Sister Marie Isabel

Sister Marie Isabel

“Happy are those who from now on die in the service of the Lord! They will enjoy rest from their hard work because the results of their service go with them”. (Rev 14:13)

This indeed is very true of Sister Marie Isabel who journeyed with the Lord for 77 years. Our dear sister Marie Isabel of Jesus who lived her religious life in the Apostolic Carmel for 56 years, hearkened to the invitation of the master on 20th August 2020 at 3 p.m.

Service was the hall mark of our dear sister Marie Isabel’s life. On 26th April 1943 was a joy filled day for the Saldanha family at Urva, Mangalore. God gifted a girl child to a devout and God fearing couple, Mr. Lawrence Saldanha and Mrs. Elize Saldanha, known to be Sister Marie Isabel nee Marcelline Agatha Saldanha who was third in the family of five siblings of three sisters and one brother.

As she writes in her autobiography, I quote “I was privileged to go with papa for daily mass from the age of three and also go along with him to the parish school and make visits to the Blessed Sacrament”. “Both my parents were active members in the third order of St. Francis of Assisi. Our family prayed together the family rosary, the devotion to the Sacred Heart of Jesus and the Immaculate Heart of Mary was taught to us from our childhood both at home, the parish and the school”.

Sister Marie Isabel completed her primary schooling from St. Aloysia’s Higher Primary School, Urva and her mother was a teacher at Ashok Nagar School. The loving and prayerful atmosphere of the family, school and Parish made our dear Sister Marie Isabel to grow deep in faith, hope and love.

The Second stepping stone in her life was when she was admitted in class II in Ladyhill Victoria High School, Apostolic Carmel School. It is there she grew up as the child of Mary and joined the sodality of Mary and continued up to teacher’s training at St. Ann’s.

The presence of the sisters in the neighborhood, catechism classes, and vocation camps strengthened her vocation and zeal to spread the kingdom of God. She admired her parents who made a great sacrifice in allowing her to join the Apostolic Carmel Congregation.

Being brought up in the Apostolic Carmel atmosphere in Ladyhill and St. Ann’s, she heard the call of God to serve Him in Carmel. She then was kept as a trial boarder for three months. Her headmistress Sister Banita A.C along with her parents helped her to discern the call and join the Apostolic Carmel. She entered the portals of Carmel on 24th May 1961. The then Superior General Mother Theodosia welcomed her. The Vestation ceremony was held on 30 th April 1962 and she entered the novitiate. She grew in intimacy with Jesus through prayer and meditation, enjoyed the company of Sisters and she loved praying for the mission. She made her first profession at Maryhill Convent, Bondel Mangalore on 30th April 1964 and final profession at Mayhill Convent in May 1969. On the day of her first profession she writes in her autobiography “I became the spouse of Jesus, I now entirely belong to Jesus and I am ready to do anything he asked of me”.

It is in the year 1965 in the month of January she was chosen to be a missionary in the Northern part of India. Rourkela was her first missionary field; after a long journey from Karnataka to Calcutta and then to Rourkela. She rendered her services in different convents namely, St. Mary’s Marjil, Carmel Convent Rourkela, Calcutta, Lucknow, Durgapur MAMC, Port Blair, Lohardaga, Avila Convent, St. Joseph’s Convent Hazaribag, Carmel Convent Dhanbad from 1979 to 1986 and again 1995 to 2005. She worked hard in the Parish School at Dhanbad to bring up the standard of education. She faced lot of difficulties and challenges in getting the annual grant for the school. Her missionary Spirit and tremendous zeal for the mission helped her to remain attuned to the needs of the people. In the month of December her students of 1986 Batch visited her and gave her a memento in appreciation of her dedicated services and recalled the values she instilled in them.

“We are pressed on every side by troubles, but we are not crushed. We are perplexed, but not driven to despair. We are hunted down but never abandoned by God. We get knocked down, but we are not destroyed.” (2 Cor: 4: 8-10). These words of St. Paul to the Corinthians can be applied to the life of our dear Sister Marie Isabel as she got another mission in the midst of coal mines; that is Carmel Convent Bokaro Thermal 1966 to 1967, 1969 to 1970 and from 2007 to 2020; where she breathed her last. In the year 1969 she was sent to the mission station Kargali to begin a school and after six months she was made Headmistress. She had to travel by cart to reach the place as there were no means of transport. She writes in her autobiography; we quote: “I remembered the instruction YOU WILL BE THE GOSPEL for so many of the people”. And she lived up to the instruction. She was an active member in the community of Carmel Bokaro Thermal till 19th August 2020. She was the house diarist and also took care of the compound by harvesting fresh vegetables and fruits. She was in charge of faith formation of Carmel High School (Hindi Medium) and the Parish.

Whoever is faithful in small matters will be faithful in large ones (LK 16:10) God found Sister Marie Isabel faithful in small matters and so He endowed her with greater responsibilities. She held responsible positions and served in various capacities as Provincial Councillor for formation, Vocation promoter, Superior, Principal, Society Bursar, Sacristan, Minister, Librarian, Catechist and Directress of Mahila Sangh. She educated herself with the Tribal culture and Indian music which she used in her apostolate of education and in the mission. She was in charge of Mahila Sangh till her last day. She kept the faithful together by guiding and directing them.

