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Grateful for the Opportunity

February 7th, 2011 No comments

Arriving at Budimex (Marie Curie) Children’s Hospital in Bucharest, Romania I was unsure of what to expect. However what I found during my 2009 visit was certainly different to what I imagined. Although the hospital still has issues in relation to resources the work of Sister Mary Aloysius and the Lawside Romania Project has without a doubt improved the lives of many. Her efforts have brought up-to-date surgeries to the hospital, a playground for the children and an increase in the standard of care on the wards.

My time there was a profound experience for me. I had a room in the Rehabilitation Ward at the hospital where the children with disabilities go to see physical therapists, play therapists and others.  However the main department of Budimex (Marie Curie) Hospital is where I felt my time was most needed. Sadly, in this hospital there are children abandoned by their families, some of whom I was fortunate to get to know on an individual basis. The very busy staff in the hospital does not have time to spend with the children to give them the love and attention they need.

During my time in the hospital I spent some days in the Oncology Ward where cancer patients are treated. I was overwhelmed by the happiness of the children there on Halloween. Volunteers brought them outfits and everyone got dressed up. It was magical to see children forget about their illness for a time and enjoy being children.

One particular experience that I will always remember was a trip to the countryside to visit the family of a boy who had died in the hospital two years previously. Sister Aloysius had given this family support since his death. On the visit we brought food, drinks and clothes to the family who live in a house with their two small children. The mother was deaf and dumb but it was clear she was an excellent mother and cared and loved her children very much.

Ill children at play

Ill children at play

I am grateful for the opportunity and experience that I gained from my time with Sister Mary Aloysius at Budimex (Marie Curie) Hospital and will always carry the memories of the children with me.

Jane McCarty

Roses in Romania

January 18th, 2011 No comments

Romania and roses go together. There were roses of welcome, roses of gratitude from a very poor family and roses from Rosemary’s garden. There were roses in the cemetery of the Heroes of the Revolution and roses in the Parish Church.

Flowers and thorns—joys and sorrows. It is easy to see the poverty, unemployment and poor health in Bucharest, Romania and the hardship and drudgery in the rural areas. The people who were suppressed by the Communist Regime (by Ceauşescu) from 1940-1989 are slowly emerging from a dark and cruel past. Twenty years since the Revolution which brought down Ceauşescu is a short time in a nation’s history.

When some of us were excited about moving into small communities in Hackney or Bristol, Sister Mary Aloysius and Sister Marie Thérèse looked further afield to Romania. Mercy found a home there and has continued to bring relief to many needy people.

The courage and determination of two “not so young” Sisters of Mercy to go to the country not knowing where to stay, who to contact is a story of faith and inspiration. Their many chance encounters led them to unforeseen joys and sorrows mingled. And now eighteen years on we find that the contacts made in the early days and those made through the Budimex (Marie Curie) Children’s Hospital have led to the development of their initial work. Some of the orphaned children they met in the hospital have been through school and are now at University. Five of these students met us on Sunday at the Hospital to talk about their experiences of the Mercy outreach in Romania. Each one is a recipient of a daily meal while at College – they are the future of their country. They also get a little help towards books and basic needs.

In speaking about Sister Mary Aloysius and Mr. Traian Despa, one student said they were like Mary and Martha. They ring Traian Despa for advice as they have no family themselves so he is their father figure. He expects maximum grades and they do not disappoint. Sister Mary Aloysius provides heart to heart talks and words of encouragement.

Change is evident and the young are full of hope. They long for a time when Romania can be an equal partner in the European Union. They wish to determine the future of their country by their own efforts. They do not want to be the Hotel maids and Bartenders of Southern Europe, while holding an MA from their own Universities. Their faith is evident by their Church attendance. Their expectations are high and they serve God in visitation of the sick poor in their homes and hospitals. They are “Mercy Associates” who continue Catherine’s work.

Sisters Patricia McMahon & Mary McGrath (2009)

Sisters Patricia McMahon & Mary McGrath (2009)

During our time in Romania we met:

Two families in a rural area;

The young volunteers from St Thérèse’s Parish in Bucharest;

The elderly housebound who receive meals daily;

The family cared for at “Nazareth”;

A group of college students;

A single mother raising a large family.

