By Ivan Saldanha-Shet

Mangaluru , Dec 30 : At the ancient headquarters built in 1901 next to Rosario Cathedral, the Ursuline Franciscan Sisters (UFS) founded in 1887, the oldest indigenous congregation of Mangalore nuns held the triple celebrations which will go into the annals of history. The three fold event with prayer, gratitude and gaiety was fittingly marked on Sunday, December 29, 2019, presided over by the Bishop of Mangalore Most Rev Dr Peter Paul Saldanha, in the joyous presence of the Ursuline Superior General Rev Sr. Susheela Sequiera, her team of Councillors, sisters from a wide representation and many connected with this august religious service oriented congregation.

The three fold celebration marked :
1. The 110th death anniversary of pioneer Mother Nympha, the first Superior .
2. Silver jubilee of the approval of the congregation as an institute of Pontifical recognition.
3. Inaugural of a historic museum the 'UFS-Heritage'.
The chief architects of the event were the all 5 members of the General Council, the Provincial Council and the community of St. Ursula's convent Bolar.

The celebrations started with blessings and inauguration of the 'UFS-Heritage', a community museum depicting the history, progress and many aspects of the Ursuline Congregation since 1878. The ribbon was cut by the Superior General Rev Sr. Susheela Sequiera, now holding office for the second term. Present with her was Rev Sr. Doreen D'Souza the immediate past Superior General who took on the delicate task of setting up the Museum from scratch. The museum is indeed seen to be very precise and artistic; the work was started in June 2017 involving several professionals and was inaugurated onDecember 29, 2019 , which will no doubt serve as an inspiration to many.

The opening was followed by a solemn thanksgiving mass by Bishop Peter Paul Saldanha and concelebrated fittingly by representatives of the Jesuit, Capuchin and Diocesan priests, historically associated with the UFS. The UFS congregation was the very first Kanara based indigenous congregation founded in Mangalore and chiefly made up of nuns from Konkani Catholics of Kanara - it was founded by Jesuit Rev Fr. Urban Stein, the first resident parish priest of Rosario Cathdral. Later the spiritual upgrade followed was put in place by Capuchin priests under the 'Franciscan rule'. The homily was delivered by the Rector of historic St. Aloysius College Rev Fr. Diony Vaz SJ, who said Jesuit SJ priests are always proud of the founder of the "Band of Ursula", a group of 12 who are the forerunners of the UFS congregation of totally local origin, who have served the Church in great measure and continue to do so.

Immediately following the supreme thanksgiving mass, there was a stage programme highlighting the gratitude and culture of the UFS. Superior General Rev Sr. Susheela Sequiera welcomed the President of the evening and special invitees and guests - there were priests, 350 nuns from various congregations, majority being a representation of all levels of the UFS sisters world wide and a cross section of stalwart representatives of the catholic population.

Individually welcomed and honoured were
Rev Dr Peter Paul Saldanha, Bishop of Mangalore, presiding over the mega UFS event 
Rev Fr. Pius D'Souza OCD the Vicar of religious congregations of the Diocese graced the occasion too. Rev Sr. Doreen D'Souza, immediate past Superior General who extended highly prized services for 2 terms and who played a main role in the 'UFS-Heritage' and renovations of the Bolar former Mother House and other appreciated land mark works
Rev Sr. Edilburga Montheiro former Superior General who made a mark as a pioneer missionary in Tanzania, Africa too was present and honoured.
Rev Fr. Paul Melwin D'Souza OFM Capuchin, Rev Fr. Jayaprakash D'Souza for the services rendered to bring out a music hymn book 
Micheal Fernandez, a direct descendant of Mother Nympha Fernandez, who recently passed away, and was a great contributor of history and ancestry was represented on behalf of the illustrious 'Fernandez' family of Bolar, by its present youngest member Denzil Fernandez 
The Architect of the art, technical and historical arrangement and set up of the Meuseum Rev Fr. Royanchen Joseph a Pallotine priest, a renowned artist and religious who is the Director of Pallotine School of Art and a highly accomplished artist and professional who has at least 15 major Catholic Museums all over the country and is working on many more, with several of the key professionals who worked on the museum project here
The priests of the Rosario parish Fr. Flavian Lobo and Fr. Rocky Fernandes represented the Cathedral Rector the rightful successors of of Fr. Urban Stein
Most who contributed in many ways were honoured and the joy was palpable all around.

4 books were released on this occasion. One on Music and singing for the Congregation in 2 volumes, 'Pearls' a compilation of Ursuline policies and guides on care of the girl children and the last but most vital on this occasion is "Angel of Bunder - Mother Nympha Fernandez" an in-depth study and revelations by various members of the UFS and writers who have been associated with the life of 'Mother Nympha'. The event was titanic happening indeed - Rev Sr Milly Fernandes the Assistant Superior General, quoting the words of renowned APJ Abdul Kalam, stated that "if you want to shine like the sun... first burn like the sun". Her vote of thanks covered all that had to be appreciated in articulate and fitting words. It was an eye opener to experience the zeal and fire that went into the organisation through the music, the many dances, and a uplifting play on the life of mother in the formation of the Congregation from 1870s to the present times. All concerned with the UFS past and present were remembered.

In his presidential conclusions Rev Dr Peter Paul Saldanha very aptly summed up lauding the UFS Congregation over a century. He expressly pointed out that he has personally experienced the goodness, maturity and commitment of the UFS nuns in various services at home, Europe and Africa from his own experience. Their gift of love to care for the downtrodden was indeed singular he expressed. Founded by a great pastor Fr. Urban, they have maintained the spirit and credibility in their works with heart and mind through hard work. Mangalore diocese is indeed proud that it has given birth to this indigenous congregation. Here there are at least 32 institutions / convents reaching out to those in need without any discrimination. He was very appreciative of the Ursuline services and prayed that they will go to greater heights in times to come.

The singing, dancing and performance by the new aspirants, novices (formees) was superb on all counts. The cultural events were of the best possible value and the junior nuns indeed acquitted them selves in a superb manner organizing very efficiently. 'Light of the Shore' a multimedia presentation on the life of Mother Nympha Fernandez kept the large audience spell bound so much so that no one moved out till the end. There is now a great expectation on the future of the UFS conregation and its charisma and spirituality from its base here in Mangaluru.


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