A Catholic nun, who pioneered a credit society that helped change the destiny of thousands of women in Mumbai, has died of Covid-19.
Sister Shakuntala, a member of Society of the Helpers of Mary for 51 years, died on August 23 at Mumbai’s Holy Spirit Hospital. She was 73.
She was buried in Mumbai’s Oshiwara Christian Cemetery on Aug. 24 in the presence of the parish priest and a few nuns.
Sister Shakuntala was staying at Ma-Niketan in Thane and nuns there are in quarantine now, Sister Ragina Joseph, secretary general of the indigenous congregation, told Matters India over phone.
Sister Shakuntala was an executive committee member of the Mumbai unit of the Conference of Religious India for several years. She was its vice president during 2013-2014.
Sister Shakuntala is credited with starting Prem Seva Mahila (loving service to women) Credit Society in Mumbai.
“Sister Shakuntala started the credit society in Mumbai’s Vakola 27 years ago to help poor women and their families. It has now some 9,800 members,” Sister Joseph said. A second such society launched in Thane’s Bhokali area has some 5,000 members, the Mumbai-based nun added.
According to Sister Joseph, thousands of women have benefitted from the society Sister Shakuntala started. Sister Shakuntala gave loans to the credit society members to to educate their children, start small businesses so that they could make a difference in their lives, Sister Joseph explained.
Sr Shakuntala had also helped children of migrant workers get better education and find jobs so that they can sustain themselves.
Another project Sister Shakuntala started was feeding the poor in Maharashtra’s Kinwart village. She had provided cooked food to around 200 senior citizens, differently abled, HIV/AIDS patients daily, Sister Joseph said.
When an earth quake hit Maharashtra’s Latur district in 1993, as many as 52 villages were affected in Osmanabad, some 80 km southwest. Sister Shakuntala reached there the next day and worked among the affected people. She and a companion visited families and counselled people, besides helping in relief and rehabilitation. Sr Shakuntala and team also worked in Maharashtra’s Nadihattarga village.
Sister Shakuntala celebrated her golden jubilee on December 2, 2019.
She had served as the superior in many communities. She coordinated various social activities especially women empowerment, Sister Joseph said.
During May and June, when the country was under lockdown, Sister Shakuntala went out to help stranded migrant workers. “She was very much worried about the migrants during the lockdown. She was busy arranging loans to the migrant workers and helping them to get back to their native places,” the secretary general recalled.
Sr Shakuntala, a native of Kerala’s Trichur district, was a good singer who played guitar, drums and harmonium. “She used to be very vibrant at any gathering or community outings that kept the group together,” Sister Joseph said.
The ever-smiling nun’s motto in life was to empower the women to change society. She had special love for poor women and differently able people and could mingle with the young and old easily, she added. “Her right leg was little shorter and she had limping problem. So she had a soft corner for the physically challenged people. She had helped many of them to start small business.”
When she was in Varanasi she used to sing Bhajans in the evenings to bring people together, Sister Joseph added.
The congregation that was started by a German nun Mother Anna Huberta and a Jesuit priest Joseph Neuner in 1942 now has 360 members in 69 houses.