The residents of Chickanayakanahalli village in suburban Bangalore, India were ecstatic when the ambulance from the Sumanahalli Society arrived. Their beloved Sister Jean (pictured) was back, reports NCR Online.
Montfort Sister Jacqueline Jean McEwan stepped out and a beaming Karilingappa Sekharappa rushed forward on his crutches outmaneuvering two dozen other people with Hansen's disease, also known as leprosy, and their family members who were eagerly waiting the nun's arrival late last month.
Sekharappa, 72, embraced McEwan with the stumps of his hands, his palms lost to the disease, decades ago. Then a group of women, several without fingers, started embracing the nun one after the other with tear-filled eyes. Healthier younger women clapped and smiled.
"This is like my dead mother coming back alive. These are tears of joy," Sekharappa told Catholic News Service, wiping his eyes with a towel.
When McEwan last saw the residents, none of them knew if she would see them again. She had been ordered by the government July 8 to abandon her ministry and leave the country within a week because her residency permit was not being renewed. No reason was given.
A desperate appeal by Claretian Father George Kannanthanam, director of the Sumanahalli leprosy home, got the deadline for McEwan's departure extended to July 25. But McEwan and others lost hope as the days passed without a response from the government.
More than 100 sisters, co-workers and priests came together to bid McEwan goodbye with a Mass the day she was scheduled to depart. But an hour before McEwan was to leave for the airport, the nun received word that the government had extended her permit for 30 days, allowing her to apply for the normal one-year extension.
An official said the original order was a mistake and assured her she would be allowed to stay in India "without limit of time."
FULL STORY Leprosy village residents rejoice at nun's return (NCR)