I am a Carmelite Sister. During my years serving God’s people, I have been assigned – at different times – to education, healthcare and spiritual retreats. All three are channels of grace and blessing, not only to the people we serve but to us. Although I could share with you many personal stories in any of these areas, healthcare is the one I would like to write about.
Did you know that about 25% of the healthcare facilities throughout the world are Catholic? The Catholic News Agency (CNA) stated in a 2010 article that worldwide the Catholic Church has 18,000 clinics, 16,000 homes for the elderly and those with special needs, and 5,500 hospitals, with 65 per cent of them located in developing countries.
When someone is sick, a mysterious and interesting dynamic emerges. No matter how rich, how powerful, how healthy, how confident a person may be, once illness visits a change occurs. It is not always immediately perceptible but it is there nevertheless. It’s hard to describe. In one sense it is a restlessness, an impatience to get well, and on the other hand, it is a quieting down, a letting go, at least for a while, of responsibilities and the stress that accompanies them.
Perhaps it is because the body has “slowed down” in the sense that it is recuperating, that the inner soul quickens. Sometimes sickness can bring about a deeper sense of the spiritual, a discovery or re-discovery of one’s inner soul. Lying there on a sickbed is often accompanied by a lot of time for reflection, meditation and prayer.
That is why our sisters working in healthcare agree that they have tangibly felt being used by God to help a patient heal not only physical, but emotional and spiritual wounds as well. It is a holy, a sacred task and one which they do not take lightly.
Perhaps, above all, people have the time and the desire to want to pray and many of them remark to the sister caring for them, that they don’t know how. It is not unusual to accompany therapy, bath time, waiting for x-ray time, with a running and often animated conversation about God and the things of God.
Families often turn to the sisters in their time of crisis, because of an innate sense of trust. To be “at the service of the family for life” is the mission of Carmelite healthcare. We minister to the whole person, body and soul, and likewise to the whole family which includes patients, resident, and their families. It is a holy calling, for often, as we go about our daily duties, we nurture the spiritual lives of those with whom and for whom we work, promoting a deeper spiritual life in all of God’s people. It is a quiet, hidden, deeply healing work. It is our mission, our passion. We are at the service of Your family for life. If and when you need, us we will be here.
On the other hand, there are those people who prefer not to think of nor acknowledge God. That is their prerogative. But it happens that some of them come back at a later date and tell us they trace their spiritual awakening to observing our sisters as they go about their daily work.