Sr. Flavia Aranha (left) and Sr. Scholastica Panthaladikel, members of the devout disciples of the divine Master, are engaged in holistic healing in Mapusa, Goa, in western India. (Lissy Maruthanakuzhy)

Panaji, India – The devout disciples of the Divine Master began holistic health ministry in India about 20 years ago as another branch of their charism, the liturgical apostolate.

The mission was instituted by Sr. Scholastica Panthaladikel, a former Indian province that now administers a health center in Mapusa, Goa, in western India. According to the 74-year-old nun, the holistic health program promotes the spirituality of Jesus the Master, the way, the truth and the life – the most important devotion in her community.

In holistic health programs, the doctor or healer deals with the patient’s body, mind and will. The nuns advise and offer psychological help to patients and not only take care of their physical complaints.

For physical healing, the nuns use acupuncture, classical acupuncture and sujok or advanced acupuncture, a Korean treatment.

Those seeking this treatment at the nuns holistic health center include priests, nuns, lay people and children on the autism spectrum.

The nuns say the treatment is person-oriented. They consider everyone to be sacred.

Panthaladikel spoke to Global Sisters Report about why she started the program and about her experiences over the past 20 years.

GSR: What is Holistic Health?

Panthaladicle: Holistic health implies the health of a person as a whole; that is, body, mind, emotions and spirit. It focuses on everything that can interact in the cause and course of a disease. Our behavior, feelings, stressful relationships, conflicts, and beliefs all contribute to our general susceptibility to disease.

Illness can not only be physical, but also include psychological, spiritual and social dimensions. Therefore, it becomes clear that the appearance of physical ailments, especially severe or chronic ones, should provoke a deep study of our lifestyle.

How did your community join this program? Its main task is the liturgical apostolate in combination with media and communication.

When our general chapter reflections in 1994 favored integral education for all, we arranged a course on integral basic health. I had already taken part in a program and found it very helpful to me. We gave everyone in the Indian province the opportunity to take the course. After the course, when some members discovered the value of the holistic program in their lives, they expressed a desire for holistic practitioner training and the provincial council encouraged it.

Sr. Flavia Aranha of the Divine Master’s Pious Disciples gives a patient a massage as part of a holistic treatment in his center in Mapusa, Goa, in western India. (Lissy Maruthanakuzhy)

How did your sisters react when you introduced this program in the province?

Surprisingly, the members who completed their courses began practicing them wherever they were. They expressed their satisfaction in their mission. Some said they loved it.

Sr. Flavia [Aranha]who is with me has been in a holistic health practice for 15 years. Some have completed the specialization, others are on their way.

We later set up holistic health centers. Now we have six sisters who have completed the three year holistic health and practice diploma in different states. Four of them are also trained in counseling, classical acupuncture and sujok. Although the training took place in India, the professors came from Korea and China for four to eight days. What is important is that we practice the method we are learning to gain expertise.

When and where did your province set up the first center? What are the diseases you generally treat?

We established the first residential center in Bhannarghatta, Bangalore [now Bengaluru, capital of Karnataka state in southern India]We can only accept six patients at a time, as each patient needs full attention during treatments such as counseling, acupuncture, sujok and massage. People come with physical and emotional problems. Stress-related complaints are common.

Upon admission, we conclude a contract with the patient that everything they tell us during the course of treatment will remain with us. Chronic diseases have a root cause that generally unfolds during treatment. The main cause, in most cases, is lifestyle: eating habits, addictions, and sleep patterns. Changing your lifestyle is the first step in healing.

The patient must be open to himself and the doctor. There is no healing if one is not open. Treatment usually lasts 10 days. We are tracking it after three months.

We also prepare herbal tablets for various diseases. One tablet is used to boost immunity during the COVID-19 pandemic.

How many centers do you have?

Three. We have established a center in Mangalore [a port town in Karnataka state in southern India] We founded the Goa Center in 2013, but we only accept outpatients here.

Sr. Scholastica Panthaladikel from the devout disciples of the divine Master stands in a herb garden in her holistic healing center in Mapusa, Goa, in western India.  (Lissy Maruthanakuzhy)

Sr. Scholastica Panthaladikel from the devout disciples of the divine Master stands in a herb garden in her holistic healing center in Mapusa, Goa, in western India. (Lissy Maruthanakuzhy)

How do you relate to your original charism of liturgical apostolate?

The center of our discipleship is Jesus, our divine Master. The entirety of Jesus and his paschal mystery grips our life to the core. Jesus occupies our thoughts, wills, hearts and energies. He is our way, our truth and our life, always present in the Holy Eucharist. Jesus reached out for the whole person. We try to achieve this through holistic healing.

We glorify God who serves humanity primarily through our constant prayer before the Lord in the Eucharist. We are committed to caring for the sick. We train and develop the skills of early school leavers.

We also promote sacred music and liturgical dance to instill piety and beauty in the liturgical celebrations of the Church. We also provide vestments for liturgical celebrations and church facilities to enable a prayerful and spiritual ambience at places of worship.

Do you have similar programs in other provinces?

In Mexico, our sisters work together with the Archdiocese in a center for alcoholics. The center has experts in psychiatry and counseling who work together to help people.

Please tell us about your path to holistic healing.

I was inspired by our first Mother General, the Venerable Scholastica [Rivata, 1897-1987]. She was a brave woman. She did not see difficulties as suffering, but as part of life. I wanted to do something good for people.

I haven’t heard anything negative about this holistic healing that we have incorporated into our apostolate. I find all of our sisters happy with it because it is very helpful for healthy living. I don’t think we have to die of illness. When the time comes, we die because God is calling, not necessarily because of illness.

Knowledge is 50% of the healing. According to Flavia, my companion here, we can help ourselves even if we cannot help others. We run to doctors quickly without looking for alternatives.

Sr. Scholastica Panthaladicle of the Devout Disciples of the Divine Master, right, discusses acupuncture points in a human body with Sr. Flavia Aranha in the office of her Holistic Healing Center in Goa, West India.  (Lissy Maruthanakuzhy)

Sr. Scholastica Panthaladicle of the Devout Disciples of the Divine Master, right, discusses acupuncture points in a human body with Sr. Flavia Aranha in the office of her Holistic Healing Center in Goa, West India. (Lissy Maruthanakuzhy)

Can you tell us a little bit about your background?

I come from Kerala [a southwestern Indian state]. I have three sisters and two brothers. Two of my sisters are also religious. After I finished 10th grade, I joined the church. The name of the church attracted me: the devout disciples of the divine Master. I wanted to be a disciple of Jesus, the divine Master who is the way, the truth and the life.

During my education I was fascinated by the writings of our founder James Alberione. The formation emphasized the integral vision of the person – body, mind and spirit – and that brought me closer to the ideals of the church. The effect of the formation lasts a lifetime as it affects the entire person. The vastness and vast teaching of Jesus was indeed breathtaking.

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