School Sisters of Notre Dame in Nepal safe from damage

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Four School Sisters of Notre Dame serving in Nepal are safe following an earthquake that caused massive damage and thousands of deaths and injuries there.

The women religious are members of the Central Pacific Province, which has its central office in south St. Louis County.

When the quake hit, Sister Miriam Therese Kanaya was on her way to purchase books for students and was on the outskirts of Kathmandu, where most of the deaths occurred. Her bus eventually reached a bus park but couldn't proceed any further. Sister Miriam and a volunteer teacher who accompanied her walked about one hour to get to a parish where they were safe.

Sister Miriam returned to Bandipur, where the sisters are based. The School Sisters of Notre Dame buildings escaped damage. Most utility services in Bandipur were restored the day following the April 25 earthquake. The epicenter of the quake was about 40 miles north of Bandipur.

The School Sisters of Notre Dame who serve in Bandipur are Sisters Barbara Soeté, Andre Maureen Soeté, Evangela Imamura and Miriam Therese. Sisters Evangela and Miriam Therese are from Japan and have served in Bandipur for 30 years. Sister Miriam Therese started child care centers with early childhood education. She teaches at Notre Dame Higher Secondary School. Sister Evangela is a teacher and acting principal at the school. Sisters André Maureen and Barbara, who are biological sisters from St. Louis, also are teachers at the school in Bandipur. 

"Some areas in the country could function normally while other places are in chaos and devastation," Sister Barbara wrote in an email to a School Sisters of Notre Dame staff member in St. Louis. "Many in Nepal are just beginning to realize the enormity of what has happened. We are grateful that our school and village have suffered little in the devastation."

The St. Xavier School grounds are being used as a tent city for the homeless or those afraid to enter their houses. St. Xavier's is one of about 10 sites in Kathmandu designated by the government for relief assistance.

Bandipur is returning to normal, Sister Barbara noted. Shops are open and more people are sleeping indoors. The people whose homes were lost are among the poorest in the area and are now without their day-labor jobs.

The school for nursery through Class 10 (about 760 students) is scheduled to resume May 5. The school year had barely started when the earthquake occurred. The preschool, Seto Gurans, will also reopen soon for the children in that area who can get there. Seto Gurans is in the hardest hit area of the village. Preschool children who are not from the area would have to travel through huge debris fields to get to school. Sister Miriam is planning to open two temporary sites for these preschool children.

The sisters are in a process to evaluate how we can provide the best assistance to the homeless families. "We continue to pray that the emergency relief will be sufficient and timely for those suffering in the aftermath of the quake. Disease, starvation, and limited medical help for the injured as well as inaccessibility of remote areas remain critical concerns. We are grateful for the prayers and good wishes from sisters and others," Sister Barbara wrote.

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