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Indonesian Muslims find comfort in nuns' home for elderly

Abandoned by their families, people of all faiths find refuge in Jesuit-founded Society of Rosa Mystica in Surakarta

Felix Ali, Surakarta

Felix Ali, Surakarta

Published: October 25, 2018 04:01 AM GMT

Updated: October 25, 2018 05:30 AM GMT

Indonesian Muslims find comfort in nuns' home for elderly

Sister Regina Soeyan Resiana offers food to some of the elderly people she cares for at the center operated by the Society of Rosa Mystica (RSM) in Surakarta, Central Java. (Photo by Felix Ali/ucanews.com)

It was painful for Sardianto Muhammad, 69, when he realized that the children he had raised no longer wanted him to live with them.

He said they began to distance themselves after he was diagnosed with lung disease several years ago, to the point where he no longer felt like their father but more like hired help.

"They told me I should find a Muslim-run home for the elderly but I said no. I asked them to bring me here," he said.

Now he lives in a caring facility managed by Catholic nuns in Surakarta, Central Java, called Panti Wredha Dharma Bhakti Kasih Surakarta.

"When my wife was sick, she was treated in a Catholic hospital in Central Java before she died. The service they provided was very good," he said.

Nur Iskandar, one of Muhammad's relatives, said in the beginning the elderly man was upset at being shunned by his children. But later he realized he had made the right decision.

"Even as a Muslim family, we believe this is the best place for our brother because of the caring service and humane treatment they provide," Iskander said.

 

Sister Regina Soeyan Resiana of the Society of Rosa Mystica. (Photo by Felix Ali/ucanews.com)

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"There are many homes for the elderly in this town but we trust this one the most. Many of our relatives are treated by the nuns here," he added.

Sister Regina Soeyan Resiana of the Society of Rosa Mystica (SRM) manages the facility, which was launched in 2001 and caters to Catholics, Muslims, Protestants, Hindus, Buddhists and Confucians.

In the early days they used an unoccupied building owned by the Kanisius Foundation, a Catholic institution founded by the Jesuits, but demand soon forced them to expand.

"It was just unbelievable. Even when the building was under construction, many people wanted to stay. After it was renovated, they just kept on coming," the sister said.

The initial plan was to dedicate the center for women. But since 2004 it was also opened for men because the nuns found themselves unable to reject those in need.

 

A home for the lost

There are now 59 elderly people living at the center, mostly over the age of 65. Sister Regina provides daily care but is assisted by staff and volunteers.

The nun said many of her residents have been abandoned by their families.

"It's sad that after they drop them here, the relatives just leave and we never hear from them again. There is often no communication at all with the family," she said.

"But we don't chase after them. We concentrate on our service and our responsibility to take care of those who have been abandoned." 

Others have no surviving relatives and made their way to the home from the streets.

"We offer our service to anyone regardless of their ethnicity, religion or race. Everyone is a child of God who deserves our loving care," she said.

The Panti Wredha Dharma Bhakti Kasih Surakarta in Surakarta, Central Java, was initially only open to women but later expanded to include men. (Photo by Felix Ali/ucanews.com)

 

They hold prayers for Catholics every Wednesday to honor God's Divine Mercy. Muslims and people of other religions are also given separate praying rooms so that they can practice their respective faiths.

As the number of tenants keeps growing, Sister Regina hopes the government will start paying more attention to the center's needs.

"We don't expect much from the local government because they run many homes like ours for the elderly," she said.

SRM is a secular-run order for Catholic women whose members have made vows of poverty, obedience, chastity and dedication to God, the church and other people. It focuses mostly on charity, catechism, education, legal aid and evangelism but also offers care for prison inmates.

The organization was launched in 1982 by Jesuit Father Henricus Constant van Deinse in Semarang, Central Java.

It now has more than 30 members who live in different parts of Indonesia including Semarang, Jakarta, Bogor, Bandung and other cities in Java and Sumatra.

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