Franciscan Clarist Congregation (FCC) In NE Celebrating Golden Jubilee

N Samuel Douminthang Baite *

St. Joseph's Cathedral Church located at Mantripukhri, Imphal
St. Joseph's Cathedral Church located at Mantripukhri, Imphal

It is a boundless tiding that the Almighty God has led the Franciscan Clarist Congregation (FCC) of St. Clare Province this far and enabled them to celebrate the Golden Jubilee of the arrival of FCC sisters in Northeast. In fact the year 2015 will have a special place in the hearts of every FCC sister and the people they serve in Manipur and North East, as it is the Golden Jubilee Year couple with the vestition and first profession of Eight Novices.

The Jubilee celebration that was aptly inaugurated on 10th January, 2015 at St. Alphonsa Convent, Sugnu, the first house of the province, culminates on 3rd October, 2015 at the St. Joseph’s Cathedral, Mantripukhri, Imphal, Manipur.

The jubilee day will go down in the history of the FCCs, St. Clare Province as a red letter day and it will be a great milestone of achievement for the present generation and a point of reckoning for the coming generations. While rejoicing over the great deeds of the Almighty God throughout the last 50 golden years on the FCCs and their mission, I feel a strong urge in my inner mind to pen down few details about them as a person who experienced their love and care.

The beginning of FCC:

The Franciscan Clarist Congregation (FCC) gets its name from St. Francis and St. Clare of Assisi, who are also their patrons. St. Francis of Assisi who lived in the 13th Century was a great saint who brought about great revolutions in the history of the Church. He led a very poor and humble life according to the Gospel. St. Clare was the woman disciple of St. Francis. Their lives inspired certain women in Kerala towards the end of the 19th century which led to the foundation of Franciscan Third Order in 1875.

The congregation became an established Religious Congregation at Changanassery, Kerala on 14th Dec 1888. The Holy See (Vatican) raised the congregation to the Pontifical Right on 1 March, 1973 with a new constitution approved by the Sacred Oriental Congregation. It is a great matter of joy that the congregation could present to the world the first Indian Saint, St. Alphonsa, who was canonized on 12th October, 2010 by Pope Benedict XVI.

FCC in Manipur and Northeast:

Inspired by the missionary spirit of St. Francis of Assisi, the FCC sisters of the Pala province extended their apostolate to North East in 1966 at the request of Bishop Hubert Rosario of Dibrugarh. Diocese of Dibrugarh at that time consisted of part of Assam, Nagaland, and Manipur and was canonically erected towards the end of 1951. with Monsg. O’ Marengo S.D.B as its first Bishop.

The first batch of Eight FCC sisters Viz. Srs. Isabella, Stella, Henry, Hubert, Mary Vellamundayil, Aloshia, Josphine and Lisieux Augusta landed at Sugnu on the night of 10th January, 1966. Fr. Joseph Kachiramattam, the Parish Priest introduced them to the people, consisting of different Christian denominations, who gathered to welcome them.

The sisters helped Fr. Joseph Kachiramattam in starting St. Joseph’s school on 1st February 1966. A small dispensary for medical care was also started. Alphonsa Convent, Sugnu became their first house. The second convent was opened in Churachandpur on 9 February 1970. The sisters engaged themselves in education, health and medical care and village apostolate.

The light of gospel lit by the eight pioneers in 1966 did not end within Manipur. It has spread its light to different parishes of the Archdiocese of Imphal, Kohima, Dibrugarh, Diphu, Guwahati, Bongaigaon and Itanagar. The FCC in NE grew in numbers and it became a province on 15 January 1998 with Sr. Aloshia, one of the pioneers as its first provincial. It has now 31 centers and 178 sisters serving in different parts of North East.

Local vocations:

The sisters saw the great potentials of the people they served, especially the young girls and trained them. The first local sister in the person of Rev. Sr. Maria Chinglun FCC made her first profession on 28/03/1987 and followed by Sr. Elsa Renu FCC on 30/10/1993 and it goes on. At present out of 178 professed FCC sisters in the province 92 are from North East itself. The golden jubilee celebration is also mark by the first profession of eight novices viz. Agnes Laothil, Alphonsa Tinglalnem, Augustina Ekka, Marygrace Lamneikim, Mercy Nemneilhing Peimichon Nongron, Sangeeta Kerketta and Wormilia Khonia. They all hail from North East.

Their contributions:

The pioneers took keen interest in learning the local languages. As envisioned by them the congregation has contributed much in the fields of apostolic care, education, health, social welfare and so on serving the people of Manipur and North East. True to their charisms, following the example of their patron saints, St. Francis and St. Clare, the sisters have been engaging in faith formation of the members of the church by teaching catechisms, visiting villages and families and collaborating with the priests and catechists wherever they are.

Education is another area where they have contributed much. Apart from the many schools where they collaborate with the priests in educating the people, the congregation is running St. Mary’s Higher Secondary Schoool, Tuibong and St. George’s School, Wangkhei. The sisters are teaching at different level from nursery to college. Assisi convent/Hostel, Maram provides opportunity for education, faith formation and personality development for young women studying in Don Bosco College, Maram

Mercy Home in Churachandpur is a Vocational and Rehabilitation Centre for women who are drug addicts and prone to the same evil. The sisters, in collaboration with the Archdiocese of Imphal and different NGOs conduct and coordinate different programmes for the HIV/AIDS patients. St. Joseph’s Arts Centre, run by the sisters is a social Service centre where religious articles are available. And the list goes on.

To conclude:

The Golden Jubilee celebration of the FCC in NE is not just for the FCC sisters alone. It is we the people of Manipur (in particular) and North East who should join them in thanking the Almighty God and also thank the sisters for what they were and are to us. Their services and contributions are not just limited to the Catholic Church or its members but to all people who need their help regardless of caste or creed. Wherever they are they serve the people with utmost love and care. It is the people of North East who benefits out of their selfless services and mission.

* N Samuel Douminthang Baiteg wrote this article for Hueiyen Lanpao and The Sangai Express
The writer hails from New Keiphom Village, Sugnu, Manipur and is now pursuing his M. Phil studies in the Dept. of Social Work, Mizoram University, Aizawl. and can be reached at sambaite(aT)gmail(doT)com
This article was posted on October 16, 2015.

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