AMBOLI, ANDHERI, MUMBAI, India -- I belong to a parish in a densely populated suburb of Mumbai, India, a parish, I am happy to report, that is functioning quite well.
Records indicate that St. Blaise parish dates back to around the year 1560 when Portuguese Franciscans came here and constructed a chapel. A parish, as it might have been viewed then, came some 25 years later -- around 1585. The number of Catholics then, according to records, was 1,637 adults and 400 children. Today the parish claims a membership of more than 14,000.
If you look at our parish church, with its pantheon of apostles on the roof top, it is distinctive -- and in other ways it is much like the other buildings near a junction of two heavily traveled crossroads. The area is generally noisy, with the sounds of motorcars; taxis; motorbikes and rickshaws; and buses filling the air.
Affectionately called Gai, Society of the Sacred Heart of Jesus Sister Eileen Gaitonde is now all of 70, but still a dynamo, working virtually non-stop for the mentally challenged who are studying at the S.P. J. Sadhana School here. I interviewed Gaitonde recently, asking her what led to her vocation, and what it has been like to be working with the mentally challenged. The following is a slightly edited version of her story.