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Saturday 30 March 2013

With peace at Shantinagar

By Novice Johnson
Experiments are part of Jesuit novitiate-life all over the world.  Experiment means testing and training oneself to be fit to become a Jesuit.  We undergo six experiments in the Dhyan Ashram novitiate.  By doing these, we learn and are formed for our future mission as Jesuits.  We call it formation in mission.  One of these experiments is the ‘hospital experiment’.
On Feb 9, I was sent to Shantinagar for the month-long hospital experiment, which was also my second experiment.  There is a big leprosy centre, run by the MC Sisters on the bank of the Maithan River.  Blessed Mother Teresa, who was the founder of this place, had great compassion and love for those unloved and unwanted lepers.  She loved this place very much.  Many people who are affected by leprosy come here for treatment.
The Indian government says that there is no leprosy in India.  Because of this foolish stand, many donors stopped giving aid for leprosy programmes.  But the poor government still does not know that the leprosy is spreading like a fire.  Every month at least 60 to 70 new patients come to be admitted here.  When I heard this I was infuriated against the government. 
When I saw the lepers I felt a lot of repugnance and repulsion and did not want to go near them.  In the beginning I struggled a lot to face the reality.  But as the day went on, I became one among them.  My heart cried out seeing their unconditional love.  There I received their love more than I expected.  Their faith in God really pierced my heart and their way of praying helped me to find God closer. 
The most important episode I experienced was facing their wounds in front of my eyes.  So many times those stinky wounds made me faint.  Whenever I was dressing those wounds, I cried out in compassion for these people and asked God to help and cure them.  I those trying times, I was helped and strengthened by God to face this reality.  There I really experienced God and sensed his presence among those lepers who are considered untouchables by many.  At the end I was very glad because I had a wonderful opportunity to experience this life and love those untouchables.  I hope that this wonderful experience will always remain with me.

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