By DCD Desk
A nun who is a social worker and advocate from Odisha, eastern India, received “the 7th Father Salvadore Rodrigues Memorial Award” given by the Bombay Catholic Sabha (BCS) for working for the poor and marginalized.
Sister Sujata Jena, a journalist-activist belonging to the Congregation of the Sacred Hearts of Jesus and Mary, received the award in absentia on Feb 19.
The event took place at St. Andrew’s auditorium, Bandra, Mumbai-West.
The award is named after Father Salvadore (1948-2013) who was a concerned soul for the poor, needy and downtrodden. He was an ecclesiastical advisor for the BCS, a laity association in the Archdiocese of Bombay, for about 17 years.
He was a priest of the Archdiocese of Bombay. His last assignment was the parish priest of St. Michael’s Church, Mahim and died of cancer.
In a message, Advocate Raphael D’Souza, the president of BCS, said Sujata received the award for her significant contribution in the field of social work.
“We appreciate Sister Sujata’s work much among the poorest,” D’Souza added.
In her acceptance speech, Sujata thanked BCS for considering her worthy of the award named after Father Salvador.
“I am humbled and I resolve with a renewed vigour to continue the mission of Christ, received through the baptism, and my religious vocation to stand with the poor, Dalits, Adivasis, migrants and marginalized if needed even at the risk of my life,” the nun said.
Since the beginning of the coronavirus pandemic in March 2020, Sujata helped in the safe return of the migrants. She continues to work for their rights through advocacy and lobbying through networking with government administrations and civil society groups.
She said she felt compelled to help the migrant laborers as many fell on prey to a road accident, sickness, starvation and death.
She “braved coronavirus pandemic and official apathy to reach out to hundreds of stranded migrant laborers during lockdowns.” For that work, she had won an award from the Indian Catholic Press Association, a national body of Catholic journalists.
The Bhubaneswar-based nun was selected “authentically and consistently being the voice of people’s rights, especially the poor Dalits who are more susceptible to exploitation and injustice.”
As a journalist, Sujata contributes regularly to several news portals. She amplifies the various aspects of Dalits and Tribals, women, children and the homeless, who have been sidelined by the elite, powerful, and societal structures.
At present, she is working as the deputy director of the Excellent IAS Academy in Bhubaneswar, the capital of the eastern Indian state of Odisha.
She is passionately engaged in preparing the religious minority youth for civil service examinations and being part of nation-building efforts.
She also coordinates her congregation’s social projects.
Earlier she was working with Udayani Social Action Forum, the social wing of the Calcutta Jesuit province.
Having won the “Father Salvadore Rodrigues Memorial Award,” many have appreciated the work of Sister Sujata.
One of them is her congregation’s superior.
“Congratulations Sujata for this recognition on behalf of the poor whose situation you bring to the forefront through your writing and for the Congregation in whose mission and name you give witness,” said Sister Rene, SS.CC, provincial of USA-Asia Pacific.
According to Sister Aurora, vicar general of the congregation, Sister Sujata received the latest “recognition on her work in favour of the poor and marginalized.”
“The congregation is proud of her. We all appreciate the work she does and her fight for the rights of the poor,” Sister Aurora said in a message,” the vicar general said.