Sisters of Charity Federation Archives

Ann George Mukalel, SCN Oral History

Item

Ann George Mukalel.jpg

Text

Sister Ann George, SCN: A Profile
…He (God) Comes, Comes, Ever Comes
Have you not heard His (God’s) silent steps?
He (God) comes, comes, ever comes.
Every moment and every age, every day and every night
he comes, comes, ever comes.
Many a song have I sung in many a mood of mind,
but all their notes have always proclaimed, “He comes, comes, ever comes.”
… and it is the golden touch of God’s feet
that makes my joy to shine. (​Ravindranath Tagore, Poem 45​)
As I was getting ready to jot down the story of my life, the above poem flashed through my mind.
This poem means much to me. As my story unfolds, you (the readers of my story), will recognize
the “songs” I have sung, “in many a mood of mind” and how they have been the instruments of my
enlightened human experiences; hence, truly my God-experiences. Now I would like to invite you
to accompany me into my early childhood.
Coconut and areca nut palms, banana plants and coffee bushes, mango, cashew and jackfruit trees,
pineapple and tapioca plants, wild bushes and vines with red, yellow, purple and white blossoms in
season, adorn a plot of land by the side of a running brook at Mallikassery in Kottayam district,
Kerala, India. In the middle of this land stands a medium sized house with wide verandas on three
sides of it. This is my home from the time I, Annamma Mukalel, was a year old. Earlier my family
lived at another location in the same village on a small hillock overlooking the same brook and a
vast expanse of paddy field with a narrow canal flowing through the middle of it. This canal known
as ponnozhukan ​thodu (​ponnu = gold, ​ozhakan = flowing, ​thodu = canal) meets the brook at the
northern tip of our land and eventually merges with the Meenachil River. Legend has it that this
canal got its name ‘​ponnozhukan thodu’ because a large brass vessel full of gold flowed through it
many, many years ago! A section of the bank of this canal close to our land has been the meeting
place of several of our neighbours, especially children. They frequented the canal for bathing,
swimming, washing clothes, catching fish, etc. During the summer months, the best friend of most
of the children of our village also bathed in this canal every Sunday. Guess who? A huge tame
elephant! There was always a good crowd to see him. The finale of his bath was worth watching.
After getting his large body scrubbed by the mahout and his assistants, the elephant would stand
up and breathe in a lot of water into his trunk and sprinkle it all over his body. Then, he would walk
out of the canal majestically with shining skin, sparkling eyes, and partially open mouth as if to
smile at all his admirers!

1

Having situated myself at home and described my surroundings, let me introduce my family. I,
Annamma, am the youngest of the seven children of Mr. Varkey and Mrs. Aleykutty Varkey
Mukalel. According to seniority, we are Devasia (deceased), Mathew (deceased), Aleykutty,
Sebastian (Pappachan), Mariakutty, Kunjannamma (deceased). I am fondly called Koche (baby) by
my elders and siblings. My parents were grief-stricken at the loss of their three children at the
tender ages of two months, seven years, and two years respectively. I did not have the privilege of
being with any of them as all of them had gone to heaven before my birth.
Born on January 16, 1940, I was baptised at St. Xavier’s Church, Vilakkumadom in the diocese of
Chenganassery on January 20, 1940. In 1949, the Chenganassery diocese was divided, and we came
under the Palai diocese. Our parish was divided in 1953, and St. Thomas Church Mallikassery
became our new parish.
The political situation in the world was very tense during my early childhood. Because I was born
during World War II, I was given the name ‘war baby’.
Since I was the youngest in the family and my older siblings were at school, I was often with my
parents as they worked on our family farm for several hours every day. While they were at work, I
played with the calves and kids in the field; also, went on nature rambles. During some of these
nature walks, I enjoyed breaking off pineapples from our pineapple plants and eating them with my
parents.
Playing teacher to the coconut trees and coffee bushes around my home was a past-time for me.
Wearing a lungi (a long piece of cloth) as sari, I wrote some numbers on the wooden wall of our
house with charcoal and with a stick in hand, I taught the trees arithmetic. Of course, writing on
the wall with charcoal didn’t go very well with my parents. Eventually, I had to scrub it off the wall
and resort to teaching the trees only mental arithmetic.
My parents were devout Catholics. They woke up early in the morning and prayed for a long time
every day. We, children, had a shorter morning prayer. All of us prayed the evening prayer
together.
By the time I started school, my sister, Aleykutty, and brother, Sebastian, whom I called Appachan
affectionately, had already completed their middle school education. In June 1946, I was enrolled
as Annamma M.V. (Mukalel Varkey) at St. Teresa’s Middle School, Vilakkumadom, run by the Third
Order of Carmelites (Discalced). My sister, Mariakutty, was already in the same school in Class II. I
caught up with her in Class III because she was a slow learner. I received First Holy Communion at
the age of seven. It was a memorable day. After Mass, the forty communicants had breakfast
together, another joy for us.
My brother, Pappachan, and my elder sister, Aleykutty, were settled in life by December 1948. My
paternal grandfather was part of our family. In 1950, my youngest uncle took him to his home for a
2

