CALCUTTA, India, FEB. 13, 2007 (Zenit.org).- An Irish woman religious will receive a civilian award from the Indian government for her social service.
Sister Cyril Mooney, 70, will be conferred the Padma Shri Award for her more than 40 years of work to educate the marginalized and poorest of the poor, reported SAR news agency. This honor stands fourth in the hierarchy of civilian awards given by the government of India.
A member of the Institute of the Blessed Virgin Mary, Sister Mooney arrived in India in 1956 to serve the country by educating children in moral and spiritual values.
In 1964 in Lucknow, in the Indian state of Uttar Pradesh, she began a project that recruited college and high school students to teach children who are unable to attend school.
Sister Mooney also worked to free domestic workers from the exploitative clutches of professional moneylenders.
In 1975 she organized a Social Justice Exhibition in 1975, which showed the difference between the rich and poor in terms of wages earned for work done. She also compared the types of health and educational facilities available, service facilities, ratios of residential space available and analyzed the causes and suggested remedies.
In 1979 Sister Mooney opened up a school for the poorest of the poor in Loreto Sealdah. At present, it has about 1,400 students, 50% of whom are from the most economically deprived backgrounds.
She introduced several programs, including the training of hundreds of teachers to teach 26,000 deprived children in the slums of Calcutta, in collaboration with some 60 not-for-profit organizations of the city.
Sister Mooney initiated a system of value education, which has been introduced in many schools all over India. This has developed into a new course on human rights education, which has been introduced in some 50 government schools as well as in other secondary school in West Bengal.
The woman religious also initiated the Rainbow Homes project, where girls from the street are housed in large schools, which are usually vacant from 2 p.m. to 8 a.m. There are four such homes which house 600 children.