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Linking Cork and India - GEE Project

13 January 2012

Ireland SW Province

Global Education Experience Chennai

From North Presentation Secondary School, Farranree, Cork, Mrs. Ellen Lyons, Principal, Miss Ingrid O'Shea, teacher, Mr. John Buckley, Retired Principal, and students, Lisa Marie Corkery, Haley Noelle Leighton, Niamh Forde, Jessica Eivers, visited Sacred Heart Higher Matriculation School, Church Park, Chennai, India from 28 October to 5 November 2011.  At the same time, teachers from Presentation Secondary School, Ballyphehane, Cork, Mrs. Helen Kelly, Deputy Principal and Mrs. Eileen Coleman visited St. Joseph's Anglo-Indian High School, Perambur, Chennai. The teachers and students were accompanied by Sr. Jennie Clifford, Global Education Coordinating Group, Presentation Sisters, Ireland. Both schools received grants from WorldWise towards the expenses of the visit.

Sr. Jo McCarthy, Global Education Coordinating Group, was at Cork Airport on 28 October, 2011 wishing the group safe travel and every blessing for their global education experience in Chennai.  Helen and Eileen carried a beautiful framed painting of the school, church and convent in Ballyphehane.  This was painted and framed by the art teacher, Jean Buckley Kelleher, to be presented to St. Joseph Anglo-Indian Higher Secondary School, Perambur.

We left Cork on the 7.15 a.m. flight to Heathrow.  On arrival at Terminal 1 we transferred to Terminal 5 for the 2.00 p.m. flight to Chennai.  After an approximately 10 hour flight we touched down at Chennai International Airport at 3.00 a.m. on Saturday, 29 October.  The North Pres group was met by teachers from Church Park, Gita and Fatima.  The Ballyphehane teachers and I were met by Sr. Nirmala and Charlotte Niranjan from Perambur.  We were taken to our hotels where we rested until midday.  After lunch at the hotel, we were collected by Sr. Nirmala and taken to Perambur Convent where we were given a traditional Indian welcome, anointed with oil and adorned with sandal wood and wrapped in beautiful shawls.  We were greeted by Sr. Agnela, Local Leader, Sr. Loretto, Sr. Techla and Sr. Pushpe. We later met Sr. Yvonne.  We enjoyed a lovely tea of sandwiches and cakes.  We visited the Parish Priest, Fr. Andrew, who is a member of the Salesian Order.  The parish church, Our Lady of Lourdes, is two tiered.  We attended the Mass in English in the upstairs church at 6.30 p.m.  At 7.15 p.m. we were collected by Charlotte Niranjan and her husband, Victor, and taken to their home where we met their daughters Linda and Lorraine.  We had a most enjoyable evening of hospitality and entertainment.  We were treated to delicious food.  Then our practical skills, intelligence and luck were tested.  The Niranjan family is responsible for the music and singing at the 6.15 a.m. Mass each Sunday in their parish church so Lorraine played the keyboard and they all sang their hymns and songs for us. 

After an early breakfast, on Sunday, 30 October, Sr. Nirmala took us to Church Park where we joined the North Pres group on a coach to visit the UNESCO World Heritage Site of Mallamapuram 58 km south of Chennai.  Mallamapuram, once a major port city, was built in the 7th century by the Pallava king, Narashima Varman 1, also known as Mallama, the “Great Wrestler”.  This spectacular sight situated on the Bay of Bengal, extends across a boulder-strewn landscape and comprises of rock-cut caves and monolithic shrines, structural temples and huge bas-reliefs that are considered the greatest examples of Pallava art.  On our return journey to Chennai we were treated to an elaborate lunch by Fatima of Church Park.  We had a restful evening in the hotel.

On Monday, 30 October, Charlotte and her driver, Aroon, brought us the St. Joseph’s Anglo-Indian High School for the Assembly at 8.30 a.m.  As it was raining heavily, the Assembly took place indoors in the beautiful school hall.  Helen, Eileen and I were given the traditional Indian welcome and wrapped in beautiful shawls.  We were then treated to prayers, readings, songs, choral verse and dance which were very colourful and entertaining.  We visited classes, greeting teachers and students.  Eileen and Helen had prepared a short programme for each class.  We had lunch in the convent and in the afternoon we visited the silk shops at T Nagar.  That evening we visited the home of Mrs Valsa where we were warmly welcomed and treated to a beautiful dinner and given a special incense burner and incense sticks sent by her daughter from the French colony of Ponticherry. 

