Taking part in the work of the Philanthropic Society of the Orthodox Church in India is truly to experience Sister Nektaria and who she is.
Just one facet of the works of the Society is a life commitment for any one person, and yet sister Nektaria all alone takes on the responsibilities required of an army of people: she manages five schools -four village schools and St. Ignatius English Medium School-, five medical clinics in the remote villages; twelve churches, the clergy, personnel; the daily morning feeding program which provides milk and biscuits to about 60 to 100 children in the morning. For some children this is the only meal they will receive all day. She also runs the daily Lunch Program which serves prepared meals to 80-100 of the poorest of the poor. And of course she runs the Theotokos’ Girls Hostel, home to 80 girls and St. Ignatius Boys’ Hostel, which currently has 50 boys. On top of all that, she deals with the never-ending list of daily tasks, and the infuriating bureaucracy involved with everything.
The children are so beautiful and talented and intelligent. Sister has provided not just a shelter, but a home for them. More than lucky, they are blessed. They have hope and dream. They have accomplishments lined up ahead of them and the potential that radiates from them is infectious. They have so much love to share; it hits you in the face at full force from the moment you walk through the orphanage gates, and you are swept up in it, engulfed and locked tight into a this huge new family. Their smiles are constant, instantaneous and achingly genuine. I too was immediately bonded with them and became part of this big family.
Transformation of Souls
The children have never owned anything; they never went to the school, nor they knew how to hold a pencil or how to wear their clothes properly or even how to bathe themselves. The transition from their old life of unimaginable poverty and pain to living at the hostel, where they have food three times a day, with seconds and thirds if they want, or where someone isn’t beating them or shouting at them and they have a bed and a bathroom and walls and clean clothes and a million other new things; this transition can be difficult for them; it’s a completely new world, but you can see a transformation in them instantly.
Modumita whose mother died in an accident and her father was not fit to take care of her, came to the orphanage when she was very young and now 7 years old, through the education at St. Ignatius School, she can dream of becoming a teacher!
Ashim (Minas) is a 12-year old sweet boy, an orphan from father and his mother is suffering from incurable decease, unable to take care of even herself. He never went to school until he came to the boys’ orphanage 5 years ago. Now he attends to class III at St. Ignatius School. He does not mind to be in the class with the children who are younger than he. He is rather grateful for this opportunity and studies hard. When he grows up, he wants to be a priest. On Sundays he leaves the boys’ orphanage early morning and walks to the church on the orphanage ground to serve in the altar. I found him in the altar at 6:50am every Sunday!
Sister Nektaria is blessed with so many incredible talents. She speaks many languages. She acts as administrator, as accountant, as teacher, as headmaster, as mother, as spiritual guide often all at the same time. And all this incredible humanitarian work she does in a state, where Christianity, let alone Orthodoxy, is a minute presence if it is visible at all. Her Christian inspiration is entirely through her actions as a self-less, loving servant to God. And yet, everything she does is under suspicion.
I am not, by all means, writing this article to praise her. I am writing, because through our efforts perhaps we can lessen the burden that Sister has to bear and continue fulfilling the works of the Philanthropic Society of the Orthodox Church.
I hope I can see her again, so I can embrace her and her children and my children there with my heartfelt greetings; kalimera sister, kalimera children.
Presbytera Lisa Koo
San Jose, California