CHIRAG is a voluntary organization registered under the Societies Registration Act XXI of 1860 with its registration No.590 – 1994/95. It is owned by the sisters of the Patna Province of the Congregation of Jesus (CJ) in India. Social action or social intervention has become an integral part of many faith-based organizations. The life of Jesus, the Gospel, the social teaching of the church have provided the inspiration for many individuals within the Christian community to opt for a lifestyle that is in solidarity with the marginalized and oppressed. The very genesis of Chirag under the fold of the Congregation of Jesus for more than 25 years is a sign of this attempt by some members of this congregation to respond to the cries of the poor and the marginalized in a direct manner. Within vocation to the religious life, this is a call to be associated directly in the lives and struggles of the marginalize and the deprived. A team of CJ moved over to the Buxar district to carry forward their call to closer living and working with the common people.
It all began in 1987 when Srs. Poonam CJ and Pooja CJ were part of the “Know Bihar “ program launched by Manthan, Khagaul, Patna. They were living with a Musahar family experiencing the daily struggles of their lives. Once the program was over, in 1988 Sr.Poonam started visiting villages, searching for the right place to begin her ministry. Bagetan Ram, a Dalit by caste offered his home, in an obscure village Bagahi in Itarhi Block of Buxar district to begin her mission among the poor. Sr. Kiran who was then the headmistress of Itahri School inspired by the dedication and commitment of Sr. Poonam, joined her. At the same time Sr. Sudha who was teaching in St.Mary’s Convent school Lucknow attended the ten month’s exposure program in a Musahar village in Manthan, Kahghaul joined the team when Kiran left for Bombay to do her MSW. In the initial stages Sisters took coaching classes for school going children, and non formal classes for teenage girls who had never gone to school. Within 6 months the sisters started a village library which was appreciated by everyone and there was a rush for books to read. At other times they visited the families and the women shared their pain and problems with the sisters who were quick in picking up the local dialect Bhojpuri. Thus they became part of the lifestyle of the people.
On weekends the sisters came to Itarhi, the contact community, and shared their experiences with them. It was a solid walk for 2 hours to reach the village. Yet it was a joy to get back as the people were waiting for them. Slowly the sisters made contact with other villages of the Panchayat.
In 1990 our junior sisters came for the first time for the village experience. Since then many Congregations such as SCJM, SCN, MMS, RSCJ, Assumption, and the Jesuits sent novices/juniors for exposure program. Later sisters started collaborating with the Government through Bihar Education Project. Literacy centers in all seven villages, pre-primary, non-formal education, adult education, and tailoring centers were opened. The response was quite positive. Later sisters were given the construction of a Government Primary School building in Bagahi village by the District Collector since classes were conducted under shady trees.
With the division of the Indian Province in 1991 the new Provincial of Patna, Sr. Febronia allowed the Sisters to have an independent Centre in Buxar. It was Fr. Augustine Mundoli, the then parish priest of Buxar who suggested the plot of land with the old church building in Kritpura Buxar. He in consultation with Bishop Ben Osta SJ made it possible for the sisters to occupy the plot of land with the old church building in Kritpura Buxar. It is where the present ‘Chirag’ is located.
Though a temporary shed with grass roof was made to conduct classes and training programmes, the need to have a building was very much felt. With the permission of the Provincial Sr.Febronia, Sr. Mary Jude, Principal of St. Joseph’s School Patna sponsored the entire expense of the construction of the Centre. This helped the sisters to conduct classes and training programmes at regular basis. This was also used for Eucharistic celebrations, baptisms, marriage rectification, Christmas and Easter celebrations for the Catholic community in Kritpura.
With the increasing involvement in various projects and programs, the need for registration of the Centre was felt. Thus in 1994/95, Chirag was registered as a Society and in 2011 it received the FCRA number from the Home Ministry. It enabled the Centre to get more projects directly to reach out to the marginalized section of the society. Now Chirag functions as a credible NGO with its membership in various committees constituted by the District administration of Buxar and collaborate with the Government and other multi-stakeholders.