Herald: Franciscan Sisters provide the healing touch in Benaulim

Franciscan Sisters provide the healing touch in Benaulim

23 Apr 2017 01:34am IST
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23 Apr 2017 01:34am IST
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Rahul Chandawarkar visits the Home for the Aged run by the Franciscan Hospitaller Sisters of the Immaculate Conception in Benaulim and comes away impressed

If you drive past the Home for the Aged run by the Franciscan Hospitaller Sisters of the Immaculate Conception in Benaulim you are bound to miss it, surrounded as it is by countless mango trees and a large garden. Only a small board near the gate announces its existence. The Franciscan sisters seem to like it that way. Happy to go about their work, caring for the sick and the aged quietly, far away from public gaze.

But the Home has been around. May 2018 will mark fifty years of its existence. According to Sister Fatima Fernandes, the Sister Superior, the Home stands on land once occupied by an old dilapidated bungalow which was reconstructed by the Franciscan sisters.  

Today, the home houses 30 senior citizens, all women aged above the age of 75. According to Sister Pauline Fernandes, one of the senior nuns, most inmates are either widows or spinsters. “While some of them suffer from dementia, some are wheel-chair bound, while a few others need walking support. We have quite a few nonagenarians at the centre with one of our inmates in her 99th year,” Sister Pauline said.

A walk through the well swept corridors of the Home brings you face to face with the inmates. While one of the wheel-chair bound ladies is reading aloud from a newspaper, two other women are sitting and chatting with each other, while one very old lady asks Sister Fatima, what day of the week it was. The Home is a ground plus one structure serviced by a lift. A statue of Saint Francis de Assisi, patron saint of the order in the central courtyard is a reminder that a greater force is looking after the home and caring for it.

The inmates are housed in a combination of neat and clean dormitories, single and double rooms depending on their needs. There is a large dining hall on the ground floor, where the inmates are served their meals. The invalid are served food in their respective rooms. The Franciscan sisters provide nursing care to the inmates which includes bathing the inmates, combing their hair, cutting their nails and providing food and clothing.

According to Sister Fatima, the inmates are charged a very nominal amount per month for their stay at the home. Donations from the general public are few and far between. The sisters informed oHeraldo that people do come forward with food grains and food items especially during Christmas.  The ‘Goan Royal Riders’, a group of Royal Enfield motorcycle riders from Margao visited the home recently. Francis Gomes, rider and coordinator of the project said, “We were happy to visit the home and donate foodgrains, milk and groceries. It feels good to serve society.”

According to Sister Fatima, local parishioners and groups of school children also visit the home from time to time. “Visits such as these bring great joy to our inmates,” she said.

It is a tough job that the sisters have undertaken. “We are working with the people of God. There is nobody to take care of the elderly in their own homes. Serving mankind is serving God,” Sister  Pauline said. According to Sister Fatima, the children of the inmates are often living and working abroad. “There is nobody to care for them in their own homes. We are happy to give them love and care in the last years of their  life,” she said.

Of course, many of the senior citizens try to make themselves useful at the Home. Till recently, some of the inmates used to work at the reception desk for a few hours every day. “Some years ago, we had a visually impaired male inmate, who was a great singer and even led our church choir every Sunday,” Sister Fatima informed.

The Franciscan sisters deserve accolades for their service to the elderly. There are 19 sisters at the Home, eleven of whom are senior citizens themselves. Two sisters, who are trained nurses look after the 30 inmates directly with the help of the working staff. Says Sister Fatima, “I personally love working with the elderly despite the challenges. They always reciprocate with the words, ‘God bless you!’ and this keeps us going.”

The home, which is situated near the John the Baptist Church in Benaulim can be contacted on phone number- 0832—278 8945.

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