We cannot measure the goodness which our Mercy presence has wrought in Romania but we can be sure that it has been blessed in countless ways.

Signs of God’s presence are abundant in Romania. You only have to step inside the beautiful Orthodox Churches where the Icons express a faith strong enough to survive the Communist regime and now are needed more than ever in an uncertain future.

Mercy Mission in Romania

Mercy Mission in Romania

So we hold the Romanian Mission, Sister Mary Aloysius, Traian Despa and all their associates in our prayer and we ask God’s guidance for the future.

God Bless Romania and God bless our Mercy Mission.

Bucharest, 2009

Sister Patricia McMahon
Sister Mary McGrath

Offering a Drop of Joy

“Suffer the little children to come unto me” – This text from Scripture came so alive in a room in the intensive care unit of floor seven in Budimex (Marie Curie) Hospital. Meet the little children there – Louis, two and a half years old, Gabriel (almost two years old) and Jeo who is nine months. Louis has cancer, Gabriel is hydro encephalic and baby Jeo has leukaemia. Daily we really do care for these little ones. It’s such a privilege, then, one day the priest arrived dressed in vestments and carrying a small silver chalice. From this he took Holy Communion in the form of wine and using a little spoon, he gave Jesus to each child. Looking at those little babies and seeing wonder in their eyes I felt truly in the presence of God.

Ill child at Budimex Hospital in Bucharest (Bucuresti)

Offering a drop of joy for ill children at Budimex

Louis needs no introduction! Most people in the hospital recognise this little two and a half year old for he has been here since birth. As he never had a visitor we have taken on the special care he needs. His illness is severe as his immune system is low. On floor seven he has a daily regime of care being given any medicines needed. Doctors, nurses and carers love Louis; one nurse even had him at her wedding dressed up in a pin striped suit. Now – alas – it has been discovered he has a tumour attached to one lung. Hopes of restoration of health are not strong but miracles still occur. We will continue our daily care.

Ill child at Budimex Hospital in Bucharest (Bucuresti)

Offering a drop of joy for ill children at Budimex

It is a joy to introduce you to Gabriel for he has an angelic spirit. Although he is almost two years old, he is still tiny as he has not grown because of his illness. There he lies, smiling if we touch his face with affection but he is unable to move. Smile – having acquired a new and comfortable pram we got permission to take Gabriel for a little journey up the long corridor. What a thrill it was to see wonder in his eyes as he looked at the coloured pictures on the walls. Not a word could he speak but the happy smile and movement of those eyes spoke volumes. How very privileged we are to care for this little child.

Meet Andreea. She is a patient in Floor 5 – the Oncology Ward at Budimex (Marie Curie) Hospital. She is one of the most affectionate children and runs to hug any visitor to her ward. Andreea cannot speak but her eyes and her gestures say to all who come near “I love you”. Toys, especially dolls give her joy but she is ready to leave all of these things just to get a hug from a visitor. How easy it is to bring happiness into a child’s life.

Ill child with a Barbie doll at Budimex Hospital in Bucharest (Bucuresti)

Offering a drop of joy for ill children at Budimex

Fabian has been a long time in hospital in the Oncology Ward. I cannot read minds but, when he came shyly to me and touched my arm I knew he had a special request! Yes – he longed for a remote-controlled car! What wonder shone in his eyes when he awakened from an afternoon nap to find the desired car on his pillow!

Ill child lying in bed at Budimex Hospital in Bucharest (Bucuresti)

Offering a drop of joy for ill children at Budimex

Meet Jeo who shares a room with Gabriel. What a little wriggler! He is only eight months old but those impish eyes speak volumes. He is clever enough to know that, if he does a 360 degree turn in the cot getting entangled in the blanket, someone will surely lift him and nurse him back to sleep. Alas! He has leukemia with no hope of bone-marrow transplant. We keep on appealing for a bone-marrow facility for Bucharest but are constantly told the money is not available. To offer comfort to these unlucky, abandoned children is the most important part of our mission in the Budimex (Marie Curie) Hospital in Bucuresti.

Every morning when I attend Mass I hold these children in my prayers and I thank God for the energy He gives me to be a support to them and to be able to offer a drop of joy in their sad lives.

Sister Mary Aloysius