‘Disha Bethany’ Sets Up Centre in Greater Noida for those Competing in Civil Services Exams

Greater Noida (NCR Delhi), July 11: The Bethany Sisters have taken a novel approach to tackle the challenges of Indian realities and fight the formidable challenges of corruption, communalism and degrading poverty.


They have opened a Study Centre at Disha Bethany in Greater Noida in the NCR, Delhi, to help train women and men aspiring to compete in the civil service exams.  They will get the coaching in professional centres in Delhi and the Bethany nuns have arranged residential facilities and a Study Centre to provide them a conducive environment with a library and computer facilities. KNEUS has set up separate hostel facilities for men.  Already there are three women and seven men studying for the next competitive exams.

It was a moving experience to listen to the dreams of young women and men - Gloria, Mary, Stella, Lancy, Ejoy, Josephine Sebastian, Ashanz Vincent, Kulkant, Pavan and Selestine hailing from the states of Arunachal, Uttar Pradesh, Punjab, Gujarat, Karnataka and Kerala -- at the inauguration of the new centre on June 30, 2011.

“Empowering young people, especially young women fired with vision and values of Jesus Christ, to serve the Church and the country through Civil Services is a response of Bethany to the signs of our times,”   said Sr Maria Leena, Provincial Superior, Northern Province at the inauguration of the Study Centre at Disha Bethany, on June 30, 2011.

Archbishop Albert D’ Souza, Archbishop of Agra and Secretary General of CBCI, presided over the inaugural Eucharist. He underscored the need for a new kind of leadership capable of swimming against the currents to deal with the formidable challenges of corruption, communalism and degrading poverty and congratulated the Bethany Sisters on taking up this project. 

He called on the young students to shine brightly with the inner light of the Divine Spirit that does not get extinguished by external storms and to be committed leaders to fight corruption, communalism and other dark forces that cripple life. “Beginning is hard but beginning must happen,” he said appreciating the new initiative taken by Bethany Sisters in the North as a part of their silver jubilee project.

Introducing the significance of the day,   former Superior General of Bethany Sisters  Sr Jyoti recalled the  passionate commitment  of the Servant of God,  Mgr Raymond FC Mascarenhas, Founder of Bethany  to the realization of the Kingdom manifesto - to bring good news to the poor and to liberate the captives...(cf. Lk  4: 18-19).  

She added, “Together with four daring holy women Mother Martha,  Srs Clare, Lourdes and Gertrude, the Servant of God - who was also the Vicar General of the Diocese of Mangalore, courageously challenged the system of his times. The unchartered road they travelled opened new opportunities for growth to women, girl children and rural poor enabling them to receive fullness of life.”

Mr Jojo Mathew, Director, Alternative Learning System, in   his message expressed  his willingness to work with the leadership of the Church in the formation of the Youth  for  civil services.  “I am ready to share my expertise and resources to train the youth with required skills, provided they work hard, and are willing to follow the guidance given.  You need to have patience and give me sufficient time to see positive results provided the students are well motivated to persevere in their efforts,” he   asserted with confidence.  He offered to subsidize the costs for Disha Bethany students as part of his commitment to the cause.

Sr Zelie, Superior and Directress of Disha Bethany, expressed her gratitude to Archbishop Albert and appreciated his vision for the Church in India. She highlighted the supportive role of the Regional Bishops of Uttar Pradesh who made it possible to meet the residential needs of the students coming from different dioceses.  She thanked Abp Albert, Fr Denis D’ Souza, Parish Priest, St Joseph’s Parish and Fr Sunny James, Regional Director, KNEUS for setting up the required Hostel facilities for young men. 

Sr Zelie also acknowledged gratefully the support and guidance given to her by Superior General Sr Wilberta, Provincial Superior Sr Maria Leena, Mr Jojo Mathew, Director, Alternative Learning System (ALS) and Mr KP Fabian IFS (Rtd),  former Ambassador to the Vatican.

Bethany Sisters led the choir with instrumental accompaniment given by Mr Rajiv Francis and Mr   Ranu Francis, the parishioners.  Students of Nursery Teachers’ Training, Tailoring Unit and members of the staff too participated in the inaugural Eucharist.  The day was brought to an end with a simple, delicious fellowship meal.

WHY FOCUS ON CIVIL SERVICES?

Focus on Civil Services and the Formation of youth for Civil Services is a new response of Bethany in the context of Indian realities to meet the new challenges according to the signs of our times.

