SR.IMMACULATA (1936 – 2000)
The glory of God is the human person at her best. This is what we see in the life of our beloved Sr. Immaculata. She lived a full life; helping, guiding, animating, bringing joy to all around and above all, humanizing people with her gifts of generosity, creativity and compassion for the poor and those on the periphery of life.
Jessie Lazaro was born in Shanghai, China where her father, a businessman lived. She was the middle child of a large family. They were all a very intelligent lot and highly talented. When the communist regime made it difficult for Mr. Lazaro to continue in China, he and his wife decided to migrate to India. They finally settled down in Bangalore. The eldest, a daughter decided to join the Presentation Congregation at Madras. Nina, the next was brilliant, but slightly handicapped with polio. She soon got a job as a translator, as she knew several foreign languages fluently. The other older ones were soon employed and Jessie, who was ready for college, we admitted to Mt. Carmel College to the Pre-University class. She spent two years there and despite her naughty ways, soon endeared herself to then congregation and was received in 1956.
Jessie Lazaro was now Sr. Immaculata. She was admitted to the college and took French as her main subject, even though it was not offered in the college. Sr. Theodora, who was the French lecturer and whom she had to replace was her teacher. Fr. Leigh, of Loyola College, Chennai, was also pressed into service as a lecturer for Sr. Immaculata. In three years time she qualified and took over from Sr. Theodora as the French Lecturer of St. Teresa’s College, Ernakulam. To her colleagues, she was a good sport and deeply human in her dealings. As a musician, she was in charge of all music aspects of college entertainments. Her items would appear chaotic and confused right through practices, but when they came up on the stage, they were flawless. They were creative and original and revealed her artistic soul. The students would rise to the occasion and co-operate with her because they loved her and also grasped the idea she was trying to convey. She was in charge of many things, but the best I recall was her items.
As a member of the community she was a sister for all. There was no one she did not relate with and often she was right in the middle of some comic incident. I recall our convent entertainments. She would be the main actor but would procure costumes at the last minute. Finally then dressing room would be chaos, because nothing fitted and the dress had to be torn and tied up. We all held our breath till the item concluded.
She could not or would not mend. Once she loudly declared that she usually takes out her mending during the retreat, on the day after the sermon on Charity! Some kind person would take it off her, seeing the pitiful sight of Maccie with mending in her hands!
When she retired, she willingly accepted to shift to Mercy Home, our Home for the Aged. She was appointed Superior. Up to this time it was just a home for old persons. When Sr. Immaculata took over it gradually changed. The first thing she achieved was to bring life to the community, who were all old sisters. With her sensitivity and humanness she brought them to life. They became cheerful, friendly and human too. The old ladies of the home felt accepted and loved. In a very short time it was no more an institution, it became a home.
Sr. Immaculata’s sensitivity was such that she could relate to them at their own level. When an old ‘thathi’ was declared to be beyond medical aid and would die in a few days, she sat beside her and asked what special food she would like to have. The lady thought for a moment and then asked for “Soup”. She got a lovely cup of soup served by Sr. Immacculatamma herself, who sat beside her and fed her herself with warm solicitude. That was our ‘Maccie’ as we called her. Everyone who approached her for help was received with warmth and understanding and experienced her generosity. When she left Mercy Home, it was a different place altogether.
From 1988 to 2000 she was elected General Councilor for the Social Apostolate, a work very dear to her heart. In the Generalate she took charge of the singing of the novices and taught them many hymns, songs and music. Her presence was a joy in the house. Here too she was very sensitive to everyone’s need and was a friend to all.
When she was in Ernakulum in St. Teresa’s she had a small accident, the tendon of her left knee broke and she had to have surgery. This was a failure due to her obesity. This handicap remained with her the rest of her life. She loved her food and could not diet and at the same time she needed to reduce if she was to have her knee set right. Finally she increased in size and her knee problem remained. She suffered much due to it but she would never complain. Finally she developed a heart ailment. She would go to the doctor, but she would not allow anyone to go in with her. She would solemnly promise the doctor to reduce and take her medication, which most often she did not keep to. To us she would explain that the doctor found nothing much wrong with her.
Naturally when the end came it caught everyone unprepared. She had faithfully promised to go to the hospital after Sr. Victorine’s feast. With her cheery smile and active life she kept her illness at bay, but it finally got the better of her. The news that she had passed away was a shock for everyone. The whole congregation grieved and so did many students, friends and her dear family. She has left behind memories of a beautiful life, a life lived for others.
To a sister who has helped in integrating the poor into the mainstream of life, to an affectionate sister who has enriched our Institute with her generosity, companionship and warmth we say “THANK YOU”