A group of nuns in Egypt lives the Gospel by helping the disabled

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August 25, 2015

TESTIMONY – In a situation of material and cultural poverty, having a disability can open the way for social marginalisation. Fortunately, there are those who work hard out of the public eye to make sure this does not happen. On the outskirts of Cairo, 12 young girls and women with different disabilities, who come from very poor families that are often unable to provide them with the care they need, are living with four nuns in the “Blessed Caterina Toriani” house. The nuns assist people with “special needs (Down Syndrome, Apert Syndrome, spasticity, autism and mental disabilities). We seek to improve their quality of life, by providing a comprehensive formation; care, a moral education, healthcare and so on”.

Sister Maria came to Egypt from Argentina eight years ago and spent the first four of these studying the Arabic language and culture. She is currently the local superior of a community composed of four women religious from the “Servidoras del Señor y de la Virgen de Matarà” Institute, a congregation of the religious family of the Word Incarnate. “Each girl is a gift from God. These girls,” she continued, “give us the chance to practice all the works of mercy present in the Gospel: feeding others, giving them drink, clothing them… Through them we are serving and loving Christ himself. How can we not consider that a privilege? We serve God every day.”

The nuns do their utmost throughout the year – because only a few of the girls return home for a month – to recreate a family atmosphere that will help them grow and develop. Aside form the girls’ material needs, the nuns also give them the opportunity to grow in a school that is designed especially for them, with lessons, arts and crafts and cooking courses. Unfortunately their families are unable to contribute to the costs involved in caring for these young girls. This is why, Providence aside, various forms of assistance have been set up, including the possibility to offer support at a distance.

Some have a rare syndrome that causes skull malformations, others have problems with language or Down Syndrome…There are so many stories that illustrate the service being carried out by the nuns. Elisa (fictional name) is 10 years old, she suffers from spasticity (she has difficulty in moving in and speaking) and came under the nuns’ care after she had been abused by other children and probably the staff at another home. She was never sent to school. Now she is happy as she sits down to do her homework and helps with the domestic chores. When she returns home for the holidays she cries on the phone because no one there cleans her teeth for her…

One of the nuns’ aims is definitely “to improve the care offered. We want to learn more about their physical state, their psychomotor skills and psychological difficulties in order to assist them better. In order to achieve this, we need a room where they can do more physical exercises, a sort of rehabilitation centre.”

With their testimony, they bring a message of hope to country that is difficult in terms of the political context (“although the political situation has improved significantly”) and religious clashes. Of course “Christians and not only find it easy to recognise us because of our attire and the cross we wear, which people react to differently: some smile, some cordially greet us, other silently reject us, while others resent us and show this with some aggressive behaviour that we do not consider serious. I must admit, however, that open-minded non-Christians, radically change their attitude towards us when they understand the service we provide to the needy.”

Source: Vatican Insider, August 20, 2015


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