few months. While there, our grandfather fell ill suddenly and expired in a few days. My parents
had a Gregorian Mass (Mass offered for a deceased person for thirty consecutive days) offered for
him. I was privileged to participate in it daily. We missed our grandfather so much.
Things went on smoothly for us until late 1951. During the Onam (harvest festival of Kerala)
holidays, my sister, Mariakutty suffered from a fever. She was treated in the best hospital close to
our home. Though the medical team did all they could to revive her, she could not be saved. We
were told that she died of a brain tumour. Within a few hours her body was brought home. The
school community, Sisters, teachers and students streamed to our house from early morning until
late afternoon to bid goodbye to my beloved sister. It was a grand tribute to her. The funeral took
place only at 5.00 pm. It took us a very long time to get over the loss of my sister.
The next three years of school at St. Teresa’s were very memorable and pleasant. We were active
in the Sodality and the Mission League. Helping the poor and raising funds for the missions were
some of our favourite activities. We shared our lunch with children who did not bring anything to
eat at tiffin time. On our way to school, I would give alms to a leprosy patient who lived in a very
small hut. The Carmelite Sisters were real role models for us. Participating in the thirteen-hour
adoration in the Carmelite chapel was a heavenly experience. Every year, I made the retreat for the
students. We kept total silence during the retreat and prayed many rosaries and ejaculations
during our free time. There was a spiritual atmosphere at home, too. During my time in the middle
school, especially in Class VIII, I felt the promptings of the Spirit to become a religious. Love for the
holy was nurtured in me by my family, especially by my mother, the Sisters in my school, the parish
priest, friends, etc. From Class I onwards, we had catechism classes in the school on week days and
on Sundays after the second Mass. One of the prizes I received in the diocesan level catechism
exam was a biography of St. Teresa of Avila. This book had a great influence on me. My mother
was very much devoted to St. Theresa of Lisieux (The Little Flower). The school Sisters also
perpetuated the devotion to both Teresa of Avila and the Little Flower.
In June 1954, I began my high school studies at St. Joseph High School, Vilakkumadom, a co-ed
school with only male teachers at that time. By now, life was more interesting at home with the
addition of three lively nephews. My high school headmaster was a priest. The students were well
behaved and good at studies. Though there were no religious on the staff, we had catechism
classes after school hours. The teachers were exemplary and helped us to imbibe sound values.
We enjoyed annual cultural competitions and the Labour Week. During the Labour Week, all had to
do some kind of manual work. The teachers worked along with the students. In the afternoons we
had cultural programs. On one of those days, we held a “Parliament session” with the students and
teachers. All enjoyed and learnt much from this activity. The three years of high school flew by,
and it was time for the matriculation examination in March 1957. All students of our school passed
this examination with good marks. I was privileged to be among the three students of our school
who passed in First Division. Securing a First Division was a rare honour in those days. Among the
3

twenty-one girls in our class, fourteen were Catholics and all except two joined various religious
Congregations.
After the publication of the matric results, one day when I went for my regular confession, the
priest asked me what I was going to do next. I told him of my desire to become a religious and of
my family’s financial difficulties to send me to a convent during that year, but that they would let
me join any convent in the following year. The priest sent for my brother that very day. When they
met, the priest told my brother that it would be better for me to join a convent that year and that
he would find a way to help him out. When my brother relayed this to my parents, they also
agreed to let me go to a mission the same year. Looking back, I believe that it was a direct
intervention of God in my life. God called me to religious life in “God’s own time” and saw that it
was done! It was June 1957. My decision to go to the missions was inspired by Sister Mary Joseph
Pamplaniel, SCN who had joined the SCNs in the previous year. She was my parishioner and a
member of my school. Trusting in God, I wrote a letter to Sister Lawrencetta Veeneman, requesting
her to let me join the SCNs in June 1957. She responded to my request positively.
I left for Mokama on July 3, 1957, the feast of St. Thomas, along with a group of nursing students of
Nazareth Hospital who were on their home visit. The final goodbye to my people at the railway
station was very painful but the determination to follow Jesus was stronger! The journey to
Mokama was comfortable.
On my arrival at Nazareth Hospital, Mokama on July 7, 1957, Sister Florence Joseph (Mary Frances
Sauer) and Sister Lawrencetta extended me a warm welcome. I was accommodated with the staff
nurses from Kerala for a few days. Sister Crescentia Wise took me to Nazareth Academy, Gaya, on
July 12, 1957, to join the senior candidates, Annamma Joseph and Lilly Rita Thundiyil. There were
six American Sisters, among them, two of the SCN pioneers – Sister Charles Miriam Holt and Sister
Ann Roberta Powers. A full time teacher at Nazareth Academy, Gaya, Sister Patricia Mary Kelley
was our director. She kept us well occupied in the school. Annamma Joseph (from now on Anne
Marie Thayilchirayil) and Lilly Rita Thundiyil (from now on Teresa Martin) were my companions.
They were in Gaya six months ahead of me. Since two of us had the name Annamma, to avoid
confusion, I was called Anna Mary until I got my religious name Sister Ann George Mukalel on the
day of our vestition. We, candidates, attended the science classes, taught by Sister James Leo
Goldsborough along with the students of Class X. After school hours, Sister Patricia taught us
classes in English, community history, and general instruction. We read several supplementary
English books to improve our comprehension and vocabulary. We had piano lessons once a week,
and practiced cycling, too.
On January 6, 1958, we, Anne Marie, Lilly Thundiyil, Aleykutty Kuriakose, Rose Augustine and I
entered postulancy at Mokama. Sister Lawrencetta was the director of postulants and novices.
Our days were well-balanced with prayer, classes, manual work, recreation and games. On
weekdays, we ate lunch after the reading from the Martyrology for the day, then had recreation.
This reading quite often ended up in “peels of laughter”. The routine in the novitiate was almost
4