Tuesday, 1 November, was the centenary of the arrival of the Presentation Sisters at Perambur.  We attended the Centenary Mass in the Church of Our Lady of Lourdes.  Sr. Teresa and the teachers and students from Presentation Secondary School, Ballingarry, Co Tipperary also attended this Mass.  The girls from Ballingarry wore the saris which they had purchased on the previous day and also wore garlands of flowers in their hair.  The Irish visitors were each given a candle to carry in the procession. Each candle represented one year of the 100 years of the Presentation Sisters in Perambur.  The rain poured down but did not dampen the spirits of all those assembled to celebrate and give thanks.  We went to the hall for the reception and presentations.  We were given beautiful souvenir torches.  We brought home a DVD of the Mass and the Reception.

At 2.00 p.m. we set out for the rural mission of Morai where the Presentation Sisters and their Pastor, Fr. Jude, are responsible for St. Teresa of the Child Jesus Nursery and Primary school.  We enjoyed meeting the tiny pupils, their teachers and parents.  They sang and recited for us.  Fr. Jude showed us the small church and his own very basic home where he has lived for the past four years.  He is in the process of building a house.  He has great devotion to Nano Nagle and has erected a shrine in honour of Nano Nagle near the church.  We then visited the home of the three Presentation Sisters, Sr. Anisa, Sr. Lilly and Sr. Nova where we were treated to a lovely tea.  We were shown a new building which houses a dispensary where Sr. Anisa, who is a nurse, attends to the sick and wounded of the district.  We were accompanied by a young Sister, Sr. Lourdes, who was on her way to a new mission in Kanakamma  which is a 6 hour journey by train and bus.  She will work there for three months until it is time to go to Bhopal to prepare for her Final Commitment in 2012. 

On Wednesday, 2 November, we were in Perambur School until noon.  Eileen and I then went to Manora House to visit the Circle Animator, Sr. Rose and Sr. Margaret who is in charge of the finances.  We got a warm welcome and enjoyed a lovely meal.  We were then accompanied by Sr. Nirmala and Charlotte Niranjan to Dakshina Chitra which is a non-profit, community service project of the Madras Craft Foundation for the promotion and preservation of the cultures of the diverse peoples of India with emphasis on Tamil Nadu, Kerala, Andhra Pradesh and Karnataka.  We first viewed a cultural film in the Amphitheater and then strolled around the houses and viewed crafts-people making pottery and glass ornaments, weaving silk and making baskets.  We enjoyed juice drinks in the restaurant and then returned to Chennai.  We went to the home of Mrs Faridha. and were welcomed by her husband and two daughters.  We were treated to a lovely meal and entertained by the family.  This is a Muslim family. Most impressive is the large etching of Mecca which Mr. Faridha had etched himself.  He explained that he will only go to visit Mecca when he has fulfilled all his obligations to his family. 

On Thursday, 3 November, Helen and Eileen spent the morning in St. Joseph’s School.  I went to the Sacred Heart Higher Matriculation Secondary School where I met Sr. Lisetta, Principal, Sr. Cecilia, Gita and Fatima, and many other teachers.  I also visited a number of the classes.  I went to the Convent for my lunch.  There I was welcomed by the local leader, Sr. Lizzie and met Sr. Elaine, Sr. Vilette, Sr. Josie, Sr. Jacinta, Sr. Jose Mary, Sr. Vinitha, Sr. Silvia (who will be going to make the foundation in Palestine). Sr. Alphonsa, Sr. Divia and Sr. Suja are also members of this community.  I was disappointed not to meet Sr. Divia as she is the niece of Sr. Alba (Ballygriffin).  Sr. Lizzie took me to see the rebuilt Stella Maris Training College.  Mrs. Kusum and her daughter accompanied me in an auto back to Perambur. That evening Mrs. Uma treated us to a meal in the Ambassador Hotel.  This was an experience as the food was set out buffet-style and all the dishes were labeled.  A band played while we enjoyed the various courses. 

On Friday, 4 November, we were in St. Joseph’s School where we visited classes not previously visited. I was particularly pleased to visit the two +1 classes which I had first met when they were in grade 8. They have grown up and are very mature and friendly.  We bade farewell to the teachers and Sisters, hoping that we will meet them again either in Perambur or in Cork.  Charlotte and O’Dela Dias accompanied us to the shops in the Fountain Mall, Cain and Bamboo, and to the Empress Avenue Mall. On returning to the Hotel, we packed, rested awhile, checked out and were ready when Sr. Nirmala and Charlotte came to take us to the airport at 12.30 a.m. on Saturday, 5 November.  We were sad as we bade them farewell. 

At the airport, we met the North Pres teachers and students who were all in very good form.  We also met the group from Ballingarry who were travelling with Etyhad via Abu Dhabi to Dublin.  We flew with British Airways to Heathrow and on to Cork with Aer Lingus arriving at approximately 4.00 p.m.

[Submitted by Sr. Jennie Clifford]