Pics courtesy: Wilfred Mendonca, Akruti Digitals, Moodbidri
Mangaluru, Apr 27: The entire coastal Karnataka region in the late sixties was marred by deadly disease tuberculosis (TB in short) that spread like wildfire. There was no sustainable solution or rehabilitation plan in sight those days. The people infected with TB were disbanded by not only the people in the neighborhood but also by their own family members.
Realizing the gravity of the situation and the alarming sight of hapless people dying due to the absence of treatment, a devout priest, Monsignor Francis Elias D’Souza founded Mount Rosary Institutions on June 27, 1937, which was to be the first Tuberculosis Sanatorium in the region. Soon, sick and infected people from the vicinity and from distant talukas like Karkala, Beltangady, Sullia came flocking to seek healing and rehabilitation. They included Hindus, Christians, Muslims and even Jains.
The founder of the institution initially started tending to the sick by using herbal medicines and providing clean water, food and other basic facilities. He had an able assistant in Dr Kurien from Kerala. With his tacit support and through the nursing care of 11 nuns, Monsignor D’Souza carried on his mission of reaching out to the needs of the poor, the sick and the abandoned people. Many of the cured patients went back to their homes, yet many stayed back to serve others. They looked after the in-house projects like agriculture, horticulture and animal husbandry.
After the demise of Msgr D’Souza, another holy priest, Fr John Menezes, an ardent devotee of Mother Mary took over the service of the destitute people in particular the single mothers. Later many priests came and engaged themselves in the service of the poor.
The year 1989 was a ‘year of transformation’ both for the institution and its inmates. The arrival of Fr Edwin C Pinto as the sixth director of Mount Rosary in the year 1989 set off a different dimension to the mission towards humanity. According to his own admission to this writer, when he came as a new director, he was flabbergasted to find the inmates (including the nuns) surviving merely on rice porridge or gruel (ganji or pez in Konkani) due to poor state of finance. He also felt the need of trained staff including committed sisters. This factor prompted him to start, with the permission of the Church, the congregation of the Pious Association of Sisters, Helpers of Mount Rosary in the year 1990.
Currently there are 65 Professed Sisters operating at different centers, with 25 trainees. Besides this, there are nine students studying in high school and pre-university who desire to be sisters in the future. When in 1997, Fr Pinto was appointed as the vicar general of the diocese, Sr Priscilla D’ Mello was took over as the administrator of the institutions. After his five year term, Fr Edwin returned to the institution and ever since has played an active role as a spiritual director with renowned vigor and dedication.
Currently the institution supports around 250 inmates including the care takers. The institution runs with the kind support of donors who take care of the needs to some extent. Even the institution tries its best to raise finance through different avenues like agriculture, horticulture, by raising milk yielding cows, by maintaining piggery and cultivating rubber that brings in some revenue to the institution. Yet the inmates need medicine, clothing and staple diet including milk and other supplements.
Struggle for Survival
Although Mount Rosary cultivates rice in their own fields the yield that they receive is very limited. While one quintal rice is needed to feed the inmates every day (30 quintals in a month) more than 210 quintal rice is procured from the open market at a cost of Rs 3 lac a year.
At the same time, the average consumption of vegetables at the institute is 30 kg per day. Although leafy vegetables, pumpkins, gherkins, beans, cucumber and other vegetables are grown internally, the quantity is not sufficient to feed the inmates due to which outside produce is sourced. The shortage of water and poor irrigation facilities have limited the produce in spite of vast agricultural area available at the institution. Further, the cost of fertile manure and increasing labour charges have affected their agricultural projects. Since many of the inmates are not stable, both physically and mentally, they are not in a position to help in farming.
During the course of our conversation with Fr Edwin Pinto and Sr Pricilla D’Mello, they informed us about the pressing challenges that they encounter at the institution:
Maintenance and upkeep of properties: Most of the buildings and facilities were built 75 years ago, and they are in a dilapidated condition or outdated. Yet many inmates are left to stay in such wards in extreme conditions.
Sr Pricilla says, "Many of the inmates are destitutes and live a life of prayer and solitude. They have no one to turn to complain about their situation. It is we who can realize their pain and see how best we can keep them under cleaner and hygienic conditions.”
"We are doing our best to accommodate them elsewhere in the campus," said Fr Edwin. "At the moment 40 inmates are cramped in 12 rooms, the roofs of which seep during rainy season and the old people are put to inconvenience due to leakage and running water on the floor. We have started a building to accommodate them but the work is going on at a snail's pace due to shortage of funds. We may need a minimum of Rs 60 lacs to go for total renovation or reconstruction," said the director.
Second challenge is medical facilities at the institute. Many of the inmates are rushed to the small hospital (Mount Rosary Hospital founded by Fr Jose Menezes) within the campus where basic treatment is provided. A doctor visits the clinic every Sunday and takes care of patients with minor complaints. Patients with complex ailments are taken to Father Muller Hospital in Mangaluru. The administration is looking for some doctors and nurses who can visit the hospital during their free time and provide voluntary service.
Fr Edwin also informed us that presently the institution falls short of Rs 36 lacs per year in providing food, accommodation, clothing and medicines to the inmates. Further renovation of buildings may require about Rs 30 lacs.
The inmates are also in constant need of medicines and clothing to suit the seasons, like warm clothing, etc. "One of our well-wishers from Mumbai sent us bedsheets and pillow covers, both for the nuns and the inmates, as a Christmas gift last year," said Sr Pricilla, her heart filled with gratitude. "Likewise, many donors from the Middle East donate funds or provide certain utilities following their visit to us, but that falls short of our requirement," she informed us pointing to a TV set which is placed in the center of a hall.
When leaving the room one inmate caught my hand and said: "Now that we have a TV gifted to us, please help us get a cable connection so that we can watch devotional programmes on your daijiworld 24X7 channel," while all the other inmates clapped in support.
When we concluded our visit and said goodbye to Fr Pinto, Sr Pricilla and Sr Celestine, who has completed 25 years of service at the institute, our eyes were filled with tears when we heard silent cries and unexplained aspirations of many inmates. Our own conscience demanded that we must do whatever little we could to help these inmates live a better life. This article is the product of such feelings.
We urge our readers to send their contributions to the bank account as per details below. All remittances are exempted from paying income tax:
The Mount Rosary Charitable Institution
Account no SB A/C - 016700101000162
Corporation Bank, Alangar Branch, Moodbidri
IFSC Code: CORP0000167 with
MICR Code: 575017024
Address: The Mount Rosary Charitable Institution, Alangar, Moodbidri - 574227
Email: firstname.lastname@example.org, website: www.mountrosaryalangar.in
Those who transfer the amount, please mention your name, contact number and address so as to get acknowledgement from the director.