SAINT JOSEPH the WORKER

 



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     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.
    "After 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 could 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 furniture. Once 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 be for the poor and destitute elderly who are alone. Being that we provide the cost of care for the residence" they must receive our approval for 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. They are very grateful to have a room with a bed and indoor plumbing and three meals a day and, most 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 supply 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 11:23/ 24)

 

When 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.

 III (MT 25:40)