the same as that of the postulancy except for the study of SCN Constitutions and the Book of
Customs. On Sundays we also taught catechism to the women parishioners of Mokama. Once a
month, we visited Catholic families in the villages. This was a small way of connecting with the
parishioners. On some moon-lit nights, after supper, Sister Lawrencetta took us for a walk to the
shrine to watch the different constellations of stars, and, a few times, to fish in the shrine pond
with fishing rods and hooks. They were real treats for us! Sister Lawrencetta was loving,
understanding and genuinely interested in those under her care. We loved her.
After making an eight-day retreat, we made our first vows on the feast of St. Thomas on December
21, 1960. My first mission was to Nazareth Academy, Gaya, and my companion was Sister Ignatius
Marie (Annemarie) Thayilchirayil. After a year of teaching at the Academy, we were sent to Patna
Women’s College, Patna for the one-year pre-university studies.
In August 1962, I, along with Ignatius Marie, was sent to the Motherhouse, Nazareth, to continue
our college studies at Nazareth College, KY. Along with our college studies, we also followed the
juniorate program for the temporary professed Sisters at Nazareth under the guidance of Sister
Mary Rosine Callahan. She was a saintly person who went out of her way to provide us every
opportunity to grow in holiness. There were eighty of us in the juniorate as we first started the
program. On every first Sunday we were taken to Bellarmine College, Louisville, to attend the
Biblical Institutes conducted by Father Carrol Steumuller and team. Our pre-university marks were
recognized by Nazareth College. So, we completed the four-year college studies in three years.
In preparation for final vows we had to make an eight-day retreat. On the feast of St. Thomas,
December 21, 1965, we made our final vows in the presence of over 200 SCNs. We also had the
rare privilege of eating breakfast with Mother Ann Sebastian, Mother Bertrand, Mother Lucille and
the General Councillors at a specially decorated table in the middle of the Motherhouse refectory.
During the first year of my graduate studies, I stayed with the college community of Sisters while
attending classes at Catherine Spalding College in Louisville. I had the privilege to be with the
Presentation Community during the second year. I received the Master’s Degree in Education from
Catherine Spalding College in May 1967. On our way back to India, we had the privilege of visiting
Rome. After a short visit home, I was assigned to Mokama to take care of the candidates. There
were ten candidates in the group and I enjoyed being with them.
I was appointed teacher at Nazareth Academy, Gaya in June 1968. During this assignment I taught
from Classes IV to VIII in the English medium section. I began teaching as a class teacher of Class IV.
The class four had such a disparity in learning ability. I asked Sister James Leo Goldsborough, the
principal, to divide the class into two groups according to their scholastic ability. I took the weaker
section of the students. Except for Hindi and Sanskrit, I taught them all subjects giving them various
types of learning experiences. They were taught creatively, and by the end of the year, both classes
performed well. This is one of my success stories as a teacher. ​In June 1970, I was happy to have Sister
5

Anne Marie Thayilchirayil, my candidate companion, as my principal (the first Indian principal of Nazareth
Academy, Gaya.)

