“How fortunate you are, Sisters…”

The Daughters of Charity from Szumilino, Belarus, bring the Vincentian charism to the far reaches of this charming country in Eastern Europe. Sister Bernadeta shared with us the experience of the Sisters in their ministry to those who are poor.

There are three Sisters in the community, one from Belarus and two from Poland. They feel gifted by God by the grace of serving Him in persons who are poor. Sister Bernadeta spontaneously recalls a quotation from St. Vincent: “How fortunate you are, Sisters, to be called to a state of life so pleasing to God…” (SV, Conference to the DC of 5 July 1640). By being called to the Company of the Daughters of Charity, they are happy that they can do “what the Son of God did when He was on earth” (ibid).

The Sisters visit the sick persons in their homes, serve as catechists and work in the sacristy of the Parish church. As far as possible, all are involved in other forms service that come up on a regular basis; availability is a daily call.

From the many poor persons they serve, the Sisters especially recall the man and woman who, due to chronic illnesses, are bedridden and require constant care. The Sisters perform the necessary treatments for them. In St. Vincent’s words: “they’re our lords and masters and that we’re unworthy of rendering them our little services” (SV, Conference to the CM, #164). They evangelize the Sisters and those around them, teaching them to trust in God’s providence, to accept God’s will, to read the signs of the times, to be grateful for and enjoy the smallest good received, and to appreciate the gift of time. The Sisters also accompany children and young people. In addition to catechesis, they organize various types of gatherings for them.

The town of Szumilino is small; about 7.5 thousand residents give the impression of one big family. They are connected not only by the same area of residence but also often by different kinship ties. They turn to the Sisters to seek advice on how to help their loved ones take care of the bedridden people, how to prevent and treat bedsores, how to perform activities related to maintaining personal hygiene at home, etc. The Sisters also invite them to pray together for their relatives and for the things and events they are going through. Some of the families maintain cordial contact with the Sisters even when someone close to them who the Sisters took care of, has already died. Loving service and prayer deeply unite hearts.

The Sisters’ experience tells us that you can only give to others what you already have; and, this is not only about material goods, it is also, above all, about the heart which must, each day, be increasingly united with God: “Without me you can do nothing,” says Jesus (Jn 15: 5). For Sr. Bernadeta, the streets of Szumilino are “the shortest way to Heaven.”

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