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Damien of Molokai Ward

JESU ASHRAM, MATIGARA “October 22, 2014” is a memorable day in the history of Jesu Ashram. On this day a newly constructed block was dedicated to the leprosy patients with the name “Damien of Molokai Ward” in memory of Rev. Fr Don Piero Laterza, a friend of Jesu Ashram and a guiding force to Mrs. Patrizia Biaconi. In 1873, Damien went to the leper colony on Molokai, a lonely island in the Pacific Ocean, after volunteering for the assignment. He cared for lepers of all ages, but was particularly concerned about the children segregated in the colony. His close contact with those he was helping led to his contracting Hansen’s disease himself. In 1889, he died from the disease he worked so long to treat. He was named a saint in October 2009. The “Damien of Molokai Ward” is the product of the hard work put in by Mrs Patrizia Biaconi, the founder of SOS India , to raise more than Rs 2 crores for its construction. She Him Dhwani- NOVEMBER/2014 ( Page 4 was also instrumental in mobilizing financial resources from the Italian Bishops Conference with the help of a member of her association who helped her to write a project seeking financial assistance from the Conference. Mrs Biaconi and her whole family (Renato, her husband and Lukas, her son) are known in Italy for their commitment with which they tirelessly knocked at every door in Italy to raise money for the construction of what she calls “the temple of God”. The Darjeeling Province, especially the members of Jesu Ashram, are indebted to the whole family for the sacrifices they have made by letting go of their family concerns, humiliations they have undergone while begging, but without losing their single-minded love for the sick and destitute in Jesu Ashram. The family has been associated with the Ashram for more than a decade. The ward was inaugurated and blessed by Most Rev. Clement Tirkey, Bishop of Jalpaiguri in the presence of Fr Kinley Tshering, the Jesuit Provincial, Fr Nirmol Vincent Gomes, the Salesian Provincial, the Mother General of the Sisters of Charity, Mr and Mrs. Patrizia Biaconi, Italian donors, the sick and destitute, many friends and well wishers. Fr Adolfo Nicolas, S.J., the Superior General of the Society of Jesus, could not be present for the inauguration due to his ill health. At the function, Fr Julius Kujur and Mr Sambhu Bhattacharya were felicitated for their excellent supervision and engineering work respectively. It was beautiful to see the two Jesuits working hand-in hand. While Fr Pramod Dabhi looked after the day-to-day operations of the hospital, Fr Kujur attended to the minute details of construction work. The Inauguration program was entirely prepared by the staff and students, the Sisters of the Daughters of the Cross, and the patients from all the three wards.

I am reminded of a quotation of Henri Nouwen as I think of Mrs. Patrizia and her family:

“When we honestly ask ourselves which person in our lives means the most to us, we often find that it is those who, instead of giving advice, solutions, or cures, have chosen rather to share our pain and touch our wounds with a warm and tender hand.”

-Pramod Dabhi

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