One time, I gave a project to the students of Class VI to recognize the non-teaching staff of the
school. The students decided to honour them with a program and lunch. It was a great success; all
appreciated it, and, for years, it continued as Worker’s Day. I also encouraged my students to help
the children of the fourth class employees. We started with a boy with dwarfism and slowly had
close to ten children. Later, they were incorporated into the non-formal classes conducted by Sister
Sunita Vayalipara, SCN. The non-formal school has been well set up since then.
I also initiated a project with the students to articulate who God was to them and the attributes
they gave to God. After consulting their parents, the elders at home, and, their spiritual gurus, they
enumerated the values which they hold. After a group discussion, they made the decision to hold
those values which the whole class held in common. We made a creed expressing what we believe
as a whole – Hindus, Muslims, Christians and Sikhs. We framed it, hung it in our class, then carried
it forward to the next class as I was also promoted to the next class with the same group of
children. It took us almost six months to complete the project. For social and cultural awareness,
they also studied the important local places such as the post office, railway station, important
temples, etc. Students wrote something on each place of importance they found and made a file
with the information. They also gathered autographed photographs of important national leaders.
For group work, students were encouraged to write scripts for plays which they acted out. For
stories, I used to give students two or three characters and they were encouraged to write a story
on those characters. I was privileged to accompany this same group of students up to Class IX, and,
that year, I got another ministry assignment.
On one occasion, an Anglo Indian boy named Peter brought two pupae of butterflies, each of which
he placed in a glass jar with tops with tiny holes and kept them on the open book shelf. After a few
days, while the class was in session, Peter’s attention was on one of the pupae which was coming
out of the jar. Suddenly, a beautiful butterfly came out. Peter opened the lid of the bottle and the
butterfly flew around in the classroom. We closed the doors and windows and watched the newly
born butterfly; within seconds we noticed a butterfly emerge in the second jar! It was still in the
bottle. The children’s joy knew no bounds. All were clapping hands, talking, laughing and shouting.
After ten to fifteen minutes we freed those beautiful butterflies into the open space. I put the
students into groups of five where they could choose some way of expressing what they saw in
poems, stories, paragraphs, little skits, etc. They showed their creations to the neighbouring class!
From June 1975 to June 1978, I served as the Education Director of the India province. I visited ​all
the SCN-owned and administered schools to give in-service training for the teachers who needed it.
During this time there was an undertaking from the Congregation to evaluate the SCN-owned
schools and to spell out our philosophy of education. It took a long time. Sister Dorothy
MacDougall, SCN, was part of this process. With her help, we were able to draw up our philosophy
of education. In 1978, I had a one-month renewal in Topchanji near Gomoh with a group of SCNs.
6

I was appointed principal of Nazareth Academy, Gaya, in June 1978. Getting Nazareth Academy
recognized by the Central Board of Secondary Education (CBSE) was our priority at that time. The
first requirement for this recognition was to obtain the “No Objection Certificate” (OBC) from the
State Education Board. We had to cross many hurdles to get this done. Once the OBC was
obtained, the rest of the recognition procedures were speeded up. And finally, thank goodness, the
school got the recognition from CBSE, Delhi in May 1981. I tried to keep up the excellence of the
school by having various activities for both the students and teachers. One year for parent’s day,
students wrote original poems and recited them in front of their parents. Since it was parents’ day,
the presentation was well-received. A team of our high school students won the science trophy in
the inter-state science competitions held in Calcutta. Both the staff and students exhibited a high
degree of cooperation, family spirit and patriotism.
In January 1985, I was appointed to Nazareth Convent, Ranchi. Keeping Nazareth Convent as my
base, I helped out in the ministry places where there was a need for my presence. I taught in St.
Xavier’s School, Mokama, for a few months. Then, I taught at St. Michael’s School, Sale,
Mahuadanr as substitute for Sister Suma Muthukattuparampil. Though many of the students were
poor, they were good at studies. I enjoyed teaching them. The teachers were very cooperative.
We lived in Kutuderi in a mud house. We had lots of fun in the community. Once a week, the
Sisters cycled nine kilometres to Mahuadanr to purchase vegetables. We lived happily with the
very minimum. In fact, if we had a ​kadhu ​(a kind of gourd) for a meal, it had the status of a feast
day! I was very happy to live in the village among the local people. There was a lot of “give and
take” among them. They did not hesitate to ask the neighbour to get something they actually
needed. We participated whole-heartedly in the parish activities. I was very inspired by the sharing
of the village catechists during their biweekly get together.
Towards the end of 1985, I stayed in Mandair for a month and took part in the activities of the
Sisters. Sister Philomena Kottoor used to go to very distant villages on bicycle to take care of the
sick people; she also taught good health habits. Sisters Pauline Paraplackal and Hilda Lobo taught
the children at the parish school. One day Sister Philomena fell from the bicycle and got a deep cut
in her chin. She stitched that wound courageously by looking in a mirror. What will-power! What
sacrifices the Sisters make to live in such remote areas for the sake of the poor. I used to visit the
nearby villages with the Sisters. I still remember the picnic we had for the farewell that the Sisters
gave their parish priest. The venue was the banks of a nearby stream close to the forest. Some
young boys of our neighbourhood carried our supplies and a home-grown cock for lunch. On our
way to the stream, the priest bought four birds from a group of boys who had gone hunting.
Though the legs of the cock were tied with a string, the cock untied it by pecking on it while we
were eating our breakfast. When we looked at the cock, we saw him walking freely and finally
flying over to the other side of the stream. The priest and the boys crossed the slippery rocky
stream to search for the him. After an hour they returned empty handed. The cock had gone into
the thick jungle. We prepared the four birds for lunch. The funny thing was that some people close
to the jungle told the boys that they could hear the crowing of the cock from a distance. For a
7