For the last 90 years (1921 -2011) Bethany Sisters have initiated projects to empower the marginalized groups i.e. dalit, tribal, women and children of rural areas and urban slums through education, community development, entrepreneurship.
They have formed Self-Help Groups and women’s organizations (Federations), to address issues of human trafficking, community health with emphasis on prevention of HIV/AIDS, education of the street children, vocational training for school dropouts, unemployed rural and urban youth and care of the elderly in different parts of the country and a few countries of Europe and Africa. Manos Unidas, Conrad Hilton Fund for Sisters and Caritas India, and at times individual donors have been our partners in  their  service to the disadvantaged groups.

But recent developments in the country, especially growing corruption, communalism, violence and growing marginalisation of certain sections of society because of globalisation and privatisation motivated the Bethany Sisters to accept the challenge of this new ministry. The need to train our young people in Civil Services has been strongly felt over a long period.


It is necessary to bring in the values of Jesus, love, peace, justice and freedom into the key positions of the administrative set-up of the government to make India Dharma Rajya.

Realizing Civil Service is a significant tool to bring in the Reign of God in society, encouraged by the Church leaders and well-wishers, the Provincial Superior of Northern Province, Sr Maria Leena accepted the challenge of the formation of young people aspiring to be Civil Servants. She selected Disha Bethany at Greater Noida to meet their needs for residential facilities combined with a study centre. Proximity to Delhi combined with favourable study environment could enhance the capacity of the students for positive results.  UPSC examinations offer a very challenging competition and Delhi is a strategic location as most of the coaching centres are found in and around Delhi. 

Archbishop Albert D’ Souza was already reflecting on a similar initiative and hence he readily accepted the proposal, and took up the responsibility of providing residential facilities to young men with a cause and commitment.

Commitment of Church Leaders

“The face of India today is ‘young’ - the population trends point towards the average Indian being less than 30 years of age by 2020.  Hence, the Church wants very much to harness the enthusiasm of youth in the cause of peace and harmony. Education should propel the young generation to go beyond differences and appreciate the diversity of cultures, languages, regions, and religions to create a culture of peace and harmony where everyone will be respected as human beings, free to profess, practise and share one’s faith.”  (Cf: Statement of 29th CBCI General Body Meeting, 3 March 2010)

The  Church in India has contributed much in educating the rural poor, dalits and tribals and many civil servants and politicians boast of being students of prestigious Christian Schools and Colleges. Yet, the national scenario is replete with stories of scams, violence and marginalization of the weaker sections of society. The Church therefore has to offer leaders with values, conscience and commitment to the country. One of the means to offer value based leadership is to motivate parents, teachers and students as well as to support and train our talented youth to enter the Indian Civil Services to work with commitment and courage to realize the reign of God. 

Christian organizations and individuals could identify, motivate the young people, and offer their expertise or scholarships to the aspiring candidates to achieve the goal.  They could conduct such courses in various parts of the country and help the youth to compete successfully in the annual examinations conducted by Union Public Service Commission. Already the Church leaders in some regions of our country make such efforts but the success rate is not much known.  Sharing of success stories and pooling of resources regionally and centrally could give tangible results at the national level.

While Civil Service is a key area for the growth and development of the country, involving shaping of the policies and decisions of the government, it also affects directly or indirectly the life and the ministries of the Church.

Civil Servants are policy makers and handle all affairs of the government. Their work for the civil framework of the country influences all aspects of modern life, including the environment, education, health, agriculture, law and order, defence, foreign affairs, social welfare and taxation. Hence, their role as leaders influences all spheres at different levels of national and international arena.

Civil Service is an essential part of over-all framework of the country and therefore a careful selection of candidates is done. Every year, the Union Public Service Commission conducts competitive examination to provide to the country young and dynamic people with talent, knowledge, and skills who are capable of occupying key positions in the country. There are about 500 to 700 candidates selected each year. The selected candidates further receive training in Lal Bahadur Shastri National Academy of Administration, Mussoorie and other National Institutions.
Conclusion
Formation of Young Christian leaders with vision and values for good governance in India, who will eventually enter every sphere of public life and act as powerful agents of change and transformation, is the goal of Disha Bethany.  The response indicates that the road taken is less travelled and is a difficult one.  Nevertheless, Bethany believes it is the right one.

The words of Paulo Coelho, the Brazilian author in his book Alchemist give hope and meaning to what we are called to do.
“Whoever you are, or whatever it is that you do, when you really want something, it's because that desire originated in the soul of the universe. It's your mission on earth." ...."And when you want    something, the entire universe conspires in helping you to achieve it.”

And the God of hope who called Bethany to take on this road less travelled says, “...  I am with you always till the end of times.” Mt 28: 20

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