Sister Valsa John, who was murdered near Dumka in the State of Jharkhand in the early hours of Tuesday, was laid to rest at St. Paul’s Church, Dudhani on Thursday after a Mass.
Member of Sister Valsa John’s family, including her eldest brother Baby Malamel and two of her nephews, from Kochi were among those who attended the funeral.
Sister Valsa John belonged to the Catholic religious congregation of the Sisters of Charity of Jesus and Mary and worked with the people in coal mining areas of Jharkhand for 12 years.
Hundreds of people, including a large number of students and her former colleagues, attended a memorial meeting organized at the St. George’s Forane Church, Edappally, near here, the parish from which she hailed. A special memorial Mass preceded the condolence meeting.
Her family, relatives and former colleagues are still recovering from the shock of the news of the death of one they recalled as brave and heroic, giving up the comforts of her home and a cosy job to serve the poor in a distant land.
Sister Elise Chakkalakkal, who was Sister Valsa John’s colleague at St. Pius UP School, Edappally more than two decades ago, recalled Sister Valsa as determined and courageous in her approach to life.
She was loved by her students, whom she taught with great dedication and flair, Sister Elise remembered. While she and friends tried to persuade Sister Valsa to join their religious congregation, the latter was keen to respond to her missionary vacation and to work for the poorest of the poor.
Bishop Julius Marandi of Dumka spoke of Sister Valsa John as a person with total dedication to the cause she espoused and love for the people with whom she worked.
The Bishop told The Hindu over telephone that Sister Valsa John worked with the Santal community, one of the biggest of the communities in the area, against the displacement of people for the purpose of coal mining.
She had received overwhelming response from the people initially but there appeared to be a rift among the people themselves later, the Bishop recalled.
He said that the area where Sister Valsa worked was a troubled one and it was difficult to say who was responsible for the gruesome murder.
Sister Valsa John had given up the tranquillity and safety of the confinement of a convent and lived among the people in their poor surroundings, braving hardships and the weather like anyone else.
She spoke fluent Santali and was one with the people, for whom she tried to provide a new direction, encouraging them to take up organised farming and to fight social evils.
Thrikkakara MLA Benny Behnan was among those who spoke at the condolence meeting at which the vicar of St. George’s parish, Sebastian Vazhappilly, presided.
Fr. Vazhappilly said that the parish authority declared a holiday on Thursday for St. Pius Girls’ High School; St. George’s High School; St. George LP School; St. Joseph’s LP School; St. George’s Nursery School and St George’s English Medium School as a mark of respect for Sister Valsa Johh, who was a teacher here more than two decades ago.