In deeds indeed…

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“Oh! Once you say! ‘each poor man, woman, child
Is Jesus Christ, my God, who died for me’
Your life becomes a paradox...

Fr. Joseph Murray Abraham, a Canadian Jesuit Missionary and a pioneer in Social Apostolate works in Darjeeling writes the above in his memoir. The life-style, work pattern and every aspect of a Jesuit’s life is challenged when he comes in actual contact ‘with the excluded.’ The Universal Apostolic Preference of “walking with the poor and the excluded’ reinforces the mission work of Darjeeling Province.

Hayden Hall, with the vision ‘Human Development through Love and Service’ had its humble origin in 1969 under Fr. Edgar Burns and his lay collaborators. Over the fifty years, the seed has grown into a big tree transforming the lives of many. The philosophy of Hayden Hall is to help women help themselves and there will be positive ripple effects on their children and families. The programmes today include Mother and Child Health care, Functional Literacy, Skill development and Income generation, housing for the poor, food campaigns, care for the elderly and the abused victims, community development and lay leadership.

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Bro. Bob Mittleholtz, a Canadian Jesuit missionary, disturbed by the plight of the sick, elderly and the abandoned leprosy patients, in the streets and railway stations of Siliguri, opened Jesu Ashram to the destitute in 1971. This charitable hospice is a unique mission of the Society of Jesus with over 300 in-patient bed capacity. Besides the General ward, the major work of the Ashram is to care for the Tuberculosis patients (over 1000 patients are admitted and treated every year), leprosy patients (on record it has treated so far more than 8000 patients) and to care for cancer patients. It had also reached out to over 2000 people living with HIV-AIDS working in collaboration with the local government and the World Health Organization. These socially isolated people find a home in Jesu Ashram. Besides the care in the Ashram, it also reaches out to people in the tea gardens with health care survey, medical care and awareness programmes and the training of health workers.

St. Alphonsus Social and Agricultural Centre (SASAC) began in 1975 with the motto ‘Helping the poor help themselves’ Fr. Joseph Murray Abraham seeing the plight of the excluded provided them with opportunities like education, agriculture, animal husbandry, forestry, house building, and lay leadership. With the changing times, the work has taken a newer dimension and greater lay collaboration with promotion of economic development program, education of the poor and the needy children and care for the environment.

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The late 19th century brought in migrant labors from central India to this North Eastern belt, the Darjeeling foothills, to clear the forest, to convert them into tea gardens. The workers are predominantly tribal people and their lives have always been tough in the tea gardens with bare minimum wage, hard work, and living in temporary shelters with limited facilities. They were and are at the bottom of the social ladder and Darjeeling Jesuits wanting to formalize this social apostolate began Human Life Development and Research Centre (HLDRC) in 2013. The social action and development programmes of HLDRC are of manifold: building up of self-reliant communities at the wake of closing of tea gardens and livelihood, formation of self-help groups, study centers, housing projects, right to food campaigns, awareness campaigns on government schemes, labour rights, legal aids, and human trafficking.

The summed up are some of the social action and development works of the Province in a formalized manner. The parishes and the educational institutions too continue to live to the apostolic preference of ‘walking with the excluded.’ Saint Henry Newman guides us in our apostolic preference with our founder St. Ignatius, “not words, not feelings but in deeds alone can love be shown.” In deeds indeed!!!

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Posted by Communications Office - Editor in Curia Generalizia
Communications Office
The Communications Office of the General Curia publishes news of international scope on the central government of the Society of Jesus and on the commitments of the Jesuits and their partners. It also handles public relations.

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