You know the feeling of wonder when you meet someone whose heart is bigger than you can imagine? That was my feeling when I met Sister Lucy.
Sister Lucy Kurien is a “rare human being,” — “rare” in terms of the amount of her service to others. There are a number of distinguished individuals today who have great wealth, power, or status, but there are few who, to put it modestly, have helped 4,000 women and children.
On October 22, 2018, Sister Lucy and eight other guests arrived at the City of Ten Thousand Buddhas, hailing from India, Germany, the United Kingdom, and the United States. The guests included Shamash Aidina, Vicky Johnson, Alfred Tolle, Lynda King, Padmanaban Gopalan, Nipun Mehta, Guri Mehta, and Audrey Lin. They met and spoke with the students of the Developing Virtue School for the second part of a series of panels on compassionate communities and social entrepreneurships.
Vicky Johnson spoke about her work at the Museum of Happiness in London in collaboration with Shamash Aidina, who is also author of several dummies books on mindfulness internationally renown. Alfred Tolle recounted his journey after leaving a top position in Google Europe in search for deeper meaning and purpose, and founded Wisdom Together, a non-profit organization that fosters compassion and wisdom for all. Padmanaban Gopalan recounted his humble adventure as founder of No Food Waste. Nipun Mehta, Guri Mehta, and Audrey Lin showered us with presence and energy as they facilitated this forum of wonderful, inspiring individuals. Not forgetting Lynda King, who moved us with her story of meeting Sister Lucy!
In 1997, Sister Lucy, an Indian Catholic nun, founded Maher, a huge organization that provides homes and help for women and children in need, particularly victims of domestic violence. Many of the children had previously lived in the slums of India, where abuse, hunger, and disease prevailed. At Maher, the children are cared for and given schooling. Sister Lucy told numerous humorous and fond stories about her journey with Maher and the children living there. She also spoke of her reasons for founding Maher.
“Child labor is rampant [in India],” she asserts. “ We have to protect the girls very much.”
At Maher, Sister Lucy is also firm about religious tolerance. “We never put down anyone’s religion, or uphold one religion to the exclusion of others.”
This is not only said, but also done at Maher. A brown cloth representing all the major religions of the world is hung in every home of Maher. The children practice meditation and learn to embrace all religions.
The interfaith aspect shows up in Maher’s staff as well. Sister Lucy herself is a Catholic. The president of Maher’s trust is a Muslim. “All my other board members who are with me are from different religions.”
“When I started, I kept one thing in mind. I am working for human beings, not for any particular religion or caste,” she states.
Besides attending school, the older children at Maher serve in the Production Unit and receive money for their work. Some of the older ones, for example, can obtain pocket money from teaching the younger children at school.
Sister Lucy feels that her work is very fulfilling (“I take great joy in seeing them grow up”), but there was a time when she was not satisfied with her service. She became a nun to better serve others but felt like she could not directly help those in dire conditions, such as the children of neighboring slums.
“I became a very angry person,” she admits. This was after a life-turning experience in 1991, when she witnessed a pregnant woman’s murder by her abusive husband.
“[H]e put kerosene on her and set her on fire. I heard the screams and came outside the convent to see where the noise was coming from… When I saw her, I realized this was the same woman who came to me asking for shelter… I thought, what is the use of me living now if I am not able to save one life?”
Sister Lucy later founded Maher near Pune, India. Currently, Maher’s forty-one homes house 320 women and 872 children.
Before the talk ended, she urged the students to remember the importance of giving second chances, even third chances. A boy had behaved so badly that the staff wanted to remove him from Maher. Sister Lucy assured the furious boy that he would always find a home and love at Maher. The staff protested, but Sister Lucy was adamant that he stay.
Years later, the boy confessed his lasting gratitude toward Sister Lucy.
“He told me he was so angry [about the possibility of being kicked out] that he was going to run away, join a terrorist group, get a gun, and shoot all the staff,” she recalled.
The second chance saved many lives.
After enthusiastic applause, there was a group hug with Sister Lucy and the other panelists. Some students stayed behind to talk to Sister Lucy and the guests, while others headed to lunch chattering about the event and how Sister Lucy inspired them.
A sophomore expressed her wish to go to India and volunteer at Maher, knowing that it would be a difficult adventure. She had previously volunteered in Nepal and wanted to continue helping others.
A couple of juniors gushed about Sister Lucy, admiring her compassion and courage. One of them described Sister Lucy the best, “She’s just like Mother Teresa.”
Sincere thanks to ServiceSpace and panelists for coming a long way here and sharing their stories of transformation.
For more information on Sister Lucy:
Categories: Global Awareness