Catholic nuns in Myanmar
took in "Anthony" when he was a visually impaired 2-year-old abandoned by his parents and left at the mercy of a state where even able-bodied kids wrestle with malnourishment, scant social welfare and widespread human rights abuses. Under the care of the doting sisters at St. Mary’s Home in Kengtung, the largest town in eastern Shan State
bordering Thailand, however, he has flourished, and he now earns the equivalent of US$2.50 on average a day giving massages to local residents at their homes. The nuns arranged for him to be trained as a professional masseur, a popular vocation for blind people in Asia who have no one to take care of them financially. "I feel blessed to be able to serve as a masseur, and I owe it all to the nuns who supported me by giving me food, shelter, and training," Anthony, who is an ethnic Akhar, told ucanews.com. Sister Benedetta Nu Nu, who runs the home for the disabled, commended his selfless attitude, saying he has recently taken a young wheelchair-bound boy under his care.
"He is a great helper and he likes to take care of the children despite the fact he has great trouble seeing," she said. As she was speaking, a woman arrived on a motorbike and whisked Anthony away to receive one of his 60-minute massages, for which he has already gained a strong local following. St. Mary’s Home employs 12 nuns to care for its 213 wards. They subscribe to religions — mostly Catholics, Baptists and animists — and belong to numerous ethnic groups including Shan, Lahu and Akha. Anthony (right), a visually impaired man who has been staying with the nuns since he was 2 years old, chats with a wheelchair-bound ward at St. Mary's Home. (ucanews.com photo)
Some are visually or hearing impaired, others are physically or mentally disabled, and some are orphans or widows. The center also runs a boarding school and currently has 72 female students from Grade 6 to 11. The nuns receive financial support from Buddhist donors and the Ministry of Social Welfare, Relief and Resettlement. Nonetheless, Sister Nu Nu said it is a constant challenge to cover all of their expenses and accommodation costs, in addition to the difficulties involved in taking care of infants, children and young adults with special needs. Sister Lucy Bushu is responsible for making sure everyone gets fed. The other nuns are also assigned duties from cooking to laundry to dressing those who cannot manage for themselves. "This job requires a lot of patience, especially when we’re caring for children with mental disabilities," she said. "We always have to monitor their mood and condition, and respond accordingly and with great care." The nuns belong to the Sisters of Charity of Saints Bartolomea Capitanio and Vincenza Gerosa congregation, which was founded in Italy in the 1830s. It arrived in Myanmar almost a century ago. Four missionary sisters arrived in Kengtung in 1916 at the request of Father Paolo Marnna, who at the time was a senior figure at the Pontifical Institute for Foreign Missions. They were entrusted with looking after young female orphans, running a school for day students, training girls in needle-work and embroidery, running a dispensary, and catering to the sick. The congregation now has 196 nuns serving in six dioceses in Myanmar. It also runs a home for the elderly, facilities housing several leper colonies
, some boarding schools, and a number of orphanages.
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