"Keep breathing": life story of Susan Noronha


My name is Susan Noronha and I come from a land of picturesque beauty, India. I love my country because India is a nation with unity in diversity with people living together from various religions, castes and beliefs.

As a kid, I grew up seeing my father dressing the wounds of a leper in my little village. My job was to pass the cotton swabs to him. For me, my father was a hero and my hero left me soon after I celebrated my 10th birthday. My mother was a teacher in the Church School and she knew almost every family in the village. She too was a generous giver and I am experiencing the fruits of my parents’ generosity in my village today. She too left me and joined my father soon after I finished my graduation! God took them even before I said a proper goodbye!

“Keep breathing”, that is what I told myself when I started living in a hostel, buried under fears, trauma and rejection. I got completely disconnected from my treasure chest! Days, months, years passed. I screamed amidst my own screams. My strength came from lifting myself up every time I was knocked down. I waited for wisdom!
I continued with my further studies and started working for a Corporate. Got married to a wonderful man, Leo Chettiar, not only my husband but also a good friend. It is around this juncture I realised what I had to do. I understood that my parents had left behind their imprint on me when they left me. I wanted to be a missionary!
I quit my secure job and joined the Disciples of the Divine Word (SVD Lay Partners group in India Mumbai Province) in 2012 and in 2015, I was elected as the President of this group.

Disciples of the Divine Word (DDW) identifies itself with the Trinitarian and Missionary spirituality of the Divine Word Missionaries (SVDs). This motivates us to be rooted in the communion with the Word and Committed to His Mission. Our regular meetings, recollections, retreats, visits to remote missions and other programs are geared to build us up as a community alongside and with the SVDs. We seek to emulate the ministry of Jesus through compassionate service and sharing the Word with others. Through the years, DDW members have learnt to appreciate the wonderful ways God worked in the life of St. Arnold Janssen and in the SVD congregation. In this communion of mind and heart, members have discovered God’s gifts in their own lives and have generously shared them with others.

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From India-sub-zone, I was chosen to attend the SVD Lay Partners’ Workshop, in Nemi, Rome in October 2017. During the Workshop, we cherished the value of Interculturality. We were people from diverse cultures, languages, and nations celebrating this richness through liturgy, songs and fun filled conversations. This workshop has gained immense enthusiasm in me to continue the mission work with the spirit of St. Arnold Janssen and as a member of the Arnoldus Family. It was an opportunity that was given to me by my group members and the INM Leadership team. With gratitude, I acknowledge being an active collaborator of the SVD Lay Partners.

Last year, I was selected from the ASPAC Zone to attend the SVD 18th General Chapter that began on 17 June 2018 and concluded on 14 July 2018 at Ad Gentes Centre, Nemi, Rome. The Chapter dwelt on the theme: “The Love of Christ Impels Us (2 Cor 5:14): Rooted in the Word, Committed to His Mission”. For the first time, there was a representation of four SVD Lay Partners from four zones to participate throughout the whole chapter; Patrice Rono from AFRAM, Susan Noronha from ASPAC, Sophie Wego from EUROPA and Len Uhal from PANAM. The Lay Partners were not only invited to make a presentation on the collaboration with the SVDs but also to take part in the agenda of the Chapter in the fullest way possible, with the exception of the voting. From attending all the Chapter sessions, to the outings, pilgrimages and watching the World Cup Football, we were received by the confreres as members of the Arnoldus family.

The SVD Lay Partners publish a Newsletter thrice in a year in two languages, English and Spanish, wherein we try to share news and events from our group activities as well as our collaboration with the SVDs. The editorial team consists of; Susan Noronha (India) [editor-in-chief], Matilda Anim-Fofie (Ghana), Laura Inés Díez Bilbao (Spain), Fabian Pagaduan (The Philippines), Gianini Sahagun Becerra (México) and Sophie Wego (Germany). This Newsletter is titled, SVD Lay Partners, Newsletter – from around the world/ Socios Laicos de SVD, Boletín - de todo el mundo.

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A call to be a missionary is a call from Christ to deepen our own faith and share it with the people around us. Being a disciple is a challenge. Collaboration is not always easy – sometimes amongst us, sometimes with the SVDs. Keeping the dialogue channels open has helped us in overcoming the communication and relationship blocks. What has helped us in the process is the strong faith that together we can do much and that in times of difficulties an answer always emerges. As a concluding line, I quote our Superior General, Paulus Budi Kleden SVD and the Leadership Team, “Let us help each other to be true to our name: Missionaries of the Divine Word because our name is our mission”.

By: Susan Noronha
SVD Lay Partner
India Mumbai Province

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