Friday, August 25, 2017

Sister Lucy Kurien to share stories of interfaith love and healing at Unity of Greater Portland by Elizabeth Richards

Sister Lucy Kurien
Sister Lucy Kurien, founder and director of Maher Ashram, an interfaith refuge for women and children headquartered in Pune, India, will be at Unity of Greater Portland in Windham this weekend to share her wisdom and philosophies.

Kurien is a Catholic nun who founded Maher after an experience she couldn’t let go. While working in the convent, a pregnant woman came to her for shelter after her husband had threatened to kill her.
The rules and regulations of the convent prevented her from immediately giving the woman the help she requested, and that same night her husband set the woman on fire. Sister Lucy was an eyewitness to the event and took the woman to a nearby hospital, but it was too late. Both the woman and the child she carried died that night. 

“After that I thought it’s time for me to do something, but I was not sure what I was going to do,” said Kurien. “Finally, with the Divine grace I was able to set up a home for women.” 

From that first home, Maher has grown to include 44 homes in three states in India. While the focus was originally on women, Kurien said, with women came children; and there are presently between 850 and 900 children staying in Maher homes. focus of Maher, she said, has always been on how to unite people. She is committed to bringing people together, regardless of their caste or religion. “All the religions are teaching us to go to the Divine,” she said. “That is what we are teaching the children.”  

Maher focuses on value based education, rather than the teachings of any specific religion. “All religions do what common sense tells you,” said Kurien. “Let us use that and be good human beings!”

The board of Maher has representatives from all faiths and the staff also comes from a broad range of religious backgrounds. “What we are trying to see is how we can get around this caste-ism, and the differences between the religions,” Kurien said. To mark Maher’s 20th anniversary, Kurien launched Maher’s Interfaith Association for Service to Humanity and Nature on February 2, 2017. 

In her talk, she will focus on:  How people can come together and work as a community, interfaith and value based teachings, and what they are doing at Maher. Because they have lived these philosophies at Maher for the past twenty years, there are many beautiful stories to share, Kurien said.

 “It’s very important that you build communities of love, peace, joy and communities of acceptance and tolerance of each other no matter where we are,” said Kurien. When people ask her religion, she said, “I will say my religion is love.”
Darcy Cunningham, owner of the Turning Light Center in North Yarmouth, is very familiar with Kurien and her work. She was asked by a colleague to write a book about replicating the Maher model. She first met Kurien in India, along the banks of the Ganga. Inspired, she returned to India to visit Maher. “All of these people had experienced such hardships, fear, abuse and despair – beyond my imagining – and yet this place was full of love, joy, generosity, playfulness,” she said. 

Cunningham felt compelled to understand how and why such healing transformations could happen.
Cunningham said she is struck by how much Maher does, with so little. There is no maximum stay – women can stay as long as they want or need to. When they are able, Cunningham said, they are given small tasks to do, such as helping to prepare a meal or watch a group of children. “It was amazing to watch a woman arrive looking like the proverbial “deer in the headlights” and see her emerge, begin to connect with people, begin to feel safe. Then on my next trip she would be laughing and happy in this loving community,” said Cunningham. “It’s an incredible model, one I believe we could learn from. We seem to think one must first be fully healed and then one can give to others – yet it’s at least in part through the giving to others like yourself that self-worth is built and healing is supported.”
Cunningham said she is inspired by Kurien’s story and background. Without college or any kind of formal training, Kurien has built communities where people, who have lived unspeakable trauma, can heal and find happiness and meaning in their lives, said Cunningham. She believes that by listening to and learning from Kurien, people can be inspired to make a difference in the world, be a part of the solution, and recognize that small steps count.

Sr. Lucy Kurien will speak at the 10 a.m. service at Unity of Greater Portland, 54 River Road in Windham, on Sunday, August 27, and hold a workshop at 12 p.m. the same day. Cost of the workshop is $20. For more information on Maher, visit

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