week, the village boys looked for that cock. After a week nobody heard his crowing. It was
probably eaten by a wild animal. A week later when the Sisters from Gaya entered the village for a
picnic, they sang very loudly a Hindi song, ‘​Gaonwallo, apne murgi samplao’ (villagers, protect your
chickens) which was very appropriate at the time.
In the village, people enjoyed things in common. For example, as they walked by the peanut or
corn field they would pick a head of corn or pull out a peanut plant to eat; no one minded that.
Early in the morning, before the boys took the cattle for grazing they made fire in a small pot for
light and warmth during winter. They carried it around and we could see these small lights coming
from different directions and hear the sound of the bells tied around the neck of the cattle.
From January 1986, I taught the college-going candidates in Ranchi for three years. In the same
year, I spent two weeks at home with my father who was seriously ill. Since I was missing the
classes for the candidates, I felt obliged to go back to Ranchi as soon as possible. So I told my father
that I was thinking of going back to Ranchi soon. Then he told me, “Don’t go.” He was bed-ridden
for four years. I was in a dilemma as to what to do. I left my father saying that I would return soon.
I really thought in case he gets worse; surely there would be time for me to see him once more.
Within two weeks, on September 1, 1986, I got word that he was no more. There was no way that I
could reach home before the funeral. I, “my father’s sweet baby”, could not be with him in his last
moments. Still, I have the satisfaction of having been with him for two weeks, attending to him and
being with my mother, in those days of suffering.
In 1988, I attended a three-month renewal program at Sadhana Institute in Lonavala, Pune. With
thoughts of changing from teaching to social service, I discerned and volunteered to be in Ararghat
in January 1989. Sisters Bridget Vadakeattam and Sunita Vayalipara were engaged in health,
non-formal education and other social services. Before I reached there, a cow shed belonging to
Mohan Murmu had been made into a liveable room. In one corner of the room, a little space was
partitioned with a bamboo and straw screen for one person to stand and cook. At the other end of
the room, we made a bamboo shelf to keep our rolled bedding. During the day, a chowki, the
wooden bed was used by us and the people to sit. We had a wooden stool for three of us to sit on.
There was a small medicine cabinet near the door to keep the emergency medicines. To fully open
our tiny door we had to move the things around. Though we had very limited material things to live
in, we were happy that we were one with the people in the locality. In fact, some of the people in
the village had better houses than we had. There, I joined with Sister Sunita in the non-formal
education of children. The villagers built a very small shed for the children to gather for classes.
Some of the children were enrolled in the local school, but most were not. They all came in the
morning for an hour of class. In the afternoon, the boys grazed their animals in the nearby fields
sitting on their buffalos. The girls cut grass to feed the animals. We could hear them singing the
nursery rhymes we had taught them.
Sister Sunita conducted the government sponsored cutting and tailoring training for women and
young girls in another house close by. While the mothers attended the class, I took their small
8

children for literacy classes. We spent a lot of time in government offices for this kind of projects.
We travelled by all modes of transportation such as trucks, tractors, ​tum-tum (horse cart) and,
sometimes, by the very crowded buses. Our most often-travelled bus was ​Hawa-​ ​hawai​, (fast
running) bus with the speed of 30 kilometres per hour. It had a few seats in the front and one long
seat at the back with nothing to hold on to. By the time we could board, the bus would be almost
full, and we sat on the back seat. With every brake, our head hit the ceiling. I remember falling
into a mud-pot of curd. People took their animals also in the same bus. Once I saw a goat eat up a
small mango plant from a man who was taking it to plant in his field.
The nearest Mass station was seventy kilometres away in Saharsa at The Indian Missionary Society
(IMS). Only once a month did we go for Mass since travel every week was tedious and expensive.
The IMS priests were so extremely hospitable to us in that they gave us one of the two rooms they
had. Their house was a second home to us during our travels. They helped us in every way
possible.
A year later, Sister Bridget moved out of Ararghat. The IMS priests introduced us to the district
development officer of Saharsa. Though we worked in another district, we volunteered to take up
the government poultry project for twenty-eight families in Saharsa district in March 1990. We
organized the women to undertake the project since most of the men were alcoholics. I was the
contact person between the government and the women, and Sunita continued with the programs
in Ararghat. Twice a week she visited me and stayed with me for a day or two. We hired a
supervisor to help the women get all the materials for making the poultry house as per the
government requirement. Before dispatching the first batch of fifty chicks and feed, the women
were given training to take care of the chicks. On the very first day itself, one or two families lost
more than half of their chicks. Though the women had the training, they were not used to taking
care of the white leghorns. A veterinary doctor ​administered some antibiotics, and the situation
was under control. I moved from house to house to supervise that the right amount of feed, water
and warmth was available to the chicks. The women kept questioning, “What kind of chicks are
these?” They also could not understand why the chicken house had to be kept clean. The women
had to clean their hands and feet before they entered the chicken house; all the feeding containers
also had to be clean. Within one and a half-months, the chicks were ready for sale. There wasn’t
much demand for this kind of meat. There was a middle man who really cheated them. Though I
confronted him twice, he got wind of my coming and escaped. If the chickens were not sold at the
right time, nobody would buy an overgrown chicken. Each family made a profit above Indian
rupees 2000/- which was deposited in the women’s bank accounts. When we went there for the
first time, most of the people had only one meal a day. By the time we left the place, the women
could afford two decent meals a day. After the project work, we returned to Ararghat. During our
free time, we visited families in our village and in nearby villages.
In December 1992, I went to Nazareth, KY as a delegate for the General Assembly. There, I
developed severe spondylitis and was asked to have a surgery just before I was to leave for India in
January 1993. I returned to India and was under the treatment of Doctor Mukhopadhyay in Patna.
9