She had a good knowledge of scripture and applied it in her day to day life, she brought all the teaching of the Holy Bible into her Apostolate and led the parish unit of Bokaro Thermal towards spiritual growth. She visited the houses as the member of the B.C.C with Sister Dorinda. She took initiative to bring couples together and help them to reconcile broken marriages and rectify marriages that were outside the Church. Age was not an impediment, as she moved around in the Community vicinities. Sister Marie Isabel’s love for the Holy Eucharist, her deep communion with the Lord in the Blessed Sacrament and her faithfulness to the Spiritual Exercises were the focal point of her life from where she drew strength to sustain her missionary life, She was committed to the mission entrusted to her. She was an effective teacher of faith and moral values. She was taking catechism and moral science classes for the students of Carmel High School Hindi medium till date. She took great interest in the well-being of the parishioners and would encourage them to attend the mass on Sundays and other days of obligation.

On 19th morning she got up as usual attended the community exercises like Morning Prayer, adoration, online mass and the community meals. At around 4.30 p.m she had her tea, washed the plates, had conversation with Sister Devashree then proceeded to her room. On the way to her room she met the workers Mr. Bansi and Mr. Vikrant of Carmel High School Hindi Medium. The sisters had gathered in the Chapel for the vespers at 6.30 p.m and missed Sister Marie Isabel’s presence and in the meantime our working girls Miss Nutan and Miss Divya hastened to tell us that Sister Marie Isabel is not in her room, as there was no response, after calling her repeatedly. Sister Joyce Kullu went out of the Chapel and was speaking to the girls, while the other sisters came out and rushed to the room to find her lying unconscious in the washroom. Sisters along with the girls and the gatekeeper Mr. Joseph shifted sister to the bed. Dr. Veni K. informed the doctor on duty to attend to Sister Marie Isabel. She was put on oxygen and was shifted to Ranchi accompanied by sisters Joyce Kullu and Devashree. Sister Jyothi D’Souza the Superior informed the Provincial Superior Sister Doris D’Souza and her family members about the condition of Sister Marie Isabel. Sisters took her to Medanta Hospital at Ranchi; the doctor on duty checked Sister Marie Isabel’s condition in the vehicle and refused admission as there weren’t enough bed in ICU with ventilation. We then moved on to another hospital Medica around 12 a.m and admitted her on emergency, did the CT scan. The doctor explained to Sister Devashree that sister was critical as she had a brain hemorrhage and the hospital too had no beds in the ICU with ventilator and we were advised to shift her to another hospital at 1.30 a.m. Sister Marie Isabel was shifted to Samford hospital and due to lack of medical facilities was referred to RIMS Ranchi. There the doctors on duty did not attend to Sister on time as there were many patients. Around 5 a.m we got an ICU bed without a ventilator, no doctors were available till 10 a.m. Sister Renisha Superior of Carmel Convent Ranchi send Sister Steffi to help us at RIMS, she also accompanied us to Mandar Ranchi. Meanwhile Sister Jyothi D’ Souza spoke to Fr. Thomas at Lohardaga about the critical condition of Sister and he advised us to admit Sister at Constant Lieven’s Hospital, Mandar and made the arrangement to shift sister for further treatment.

We reached Mander Hospital at 2.45 p.m, the doctor and nurses did the ECG and at around 3 p.m declared her brought dead. Sister Devashree then informed the Provincial Superior Sr. Doris D’ Souza and her nephew Mr. Claudy Mascarenhas about the sudden demise of Sister Marie Isabel. Fr. Thomas along with Sisters Mirdula, Chitra and Deepshika came to Mandar Hospital and prayed before the remains of Sister Marie Isabel. We informed the local Parish Priest Fr. Michael Lakra and all the parishioners. Sister Marie Isabel’s body was kept in DVC mortuary. Sister Prisca D’Mello sent Sisters Lini, Jacinta Aaron and Renu to Carmel Convent Bokaro Thermal as only Sister Marie Jane was at home. They arranged the chapel and the coffin for the funeral services.

The body was brought at 9.45 am and laid in the convent chapel for the parishioners to pay the last respect. The mass began at 10 am. The Parish Priest Fr. Michael Lakra was the Main celebrant and five other priests concelebrated the Eucharist with them. Our sisters from the neighbouring convents came to bid their final farewell to dear Sister Marie Isabel. The remains of Sister Marie Isabel was taken to the Christian Cemetery at Hazaribagh. Our Parish Priest Fr. Michael Lakra blessed the remains while all the sisters and parishioners bid her adieu.

We express our sincere thanks to Frs Michael Lakra, Norbert Lakra, Cyriac Joseph our Confessor and all the fathers, brothers and religious sisters from different Congregations who have been a great support and help to Sister Marie Isabel. A special thanks to Sister Prisca D’Mello and community, Sisters of Ranchi, Dhanbad, Digwadih, Lohardaga, Buxar and Deoli Community. We are grateful to our resident teachers, domestic helpers and our dear Parishioners for standing by us, in our pain and sorrow at the loss of our dear Sister Marie Isabel.

Our beloved Sister Marie Isabel you were a strong pillar of Bokaro Thermal who radiated Christ virtues, you lived with us and revealed the compassionate face of God through your mission, you are still present with us in spirit. May the numerous lives you touched, brighten the light of many more and make Jesus known and loved. We miss you dear Sister Marie Isabel. We thank you for walking with us on this earthly Journey. You were an inspiration to all of us. Your zeal, love, care and compassion have left an indelible mark in our lives. We will always cherish the precious moments spent with you. Intercede for us till we meet again on the eternal shores. May your soul rest in peace.

Bio Data

Name in Religion                                     : Sr. Marie Isabel Of Jesus

Maiden Name                                          : Marcelline Agatha Saldanha

Institute No.                                             : 1038

Date of Birth                                            : 26-04-1943

Date of Admission as Postulant               : 24-05-1961

Date of First Profession                           : 30-04-1964

Date of Final Profession                          : 10-05-1969

Date of Decease                                      : 20-08-2020

Date of Burial                                          : 21-08-2020

Place of Burial                                         : Christian, Hazaribagh