Dharwad: Sr Leonarda Angela Casiraghi Laid to Rest - A Tribute

Sister of Charity (SCCG), Dharwad

Dharwad, Aug 29: Having accomplished her mission on this earth, the Lord took Sr Leonarda to himself in the early hours of Saturday August 27. Just a day after the funeral of another missionary sister and compatriot Sr Erminia Viscardi (aged 71) who passed away at Mumbai, the news of her unexpected demise shocked everyone who knew her. Till the last day Sr Leonarda was actively involved in her duty as administrator of Lourdes Charitable Hospital. Though herself immobile for some months she still saw to the activities in the hospital directing and instructing the sisters and lay personnel. The loss of Sr Erminia, the youngest of the missionaries from Italy the previous day, had a strong impact and left her inconsolable.

Within an hour of her demise the news spread like wildfire; the helpers and hospital staff present and past began pouring in to pay their last respects to this beloved sister, who had been a mother to the poor and downtrodden. Her yeoman service to humanity in the socio-medical field left no stone unturned to reach out and provide for the basic amenities for the poor for the last half a century (1958 onwards), when she began her services at Dharwad through a small dispensary. A pioneer with two others sisters she spent herself in loving service, manifesting God’s care and compassion to the most needy – sick, poor and suffering.

Large crowds arrived at Lourdes Convent to pay their homage. In her life as a missionary, speaking a mixture of languages, she catered to the poor of all strata and had a good rapport with the officials and ministers – hence the simple people and important ministers all desired to bid farewell to her mortal remains as she lay peacefully in the hall of Lourdes School of Nursing, an Institution which she held close to her heart.

Among the eminent personalities there were expert doctors and nurses who had collaborated with her at Lourdes hospital, ministers like H.K Patil (former Minister for Irrigation and Water Resources), Hindusgeri (former Labour Minister), Chandrakant Bellad MLA (BJP), Seema Masuti MLA (rural BJP), Basavraj Horatti (MLC of Teachers Constituency), Darpan Jain (Deputy Comissioner – Dharwad), Usha Joseph (ex.DPI), . Purna Patil (Mayor of Hubli-Dharwad), Tasildar of Dharwad, K.L Patil (Lawyer), the members of Rotary Club, Vicar General of the diocese of Belgaum Mons Lucio Mascarenhas, many priests and sisters who had known her during her life.

There were continuous prayers by the students of the School of Nursing and the sisters, condolence visits from priests and sisters of different congregations and persons of all walks of life. From the moment she uttered: ‘I am going’ and closed her eyes fo er, the earth was watered by an incessant gentle rain, which all present interpreted as blessings from above. Throughout the day and into the night with prayers and hymns they kept company to her while people poured in ceaselessly to bid farewell. On the morning of 28th August there were still others who arrived from near and far: sisters, friends and well-wishers from Mangalore and Hyderabad, Goa and Raichur, Bidar and Gulbarga and other parts of Karnataka. Many paid floral tributes and wept at her departure, which seemed unbelievable and too sudden. To everyone it was a hard reality to accept that “Doddamma” (as she was popularly called) had left the earth never to return. They feel certain that she will receive her eternal reward from her loving God.

The Eucharistic service began at 11.15 am presided by Mons Lucio Mascarenhas and concelebrated by 11 priests. Monsignor appreciated her life of commitment as a religious spent in the service of the poor and the suffering. He highlighted the recognition of the Church and the diocese as well as of the society and the government. He proposed to those present an imitation of her principles summed up as: focus on the goal, never look back and keep in touch with the headquarters, like three flowers that we could take back with us. She who had sacrificed the comforts of the world and left her own motherland as a young woman had lived for the Lord and loved the people of India until her last breath. An eulogy was read out at the end of the Mass which presented her life from the time she arrived in India in 1955, working at Jeppu in Mangalore for a year and in Vijaya Marie Hospital Hyderabad for two years, after which she accepted to come as a pioneer to Dharwad and begin the apostolate of healing. A life of dedication, love and sacrifice followed unmindful of her own needs as she consumed herself with compassion for the needy brethren. Her love for God made her recognize him in the suffering humanity to whom she reached out with concern, making them experience the tenderness of God. She was a mediator bringing God to man and letting man know the love of God through her interest in their well being.

Condolence message from Peter Machado, Bishop of Belgaum was read by Fr Vitus the chaplain of Lourdes convent, and the affectionate message of Mother Annamaria Vigano, the Superior General was read out by Sr Thresia Poulose, the Provincial Superior of Dharwad who concluded with her own personal message to all present and thanked Sr Leonarda for being a true and authentic sister through her exemplary life. Strengthening the grieving community were telephonic and e-mail messages that came in as the news spread far and wide. Partaking in the staunch faith of Sr Leonarda the sisters and acquaintances, collaborators and friends surrendered to the Lord’s mysterious plan, praying: ‘Have thine own will and grant her eternal bliss’

After the holy Eucharist, her body placed in a white coffin was carried to Malmaddi cemetery for the last rites and burial. The long retinue of vehicles made their way through the crowded traffic on the main road followed by the hearse carrying her mortal remains, interspersed by hymns and prayers. After the funeral rites the body was lowered into the grave amidst prayerful expressions and hymns reminding us that she was going home to the embrace of her loving Father. Sisters of the community of Lourdes, doctors, nurses and others alike were saddened by her departure. Tears of grief flowed from the cheeks of the poor, the helpers and other collaborators who over the years had known and experienced her love.

Sr Leonarda Casiraghi continues to live on in our hearts, and in the memories of the poor and needy. She faithfully lived the one only expression of love for God and neighbour fulfilling the desire of her Lord and Master Jesus Christ: “whatever you do to the least of my brethren, you do it to me” (Mt. 25). Today therefore she hears him say: “Come O Blessed of my Father, inherit the kingdom, my Father has prepared for you” as she enters into the joy of heaven welcomed by the 12,000 and more Sisters of Charity who have preceded her there.

Dear Sr Leonarda, you left your dear ones, but made the humankind your family – We are indebted to you for your loving sacrifice. You are with God, intercede for us.

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Comment on this article

  • vijay , dharwad

    Tue, Aug 30 2011

    Thanks a million for your valuable contribution to the mankind. May your soul rest in peace.

    DisAgree Agree Reply Report Abuse


    Mon, Aug 29 2011

    My heart felt mercy to hear the death of our dear mother.I do pray for her soul and eternal peace.Do interced for us.

    DisAgree Agree Reply Report Abuse

  • caroline, manglore/kuvait

    Mon, Aug 29 2011

    "MAY HER SOUL REST IN PEACE".Thanks for your motherly love and care.do intercede for us.

    DisAgree Agree [1] Reply Report Abuse

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