Meanwhile, I got word that my only brother was seriously ill and in the intensive care unit (ICU).
Hope for his recovery was minimal, and he was shifted from the ICU to the ward. Four of his
charismatic friends, along with others, prayed over him. He showed signs of recovery and was
shifted to the ICU where he recovered fast. When my family thanked the people who prayed for
my brother, they said that one of your other family members with spondylitis is also healed. And I
am that person who felt the healing touch of God through prayer. Thanks be to God!
For a few days, I went back to Ararghat in February 1993, to get my things. I went to Narayan
Chowk, Dharan in Nepal, to teach in the school for a year. The school was up to class three. Having
a few students in a class, the atmosphere was homey and I could experiment many things with
them. On parents’ day, the students received their parents, served them refreshments, and made
them feel comfortable. The program was like a television broadcast. A big television was made out
of a cardboard box, and all items were related to the subjects they had in the classroom. One of
the drills was in geometrical shapes, right angles, squares, etc. The students dressed up as two or
three famous mathematicians and interviewed them. They had the song on the solar system in the
tune, “Here we go round the mulberry bush” and sang “Here we go round the glowing sun”.
Parents enjoyed the program so much that it was a special parents’ day. Most of the fathers of the
children worked in Hong Kong, and mothers took care of the children. I learned some Nepali to
communicate with the people.
In December 1993, I was elected assistant provincial of the India Province. I came to Patna in May
from Dharan. June 1, 1994 was the day of installation for the new leadership team of the province.
The newly elected province leadership members had a few days of team-building sessions in
September. In the midst of this session, I got word that my mother expired on September 2, 1994.
I did not go home for the funeral.
I assisted Sister Bridget Kappalumakal as her assistant to the best of my ability. During this time,
the province closed down two missions, Hilsa and Biharsharif in Bihar, and bought land in Almora.
We also opened a new house in Kakkavayal in Kerala. After being in Provincial leadership, I had a
six-week scripture course along with SCNs Bridget Kappalumakal and Sister Mary Joseph at the
Charismatic Retreat Centre in Potta, Kerala. After a home visit, I went to Ranchi to teach in the
formation program and to be in-charge of the student candidates in June 1999 for two years.
In June 2001, I volunteered to go to Surkhet to be with Rosita Kavilpurayidathil, SCN. I joined her in
social service programs such as self-help groups for women, cutting and tailoring for a year.
In 2002, I was advised to have an angiogram done in Delhi by our doctors in Mokama. Before I left
Mokama, Sister Xavier Valiakunnackal (now deceased) prayed over me. When the consultant
doctor at Stephens’ Hospital, Delhi examined me, he said that I did not need an angiogram. He put
me on medication and wanted to observe me for the following two months. During this waiting
period, I visited Almora mission. I was fortunate to visit some of the villages in Almora and enjoyed
the cool weather of the hills.
10

