to use contemplation. Children with learning disabilities can do that very easily, and helping their parents to use this type of prayer to face situations that they found very difficult to accept helped a lot. This is for me one of the greatest gifts of Ignatian Spirituality.

And now that I work in a school as a catechist, I help prepare the weekly mass, and this method of prayer is something that children pick up easily. They love to think that Jesus is with them, and he is sharing their experiences, and they talk to him. I hope that these simple experiences help them in future to grow in their relationship with Jesus, and make choices that will be ones God wants for them.

Sr Noella Pereira ACI

Go Deeper

Monks, nuns and priests in Catholic religious communities often have deeply prayerful lives that bring them closer to the Lord.

So what can we learn from those with a devotion to great saints like St Thérèse of Lisieux, St Dominic, St Benedict, St Francis of Assisi, St Clare, St Bernard and St Ignatius?

What do each of these 'teachers' offer us as a tool for prayer and how does their prayer begin to shape ours?

From the Dominicans to the Benedictines, the Carmelites to the Franciscans, this podcast series explores some of these wonderful 'Schools of Prayer'.

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