It was a chance encounter with the daughter of a banker who was deceived into prostitution that lit a spark in the heart of St Maria Micaela Desmaisières, then just a 35-year-old young woman touring the wards of St John of God Hospital in Madrid in 1844.
A spark that would light fires across the corners of the globe including in Goa with the state being blessed to receive the congregation that she would go on to establish.
Sisters Adorers Handmaids of the Blessed Sacrament and of Charity or simply referred to as the Sisters Adorers, work for the care, rescue, rehabilitation and education of young girls and women in distress. The Sisters Adorers complete fifty golden years, this August, of service for the cause of women in Goa having first set foot in the state back in 1972 as they set up their first home at Nuvem through the patronage of the then Archbishop Raul Nicolau Gonsalves.
It was back in 1972 when with the ardent wish to enter the Archdiocese of Goa and work with the women in distress there, two Sisters -- Sr Constanza Redendo, a delegate from the Mother General in Spain and Elizabeth Rathapilly called on Archbishop and Apostolic Administrator Raul Nicolau Gonsalves, who welcomed the idea and urged them to follow through.
Founding members, Srs Celine Veliyath and Bidgit Kariankal along with Sr Constanza Redendo, arrived in Margao to first study the local language and understand Goa and the needs of the state better and soon with the help from donors and well-wishers and the Archdiocese, the congregation set up their first home at Nuvem that was initially set up as a dispensary.
It was however a long-cherished dream of the congregation to help the marginalised women and girls in the society with the charisma of adoration and liberation and to empower them to value life by inspiring, upholding and defending women’s values and help them live their lives with dignity which the community was trying to achieve through relentless efforts.
They soon set up the ‘Navajyothi Rehabilitation Centre’ a charitable institute with the aim to care for women from being victims of sexual exploitation and prevent them from falling back into the exploitation trap-- one of the core missions of the Sisters Adorers. Their novitiate too was soon shifted from Odisha to Goa.
Focusing on the rehabilitation of young women who have been victims of sexual exploitation and human trafficking, the efforts of the centre has been towards the prevention, protection and empowering of young girls and women at risk.
Much like their founder St Maria Micaela, who had come to the help of the banker’s daughter who was lured into prostitution through deception and was instead marginalised and facing economic hardship, the sisters have been caring for and helping girls grow until they are employed and can stand on their own feet or until they can find a life partner for themselves.
Besides Nuvem, the sisters now run homes at Velsao, Tivim and Nachinola for orphaned children and abandoned girls, children who need care and protection.
After they complete their education, children are provided vocational training courses like tailoring, flower-making, beautician and fashion-designing. The centres help the inmates become self-reliant and emotionally independent. Working with like-minded individuals and NGOs, the centres are committed to liberating and promoting women and young girls from the oppression of various forms of social evils that enslave them in society. It has virtually been a home for the destitute women.
In India, the Sisters Adorers who are now celebrating 75 years of their presence -- since they set up their first home at Puri in Odisha -- a nursery in English medium school that continues today -- the Blessed Sacrament High School, a full full-fledged High School up to Std XII in English Medium affiliated to ICSC Board Delhi with about 2000 students. The congregation has a wide and established presence in West Bengal where they run several homes for young girls, abandoned children and those who would otherwise be homeless and uncared for. Spread out to more than 12 states and they have around 26 homes working for the welfare of girls, women and children making a difference in the lives of thousands of girls.
As they celebrate their golden jubilee in Goa, the Sisters Adorers are looking to the future - embracing the complexity of the demands of an ever-changing world that now calls for a renewed commitment to one’s life and mission, compassion for fellow beings and humility to serve the needy and the downtrodden keeps the community motivated -- to make sure that no girl is left out.