I left Delhi in August 2002, and went back to Surkhet for a month. In April 2003, I was appointed
teacher at Gyan Deep Vidyalaya in Birsanagar, Jamshedpur. I taught various subjects such as
English and Moral Science from Classes IV to IX. It was a challenge and joy for me to be with the
children of the low income group and to give them my best. Our desire was that the students work
up to their abilities to become somebody in life. The teachers were excellent and had a goal to
empower the children. The students, teachers and the principal worked together as one group.
We developed the school philosophy, vision and mission. We got ample financial and educational
support from the Tata Companies especially Telecon, Tata Steel, Tata Motors, etc.
Telecon initiated a ‘​Jagriti’ (​ awakening) ​program under the leadership of Mr. Peter Banerjee for the
Hindi Medium schools of Jamshedpur city. A week-long program of competitions in speech, drama,
art, singing, dancing, debate, and quizzes in general knowledge and other subjects were held for
those schools every year. Selected children were brought to Gyan Deep Vidyalaya for the finals.
These activities made the children self-confident and developed a healthy competitive spirit. By the
time the students left our school, every child was on the stage to perform confidently one time or
the other. As we had a well-planned school program for the development of the students, all
teachers worked hard to help them reach their goals and improve a little more than they had
earlier performed. Some of the teachers sponsored the educational expenses of children from poor
families. The school had built up a family spirit. I stayed in Birsanagar till 2010, and it was one of
my golden years of teaching experience, and my golden jubilee year, too.
In 2007, I was elected a board member. In June 2010, as part of the experimentation for the
bifurcation of India Province, I stayed in Snehalayam, Trichy, for two years. Josita Eniakattu, SCN,
stayed with the Chandapura community. When I had nothing special to do for the province, I
helped out in St. Vincent Matriculation School till 2012.
In June 2012, I joined Nazareth Academy, the new English medium school inaugurated in April
during our bicentennial year as a gift for the people of Mokama. The school began with twenty-six
pre-school children, senior and junior kindergarten. New students kept coming, and, by year end,
we had close to forty children. Though Sister Rena Simon Fernandes, SCN, the principal, stayed in
Gaya and supervised the school, very often I was the acting principal till December 2012. Classes
were held in St. Xavier’s School from April to December 2012 while the old Nazareth Hospital
building was being remodelled for a primary and kindergarten school. In November, when I
showed the remodelled classrooms to one student’s parents, their eyes shined and faces glowed.
“Can there be any school building like this in Mokama!”, they exclaimed. This was the first time
that anyone had seen the inside of the building. In January 2013, students were brought to the
new site and they were delighted. Children touched the fruits on the tiles of the walls and some of
them kissed various interesting pictures. Sister Rena joined the school in January 2013, and the
school started to function as a regular school. Every year, a class was added, and, now, the school
has reached up to Class VII with over six hundred students.
11

Every year teachers were given in-service training. We have taken it as our own responsibility to
make the school the best in the locality. We wish for our students to imbibe sound values and love
God and their neighbour. It was the desire of the people in Mokama to have an English School run
by the Sisters. Most of the parents are non-English speaking people. From the beginning of the
school until now, no leaf was left unturned to make the students academically excellent. I have
been at Nazareth Academy, Mokama, from June 2012 up to the present, teaching students,
mentoring teachers, organizing extra-curricular activities for students, and helping them to exhibit
their talents through dramas, speeches, exhibitions, quizzes, etc. I also helped to select and
purchase books for the school library and helped the librarian to organize the books. I am still
attached to the school.
So many golden opportunities enabled me to interact lovingly with our Sisters in the Western
Province. As a junior Sister, I had the privilege of living with eighty Juniors in the Juniorate in the
1960s at Nazareth for three years. Some of them were older than I, a few others younger, and the
majority were of my age! We prayed together, ate together, had recreation together; some of us
attended college classes together. We had opportunities to share with one another our inner joys
and struggles; also, we had opportunities to mingle with other SCNs when they came to Nazareth
for summer school. We got acquainted with many of them; we also got to know some of them
more closely. I got to know some of our SCN professors during informal gatherings. Experience of
SCNs during our temporary missions was another way of getting strongly bonded in the SCN Family.
In later years, after the college studies, there were many opportunities to meet with the SCNs from
the Western Province, and the bonds became stronger. I am proud to say that I know many SCNs
of the Western Province personally; it has made a great difference in my life! Thinking
congregationally has become second nature to me. I thank God for the SCN Congregation! Love
you all, my dear Sisters! Strong bonds exist between the SCNs of Patna and Bangalore Province,
too. I don’t experience that we are in two provinces in India. Let us continue to thank God for
calling us to the SCN Congregation!
Books and Persons who influenced me: ​Mahatma Gandhi; Saint Alphonsa; Saint Vincent de Paul
and Mother Catherine Spalding; Martin Luther King Jr.; Saint Mother Teresa of Kolkata
Books:​ The Bible
Books on Mother Mary
Lives of Saints
Seven Storey Mountains​ by Thomas Merton
Man’s Search for Meaning​ by ​Viktor E. Frankl
Abraham Lincoln: A Spiritual Biography​ by Elton Trueblood
Inspirational Books by modern authors like Sudha Murty, Paulo Coelho, etc.
Religious Life: A call to Holiness; Articles, homilies and Collection of poems/stories
God Experiences: ​a) After one month retreat; b) After Confession every time; c) During Meditation;
d) Sharing with friends​ ​and during hard times I resort to prayer, spiritual direction and letting go.
12

