With her new family of brothers, Mary Kutty has become the favorite sister. (photo: Sr. Christian Molidor, R.S.M.)
In the lush farmland of the Cannanore District of Kerala in southern India, the harvests of fruit and cashew nuts are sent elsewhere to market. Here Savio Boys Town makes its home with the financial support of the Catholic Near East Welfare Association. The orphanage specializes in caring for handicapped boys, many of whom have been abandoned.
Recently, another child joined this community, and the place especially the boys will never be the same. The family with some 150 boys finally has a little sister.
Mary Kutty, or Little Mary, has been blind since birth. Her parents labor on a small plot of ground from which they eke out a frugal and tenuous existence. They could offer their daughter little to meet her special needs.
Franciscan Clarist Sisters have served in Savio for years. They know the area, and its people respect the dedication and patient love with which the Sisters care for their formerly neglected charges. At the residence and school, orphaned and disabled boys receive the food, shelter, basic education, and vocational training which their parents could not supply. The residents will stay at Savio Boys Town until their training leads them into jobs.
When the Sisters learned of the blind girl, they felt their resources at the orphanage could help. One priest who serves there had earned a masters degree in special education at Duquesne University in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, and his training was with the blind.
Savio Boys Town had already been caring for five blind boys. One suffers from cancer of the optic nerve and has already lost full sight in one eye. He certainly will lose his remaining weak vision. There are no available resources for the delicate surgery which could have helped save his sight. But the people of this area, like all people of limited means, do the best they can with the resources at hand.
The same ingenuity motivates the workers at Savio Boys Town. When her parents approached Sister Vimala for help, her Sisters decided that Mary could live in their convent as their daughter and take advantage of the institutions special teacher for the blind without going through the time and effort of government red-tape. Because such a teacher is so rare in Kerala, to keep a child like Mary from this special education just because she is female would be a horrible injustice and a shameful waste.
The community of handicapped boys lives in poor simplicity. Because only minimal health care is available, illnesses are common. Nonetheless, the youngsters express a genuine enthusiasm for life. Their consideration and concern for one another have always been a joy. However lame or mentally retarded they might be, the boys participate in the life of their home. When the priests celebrate the Syrian rite Mass, all the children contribute. The sighted guide the blind, the lame help the deaf and sightless, the more able carry the handicapped. From their separate incompleteness, they come together to form a vigorous, healthy, and more perfect whole.
To the Sisters and residents of Savio Boys Town, Marys arrival has brought a fresh and special opportunity for compassion. She has further humanized them all. Dressed in lovely, colorful clothes sewed by the Sisters, she charms everyone with her joyous demeanor and lively wit. The boys consider it an honor to guide her to class and to meals. With so little, yet so richly blessed in their fraternity, they have received Mary as a special blessing to cherish.
If a visitor to Savio gives the Sisters money to buy a treat for everyone, they buy tangerines. Loose jackets, as they are called in Kerala, are special treats. The boys grab the fruit and run off in all directions to savor their single piece. Yet one lad, seeing someone without one, will come over and offer his. It probably is the only piece of fruit he could have all to himself, and he offers it to a stranger when he thinks she has none.
Essentially, it is this spirit of sharing which Mary meets daily. She may never see, but she will never see a world quite as caring as the home she now shares with some 150 boys. Her family, in turn, has opened its heart to another half of humanity. In their blessed poverty, all the lives at Savio Boys Town are now more complete.
Sister Christian is a Sister of Mercy on CNEWA’s staff in New York.