New Delhi (ucan): From the moment she was born in the northeast of India in the early 1960s, Sister Mary Nakura’s path towards becoming a nun looked unlikely to say the least.
The seventh of eight children born into a Catholic family in a remote village in Manipur, Sister Mary didn’t go to school. Instead she looked after her many nephews and nieces and learned to sew for the other villagers, all of which were non-Christian except one other family.
“Education was poor in our state, especially for the girls,” she said.
She later moved north to the town of Kohima, the state capital of neighboring Nagaland, one of three states in India’s northeast with a strong Christian presence.
There she became a kitchen hand at a retreat. It was here that she first witnessed what it was like to be a nun after coming into contact with members of the Pious Disciples of the Divine Master congregation.
“Looking at the sisters, I began to long to become one,” said Sister Mary. “But alas, I had no education.”
That was when the convent superior Sister Speranza overheard and challenged her: “If you really want to become a sister, we will send you to a school,” she said.
But to become a nun, she had to pass 10th grade. Indeed, children her age with an education had typically already completed 12th grade.
There were other significant obstacles to overcome too, not least the negative attitude of her family – her mother believed only girls unable to find a husband headed for a convent and no one from her family had ever done so.
However, when Sister Mary hurt her knees in a bad fall and the nuns around her offered help, her mother had a change of heart.
“I trusted God and believed he knew how to lead me,” she said.
Starting at fourth grade, she found life at school a “struggle” at first, not least because she was studying with children much younger than herself. When Sister Mary was in the sixth grade, her nephew recalled – she had looked after him when he was a child.
“My family always appreciated her strong will-power,” he said.
Eventually she passed 10th grade when she reached her mid 20’s in 1989 and took her final vows in 2000.
“She is a jewel,” said Father Sebastian Ouseparampil, the priest who funded her education following their first meeting all those years ago in that kitchen in Kohima.
Following a short course in theology, her main vocation at her convent in Assam’s largest city Guwahati remains her original pastime – sewing.
Sister Mary sews liturgical clothing including cassocks. Her superior Sister Lidwina Gaura notes that the convent gets regular complaints from priests since stitching cassocks is far from easy.
“But no one has complained about Sister Nakura’s cassocks,” she added.
Since becoming a nun, her niece also recently followed her into a convent, traditionally a place where only educated women – and therefore privileged women – were able to reach.
“My vocation is an impossible dream fulfilled,” said Sister Mary.