02/10/2024, 10.08
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Mumbai's women religious to open 'Home for the Elderly' for poor of all faiths

by Nirmala Carvalho

The initiative started in 1958 by the congregation of the Little Sisters of the Poor. A mission inspired by Jeanne Jugan and has so far welcomed more than 300 people aged 65 and over. Today, to coincide with World Day of the Sick, a mass with exposition of the Blessed Sacrament and benediction.

Delhi (AsiaNews) - Taking care of the elderly, especially the poorest ones, without making distinctions regarding faith, belief or belonging. This is the mission that animates the nuns of the congregation of the Little Sisters of the Poor (PSDP), an institute born in 1839 in France from the work and charisma of its founder Jeanne Jugan, better known as Mary of the Cross, proclaimed saint by Pope Benedict XVI in 2009. The nuns run a facility renamed "Home for the Elderly" in Andheri, a suburb on the western outskirts of Mumbai, India.

Their work is a living testimony of what Pope Francis said in his recent message for the World Day of the Sick: "It is not good for a man to be alone" (Gen 2.18) and "taking care of the sick means first of all taking care care of his relationships".

A mission that takes on even more value today, in a society in which it tends to marginalize, if not abandon the elderly who risk being left without even a roof to live under. Hence the nuns' choice to rush to the rescue of these less fortunate people, treating them with love and devotion.

Since the opening of their "House" in 1958, the nuns have welcomed over 300 poor elderly people, indifferent to questions of caste or religious belief, living together as one large family. The Little Sisters of the Poor care for people aged 65 and over, providing them with food, shelter, clothing, medical care and shelter until they die. And beyond: because the nuns also organize their funerals, following the wishes, wishes and traditions of origin of these elderly people.

Their love and care, patience and kindness contributed to making dozens of guests feel "at home", wrapped in love and care. In fact, those who have the opportunity to visit the facility certainly do not have an impression of poverty and misery, because the elderly are well cared for and dressed. The surroundings of the area and the internal spaces are perfectly clean, be it the dining area, the rooms, the chapel and the common areas.

Sister Hilda, the superior who has lived in the "House" for a decade, explains to AsiaNews that "tenderness for the elderly is our charism". “We have - says the nun - men and women aged 65 and over, who don't have what they need to live, some are destitute, others have a family but they are poor and cannot support them. With the fourth vow of hospitality we promise God to consecrate ourselves totally to their service.

“Many poor elderly people - she continues - have physical and mental problems related to age, but it is a joy for us to serve them, many must be fed and washed. Providing for the needs of the elderly is our charism. In the ten years since I have been here, we have had 140 poor elderly people, but due to the reconstruction of the retirement home we recently transferred about a hundred of them to another facility and 34 of them remain here." Everyone will be able to return "when the entire building is ready".

Today, in conjunction with the World Day of the Sick, the "House" celebrates a mass, with the exposition of the Blessed Sacrament and the blessing. The daily routine of the facility includes mass (with freedom to participate), followed by breakfast and cleaning, rest, lunch and siesta, and finally dinner.

There is also the recitation of the Rosary twice a day, then there is the presence of groups who come from outside to entertain the guests, and also healing relationships and intergenerational relationships. “Last year the oldest guest died, who was 101 years old at the time - concludes Sister Hilda - and it is a powerful testimony to the culture of life”.

For the World Day of the Sick, Mary Joseph MC, superior general of the Missionaries of Charity, underlines that care begins when "one stands before God with a true heart" and "is touched by him deeply". Old age and illness, she adds, bring a feeling of "loneliness" and for this reason it is even more important to "live in the presence of God" who fills "with peace and joy". For this reason, she concludes, “we must open our hearts to be touched by a God who heals”.

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