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A Nun Of Substance

by Fr. Nascimento Mascarenhas

While on visits to the parishioners of the Holy Spirit Church in Margao, I get a chance to visit the nuns of the two convents in the vicinity. One is the Maria Bambina Sisters (SCCG) Convent, at the Hospital do Hospício, not far from the church. Here Sr. Judith Fernandes, from Mudd’davaddi, Saligao, resides along with her community. Sr. Judith, a qualified nurse, works in the Hospício Hospital and teaches catechism to children at Holy Spirit Church. She has a twin sister who is also a nun – Sr. Jessie Fernandes. Sr. Jessie, also a school teacher, is at Assumpta Convent in Chinchinim and a member of Franciscan Sisters of St. Mary of the Angels (FSMA). At the Presentation Convent (Franciscan Hospitallers of Immaculate Conception – FHIC) I meet Sr. Noel Theresa Furtado. She came to Margao in 2010 and also teaches religion at our Sunday School.  Incidentally, the FHIC has a convent in Saligao, located in Demelovaddo, Arrarim. It’s known as Shanti Niketan and has been founded in the ancestral house of the late Fr. Alberto Saldanha.

It is about Sr. Noel that I am writing. Her mother Rita Maria Ana Lobo was from Tabravaddo in Saligao, married to Paulo Martinho Furtado from Assagao. In a tête-à-tête with Sr. Noel, she said to me, “When I was asked by our Provincial Sr. Mary Augustine to translate from Portuguese into English the Positio – Life, Virtues and Fame of Sanctity of our Founder and Mother Maria Clara do Menino Jesus, I felt a sense of unworthiness, although I am proud to be her daughter. She had been a woman and spiritual mother whose life has always been a source of inspiration and courage to me. It was God’s wish and Mother Clara’s guidance that enabled me to translate this 224-page book. The book was released by our Sr. Superior General, Sr. Maria Conceição Galvão Ribeiro on the occasion of the centenary celebrations of Mount Mary Convent, Bandra, Mumbai, on December 08, 2009 in the presence of the Auxiliary Bishop of Bombay, Most Rev. Percival Fernandes. While working on this project I discovered Mother Clara’s virtues of love, kindness, patience and suffering, faith, hope and charity in the face of rejection and persecution, and have tried to imbibe them.”

Sr. Noel Theresa Furtado was born in Bombay on 25th December 1937 and was baptised in January 1938 at Gloria Church, Byculla, Bombay. She holds a B.A., M.Ed. degree. She entered Mount Mary Convent, Bandra, Bombay on 4th June 1961 and received the habit on 13th December 1961. She did her first Profession on 3rd June 1964 at Mount Mary Basilica, Bandra, Bombay and final profession in the same Basilica on 3rd June 1970.

She has held the following posts:

1973-1976: Councillor for Missions and Superior at Mount Mary Convent, Bandra, Bombay.

1976-1981: Superior and Principal of Our Lady of Fatima High School, Daman.

1981-1983: Superior and Principal of St. Francis of Assisi Convent, Navsari, Gujarat.

1983-1987: Worked in Brazil in schools at Sao Paulo, Rio de Janeiro and Brasilia.

1988-1992: Headmistress at Cathedral High School, Lucknow.

1992-1995: Superior and Principal at Mary Immaculate High School, Panjim, Goa.

1995-2001: General Councillor to the Superior General, Sr. Maria Isilda Freitas, at the Generalate, Linda-a-Pastora, Queijas, Portugal.

2001-2004: Assistant Provincial to Sr. Mary Augustine at Clara Sadan Provincialate, Bangalore.

2004-2007: Superior at Holy Innocents Convent, Nilgiris, Tamil Nadu.

2007-2010: Formed part of the Prison Ministry; counselling for students of St. Xavier’s at Bom Jesus Retreat Movement, Old Goa; helping the elderly; and, evangelisation.

From June 2010: Sr. Noel is at Presentation Convent, Margao, involved in Prison Ministry, counselling, Sunday School, Pre- Confirmation and Catechism at the convent.

On 3rd June 1989, Sr. Noel celebrated her Silver Jubilee at St. Joseph’s Cathedral, Lucknow. In November 2007 she visited the Holy Land with the pilgrimage group of Fr. Rochy Vaz (from Donvaddo, Saligao). Sr. Noel is well-known for her work in the field of education has also kept in mind always the vision of the world in need of love, help, concern. She is a woman deeply human yet deeply attached to God and wanting to give her utmost to make Him known.

As her mother comes from the same ward as I do, I requested her to provide more details about her mother Rita Maria Ana Lobo born on 17th August 1896 at Tabravaddó, Saligao, and her family. Sr. Noel told me that her mother was the daughter of José Maria Lobo and Isabel Especiosa Souza and paternal granddaughter of Cosme Damião Lobo and Ana Florinda Abreu and maternal granddaughter of Mathias António Souza and Ana Joaquina Sequeira. Her mother was baptised at Mae de Deus Church, Saligao, on 19th September 1896 and her brothers were Antonio Xavier Lobo, Caetano Joao Lobo and Sr. Teodolinda Lobo Machado.

Sr. Noel added that she is the youngest in the family, with three brothers – Stanny Furtado, Anthony Natividade Furtado, Cyril Santos Furtado – and one sister, Mariette Furtado, married to Joe Fernandes of Siolim.

Sr. Noel says:  “As I gaze on my personal history, unlock the storage of my soul, it reveals the truth of God’s love, tenderness and the power of His presence that enriches me every moment. God is so good to me. God is now leading me from the Desert to my Eternal House”.

This was her parting quip: “The heart is happiest when it beats for others.”

4 comments on A Nun Of Substance

  • shanti maria fonseca

    A deserving tribute to Sr. Noel. It is unfortunate that most people around her do not know her worth. Its not about the grace that surrounds her when she presents herself. Its her humility and innocence that gets at you. If only there were more religious like her there would probably be more recruits in religious life. Sr. Noel is a great Counseller with her feet on the ground. I would recommend that anyone who needs to be heard and comforted meet her at her new posting in Ponda at St. Mary’s convent. It is a fact that the heart of Sr. Noel beats for others. SHANTI

  • fr.nascimento mascarenhas

    Dear Shanti,
    You said it in few words what really Sr. Noel is. I met her recently and offered my prayers to her and her Community in Ponda. My regards to you and your family Please keep in touch.
    fr. nascimento mascarenhas.

  • Naina Pereira

    Both an honour and a privledge to have met and to be so closely associated with Sr. Noel – all I pray is that her goodness and greatness rubs on unworthy souls like myself- Naina

  • TREVOR

    It has thus been an honor to know this highly esteemed and gentle personality since I was a kid. Well Sr Noel has been the wing beneath the wings of our family since I was a kid. Besides her spiritual life fr. nascimento mascarenhas has forgotten to mention what a brillant cook she is well her prawn pickle and soups are to die for. Thank you fr. nascimento mascarenhas for interviewing this highly esteemed and gentle personality.

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