Faith experiences: I know a woman who for over twenty years suffered from menstrual cramps.
She was treated for it by various doctors, but got only temporary relief. One of the gynaecologists
whom she consulted had told her that she would need a surgery by the time she would reach her
mid-thirties. When she was about thirty-three years old she had an opportunity to be prayed over
by a charismatic preacher, Reverend Father Jim Borst. As soon as the woman described her
problem to this priest he told her, “Jesus wants you to be cured of this pain.” The woman believed
that Jesus would cure her. Father Borst prayed over her for complete relief from the cramps. The
woman waited in faith to experience the healing in the following month and, sure enough, the
miracle took place. She was healed! Praise God! She lives with deep gratitude to God for this
healing and glorifies God by telling others about the marvel Jesus wrought in her life. And who is
this woman? It is none other than the narrator of this story, Sister Ann George Mukalel.
One day in 1990, while I was monitoring a poultry farming project for the poor villagers of Naya
Nagar in Saharsa district of Bihar, I was returning from the market in a cycle rickshaw with some
chicken feed, a few vegetables and a large sum of money from the bank which belonged to the
beneficiaries of the project. Before entering the village of the target group, I had to cross a short
bridge on the main road. This bridge is in a lonely area. When my rickshaw crossed that bridge a
short, fat young man who was hiding under the bridge walked over to my rickshaw briskly and
stopped the rickshaw. There was no other soul around. I was petrified. He asked the rickshaw
puller what was in the big bundle on the rickshaw. I told him that there was some chicken feed for
the poultry farm and some vegetables. He stared at me for a while and then told the rickshaw that
he could proceed to the village. It was a real miracle that he did not search the bags carefully. God
didn’t let him see the poor people’s precious savings. God protects us when we are in vulnerable
situations. Such moments of grace are in store for all of us when we place ourselves in God’s
hands.
An amusing, yet frightening, incident happened when I was going to the Block Development
officer’s residence to get a necessary permission regarding the aforementioned poultry farming
project. I had to cross a large, paddy field where cows, oxen, buffalos, goats, etc. were grazing
freely. There was nobody with those animals. It was a hot day, and so, I opened my red umbrella.
A buffalo began to chase me. Little did I realize that my red umbrella had stirred up fear in the
buffalo causing it to chase me. Immediately, I closed the umbrella and used it as a weapon to fend
myself. Suddenly, the buffalo turned the other way and ran for its life. God gave me the awareness
that the red colour of the umbrella irritated that creature and once the umbrella was closed, it was
at ease.
My life, also, like those of most people, has had its sunny, cloudy and rainy days, especially in
mid-life. Personality clashes, misunderstandings, etc. marred the tranquillity of life. Retreats,
renewals, meditations, reflections and readings helped me to look at myself more realistically
without condemning myself or others. Life has taught me that all have rights and duties and I need
to respect them. Also, I must let others grow as they are directed by their inner voice. Living this
thought pattern has helped me to love and reverence my sisters and brothers. After having had
13

healthy dialogues with other people, I now better realize that they have the right to hold their
opinions or belief systems. I try not to force my view of anything of importance on others.
I keep in touch with the former students of Nazareth Academy, Gaya, and Gyan Deep Vidyalaya,
Birsanagar through alumnae associations. I have gathered treasures by having relationships with
strangers especially the poor en route to the village of our beneficiaries in Naya Nagar. Our mere
presence made an impact in their lives. People would stop to talk to us, smile at us and even in the
overcrowded bus the conductor would make place for us to sit.
My two siblings Sebastian (brother) and Aleykutty (sister), went to their heavenly abode on
December 4, 2013 and February 19, 2018 respectively. With this all my immediate family members
are in heaven now except my sister-in-law.
I look forward to sustaining the inner peace and peace in the world, and real loving relationship
with one another wherever I am. And I wish the same for others, whoever they are. I have come to
believe unless we are one with God, peace cannot be realized.
To anyone who asks me what religious life has meant to me, I would say, “Come and stay with me.”
“The answer, my friend, is blowin’ in the wind
The answer is blowin’ in the wind.” ​(Bob Dylan, Tom Petty & the Heartbreakers)
Sister Ann George Mukalel, SCN
Completed on February 21, 2020
Consent given to publish the story at SCN website

14

Dublin Core

Title

Ann George Mukalel, SCN Oral History

Subject

Mukalel, Ann George, SCN; Sisters of Charity of Nazareth

Creator

SCN Archival Center

Source

SCN Archival Center

Date

2/21/2020

Rights

Permission for any type of publication of archival materials, including text, photographs, video, or audio must be secured from the Sisters of Charity of Nazareth Archival Center before publication. Contact archives staff for appropriate forms and contact information.

Format

PDF

Language

English

Identifier

MMC-AnnGeorgeMukalel

Oral History Item Type Metadata

Interviewer

Unknown

Interviewee

Ann George Mukalel, SCN

Location

India

Citation

SCN Archival Center , “Ann George Mukalel, SCN Oral History,” Sisters of Charity Federation Archives, accessed June 25, 2024, https://scfederationarchives.org/items/show/102.

Comments

Allowed tags: <p>, <a>, <em>, <strong>, <ul>, <ol>, <li>

Document Viewer