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Champion Of The Downtrodden

by Fr. Nascimento Mascarenhas

The Vijay Marie Hospital run by the Sisters of Charity at Khairatabad in Hyderabad, stands as a monument to the pioneering efforts of Dr Irene Olive de Souza Rebello back in the 1940s. Giving up her lucrative medical practice, she started a free dispensary for the poor in a small shed, and gave not only medical treatment but also spiritual comfort to her patients.

To help Dr Irene in her charitable work, Lady Rama Rao, on behalf of the Indian Women’s Council, gifted her a mobile van. In appreciation of her humanitarian mission, the late Nizam Nawab Mir Osman Ali Khan donated a plot, on which the Vijay Marie Hospital today stands.

Irene was the eldest daughter of Mr and Mrs A.E. de Souza of Saligao / Secunderabad. She was married to the late Clement Ambrose Rebello, former Commissioner of Textiles, Hyderabad.

Irene did her primary and secondary studies in Hyderabad. For her professional course in medicine, she and her younger sister Lyra (wife of Hipolito Saldanha) joined the Lady Harding Medical College cum Hospital at Delhi, where both the sisters graduated. Lyra later obtained her FRCS (England), while Irene continued her post-graduate studies.

Dr. Irene was a lecturer at the Osmania Hospital, a Catholic Actionist, an active member of the National Council of Catholic Women and the Margadarsi Movement. She worked in a number of social organisations in the twin cities of Hyderabad and Secunderabad. The Holy Father Pope Pius XII conferred on her the title of “Pro Ecclesia Et Pontifice” for her selfless service on behalf of the poor and neglected.

In a world where human values are becoming more and more distorted, the life and work of Dr. Irene de Souza Rebello renews faith in the innate goodness of human nature. In a relentless manner she expended herself in the service of the poor during the last 25 years of her life.

She expired on 8th October1972 at the Vijay Marie Hospital of which she was a founder member. Her husband Clement dedicated their home as “Dr. Irene’s Memorial Clinic”. Here is a doctor and a great social worker of our village who sacrificed most of her life to help the downtrodden. May Dr. Irene’s example be an inspiration to all of us.

2 comments on Champion Of The Downtrodden

  • Mervyn D'Souza

    Dear Fr. Mascarenhas:
    A former student of mine, Elsa D’Souza of U.K.(or more precisely of England) recently referred me to your web-site–a truly elegant
    site. Your story of Aunt Irene and your refence to Aunt Lyra(my god-mother)has special meaning for me for they were often called upon by my mother Mary to deal with my many ailments. My grandmother Filomena(Irene’s aunt) spoke often of Irene’s selflessness bordering on saintiliness. Thanks for filling in the details.
    I graduated from Mater Dei Institute in 1954(age 15). I owe a lot to my grandmother’s love of learning(especially her weekly reading of the Vaurrarancho Ixtt)and adventure, the basic instruction I received in school, but most of all to my two-year immersion in studies at the Pontifical Seminary which opened up a world of possibilities including a deep seated respect for good clergy since I soon realized that the Seminary was not the place for me.
    I have lived in the States since the Sixties and except for a brief visit to Goa,I have lost contact with practically everyone in Saligao. However, your fascinating narratives of Saligao have evoked a deep nostalgia and intensified a long-buried desire to make a reurn visit.
    I shared your web-site as well as my inner thoughts with my Mandarin wife who then inspired our Goan-Chinese children especially my eldest daughter to reclaim her Goan heritage which I had long obliterated. I am almost tempted to pack my knap-sack, hold my daughter’s hand and fly to Goa. ” Not so soon,” intones my wonderful wife. She has to complete her lessons in Mandarin–a difficult language indeed but crucially important for her mother and me.
    Thanks for the work you put in. I shall keep in touch.

    Sincerely,

    Mervyn D’Souza, Ph.D.
    Sr. University Professor
    Kean University

  • nascimento mascarenhas

    Dear Dr. Mervyn,
    Thank you very much for your lovely comments. it was good of your old student in U.K Elsa D’Souza to introduce you to saligaoserenade. Plese thank her on my behalf. I am doing my bit to bring back the nostalgia of Saligao Past among our Saligaokars epecially in diaspora through some of my writings
    Yes I knew you at Mater Dei Institution and later met you when you came for a holiday at Arrarim as seminarian. Later iI came to know that you went abroad and lost contact. Now I came to know that you are a Ph.D and Professor of Kean University. Congratulations ! I am proud of you. May God bless you and your family. Please keep in touch with our website Saligaoserenade. My prayers are with you and your family. At the moment I am at Holy Spirit Church Margao but I am not so bright in health at the moment. Kindly pray. Thanks !. With uch love , fr. nascimento mascarenhas

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