11/07/2016, 13.27
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A nursing home in Gazipur for elderly and sick "Tumilia sisters"

by Sumon Corraya

Called ‘Shanti Bhavan’ (House of Peace), it is home to ten patients. Some of them have lost their hearing; others are bedridden; all have served in hospitals, schools and parishes. “Each congregation should open a nursing home for its members, old and sick, so as to give them hope that they will be cared for”.

Gazipur (AsiaNews) –  The nursing home for elderly nuns of the congregation of the Associates of Mary Queen of Apostles, known as the Tumilia Sisters, is located in Gazipur, central Bangladesh.

The religious order created its first home for elderly and sick members to care for them in the last years of their life. The medical staff is trained to provide care, as they did throughout their lives in the country’s hospitals and medical centres.

Speaking to AsiaNews, Sister Mary Anita, superior of the Tumilia Sisters’ convent, said: "We set up this home for our sisters, who have served the Church and the country in an extraordinary way. Here they spend time in joy and peace, rest and receive medical treatment."

The structure, which is called ‘Shanti Bhavan’ (House of Peace), was opened in 1984 in Tumilia Parish. It now houses around ten nuns, all over 80, with physical problems and disabilities. Some have lost their hearing; others are bedridden or in wheelchair.

One of the residents is Sister Mary Cecilia, 91. "We live here with joy,” she explained. “We share moments of life and prayer. We sing and pray to God together."

Sister Mary Michael, 81, a former principal at a Catholic school, added: "When we become older, more money is needed for our care. Our sisters manage to raise the money required for treatments."

However, "For a religious congregation, it is not easy to raise money and redirect it to the care of its members," noted some priests, who asked to remain anonymous.

By contrast, the Tumilia Sisters “raise money from the country’s 28 convents,” said the superior, “and send 30 per cent of the resources to Shanti Bhavan."

The sisters are well known and appreciated in Bangladesh for their service to the sick, as educators in schools and as helpers in the parishes.

The order was founded in 1933 by Mgr Timothy John, from the Holy Cross congregation. Out of a total of about 1,400 priests and nuns working in Bangladesh in 34 religious congregations, the Tumilia Sisters number 220.

Their medical centre was the first to open and over the next few years, other orders followed suit.

"I believe that each congregation,” said Sister Mary Anita, “should open a nursing home for its members, old and sick, so as to give them hope that they will be cared for in an appropriate manner".

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