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Opera on Venerable Bishop Stephen Ferrando Enthrals Thousands

By Sister Shiji James MSMHC
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Mumbai, Oct. 28. The stunning performance of the students of Little Flower, Hatigaon in Guwahati, on the life of Venerable Stephen Ferrando, the founder of Missionary Sisters of Mary Help of Christians (MSMHC), the first indigenous congregation in Northeast India enthralled thousands who gathered on Tuesday evening, 24 October at Little Flower School ground to participate in the concluding day celebration of the platinum jubilee of MSMHC.
The opera depicted the inspiring life story of Venerable Bishop Ferrando who was a passionate missionary and a holy pastor in the Northeast for 46 years. The two hour long programme kept the entire audience spellbound as it was intermingled with beautiful narration, dialogue, music and dances. The play presented the Venerable as a man of high calibre, deep faith and wisdom. It pointed out that he made no compromises while executing his duties as a leader and guide. The moving episodes were truly inspirational and motivating that everyone who watched the show commented on the magnanimity of the holy pastor who toiled for the people of the region.

The Italian missionary came to Northeast India in 1923 along with his companions and took keen interest in learning the language, customs and traditions of the people. In the new land of his mission,besides being a true missionary he played the role as Novice Master and Rector for 10 years. On 9 July 1934, Pope Pius XI appointed him as the first Bishop of Krishnagar. A year later, he was transferred to Shillong as its second bishop, where he served for 34 years. In response to the signs of the times and needs of the local church, he founded the congregation of the Missionary Sisters of Mary Help of Christians (MSMHC) on 24 October 1942.

Moved by passion for Christ and passion for humanity, Bishop Ferrando established many mission centres, and educational institutions in rural areas, through which he reached out to the poor and needy. He set up several works in the heart of Shillong such as Cathedral of Mary Help of Christians, St. Paul's Seminary, and Nazareth Hospital. He always encouraged local vocations and loved local culture and promoted local languages. At his retirement in 1969, he was asked to return to his native place and he spent his last few years there. He died on 20 June 1978 and was buried in his family tomb at Rossiglione, Italy. His mortal remains were brought back to Shillong and interred at St. Margaret's convent chapel, Shillong on 12 December 1987.

The process for his beatification began in 1997 and Pope Francis declared him Venerable on 3 March 2016.

The fame about this holy man is being spread in the Northeast and outside. His tomb at Shillong has become one of the pilgrimage centres where hundreds visit and seek his intercession.
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