Sister Muriel is from Boston, MA and is a member of the Congregation of the
Sisters of Our Lady of the Cenacle from New York, USA.
forty years of doing retreat work, I had a longing desire to do mission work
with the poor and destitute. My congregation gave me permission. In the
midst of the Bosnia War in 1992 I arrived in Medugorje. During these years,
things were very hectic. I found myself and pilgrims (volunteers) aiding the
victims of the war. The people of this country were in desperate need of
everything (medical supplies, food, clothing and shelter). Many pilgrims
from Europe, United States, Australia and Canada were arriving to assist in
the war effort. For many of them, I became their contact, the worker in the
field. Mostar at that time was in shambles. I lived in Medugorje but did
most of my work in Mostar. At the end of the war, many refugees and
returnees were coming back only to find their
homes completely destroyed. They needed roofs, stoves, food and clothing
which I provided through the generosity of pilgrims. Our ministry is totally
supported through donations from pilgrims and a few private donations from
the States. The people of Ireland have been very supportive of my work. I
base my ministry on Divine Providence, knowing that the good lord will
provide for the work he wants me to accomplish.
In 1999, Mary Walsh came over to join me in my mission.
Mary was a retired Revenue Office with Internal
Revenue Service. Mary was in her hometown
Church, St. Bernard, praying to our lady for guidance in her zeal to do
mission work. After Mass, the prayer group took up a collection for a nun in
Bosnia, Sr. Muriel. Mary wrote to me that she was a retired Revenue Officer.
In the bible known as a tax
collector. I wasn't impressed with that but I replied. I informed her that I
provide no wages and that she must provide her own housing and take care of
herself. This was music to Mary's ear as she wanted a grass roots operation
where the aid goes directly to the people. At that time, I was having
problems with the authorities as I operated as a
humanitarian organization but without papers. Mary
and I agreed to incorporate as a humanitarian organization; we
registered in New York under the name St. Joseph The Worker LTD.
In 2000 things were changing. Mostar had
improved and many organizations were assisting the people. I found that the
dying need was in the villages helping the elderly. They were basically left
out of the system, many receiving no aid. I discovered many were living in
deplorable conditions. Many depended on rainwater and had no electricity.
They were left alone and lived off the land in whatever they
salvage. In many of the villages, the young people left and never returned.
They migrated to other countries to find employment and a better way of
life. At that time we had over 400 elderly in need of food in the village
and mountain areas. Many were receiving only $25 a month and one year they
only gave them four checks. We inquired at the local social service office
and were advised they just did not have the money to give them. They say
"The aid must
first go to families and children".
Some needed to
be cared for as they were sick and we had nowhere to bring them, only to
return the following month to find that they had died alone. It became
very difficult to live in
Medugorje and to have a clean room, a bed to sleep on, indoor plumbing
and food to eat and know that you had
just left someone out there in need. Mary having
previously volunteered with the Little Sisters of The Poor in Latham, NY had
a dream of a home for the poor and destitute elderly. After many
discussions and frustrations, I agreed with Mary. After overcoming
many obstacles, now our dream became a reality!
In 2004 we broke ground for a Home.
In 2006 the construction was completed but the
building was empty, no
again the Irish came forward and furnished the entire
home. We turned the
Home over to a Croatian Congregation, Sisters of Mercy of St. Vincent de
Paul and signed an agreement that the Home would
for the poor and destitute elderly who are alone. Being that we provide the
cost of care for the residence" they
must receive our
acceptance. That way we can keep it
for those in need.
We have fifty residents and a
waiting list. It is so rewarding
to experience the joy of the elderly coming into the home.
to have a room with a bed and indoor plumbing and three
meals a day and,
important, a chapel to pray
in. They start
everyday in the chapel in
prayer together. On Sundays
they have a Croatian
Mass. When the pilgrims, mostly Irish,
come to the home they are delighted. The priest celebrates Mass with the
residents. After Mass we join the
residents for tea and a sing along. A few of the residents love to dance. In
the evening the residents recite the Rosary for all of the benefactors who
have provided them with a home.
It is always back to work in our food delivery program. We
have 225 poor and destitute elderly still living out in the villages and
nearby mountain areas. Many of them only now receive $50 a month. They
mostly all have electricity; for some it is only a 15 watt bulb hanging from
the ceiling. Many still do not have indoor plumbing; they collect rainwater
from the roof of their homes into a cistern. We provide a one month
of dry food. We buy the food wholesale locally. We have been unable to
obtain local donations of food, very sad. Our heart goes out to the elderly
who have been neglected by society and left alone to struggle to survive. As
you enter their one room hovels, you experience the loving joy in their
heart as they reach out to embrace you with thanksgiving. When we pray with
them, we feel very close to Our Lady. Many thanks to the pilgrims who
volunteer to assist us in our deliveries.
St. Joseph is the patron of a happy death. I, too, wanted to help the dying. When a person is terminally ill
here, the hospital releases them to go home to die. Too many go home to die
alone without care or proper medication. It is an awful experience to see
someone suffering in deplorable living conditions. There they lay waiting
for the good Lord to take them home; it is like the passion of Christ. We
must do something. What they need is a Hospice. We had many obstacles to
overcome. The problem was who would pay for the operational cost. We
approached the Franciscans and the Sisters at the Home but they would not
commit themselves if they had to pay the cost of operation. Being that we
fully support the Home for the Elderly at a cost of $13,000 a month we could
not offer to pay the cost of operation for the Hospice. We continue to say
our daily novena to St. Joseph. I truly believe that when the good Lord
wants you to do something, He will provide." "I tell
you solemnly, whatever you ask for in prayer, believe that you have received
it, and it will be yours, says the Lord." (MK
everything was looking bleak, we received a
call to attend a ceremonial dinner. We
met the mayor of Ljubuski and told him of our struggle
to build a
Hospice. He said "yes, I would love a Hospice in my
city. The municipality will fully support the operational cost of the
Hospice"! A religious order will be operating the Hospice. It should be
completed and operating by June 2011.
We have chosen the name "Divine Mercy Hospice" as my entire ministry here
is based on the Goodness and Mercy of God.
I truly thank all the benefactors for joining my ministry in
answering the call of Jesus to reach out to those in need.
Come. You have my Father's blessing! Inherit the
kingdom prepared for you from the creation of the world. For I was hungry
and you gave me food. I was thirsty and you gave me drink. I was a stranger
and you welcomed me, naked and you clothed me. I was ill and you comforted
me, in prison and you came to visit me...... I assure you as often as you
did it for one of my least brothers you did it for me.