...Over the past week, the sisters in the convent have taken me under their wings. When I asked Sister Pushpa if I could attend mass with them on Sunday, she looked at me like I had just made her day. This morning, I dressed in the finest clothes I brought with me and arrived to mass 15 minutes early. Sister Pushpa greeted me at the door of the small church adjoining the convent dormitory. I left my shoes outside like everyone else and she showed me to my seat, which was right with the other sisters in special, individual pews! I sat down next to Sister Prashanna while the others quietly welcomed me and comforted me with instructions.
For the next fifteen minutes, we sat in silent prayer and contemplation. The congregation of approximately 50 locals filed in slowly until the parish priest, who had been on leave to care for his ill mother, arrived. Two musicians on a keyboard and guitar in the balcony above provided upbeat music for the many songs. The sermon was ironically concerned with scriptures about leprosy and the isolation lepers. Having seen multiple cases of leprosy over the past month, such passages now take on a whole new meaning. The service was almost entirely in English with occasional phrases of Hindi.
Worshiping with the sisters made the entire experience incredibly memorable. There is a definite presence about the nuns that invokes a sense of spirituality, purity, and safety.
After mass, Sister Pushpa came over to tell me to stay for chai. I visited with members of the congregation outside who were each eager to know who I was. The head of the maternity ward in the hospital I have been volunteering in was also present and made a point to say hello. I met at least 20 people and was invited into about six homes, including the priest's.
The Sisters then signaled me to come in for chai. Soon thereafter, I was eating breakfast and sipping chai with the priest and three sisters in their private dining room. Could this Sunday get any more special?
After lunch, the sisters gave me a more thorough tour of the school and we all laughed and joked about how Sister Sweta had thought I was a threat when she sternly and authoritatively dragged me to Sister Pushpa's office on the Monday before. We also talked about the fact that I am a non-veg living in a veg household. I confessed that I do visit the local KFC about once a week and know most of the staff by name. After much laughter, Sister Pushpa insisted that I take all of the sisters with me the next time I go to KFC. Oh, how I cannot wait for that!